He ducked under the netting, pressed himself against the overturned table sealing the lower half of the doorway, and slithered upward. With difficulty he managed to squeeze himself through the narrow opening and climb over the table, landing with an inelegant splat on the other side. He sat on the floor and pressed his feet against the hefty chunk of marble jamming one side of the table in place. His first push failed to budge the stone, instead sending him sliding backwards and almost out of his boxer shorts. He fixed his underwear and tried again, this time bracing his arms against one of the table legs behind him. With a grunt Victor forced his legs out against the stone. His arms trembled and his face reddened; the table leg supporting his effort began to crack. Just when it seemed Victor would pass out, his legs extended, pushing the small boulder aside with a grinding rumble. He lay on the floor a minute and recovered, and then stood and assessed the effect of his effort.
“Phew. That should do it.”
He grabbed the table by one of its legs and yanked it back. With three good heaves he created a comfortable enough opening on the side now free of the marble brace.
A toppled wardrobe occupied the floor at the back of the room. It was unnecessarily large, and made of hardwood, so Victor had almost as difficult a time lifting it as he did moving the stone. Once he stood the wardrobe upright, he opened its doors. He cleared the items of decaying clothing from the bottom and found an assortment of coat hangers. All the wooden ones and crocheted ones he tossed over his shoulder, until he was left with five wire coat hangers.
He took the wire coat hangers and left the room, much faster than he had entered it, thanks to the convenient new gap between the table and the door frame.
Victor took the stool from the bedroom and laid it upside down in the middle of the bathroom floor. Laying the coat hangers on the wooden cross pieces joining the stool’s legs, he fashioned a rough grate about ten inches off the ground. He then went into the hall, removed one of the candles from its holder, and brought it to the bathroom. He laid the comic books on the coat hanger grate, and then set the candle beneath it, upright on the underside of the stool’s seat.
“Hmm. Not close enough.”
Victor left the bathroom and returned soon after with a selection of books, each of a different thickness. He lifted the candle, placed a book beneath it, then set the candle on top.
He discarded the book and tried another.
The third book, Oliver Twist, lifted the candle so that its flame reached the comic books through the grate.
“Perfect. Thank you, Mr. Dickens. I’ll have to read it someday.”
He watched the tiny fire sway beneath the comic books for a while. It sent a bright blush up through the centre of the comics, though, just like the candle in the bedroom, it did not actually burn anything. The blush grew brighter, while remaining effectively harmless, and a steady stream of smoke began to rise.
“Now,” said Victor, “we just have to let this cook for a while.”
He left the comic book barbecue and exited the bathroom, closing the door behind him.
There remained one door in the hall which Victor had not yet opened. It was the door at the very end of the hall, and he now stood directly before it.
“All right,” he said. “I’ve got some time to kill. Let’s see what else is here.”
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