The Dragon Lady growled. Her throat glowed red, smoke trickled up from her nostrils, and the horns on her head grew another six inches to create a demonic mohawk. “It doesn’t matter,” she snarled through clenched teeth. “He didn’t play the music, so he must die.”
Gary looked upward and scratched his left sideburn as he thought. “Hmm, no, that’s not fair,” he said. “You said he had to play it just as it is written on the page, but you counted in slower than it says to on the page.”
“The tempo doesn’t matter,” said The Dragon Lady. Her tentacles slithered beneath the piano stool. “He didn’t play a single note. He failed.”
“No, you failed first. You gave the wrong timing.”
The Dragon Lady hissed and flicked her tongue. “He is not leaving this room!” A tentacle looped up around Victor’s waist, while the other whipped out from under the stool.
“Gary, look out!” shouted Victor.
Gary yelped as the tentacle wrapped around his legs. He vanished into thin air and the tentacle constricted in on itself. The Dragon Lady roared and slid off the side of the stool, her head spinning, searching the room. When Gary failed to reappear, she turned to Victor with her mouth open wide, baring her drooling fangs and forked tongue. The tentacle from which Gary had escaped arched up behind her like a scorpion’s tail. “There’s no one to save you now,” she hissed.
Victor looked around; there was no salvation. A tear rolled down each cheek, yet he kept a steely look on his face. He straightened his tie and then clenched his fists; he was unable to raise his left, but he cocked his right at his shoulder. “Go on then,” he said. “Do it.”
The Dragon Lady’s bloodthirsty eyes widened. With a piercing shriek she lunged across the stool, open jawed, at Victor. His right hand shot out and slapped her head down onto the broken shard of the scimitar, so that the narrow steel slid straight through her cheek, and up and out through the top of her head. He struck her so hard his hand followed her head onto the blade, and it ran through his palm and three inches out the other side. He screamed in agony, and then screamed louder as he slid his hand up off the broken steel. Tucking his bloody palm under his left arm, he groaned and rocked back and forward on the stool. The Dragon Lady’s eye twitched. Her trembling lips summoned one last dose of contempt, as she whispered, “You… wretched child…” Her eyelids fell half closed, and her jaw hung loose.
Victor stood up, beads of sweat streaking the sides of his face, and reached his punctured hand to the metronome that had saved his life. He slipped the device into his inner jacket pocket and turned for the door. Warm blood soaked his shirt as he held his hand to his stomach, beneath the sling on his left arm. As he shuffled to the door, a long black tentacle rose from beside the piano stool and whipped across the room like a loose fire hose. It struck Victor between the shoulder blades and shunted him against the wall; he hit the timber head-first with a heavy clunk and crumpled face-down on the floor. The tentacle quivered and then dropped, lifeless, beside him.
The room was still for a minute, and then a golden marble dropped from The Dragon Lady’s open mouth and tapped onto the floor. It rolled over the floorboards, growing larger and beginning to shine. It spun, faster and faster, and burst in a flash of brilliant light.
A split-second later the light vanished, and the dusty piano room was still once more. The bug zapper was gone, and a small brass candelabra shone upon the piano top.
Outside the mansion, slow-churning black clouds, groaning with thunder, stalked across the sky. Heavy raindrops blinked down through the gloomy twilight and patted here and there on the warm bitumen of that accursed and forsaken road, Clayton Street. Not a bird sang, not a cricket chirped; on the neighbouring properties, spiders worked on their glistening webs, while overhead, fruit bats flapped silently toward the dying sliver of sunset on the western horizon. And in the middle of the road, undisturbed, laid the briefcase of travelling metronome salesman, Victor Furbank.
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