I haven't seen any Flash Fiction Fridays lately, so I thought to dig through the ones from years back and start over again. This was the first one I did in 2013 - pick one from 5 tables... it turned out more interesting this time than it did first time around.
The best way to see an art museum is after the crowds have left the building and the doors are shut for the night. Yes, the after-hours tours are always fun and more personal – more intense – than the daytime ones where you’re forever trying to hear what the tour guide is saying over the hubbub of the other people milling around the place.
It just doesn’t do the art and other work justice either when you’re sharing personal space with them either... when you’re breathing the same stale air as another person and want to reach a certain feeling with a statue or painting and some stranger is mumbling some crap about it that they’re ‘really not into it, because the artist wasn’t my first choice to study at uni’. Or they’re on the phone talking, talking, talking.. or texting, tweeting or commenting on Facebook, looking down instead of up and around for five fucking minutes of their mundane lives!
Yes, the after-hours tour is well worth it – even if it costs twice as much!
It takes you places you’d never thought possible – like the basement of the place where there’s real art there sitting amongst corridors of other art which will most probably never see the light of day with massive sponges to pull up the moisture which would usually destroy the work sitting in the darkness where the red-eyed mice live and the spiders cringe in the corners of the corridors as you pass by with your torches clutched in your hand, terrified that you might step on something in the dark.
But, then I saw it... the piece I had been waiting for... the painting which I had only seen photos of in books – and owned a huge print of in my bedroom.
It’s a painting by an obscure artist nobody had heard of from the 1500’s who worked for Michelangelo for three weeks in Florence before being fired for doing something minor and stupid and was sent on his way. This artist did only one major painting in his life and this was it: ‘The Love Triangle’.
In it is a gorgeous woman, who sits behind a window of a house, dressed in something only a person of wealth would own. However, as I stared at it, I found she wore a locket around her neck – her fingers were touching the chain tentatively as she stared out at the artist from within her – I don’t want to say prison – home, where if you looked hard enough, there was everything in there a house of that time had. There was a large, stoic fireplace, a bed, and a table where sat vegetables, a bowl of fruit and an urn filled with what could only be ale or larger. Bunches of dried herbs lined the walls and I spotted a man sitting at the table with a meal in front of him – but he hadn’t touched it, he was looking over at her instead.
“Sir, I said don’t look at it too long. This painting has pulled people into its hold before.” The guide told me firmly.
“I have a print of it at home... I’ll be okay.”
“No. You don’t understand, we have lost people on this tour because of how this painting affects them.” He took my arm gently, “This way please, sir, I can’t stay here long. There is more to see.”
“Okay, sure... no probs.” I turned for a last moment and took a last peek at her to see she was smiling at me through the window, her hand on the glass of the pane; when it wasn’t like that before.
My drive home was a blur, and I unlocked my front door, flicked on the lights and found the print above my bed wasn’t there. My guts hit the floor, as I wondered where it vanished to! Dropping my backpack on the lounge I raced over to my bedroom and found it on my bed, facing the ceiling, and I stopped a few feet away. How could it be positioned like this when – if it had fallen off the wall – it would have been face down on the bed. I climbed onto the bed, carefully picking it up to find she was looking at me again... her hand on the pane of the glass, smiling at me.
“But, that’s the painting.” A whisper choked from my throat before I dropped it back onto the bed and turned to break eye contact with her to find her sitting at the window, her long dark lochs of hair cascading down her back and the gown that eye-catching green velvet was so much better up close than... but wait, what was she doing in my bedroom when I...? I turned to see the man at the table looking over at her, then his eyes shifted to me and I jumped, “Who? What’s going on?”
“Well, you’ve been pulled into this place too.” His voice was edging on angry, “And she won’t let us go.” He stood and walked around the table glaring at her back, “What was it for you? Her eyes? Her hair? Or was it the locket?”
