Victor laughed and moved around the desk, skipping as he went, and singing, “Arthur is a buttface, Arthur is a buttface.”
Arthur’s head squeezed down to the size of a small rockmelon, and his eyes puffed out, now outmatching the size of his head. He shook his fist and tried to yell, but only a mosquito-like buzzing came out.
“Arthur is a buttface,” sang Victor. “Arthur is a buttface.
Another voice joined in the taunting. “Arthur is a buttface!”
Victor turned around and saw Gary behind him. He was still in his sixty-year-old form. “Gary!” said Victor. “I thought you were gone.”
“No, still here,” said Gary. He had a huge smile on his old face, watching with delight the humiliation of his stepfather. “Arthur, you’re a buttface!” he yelled.
Arthur buzzed in a rage and leapt onto the desk. His eyes were the size of volleyballs, eclipsing his now tiny head. He charged across the desk. Gary ran to meet him head-on, snatching the scimitar from Victor’s hand. Arthur lunged; Gary swung the sword wildly and screamed, “BUTTFACE!”
It all happened in the blink of an eye: a thump, like a heavyweight hitting a punching bag, was followed by a squelch; a thick spray of bright red blood fanned out across half the study, reaching as far as the painting on the wall; a crash, a thud, then a deafening, hollow bang; Victor was thrown to the floor, his face and chest splattered with lumpy goo.
After a few seconds, the piercing ring in Victor’s ears died away, and he heard only a gentle, splatting drip in the room. His shoulder throbbed. He sat up and wiped the chunky liquid from his eyes. “What the f***!” he yelled.
The room was almost entirely white, coated floor to ceiling in a half-curdled paste. The only drizzle of colour came from the red, porridge-like innards of Gary’s stepfather, oozing from the massive wound in his belly as he lay half-on-half-off the desk, in the manner of the melting clock in Salvador Dali’s Persistence of Memory. Also, his head was missing. As Victor stood up and tried to wipe the slop from his torso, he looked around the room. Gary was gone. Victor stepped toward the desk and examined Arthur’s mutilated body. “Good grief. You damn near cut him in half, Gary.” He prodded Arthur’s side; the top half of Arthur’s body detached and slid to the floor, leaving a wide red streak down the side of the desk. Victor turned and covered his mouth, repressing a gag, and then turned to face the body again. “Cut his head off, too.” He squatted and examined Arthur’s neck: the skin was torn and jagged. “No, that’s not a cut… looks like his head exploded.” He dabbed his finger in the white slime trickling from Arthur’s neck instead of blood, the same white slime that coated the room. He smelled it. “That’s cottage cheese.”
A bright light flashed.
The room vanished, and so did the cottage cheese. Victor plummeted through a void flashing with colours, then suddenly found himself sitting in a backyard. There was a small lawn and a flower garden, and a wooden tool shed by the fence. He was alone. He could hear nothing: no voices, nor traffic, nor birds chirping. He rubbed his ears and listened; he clicked his fingers. Silence. He looked up at the house to which the yard belonged; it was modest, and old, but in good shape. The back door opened without a sound, and a young woman appeared. She stepped onto the porch and down the stairs, her bare feet showing beneath her black dress. She sat down on the bottom step, her head hung low, and her shoulders hunched and defensive. Victor went to her. As he neared the woman, he realised how much bigger than him she was—it was as though he were a child. When she looked up at him, Victor recognised her. It was Gary’s mother. In spite of the running mascara, her eyes were gentle and beautiful, and she met Victor with a look of gratefulness and pity. She reached out her hand and stroked his cheek, then lowered her head again. Her shoulders trembled. Victor went to the garden and picked a white daisy, then returned and held it up to her. She looked at him and smiled, then kissed his forehead. The scene instantly vanished.
Victor was back in the mansion.
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