Aruth sat with feet upon the kitchen table. Cigar in one hand, brandy in the other. The house was tidy enough. The fish had been fed, the cat walked, and the paint dried. Surely no more was to be done right now? Surely a moment to reflect upon the condition of life? His own life. A life, while constrained by duty, also enabled through wages the change to feed those vicious habits that made earning his keep tolerable. Such delicious circularity.

The peaceful pause was not permitted to last. A bell rang, pulled by a rope that stretched through long halls. A rope that Aruth imagined formed a noose around his neck, cutting off his air whenever he breathed too deeply. The bell rang again, with a hint of impatience rising to anger.

Aruth stood, brushed ash from his shirt, took his tray and left the sanctity of his kitchen for the master’s room. Along the corridors he stalked, jeered on by the ever-present menagerie of guests, bric-à-brac bought from local markets and infused with intelligence. Nasty, petty intelligences that offered low opinions. A row of vases painted with smudged flowers clattered their lids as he strode past. A small tin depiction of a bus tried to roll under his feet. A mouldy velvet bird perched upon a high shelf shook dust onto his hair. Every step he took was accompanied by screeches from all corners. “Biscuit!” they cried. “Biscuuuiiittt!

From the master’s room, an annoyed voice roared. “Biscuit!


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