The Visitor (18) 

The Visitor (18)

Visitor (18)

The Story of Shed the Snow Leopard

She stepped into the lift to go up to the twentieth floor. Her name was Ample Cheese, I think, but, no matter, she stepped into that smart, streamlined, neo-office elevator and the doors moved smoothly but sharply together. She pressed the button bearing the number 20 but, as was usual with lifts in those days, the finger did not actually come into contact with the plastic but its mere approach to the relevant button was sufficient for the number to light up. What remarkable technology!

No matter, as soon as she had activated the button, she noticed that the floor indicator beside the door was not vertical as was usual with lifts in those days, viz:-

(There follows in the 1974 typescript a pen diagram of 20 numbers in a vertical line, contained within boxes ranging from 20 at the top to 1 at the bottom, followed by four more boxes containing the words: mezzanine, ground, lower ground, basement. The number 3 box is shown to be flashing).

But it was thus:-

(The same boxes and their contents but now placed into a circle, with the flashing 3 at the bottom of the circle. Within the circle there is the vague impression of a human face (or a snow leopard’s?))

And she felt that the texture of the wood in the middle hinted at a face, but I shall not go into that.

She did not have time to be surprised for on the floor above the one which she had just left, the doors snapped open and a figure made as if to enter. He stopped suddenly and stared beadily at her, as if he had seen a ghost.

“Don’t you remember me?” he blurted.

“No, should I?”

“My name is X________ and you once threw me out your house. You know – that manuscript made me a bomb.”

But before he could continue, the doors pranged and his nose was nearly caught. The lift sped on without him…

The motley crowd, ensconced on playschool mats around Shed, mumbled as if they didn’t understand which manuscript was referred to. However it is a common trait of snow leopards not to explain anything. The Infinite Cuckoo looked decidedly annoyed, but the story continued undeterred.

The lift almost pounced from that floor to the next whereupon the doors, like a firework special, flew open to reveal, only momentarily, the probing proboscis of some unseen Beast. The doors were now flish-flashing from floor to floor, first to reveal the subtle hint of a nosy camera (TV), second the beaming moonface of some pseud, third the grinning beard of one straggly Peter Jeffery and fourth the carpet slippers, ragged as lacerated limbs, on the feet of a pair of hags (loose-lipped and foully fanged). The fifth intrusion was the worst of all – the pecking visage of a raven-like witch; but the champing doors did not allow the entry of any of these vile visions.

The shocked she cowered, before the shuttling panorama, in the lift’s corner. And now there was only darkness and no movement, no opening and, of course, no shutting.

“Is that the end of the story?” queried Chish.

No, twit! She gradually gathered sense into her fevered brain. She had been stuck in a lift before, but this occasion was different – she was alone. None of the potential passengers that she had glimpsed from the corner of the lift had succeeded to beat the doors and keep her company.

After several weeks she became part of the woodwork.

“Oh, what a silly ending!” one uttered

Now, now – it’s a play on an idiomatic expression and a literal meaning. Don’t you get it?

“It’s all too obvious.”

Anyway, I haven’t quite finished. Before she became a vessel in the fibre of the timber around her, she had a vision of a burning fence. Strange, that. She also had a vision of a Spaniard who fought in a war and, before he died, his shattered corpse became a clocktower (the hands of which were his lacerated limbs).

“A telling ending,” muttered good old Infinite. “Next, please.”

The novel starts here:

(written 1974)

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