Image: Steve Collis
Bill shucked off his coat like a snake skin and hung it on the peg, where it proceeded to hang like the dilapidated leaf of a dead tree.
The air in the house’s corridor was chilly but still, as though dust and ice crystals were alike drifting in space.
He wandered quickly in shuffling steps to the far end where the kitchen was, barely glancing at the massive banisters where a mighty George slew a green serpent in gauche and opulent glory.
At the end, light, glorious light, was streaming mustily through a half moon window with its curtain of fine brown dust. Smiling at the memory of what put that there – an argument with Martha that led to several anatomical alterations to the house’s innards over a few weeks – he gripped the left door knob with one arthritic hand, and felt through his own tightness the rigidity of the knob. Locked, good. Then he switched, like a mannequin with no hip joint, to the right, and was satisfied that that knob was gone, with the door wedged tight in its jamb. Good enough. He chuckled, runny a thin hand over his wavy wire hair.
Walking with firmer steps, he made his way onto the ancient crusty carpet, leading to the broad stairway and faced George. His face began to change, elongating under pressure, his nose sweeping away from his eyes, and flattening into a snout. His eyes flared with internal fire, a deathly red, mixed with moving glints of amber and gold – his hair vanished in a flicker of light into glowing scales, red scutes that framed a bald head now turned green and rough as coral. All in all, he now looked like a withered professor balancing a sweeping dragon’s skull on his spindly neck.
“So, George,” he spoke, the guttural flame of his belly adding a low crackling growl to his words. “Shall we pick up where we left off?” The smile that spread across that vast mouth of teeth would have ended the life of any small woodland creature.