A peaceful minute or two passed; Victor stood leaning against the kitchen bench, while Gary looked around the room with his newly-healed eyes, smiling. After testing out his restored vision, he turned to Victor, whose look was full of thought. Gary lowered his eyes.
“You’re probably wondering what’s going on—all the weird stuff in this house,” he said.
“I heard the house is cursed,” said Victor.
Gary nodded. “Yeah… I cursed it.” He glanced up at Victor.
Victor nodded without judgment. There was silence for a minute. “All the stuff in the rooms—that was your idea?” he asked.
Gary shook his head. “No, well, not exactly. It’s all stuff from my mind—memories, fears—all twisted up. The curse takes it and uses it, but I didn’t want it to be like this. I didn’t mean for this to happen.”
Victor nodded. “So… the teacher and the classroom—that was really from your school?”
“He was my teacher,” said Gary. “But he wasn’t really a lizard person.”
“No,” said Victor, “I thought that bit might have been the curse. And what about that girl upstairs, in the hall—did she really make fun of you like that?”
Gary scratched his arm. “Yeah,” he whispered.
Victor shook his head, and his shoulders deflated with a sigh. “That’s horrible.” He looked at Gary curiously. “She called you ‘fat boy’. You’re not fat, though.”
Gary shook his head, and looked down at his slim torso. “No, I’m not really fat. When I got sick—I had a kind of cancer—the doctor gave me some pills to make me better. They were horrible, they made me feel awful… and they made me gain a lot of weight.”
“That must have been tough,” said Victor.
Gary nodded. “Then… right near the end… they tried to kill me.”
“Who tried to kill you?”
Fury burned in Gary’s eyes.
“The doctor. He gave me a needle so I would die. I was woozy, but I remember he told my stepfather I was going to die. He said the needle would make it easy. I was so scared, and so mad, I cursed them all!”
His chest heaved, and tears welled in his eyes. Victor’s head tilted and his brow wrinkled as he listened to the boy’s story.
“Must have been morphine,” he said to himself.
“What?” said Gary.
Victor stood upright. He shifted his feet. “Um… Gary,” he said, rubbing the bridge of his nose. “You know, it sounds like, maybe, the needle wasn’t to kill you—maybe it was to ease your pain. Maybe the doctor was trying to help.”
Gary’s face turned red, his lower lip pouted and quivered, and his fists trembled at his sides. A tear rolled down his cheek.
“Ah, mate, I’m sorry,” said Victor. “Don’t listen to me—I don’t know what I’m talking about.”
Gary’s face grew redder and brighter, like a flame, until he became transparent. His body seemed to evaporate, while still retaining its shape. Victor backed up against the counter.
“Gary,” he said, his hands held up in surrender. “Gary. I’m sorry, mate. Forget what I said.”
Gary vanished. The kitchen cupboards flung open, spewed forth their contents—crockery smashed everywhere on the floor—and then snapped their doors shut. Footsteps raced out of the room. Victor waited, wide-eyed and still, and then blew a shocked breath. As he relaxed and surveyed the damage around him, he dragged his hand slowly down his face.
Victor left the kitchen, crossed the dining room, and entered the storage closet. He found a broom and brought it back to the kitchen, where he swept all the smashed plates into a pile. He checked his watch. Three in the morning.
“That’ll do for now,” he said through a yawn.
He went back to the bedroom, kicked aside the spilled pencil shavings in the doorway, then removed his blanket decoy from the bed. He flopped onto the mattress and sighed.
“Goodnight Gary,” he mumbled, and fell asleep.
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