In the fading light a girl made her way up the hill toward the mansion, her soft shoes tapping delicately on the footpath. She stopped a few feet back from the mansion’s short stone fence, adjusted her glasses and squinted up at the notorious manor. She sighed. Soon, two boys approached, laughing and shoving one another. They pointed and snickered when they saw the girl. “You think he went in there?” teased one of the boys.
She turned to them, then looked back at the mansion. “I know he did.”
The boys laughed. “No one goes in there,” said the other. Thunder boomed.
“You’d better go home now, scaredy cat,” said the first boy. “It’s gonna storm soon.”
“The girl spun around with her hands on her hips. “I’m not scared of thunder!”
“You are too.”
The boy sneered. “You’re a liar.”
The girl turned back to face the mansion. “Better than being a baboon,” she said.
The boy turned red and clenched his fists; he picked up a stone from the ground and cocked his arm to throw it. The second boy tapped him on the elbow. “Hey, check it out,” he said. “That guy’s case is still there.”
The boys walked out onto the road and crouched beside the briefcase. The first boy lifted it up. “What do you reckon is in it?”
The second boy shrugged. “Dunno. Open it.”
“That’s not yours,” said the girl. “It belongs to the man.”
“I thought you said he went into the house,” said the second boy.
“Then he’s not coming back for this.”
The girl huffed. “You still shouldn’t open it.”
“And you should shut up and mind your own business,” said the first boy.
“Yeah,” joined in the second, with a laugh.
A tremendous crack shot through the air and shook the ground; the children gasped and looked at one another. “That wasn’t thunder,” said the second boy, his face suddenly pale. He pointed to the mansion. “Look!”
A bright bolt of light shot up from the mansion’s chimney, which then collapsed and tumbled brick by brick from the roof. Another crack boomed; the ballroom’s three immense windows blew out, spraying shattered glass across the lawn. “It’s the curse!” shrieked the first boy, and he and his friend raced for dear life away down the hill.
The girl stood trembling and watched the mansion.
White light, as bright as the sun, shone and hummed, and Victor opened his eyes. He squinted, raising his left hand to shield his eyes—his left shoulder had no pain. A song—glorious and sweet, but barely perceptible to his ears, like a secret—pervaded the atmosphere. He was barely able to stand yet felt as light as a dandelion spore. Through the warm, almost liquid light, a man approached. He was the light—or at least it emanated or reflected from him. Golden locks and a beard framed his blinding visage, while snow-white robes flowed from his shoulders. Victor’s legs buckled and he fell on his face. “Jesus, have mercy on me,” he said with a tremoring voice.
The man’s voice roared like a waterfall yet was unmistakably clear. He laughed and answered, “I’m not Jesus.”
Victor got to his knees and looked around: all he could see was light. “Is this… Am I dead?”
The man’s smiling face beamed like a lighthouse. “You think this is death?”
Victor turned his head away. “It’s so bright.”
“Oh, sorry,” said the man, reducing the force of his voice. The light softened, and his features became clear. A throbbing ache returned to Victor’s shoulder, and a sting to his hand. The man was young, about Victor’s age, and about Victor’s height only a little skinnier. His face was strangely handsome—not chiselled enough to be a movie star, but mesmerising like a sculpture. His eyes, behind their stellar sparkle, were familiar. Victor’s jaw dropped, and he tried without success to speak. The man laughed. “It’s me, Gary.” He put his hand under Victor’s right arm and lifted him to his feet.
Strength returned to Victor’s legs. He looked at the new, radiant manifestation of Gary and smiled. “It is you.” The two young men laughed like children.
“You have to go,” said Gary.
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