The sound of rapid footsteps echoed across the palatial building’s light colored walls.
The carpets had been removed from the recently polished marble floor and the boy found himself slipping and almost falling to the ground a couple of times, but he kept going until he reached the main entrance hall at the front of the building. Once there, he made a sharp turn to the left and towards the grand staircase.
“He’s going up!”
The child ran up the stairs as fast as he could, his legs too short and body too frail to skip steps like the other boys could. Sunlight streamed from the stained glass windows, forcing looming shadows into corners and warming the boy’s features every time he passed by one of them on his way up.
He had already gotten to the third floor when he stumbled onto something.
That something gave a very loud yowl, which prompted the startled boy to gasp and take a quick step back, releasing the tail of a young black cat which immediately took the opportunity to speed off to the staircase behind said child.
“Sorry, Shadow!” the boy yelled back to the feline, fingers pressed to his quivering lips.
Seeing the cat disappear at the end of the staircase, he turned around and continued his ascent towards the upper floors, not stopping even as he heard a commotion bellow him.
“Holà …!” There was a hiss, followed by the sound of something big and heavy stumbling down the stairs. “De quoi…?! … Chat stupide!”
“… That wasn’t a cat! That was Shadow!”
“Don’t think we’re done with you, Shadow. We’re coming after you next!”
Feeling as if he himself had been threatened, the boy swallowed the lump in his throat and raced up one last staircase before stooping and entering what was supposed to be the sixth floor.
The child ran deep into the maze of hallways which made up the floor, his alert eyes sweeping across the crystal sconces and the paintings – eerie images of women with animalistic features and piercing eyes, men digging up graves, children drowning in lakes, burning in forest fires or stabbed by rose thorns – all lined up on the panelled walls.
Unlike downstairs, and because the sunlight barely reached the interior hallways, the lights were all on, flooding the space with a yellowish hue that brought out every detailed line on the old white and grey wallpaper and singled out every blue thread on the carpet which covered the whole floor.
While the young boy ran down those hallways, taking too many turns to count, he didn't hear any of his chasers' voices. Nothing but the sounds of his ragged breathing and his muffled footsteps on the carpet reached his ears.
Nothing, that is, until a new sound made him stop in his tracks. It was Daggas's voice, coming from the end of the hallway in front of him.
Eyes growing wide and mouth agape, the child whirled around, just about ready to bolt in the opposite direction of the voice. He hadn't taken one step forward though, when another familiar voice also sounded from that way - a voice yelling in french.
He was surrounded.
Clutching the shirt's fabric over his heart, the boy turned frantic eyes to the doors lining the walls. He dashed towards the closest, grabbing the handle and twisting it forcefully. It didn't budge. He tried the doors next to it, with similar results, then turned to the doors on the opposite wall.