The piano appeared to be broken. Each note Roman played just didn't sound right. His hands would glide expertly up to the right, but the notes would descend. The more it frustrated him, the further out of sync it went. He was beginning to sweat. Each time he looked up from the keys, the room full of suited far eastern men looked more and more disapproving. Some of them were wagging their forefingers at him. He looked back down and the piano had vanished. A much welcome trap door with a gold ring to pull it open had replaced it.
He quickly slipped through. The men were beginning to advance. He shut the door above him. Then he was surrounded by total darkness. A pin-prick of blue light began glowing. It swirled around his head in pirouettes, leading a trail of faint blue as it darted about. A red and a yellow one joined it and they danced in an expert trio. Three more appeared, then another six, and so on until hundreds of tailed dots of coloured light wiggled and exchanged places mesmerisingly around him, above and below. He preferred their show to that broken piano upstairs.
Slowly, a depth wound into their dance and the tails held their colour for longer. The high ceiling of an ornately painted cathedral formed in a mandala of neon before Roman, who suddenly felt sick from nostalgia. Finally, the colours ground to halt and the church's physical features remained. All at once, the lights swarmed into the shape of an individual behind the altar at the end of the long rows of benches. Roman turned to the double doors in panic, but his trousers were at his ankles and he fell over painlessly. With all his strength, he could not stand.
He turned to the figure of swarming dots and raised his hand before his eyes. The figure at the altar opened a large book and took a breath in, which condensed the dots into its centre. A gloopy rain of purple horror slicked down Roman's blood. Then a screech dismantled the cathedral like glass shards in the wind and shot forth the coloured dots into infinity. "Roman!" was the word within the shrill screech.
The screech battered his eardrums a few times, slowly sounding more and more like the calm voice of a young boy. The colours dribbled into a blurry texture and then he knew that he had opened his eyes in a waking state, and that his previous reality must not have been, thankfully.
A child's bearded face loomed over him, slowly coming into focus. "Roman?" it said.
"Uncle... Buncle?" said Roman, unsure if luck had finally thrown him a bone. A pair of hands sat him up roughly, but then a pillow slid in behind his back. He rubbed his eyes and cursed under his breath, then accepted the glass of water floated before his eyes. He took it tentatively and placed it back in thin air, where it floated onto the white shelf above the fireplace. He was in a cosy room. It looked like a child's room. The wallpaper was made of varying types of coloured parchment, an aeroplane hung from a string on the ceiling and there was a toy bus he thought he recognised in the corner of the room.
"Nephew, it is good to see that you are alive," said Uncle Buncle, "Are you able to stand? We must attend breakfast and get some hot food down you before you tell me how you ended up in Mr. Edmund's lair."
Before Roman was given a chance to respond, another pair of rough hands had him off the bed and onto his feet. He looked around and there was nobody who could have touched him, just a green gargoyle mask on the pink paisley wall. He thought he heard a distant cackling as they exited the room.
Uncle Buncle hadn't changed. His love of doll's houses had only gotten stronger. When Roman last saw him, Uncle Buncle was a six-year-old bearded boy playing gaily with some taxidermy rabits that his mother, Aunty Buncle, had stuffed for him. The rabbits wore upper class attire, the woman's home-wear floral and the man's black and well-fitted.
One day, Roman was babysitting Uncle Buncle. He would narrate his toy's doings aloud. While chuffing on his pipe and dipping between this reality and the next, Roman got to hear all about Mrs. Galoss' worries that her husband might soon be fired, and her qualms about the neighbour's choice of plants in the backgarden. "Fern's are just so... prehistoric!" he remembers little Uncle Buncle complaining in a high-pitch voice, "I don't know why Mr. Edmunds doesn't speak up about it." That was six years ago. His uncle was a teenager now, though his beard looked just as full as all those years before. Where were his parents, Aunty Buncle and Mick? Had Uncle Buncle been left to his own devices? He was a clever child and seemed self-sufficient enough. But Roman couldn't help but think that he was still too young to be living on his own. Even Roman didn't like living alone, which is why he invited Publin to live with him. Oh Publin, I do hope you are safe, thought Roman.
On his way to breakfast, nostalgia took a loose grip on his throat for the second time that day. Every room he passed through seemed to be decorated in very similar detail to the doll's house that Uncle Buncle used to play with. After all, Roman had played a hand in building the damn thing. The patchy pink paisley wallpaper shifted aggressively into the green floral parchment style. Roman remembered gluing that himself. The floorboards had white flecks of paint on them and the plants in their little pots were obviously made of felt, though they did look nice.
Down the creaky stairs they stepped and then the smell hit them. Uncle Buncle shouted something happy to whoever had cooked the breakfast. Tears barged their way out of Roman's eyes and trickled down his face in a rush to his chin. Eggs, beans, toast... hot food! The nastiness that he had been through was, for a moment, allowed to be pushed aside. Instead, he focused on the red and white lino tablecloth that stuck to his hands if he rested them there too long; the crunch of the toast beneath his knife; the hot, salted scrambled eggs shimmying down his gullet; and definitely not, for a moment, the cackling that approached from some very distant place.