By: Timothy Law
I find myself in the Demon's castle, following a talking mouse named Geep. Before my strange adventure began I would happily tell you that this and the other strange things I have experienced would never, could never have happened. Yet now I follow my mouse guide up a flight of stairs. Everywhere I look within this castle I see the pictures of ugly hideous shapes which I suppose must be the Demon's family. As I count in my mind the one hundred and two stairs that I climb which will take me up to the next level I see the paintings of the demonic family move, I hear them as they count as well. One then two then three then four. I hear these numbers over and over yet some count slowly and some faster. Closed doors open and voices invite me in, a dozen or more that lead to mysterious rooms or passageways. Some doors are made from mirrors, the mirrors themselves show other places, not the reflection of the spacious entry hall I find myself in. I am overwhelmed with options. There are so many options of paths that I can follow. Time is running out and I don't know the way.
"Hey mate, keep up!" calls Geep O'Heart the mouse.
He is at the top of the stairs, turning to go.
"Wait for me!" I call, begging. "Please!"
"I am so sorry mate," Geep squeaks. "I can't…"
He suddenly vanishes into the mouth of a snake. Geep is not eaten by the snake but instead, he casually walks upon his two back legs straight into the reptile's open jaws. The snake takes one look at me before it lazily closes its mouth and then suddenly disappears in a puff of smoke. I run towards the top of the flight of stairs but the faster I run the further away the top seems to become.
"Geep!" I call. "Geep, where are you?"
The only sound comes from the pictures of demons hanging on the wall. Those same four numbers. They repeat over and over and over again.
I find that I am repeating the numbers too. With each step, I count one, two, three, and then four. As I repeat the simple pattern the top of the stairs draws nearer and nearer. Within a minute I am finally at the top, something that I thought would have been impossible only a moment ago.
I am confused. The top of the stairs is not the top of the stairs. There is no sign of the snake or Geep or the ugly paintings on the walls. As my feet leave the flight of stairs I discover that I am lost in a golden room with a glass floor. Nothing is what it seems, this is the only thing that I have truly learned from being in this strange world. Therefore, I am not surprised when the glass floor of this golden room suddenly opens up like a lazy snake's jaws. I tumble downwards through the darkness as I am swallowed whole. Down and down and down I fall until I get the sense that I am falling up and then the feeling that I am not falling at all. I do not remember closing my eyes of screaming and yet my throat feels raw, and my eyes are squeezed tight. Cautiously I open one eye and then the other. There is a sound of dripping and a terrible smell. I am wet, sitting in smelly water. I look upwards and discover through the gloom above me that I can see a glowing sewer pipe. I think maybe I am back at the time before I went through the desert maze, the maze of yellow that was so hot and so strange. I believe that I am back where the snake left me. Or so I did believe.
The light surrounding the pipe becomes brighter and brighter until suddenly the pipe bursts. I am covered in a thick green liquid slime that pours down from the pipe and creates around me a maze that is made up of walls that are a movement of colors. The walls are forever changing and never stopping to form actual shapes. Walking around in this maze is far worse than walking around in the room. What was once a passage becomes a wall and doors disappear in a single heartbeat. Walking in this maze is just like walking in the dark with your eyes shut tight while being wrapped up in cotton wool the whole time. Suddenly the floor becomes a huge hole, and I am pushed by the slime, the walls, the floor, the ceiling, everything pushing me towards that abyss. I resist until it is obvious my fate is again to fall. I am falling in slow motion through nothingness, falling beside me are little rabbits all white with eyes like rubies. These rabbits fall fearlessly, nibbling on flowers as they gently tumble. A world slowed almost to a halt is ever so quickly sped up again. A blood-curdling scream begins from far away and then comes rushing through the coating of slime to harshly assault my ears. As sight and sound seem to be real once more I find my feet hitting solid earth again. My blood goes from warm to chilled as a cold claw rest around my neck.
"I vont to suck your vlood." A voice whispers in my ear.
Suddenly something like two small frisbees flies past me. I feel the fiend's grip lessen.
"That was a real waste of some good mince," a voice in the distance mutters. "Drac, I've got some porterhouse and some rump, medium-rare, which do you choose?"
"I vill choose you, Butcher!" the fiend that I now know is Drac shouts towards my rescuer.
Another second passes in silence and then both steaks pass through Drac's chest.
The lights come on, bright and beaming from the ceiling. I see there on the grey, stone floor lies what looks like a vampire. He wears a cloak the color of midnight, a crisp white shirt, and boots that look two hundred years out of style. This must be Drac. He seems dead, no longer undead but dead again. Two meatballs have splatted across both of his shoulders leaving his cloak barely there, covering his shoulders and back. The rump steak is wedged in Drac's heart while the porterhouse has embedded itself in Drac's open mouth.
