Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Specter's Painting - Fiction

"The Specter's Painting" was a short story I wrote my senior year of high school for my Creative Writing class. I submitted it to, and it was recognized as an Editor's Choice Pick-of-the-Week under the horror genre! Enjoy!

The Specter's Painting

Photo courtesy of Dani

The halls were dank and musty, and Maria could see mold creeping through the corners of the corridor and down the walls. She sighed to herself. She hadn’t realized just how much of a fixer-upper the house she bought was. And of course the real estate agent hadn't pointed out the mold, simply the matching colors of the walls.

She continued down the hallway, brushing cobwebs away while she scrutinized her surroundings for more damage. Her feet creaked against the century-old floorboards, but the sound to her was soothing. It reminded her of her grandfather’s house, the one she would always visit as a child when her parents left her alone yet 

Maria turned the corner and stopped, suddenly frightened and suddenly very, very aware of how alone she was in the house. A painting was staring into her eyes, reflecting her gaze. It was a man, an old man, simply staring. The painting had not been there a week ago when she had last visited the house. Maria leaned in toward the painting, hoping to make out a title on the bottom of the gilded gold frame. She carefully wiped away the dust with the pads of her fingertips, not wanting to disturb the painting. As if it could harm me, she thought to herself. I’m just being silly. The painting had to have been here last week, and I just must have missed it. But still she felt an eerie presence surrounding her, compelling her to further investigate the painting. Looking back again at the old man peering at her, she found a small signature on the bottom right-hand corner. DonCarlo. DonCarlo. Maria ran a search through her mind’s database for the familiar name, and a memory surfaced of her grandfather recounting a tale of an ancient ancestor, a painter far away in Italy. And the painter’s name was DonCarlo. Surely it couldn’t be the same man, the same painter. Maria shook her head, attempting to rid herself of the ridiculous ideas developing in her brain.

Footsteps began to echo in the hallway, and Maria gasped, even more afraid than she was before. Was it the real estate agent? A next-door neighbor? She flattened herself against the wall as the specter began to approach, wearing all white and seeming somewhat transparent.

“Who are you?” she whispered.

“No one of consequence,” a man’s voice replied. “You needn’t worry, at least not yet…”

Maria blinked, hoping to wash away the image swirling in her vision. The man surely could not be real. Dressed in all white, he had to be a ghost, a childhood haunting of her mind. Her biggest childhood fear was haunting her again, mocking her in her new surroundings. It had to be only an illusion, a hallucination, but whatever he was, he could not be real. Maria scrunched her eyes tightly, and when she opened them, he was gone. She breathed a sigh of relief, glad to realize that it was only her mind playing tricks on her. Just a case of moving jitters, she assured herself. Nothing to worry about.

She crept away from the wall, breathing more easily now. She looked back at the painting, analyzing the brush strokes and the texture of the canvas. Focusing hard now to erase her previous fears, she stared and stared at it for what seemed like an hour. A bird screeched outside and snapped Maria out of her trance. She stepped back from the painting, relieved and calm once again.

Her eyes were again drawn to the old man’s, and she wondered if it was a self-portrait of her ancestor. “Who are you?” she whispered, studying his face as if she could find an answer there. But the old man in the painting gave no reply. Of course not, Maria chided herself. It’s only a painting.

She began to walk away and continue searching the house, but then that same eerie presence called her back once more. She followed it, if only to make sure the painting was still there and she hadn’t been imagining the entire odd occurrence. Yes, the painting still hung from the moldy walls. Yes, it was still an old man. And yes, DonCarlo’s signature was still visible at the bottom.

Maria looked again into his eyes. She felt almost as if they were watching her. And then they blinked.

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