One by one (orange) Victor carved away at the pencils (red). Each one (green) took a little longer than the previous (purple), and the rest breaks (brown) between pencils lengthened (yellow). He paused (white) frequently (black) to wiggle his fingers and (dark green) stretch his arms. Finally (pink), after an hour and forty-five minutes (light blue), he finished.
Victor grimaced as he pushed the fingers back on his right hand to stretch his cramping forearm. He shook his hands and exhaled a long, relieved breath.
“Done,” he said. Picking up the serving bowl, he stirred the multicoloured pencil flakes with his finger. “Not even half full. Might be enough though.” He slid the bowl under the bed and pulled the blanket down over the side to conceal it. He stood up, dabbed the sweat from his face, and then checked his watch. His brow ruffled in thought. “A couple of hours left. I could try another room. Hmm. Don’t want to get stuck for too long.” Suddenly, his face brightened. One eyebrow raised, and he nodded to himself. “That’s not a bad idea.”
With a spring in his step, he left the bedroom and walked up the hall to the pool room. How pleasant it was without the magpies. He racked the balls on the table, and then selected a cue from the rack on the wall. From the bar he took a glass and a bottle of brandy, and brought them to the table. He poured himself a generous helping, drank it in two consecutive gulps, and then refilled the glass. After setting the bottle and glass on the rail, he lined up his break shot. He smiled as the satisfying first clack sent the balls fleeing in all directions, colliding and ricocheting and clunking off the cushions. The balls slowed to a scattered standstill as Victor took another sip from the glass. He assessed the lie of the cue ball, and then lined up his next shot.
Victor completed four games (with no particular rules, just sinking all the balls) in the next hour. He also drank half the bottle of brandy. And since in over twenty-four hours he had eaten almost nothing—and what he had eaten, his body had abruptly rejected—the drink affected him with rare potency. His skill level deteriorated, making his final game sloppy and drawn-out. Now, sub-par performance is a well-documented side-effect of overindulgence of alcohol, but, as the saying goes (or a modified version of it): When booze closes a door it opens a window. What Victor lost in hand-eye coordination, he gained in boldness (another well-known side-effect). He tossed the cue on the table, rubbed his eyes, and then checked his watch.
“I’ve got time,” he muttered. “I’m not stayin’ here. Gotta face it sooner or later. Gotta… she… you can’t intimidate me. I’ll do it right now. I don’t care. One of us will die, I don’t care. A Furbank never quits.”
He turned and marched in an almost straight line out of the room. Outside, he turned to the room on his immediate right and crawled under the netting barrier across the top of the doorway. On the ground, among an assortment of homemade weapons, was a pool cue with a long knife tied to its end. Victor grabbed it and crawled back out of the room. He went to the bedroom and collected the shovel he had left there. He stood in front of the window, which was now black with the darkness of night, and observed his reflection. He put his weapons down, and then loosened his tie, sliding it up over his face and turning it around to make a Rambo-style headband around his forehead. He picked up the weapons and checked his reflection again.
“That’s better,” he said, with a steely nod.
Victor, spears in hand, left the bedroom and headed for war.
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