He marched down the hall then entered the grand room formerly haunted by the vampire. In the fireplace, yellow flames whispered, and cast a wobbling shadow of Victor on the far wall as he crossed the floor. At the bottom of the stairs he looked up; the light in the hall above beckoned like the lure of an anglerfish. He climbed. Despite his best efforts, his intoxicated steps, as well as the aged creak from one of the stairs, spoiled any chance of his approach going undetected. Two stairs from the top, he paused and took a deep breath; his right hand tightened around the handle of the shovel; his left hand shifted down the pool cue, giving the makeshift spear a longer reach. He closed his eyes and muttered a few slurred words under his breath, and then opened his eyes and nodded. With a catlike pounce he leapt to the top of the stairs and swung around to his right, extending the bladed pool cue in front of him while holding the shovel back and raised. He stood there for a moment, wide-eyed and breathing fast, and then pressed forward, one small step at a time.
Ahead of him, the corridor continued about ten metres to a wall at a dark dead end, which the light seemed unable to penetrate. A long beam of soft, white moonlight angled down through an arched window. There in that spotlight, facing the wall, stood a girl about ten years old. She wore a polka dot dress, and a red ribbon in her hair. The moonlight twinkled on her blonde plaits. Victor crept forward, the carving knife at the end of the pool cue quivering. The girl was unmoving. He got to within three metres of her then stopped. His clammy hands squeezed his weapons. He opened his mouth but no sound escaped. He gulped, cleared his throat, and opened his mouth again.
“Hey!” he said.
The girl remained still. Victor shifted his feet and stretched the pool cue toward her.
“Hey!” he yelled. “My name is Victor Furbank… and… I know what you are! I know you’re part of the curse. Now, I’ve got a knife here, pointed right at your back, okay? So just… just don’t do anything crazy, all right?”
The girl neither moved nor responded. Victor’s brow knitted and squeezed a bead of sweat down his nose.
“I know what’s going on,” he continued, with flustered speed. “I’ve seen the movies. You’re gonna spew blood on me, or acid. Or your face is melted, or you turn into a demon or something. I know you’re gonna do it. But I swear to God I’ll run this knife right through you, so don’t try anything, okay?”
The girl ignored him once more. Victor moved two steps closer.
“I don’t care if you’re a girl,” he said, his voice losing some authority. “I know you’re not real. You’re part of the curse. If I have to kill you, I will. I mean it, I’ll do it. Hey… HEY!”
Victor began to sidestep around the girl, keeping the pool cue between himself and her. His breathing quickened. As he came alongside her his hands shook. A long lock of hair hanging over her face concealed her features from the side. He inched his way around. On the verge of tears, he took a wide sidestep and saw the girl’s face. The shovel dropped from his hand and clanged on the floor. He backed up against the wall, his face white and trembling as he gripped the pool cue with both hands and held it before him.
“I knew it,” he gasped. “Demon girl.”
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