I let my eyes wander, and I noticed a glossy piece of paper on the bedside table. Only one thing was written on it: Swan Walk Shopping Centre. I turned it over without thinking.
It was a series of four identity photos of Chunk, the ones you can do yourself at a photo booth. I almost put it back down, but a detail caught my eye. I studied it more closely: my friend’s face was progressively changing, going from the serious expression I know so well to a totally hallucinated one, picture by picture.
– You’re pulling quite a face in this last picture, I said.
Still no reaction.
I went nearer, taken aback, a touch suspicious even, in front of his gaming console.
– What’s going on, pal?
But Chunk kept on playing, staring, holding onto his joystick. The screen’s changing contrasts were lighting up his face with white flashes and, in response, he made his car’s motor roar.
I had my own problems to deal with, that was obvious, but Chunk is my best friend, and I couldn’t help but feel concerned. I put my hand on his shoulder.
– You don’t look well all of a sudden. You want me to call your grandma?
Chunk suddenly looked at me.
– What grandma?
His face had the same hallucinated expression as the one in the last picture. I stepped back.
– You know. Granny Margaret, the one who lives with you…
– No grandma lives with me. What are you talking about?
I continued to back up, until I reached the threshold, seized by panic and sudden comprehension all at once. I had just realised that the crazy expression he had on his face, I had seen it before: on each of my beloved family members, no later than that afternoon.
– But who lives with you then? I asked.
Chunk leapt from his chair.
– You ask who lives with me?
His voice was becoming threatening, threatening and strangled. He came towards me, arms stiff and fists clenched.
– You ask who lives with me? he repeated.
It was more than I could handle. I escaped the house without waiting for more, running down the stairs, even forgetting to say goodbye to poor Granny Margaret (shame on me).
(Go to PART 11)