The ball descended slowly, while increasing in size and brightness. Victor cupped his hands and lifted them to receive the radiant sphere, which assumed a light blue glow as it settled in his palms. Victor smiled as the sphere began revolving rapidly in his hands. It felt like a tingling breeze. Suddenly he felt as though he was a bullet shot from a gun. Everything became bright and shimmering around him until he could see nothing but sparkling whiteness. The brightness faded enough for Victor to comprehend he was speeding along, just above powdery plains of lemon sherbet. As he reached down and dragged a finger through the sweet dust, swirling plumes rose and expanded in bright colours. In the distance elephants trumpeted to each other; chocolate raindrops began to fall; on the horizon a dozen rockets launched up from clouds of purple smoke, soared high then crashed together in a dazzling explosion that formed a silhouette of Marilyn Monroe.
This wondrous experience took place in the blink of an eye, and then it was over. Victor found himself once again in the hall, which now appeared aged and weary. Wallpaper peeled, the floorboards were dull and creaky, and the electric lights had been replaced by candles in holders mounted to the walls. Victor started at the sight of the dead rat on the floor.
“Huh. I guess you were real—not part of the curse.”
The rat corpse faded and disappeared before Victor’s eyes.
“Uh-huh. Of course.”
He looked around the hall and smiled, breathed in and then released a satisfied sigh. A creak behind him startled Victor and he turned to see a door closing—the door to the grand room with the fireplace.
“Hey!” yelled Victor. “Hey, I know you’re there!” He marched down the hall. “You see this? I killed the beast! Ha! Ding-dong, the chicken-dog is dead! Woo! The beast is dead!”
Victor stamped back up the hall, giving a loud war-whoop. He punched the air and then unleashed a vigorous roundhouse kick.
“Yeah!” he screamed, and beat his chest. He opened the door to one of the rooms he had earlier looked into. “You hear that?” he warned, pointing inside. “The beast is dead, and tomorrow I’m coming for you!”
He shut the door and then crossed the hall, giving a couple more air kicks as he went.
Returning to the bedroom, he stopped in the doorway.
“Oh, hello. What happened to you?”
He crouched and watched a white snake crawling with difficulty toward the door. A large round bulge protruded about halfway along its body. He reached down and picked the snake up by its tail. As it dangled from Victor’s fingers, the snake rocked its head back and forth; the bulge in its belly descended gradually toward its head. Victor sat down on the stool, still holding the python before him, and watched as the python unhinged its jaw and forced the bulged down through its neck and out its mouth. A slimy billiard ball dropped and clunked on the floor.
“Good grief! That was amazing—and gross.”
Victor shifted his grip from the snake’s tail to just behind its head, and then stood up. He looked about the floor.
“Ah, there we go.”
He picked up his sock from nearby the desk and inserted the snake into it. He knotted the end.
“Hey, there’s your buddy.”
Victor reached under the desk and retrieved the other sock, with the other snake inside. He placed the socks together near the door.
“Sit tight, guys. I might need you tomorrow.”
He checked his wrist watch. Three o’clock. With a press of a button Victor set his alarm. He yawned wide and long and then flopped on the bed. A smile crept across his face.
“Heh heh. Choked on a rat.”
In seconds he was asleep.
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