I pick up the basket, go through the kitchen door and along the hall towards the grandfather clock. The sitting-room door is closed. Sun comes through the fanlight, falling in colours across the floor: red and blue, purple. I step into it briefly, stretch out my hands; they fill with flowers of light. I go up the stairs, my face, distant and white and distorted, framed in the hall mirror, which bulges outward like an eye under pressure. I follow the dusty-pink runner down the long upstairs hallway, back to the room.
There’s someone standing in the hall, near the door to the room where I stay. The hall is dusky, this is a man, his back to me; he’s looking into the room, dark against its light. I can see now, it’s the Commander, he isn’t supposed to be here. He hears me coming, turns, hesitates, walks forward. Towards me. He is violating custom, what do I do now?
I stop, he pauses, I can’t see his face, he’s looking at me, what does he want? But then he moves forward again, steps to the side to avoid touching me, inclines his head, is gone.
Something has been shown to me, but what is it? Like the flag of an unknown country, seen for an instant above a curve of hill, it could mean attack, it could mean parley, it could mean the edge of something, a territory. The signals animals give one another: lowered blue eyelids, ears laid back, raised hackles. A flash of bared teeth, what in hell does he think he’s doing? Nobody else has seen him. I hope. Was he invading? Was he in my room?