The Curse of Gary (Part 140)

The path twisted through the forest and descended into a valley where the trees bore a strange white fruit. On closer inspection Victor discovered the fruit to be soiled nappies—thousands of them—stinking up the valley. A chilling wind rushed through and shook dozens of nappies from their branches; they splatted on the ground and opened to reveal their vile brown contents. Victor quickened his pace out of there.

After the nappy valley there was a straight stretch of path, where old women, or rather a hundred copies of the same old woman, rushed out, one by one, from behind the trees and threatened Victor with a steaming bowl of green mush. “Eat your zucchinis, Gary!” they each hissed. Thronged by the demanding old ladies, Victor lost his temper, and thereby discovered the ladies were offended by swearing. At even the tamest curse words, the women would recoil and flee into the trees. Victor swore his way along the path until all the old women were gone.

Victor continued until the forest became dense and knotted, and the path faded. Staring at the dead end, Victor noticed a thin beam of blue light squeezing through the trees; he went and examined it, and realised there was a door, slightly ajar, made from the tangle of thick branches. He pulled it open and stepped through into a wide, rather empty room. Its floor and bare walls were of timber, beneath a high ceiling. There was a window to the left high above the door, while two tall windows adorned the wall opposite him, hidden behind grotesque brown and yellow curtains. The only furniture was an old piano stool in front of a dusty upright piano in the centre of the room. A giant electric bug zapper as bright as a neon sign hung from the ceiling. Victor crossed the room, his steps creaking on the floorboards, and opened one of the curtains; the window offered no view but a grey haze. He tapped the glass with his knuckles, sighed, and then turned around.

“F***in’ hell!” he yelled, jumping back against the window and then scrambling aside. His breathing raced and he held the scimitar in front himself in his trembling hand. There before him was a dead cat his own size, standing upright on its hind legs. It was rigid and still, with long, maggot-riddled wound on its stomach; a large blowfly harassed its dislocated jaw, while its glassy eyes stared at the ceiling. A silky, emotionless female voice spoke and filled the room: it was the cat’s voice. “Are you here for your piano lesson?” it said, though the cat’s mouth did not move.

Wide-eyed from shock, Victor stood still watched the cat. After a minute he breathed a little easier and lowered his sword. He sidestepped his way around in front of the huge dead pet. “It’s just a cat,” he assured himself. The blowfly drifted upward in circles toward the bug zapper. Closer and closer it flew. An agitated buzz, a loud snap, a brief flame and a trickle of smoke—the fly fell down on top of the piano, and a burning smell wafted through the room.

“It’s time for piano lessons,” said the cat, still staring lifelessly upward. “Are you ready? Mrs O’Donnell will he be here soon.”

“The Dragon Lady,” whispered Victor. One of the cat’s eyes moved and fixed on him. Victor raised his sword again. “Yeah, I’m ready. Let’s have that lesson. Bring in Mrs O’Donnell.”

“Take a seat,” said the cat, and then it crumbled to a fine dust and sifted through the floorboards.

The piano stool scraped back. Victor looked around the room. He exhaled slowly. “Here we go,” he muttered, and he stepped over to the piano and sat down.



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