"I am a cruel butcher," the butcher says as he grabs me by my hand. He comes across as a modest, shy, butcher, not at all cruel. He does not say a single word during the trip back to the castle, the home of the Demon. Hand in hand we climb the stairs while the faces of demons count our steps. I totally expect to fall again when we reach that top step but instead, we find ourselves before one of the mirrored doors. Butcher mumbles to me about meat prices and the weather as we climb those steps. Once at the top he points to the place through one of the mirrors. It is a throne room; it is an empty room with an elegant throne as the only piece of furniture. Otherwise, it is a room that is empty. Butcher tells me that the price of meat is so bad because everyone he normally sells to has been turned into stone statues. Then he tells me that I need to go into that throne room over there and grab the key. I nod to show that I understand but my friend who I only know as Butcher has already gone.
So, again alone I enter the unknown. Butcher has taken me back to where I was up to in this crazy adventure, before striding forwards sent me backward. I now stand where I could get to but could not go beyond. Bravely, I step through the mirror on the door and enter the room with the throne. There is no air. My lungs gasp as I find I cannot breathe. Stepping out through the mirror I suck up as much air as my burning lungs can hold. With lungs full I rush back through the mirror again, half expecting that the throne will not be there. Thankfully this time I a wrong, the throne is there, and the room is still otherwise empty. I spy sitting on the throne's cushioned seat the golden key. It is exactly like it is waiting there for me to pick it up. I rush over and grab it. I feel a power surge through my body.
"Do you think that you have won, child?!"
As I turn I can see that the Demon is looking straight at me.
"You have the key and now you shall die," the Demon announces.
He steps out from behind the throne as if he has been there waiting for me the whole time. He stretches out his claws towards me, he will capture me, and this adventure will be over. I will fail. My world and this world will both be over, forever doomed.
"No! I shall forbid it," the butcher shouts out in determination.
A T-bone steak flies through the mirror towards the Demon.
"It is about time we rebelled against you," Butcher then adds.
As Butcher says this he steps into the Throne Room with me and the Demon.
"Breathe, Jess," Butcher encourages me.
There was no air in the Throne Room before but now Butcher is here with me, and he is breathing fine. I suck up air deeply and discover it tastes sweet.
"Thank you," I tell Butcher.
I thank him for helping me get the key that I need but I also thank him for standing beside me now, a time when I face the Demon. It is the time that I feel most afraid.
"I wish to thank you, Jess," Butcher says to me with a smile. "We all do."
Stepping through the mirror and into the Throne Room comes the fish-men armed with spears. Following in after them come Yobbo and Gov, followed by Doc and little Geep O'Heart riding on the back of the snake that I thought had gobbled him up. The Guru flies in next and he is followed by the man from the rose garden. Then comes in the Griffin, Doc, and then everyone else. It is like a huge rebellion; the Throne Room is almost full. All through it, the Demon, mouth gaping, slowly edges toward the corner of the room. Mr. Polar Bear is the last to come in. He picks me up and places me upon his shoulders.
The Demon passes through the wall and begins to run. Everyone follows after the Demon except for Mr. Polar Bear and the Griffin.
"Well done Sam," Mr. Polar bear says.
"That is the first time that anyone has called me by my proper name," I say in surprise.
"We did that to fool the Demon as he watched you get closer by making him think that you were not you," the Griffin explains.
"Were you protecting me so that the Demon chose not to use some powerful magic against me?" I ask.
The Griffin and Mr. Polar Bear exchange knowing glances.
"That is exactly right, Sam," the Griffin says. "We knew that you would be the one who could save both our worlds."
"I could not do it without everyone's help," I admit.
"True," says the Griffin. "But we also could never have done it without you."
"Now the key has been claimed once more and the Demon's spell on both worlds has been broken," says Mr. Polar Bear, gratefully. "So, you just hop onto the Griffin, and he will take you home, Sam."
I hop once more onto the Griffin's feathery back and the huge wings fly me through the mirror. This time we do not come out over the top step but instead, I discover we are flying out of an open window of a very tall tower. Everywhere I look the world is changing from beauty and becoming desert and all around the real world the rose garden returns and so do all of the forests, and the majestic countryside. The key is now in my possession, and this has left the demon powerless. Now the hero can fly home.
When the Griffin lands and I find myself back in my backyard he spreads his beautiful feathery wings and heads once again for the sky and his own world. I wave a tearful goodbye and ask him to send fond farewells to all that he meets during his journey home.
I hear my mum come up behind me.
"Who are you waving at?" my mum asks.
"It's a jumbo jet, mum," I tell her with a wink.
"A jumbo jet with golden, feathery, flapping wings?" my mum laughs. "I don't think so, Jess!"
Thus concludes The Neighbor
I hope you have enjoyed it!