The bathtub shimmered, golden. A bright ball rose from the tub and flashed its heavenly radiance throughout the room. Victor smiled like a child on Christmas morning.
The room around him fled in all directions almost faster than he could comprehend, and he was left floating in blank space. Everything turned sparkling blue, infused with the scent of mangoes. There was a bright swirl, and suddenly he stood before a crowd of thousands. “Free at last,” he heard himself declaring, to impassioned cheers. “Free at last, great God Almighty, we are free at last!”
The crowd roared, and the siren howl of an electric guitar screamed from a wall of amplifiers. Victor was no longer standing behind a podium, but seated at a drum kit. His hands flailed and hammered; the skins and cymbals snapped and crashed in response, as he drummed to Jimi Hendrix’s “Fire”. The crowd thundered with cheers and applause. Victor stood up, arms raised. He looked up and saw boxing gloves on his hands; he looked behind him and saw a dazed Sonny Liston sprawled on the canvas. He was suddenly airborne, on a motorcycle jumping a row of buses as fireworks hissed and spouted up beside him in flaming bursts. A rush of wind… and then quiet. The lap of tiny waves against the beach. Victor looked up from his hammock at the palm branches overhead. He breathed deeply and closed his eyes.
He was back in the bathroom.
It was dusty and dilapidated. The electric light was out, and next to the candle he had earlier placed on the upturned stool, there now stood another candle, in a shallow, silver dish on the floor.
“Thank God for that,” he said, with a wide smile.
There was no more smoke, no more toilet wasps with fishhook tails. A pink lollipop lay on the floor by the doorway.
Victor stood and went to the bath. Rust speckled the old fashioned shower knobs, and paint peeled from the tub. He took hold of the knobs, and with a solid heave managed to loosen them. He gave them each a full turn.
“Come on,” he pleaded. “I’ve had a rough morning—just give me some water.”
The pipes shook, then a hiss ran up to the narrow shower head; a short gush of water spat and spluttered, then stopped.
“Oh, come on…”
A few drips, then a trickle, and finally a decent flow.
“You beauty!” cheered Victor. “Yes. Now—would it be too much to ask for some heat?”
He gave the knobs another half turn then held his hand under the water. The plumbing kicked into gear, and the decent water flow upgraded to a heavy downpour. Plump, icy drops battered the bath tub in a liquid drum roll; a grateful tear welled in Victor’s eye. He cranked the hot water to full and waited, but it never showed up.
“Oh well,” he said, “at least there’s running water. It will be invigorating.” He stripped off his underwear and stepped into the tub. “Love a duck, that’s cold!” he yelled, shivering beneath the shower head. “Whew!”
After thirty uncomfortable seconds, his gasping breaths subsided, and he became acclimatised enough to enjoy the water. He even found a petrified bar of soap stuck on the side of the tub. The shower, though brisk, was the first real comfort of Victor’s stay in the mansion.
Clean, refreshed, and air-dried, he left the bathroom and walked naked down the hall. He tore a fresh strip from a sheet in the linen closet and re-bandaged his arm.
“Not so bad,” he said, checking the cuts near his wrist. “Should heal up all right. Nice little scar.”
He collected his clothes and shoes from the bedroom, and then went to the pool room to find his socks. Returning to the bathroom, he dressed himself: boxer shorts, trousers, business shirt (“Needs ironing”, he noted), socks and shoes. He combed his hair as best he could with his fingers, and then slipped on his tie and straightened it in the mirror. The final touch was his modest jacket, which he donned with pride. He patted the left breast of his jacket, and nodded.
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