A clang and a shout shook Victor from sleep. He blinked then opened his eyes wide, taking a split second to realise where he was; footsteps ran down the hall outside. The silver bowl wobbled and came to a rattling halt, upside down in the open doorway, where light from the hall shone on the pencil shavings littering the floor. Victor gasped, and froze.
“Come on,” he told himself. “Get up!”
He dragged himself sideways, out from under the bed, stood up and rushed for the door. His foot slipped on a comic book and he fell, but sprang back up and ran into the hall. Left and right the hall was empty. He checked the floor and his eyes lit up. To his right, scattered pastel crumbs and wood flakes dotted a bright trail. Victor followed it to the end of the hall, then stopped.
“Damn it—I forgot the shovel.” He looked at the trail, which turned and disappeared under the door to the ballroom. He looked back toward the bedroom. “Sh**.”
He opened the ballroom door and checked the floor: the coloured trail extended straight ahead, but then thinned and vanished. Victor lifted his eyes; at the far end of the colossal room, by the table with the candlesticks, stood a boy.
He paused and took a deep breath. The boy had his back turned, and was looking down. Victor took a few steps in, heel and toe rolling forward in silence, then peeling off; the boy seemed not to notice. After crossing half the room, his bare feet almost black from wading through the dust, Victor stopped. The boy’s shoulders heaved up and down, shuddering a little every now and again. He looked about ten years old, thin with scruffy blonde hair. He wore white shorts and a black T-shirt. He brought a hand up to his face, sniffed and whimpered. Victor watched.
“Gary?” he said.
The boy started and spun halfway around; he glanced through teary eyes at Victor, then turned his back again. Shuffling up against the wall, he covered his face with his hands and sniffed. Victor walked over to him, but kept some distance.
“You’re Gary, aren’t you?”
The boy sobbed into his hands and turned his head away.
“My name is Victor, Victor Furbank. I’ve been stuck in this house for a couple of days.”
The boy sniffed, and mumbled, “I know.”
A wondrous look came over Victor’s face. Gary sniffled and wiped his eyes. Victor moved to the side to try to get a better look at him.
“Are you… okay?” he asked.
Gary caught sight of Victor and turned away. He sobbed and rubbed his face. Victor waited.
He looked above the table with the candlesticks: high up on the wall was the painting of the woman in the white dress. He stepped back.
“I know her,” he said. “I’ve seen her before… yes! At the top of the sand dune. But she was wearing green, I think.” He stared at her and smiled.
Gary turned and looked up at Victor. He wiped his nose. “The sand dune?” he asked.
Victor was silent for a moment, not willing to take his eyes from the portrait, but then he turned to Gary. He started at his red, watery eyes. “Uh, yeah. After the camping, when I made it to the outdoor toilet—there was a pterodactyl there—the dream… or experience… whatever it was—I was on top of a sand dune.” He looked back at the painting. “She looked after me… got a kid to share his board. It’s hard to explain, but that’s definitely her.”
“I remember that day,” said Gary. He smiled up at the painting. “That’s my mum.” Tears welled in his eyes, and he buried his face in his hands.
Victor moved closer. “Are you all right?”
Gary shook his head. “I’ve got something in my eye.” Sobs muffled his voice.
“Ah, there’s no shame in crying,” said Victor.
“No,” sniffed Gary. “That stuff on top of the door—when it fell it went in my eye. It really hurts.”
“Oh, mate, I’m sorry,” said Victor, kneeling down. “There’s nothing worse than getting something in your eye. Let’s have a look at it.”
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