TEN

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Mehrak turned a wheel on the door, there was a clunk and he pulled it open. Louis’s tail curled and looped round under the opening.

“Step onto his tail,” Mehrak said. “He’ll hoist you up.”

Sammy raised her eyebrows and crossed her arms.

“Come on.”

Sammy maintained eye contact with Mehrak a moment longer, then carefully transferred her weight onto Louis’s tail. She fell forward as Louis boosted her up into the hatch. She grabbed onto the stairs on the other side while simultaneously trying to hold her pyjama bottoms up. Her cheeks flushed as she imagined the view Mehrak was getting of her undignified flailing.

She scampered away up a narrow stairway towards the end of a tunnel where rainbow of colour swirled in the light. She emerged into a circular, golden kitchen with a single round porthole. The rainbow colours belonged to a mobile made up of hundreds of multi-coloured paper birds floating on arcing paths. The mobile hung from the high-pointed apex and took up the entire top third of the egg. A chunky green table sat in the centre of the room, sandwiched between two chunky green benches, and oil lamps were fixed to the walls, providing a dim but cosy glow. They illuminated the birds, and the colours danced on the walls as they turned.

A copper work surface curved around one half of the wall, with cabinets above it and a plumbed-in sink and a water pump feeding down into a hole in the floor. A stove and coal bucket squatted against the opposite wall with various copper pots and pans dangling above.

A second staircase followed the curve of the room to a hole halfway up the wall.

“Are they the stairs to the other egg?” Sammy asked.

Mehrak smiled. “Why don’t you go up and take in the view from the top?”

Sammy sprinted up the stairs. She probably looked like a giddy kid, but she didn’t care. The cottage was seriously cool.

At the hole in the wall the stairs tightened into a corkscrew and spiralled upwards, emerging in the centre of the floor of the second egg. The second room was around two-thirds the size of the kitchen, but with blue walls and a wrought iron chandelier in the peak of the ceiling. Furniture-wise, everything was green and there wasn’t much of it; a small four-poster bed, a wardrobe, a chair and a small set of shelves holding six books. A waist-high safety rail fenced off the top of the stairs and around it ran a red, doughnut-shaped carpet. Either side of the room were two arched doorways with red velvet curtains.

Sammy opened the gate in the safety rail and stepped into the room. “You really like green furniture, don’t you?” she said to Mehrak, as he came up into the room behind her.

He shrugged. “It’s not something I spend a lot of time thinking about, to be honest.”

Sammy approached the doorway that she supposed led to the front balcony and pushed through the curtains. On the other side, the long balcony stretched out from the tower to a point. It reminded her of the ship’s bow in the famous scene from Titanic. She walked over to stand at the end. She wasn’t enough of a loser to reproduce the pose from the movie, with her arms stretched out, although for a moment she considered it.

 

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