“I’ve always loved her as the person in the picture.” I admitted, “But the locket has also been a mystery.”
Looking back at me, he snorted, “I’m sure you have your ideas of trying to get out of here, and believe me, I’ve tried everything to get out – and everything you do fails.”
“But we’re in the print of this.”
He shook his head, “No, we’re not. You came back to the art museum and stole the painting and hung it up on your wall last week; they don’t know you have it yet – or they won’t, not until you don’t show up for work tomorrow.” The man smiled, “I have figured out one thing though.”
“And that is?”
“I have forgotten who I am. But I know I am you... and you are me; because we both love her for the same thing.” He smiled, “And at long last, I’ve figured out how to get out of this.” He pulled a brass dagger from his belt, “And believe me, it’s not going to be pretty.”
I woke in the local hospital after undergoing emergency surgery. My next door neighbour had heard my screams of pain and called the police and ambulance and they found me next to the painting with a knife sticking out of my guts and blood everywhere. The painting was back up on the wall and when they rushed me out the door, I spotted her. She wasn’t at the window anymore; no, she was sitting on the bed with her face in her hands weeping.
It took me while to figure out what happened to me, but I didn’t want to tell anyone about it – I mean, who in the hell would believe me? So, I healed and went home to find the painting was still on the wall of my bedroom and she was sitting on her bed still weeping.
I wondered if she thought I was dead or if the other man escaping had broken her heart; in truth, I wasn’t sure. What I did have to do was call the art museum and tell them what I had done – but really how could I tell them that I had done it when I don’t remember doing it?
The curator came into my house with a few other people and walked over to the painting. They did some tests on it and confirmed that it was the original as she had returned to the window, looking out with her hand on the chain of her locket.
“But how did you do this?” the curator asked, “We have so much security around the basement and the art museum, I’m still not sure how it works out that you did this.”
“Neither do I.” I shook my head, “If you don’t take it away from here, I’ll do it again; and I’ll...” I looked at the painting and motioned the curator away from it, outside into the hall outside my place, “...I’ll get trapped in it again. And I’m worried she won’t let me go.”
At first I thought he didn’t believe me by the look he gave me, then he nodded, “So the rumours are true. People are getting pulled into her dimension through the window.”
“I’m not the first?”
“No, and the man in the picture who isn’t there now is somebody who was trapped in there last time. He really didn’t like her doing that as it destroyed a family.” He smiled, “Now, we have proof!”
“You survived it!” he gripped my shoulder smiling like an idiot, “We’ll take the painting away and you won’t be bothered by it anymore.”
The security system was improved in Chicago as I raced through the darkened galleries of sculptures and paintings and found the doors to the basement, nearly fell down the stairs to where I could smell the dankness of the sponges sucking up the moisture down here... where she’d be always placed so she couldn’t pull in anymore people.
I turned a corner, hearing her siren song, knowing it was time for us, for me to free her. I knew what to do this time. As I approached ‘The Love Triangle’, I spotted more than just her in the painting. There were other men, other women, in this piece. They all sat around the table waiting to be released. I pulled out a replica of the dagger the first guy had used on me, and sliced my hand.
As my blood oozed from my wound, dripping to the floor and onto my shoes, I smeared it across the painting and onto the locket – which became real in my bloodied hand as I swept across it! Closing my hand around it, I ripped it off the painting and turned to find five people standing around me who had been in the painting only moments before.
“It’s mine, the locket is mine!” I said.
“Actually you are mistaken.” A woman’s voice said next to me, “It’s mine and you are the proof of how your envy makes you into your own worst enemy.” Holding out her hand, she smiled, “Now, that’s mine, along with your soul, because envy is a sin.”
I sat at the table looking at the food she had prepared for me. She sat at the window looking out at the people looking around the corridor. They were looking for me, but would never find me.
Now I was the man in the painting sitting at the table wondering if I’d ever get out. But I knew how to get out. There was one tiny problem...