I’d no idea what to make of this, much less how to react; I’d also no time to ponder the situation for, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a long figure in black, crouched low, snaking its way towards us.
Suddenly it was before us, rising to its – or rather his – full height, brandishing a violin and focusing a hypnotic gaze upon Rashmi.
“Sing!” he commanded her.
Rashmi screamed in reply.
I turned to look at her, finding her no longer in a man’s suit, but in a red regency ball gown with brown trim – as red and brown as the décor in the restaurant – with a locket round her neck of the same polished brass I’d seen therein.
I turned back to the figure, expecting to see Dr. Miracle, but instead found Paganini himself, his eyes and long hair equally wild, playing his Caprice 24.
The tide had apparently risen, for the sea was now crashing against the front door making it impossible to exit the way we came in.
Rashmi grabbed me by the hand and the two of us took off running down a hallway that had just materialized near the front door. I looked over my shoulder; Paganini was in hot pursuit, still playing the violin. When I looked back we were no longer in the hallway, but in the infinite forest of Tales of Hoffmann.
A ferocious wind raged through the forest; Paganini’s music continued, but the man himself had changed into the musical score, the notes flying off the pages, chasing us and bursting in our faces like so many soap bubbles. We batted the notes away as we ran, until we left the forest and the wind behind, coming to the infinite staircase.
We ran up the stairs, looking back to find Paganini had turned into a Dracula-like vampire, using his cape-like wings to come flying after us. He was getting closer – closer – ready to swoop upon us, when we jumped aside. The stairway disappeared and we were in midair, falling, then gliding down a chute of vegetation into the garden of Act III of Tales of Hoffmann. We walked slowly, taking a moment to catch our breath, convinced that we’d given Paganini-vampire the slip.
But the caped figure appeared again, no longer as Paganini, nor as a vampire, but as a demon.
He slowly came towards us and I thought we were done for, when the pixie tugged on my lapel and pointed to a mirror that had appeared beside us. We ran through it, and found an oaken door before us. We opened it to see Gramfer’s old study/office. We stepped over the same high threshold we’d stepped over to enter the mirror, entering the study/office, running to the dining area.
I looked back to see the demon coming out of the mirror chasing us – was there no eluding this fiend?
© 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015 G. H. McCallum and Duvanian Press, all rights reserved.
The Bluebottle Boys (Volume One) and Walking Backward for Christmas: A Tale of Woe from Soggyhall are each now available from Amazon Books. The Bluebottle Boys (Volume Two) is expected to be available shortly. The next novel of the series, By Good Angels Tenanted, will be available later in 2018