An Ancient Family Portrait

August 18, 2010
Custom User Avatar
More by this author
Thunder shook my home. Lightning flashed, illuminating the pouring rain. The teardrops of the sky never ceased, like a broken-hearted human. My window was a thin barrier, a leaf in an ocean, too small to do any good. I shivered, cold. My bed creaked, groaning under pressure. Fear wound itself around my heart. It was 1942, and there was war. I clutched my flimsy blanket to me, pulse racing, brow sweating. The walls around me trembled, like my lower lip. Don’t cry. Nothings happening. Don’t cry. I repeated it in my mind like a mantra. But the thunder sounded too much like bombs. The unmistakable sound of engines, Bomber engines broke through the storm, and terror seized me. Not now. Please, not now. I heard a mangled scream, shrill and desperate, tearing my wall of self-deceit apart.
Someone was pounding on my door. "Come out, Laika! Hurry! It’s an air strike!” A panicked, high voice shrieked over the roar of impending horror. It was my mother’s voice. Quickly, I flung my blanket off and wrenched my door open. There stood my mother, a faint outline in the dark. As I got closer I could see that her pale skin was flushed with adrenaline and worry, hair a disheveled brown mess.

“Run to the cellar, Laika! Go!” My body whirled down the first flight of stairs, darting past my mother as she desperately ran to alert other members of my family. My dressing gown was tripping me, and as my eyes did not adjust to the darkness, I fell over the hem of my gown. Salty tears burned my eyes over the fear, panic, and pain in me. I smacked down the steps, rolling like a ball. The floor greeted me with an unforgiving hard surface. My mind spun. Groaning, I hauled myself to my feet, flying again. I rounded a corner, jumping over shattered glass from a window. Second flight of stairs. This time, I purposely fell, as it would get me to the basement faster. Finally, I flung myself against the cellar door, turning the knob left and right like a madman. Slowly, it creaked open, seeming to mock my haste and speed. Gratefully, I dashed inside, slamming the door behind me. Cold air cleared my frenzied state of mind, and my chest rose and fell slowly. I inhaled dust from miscellaneous objects. The area was filled with cardboard boxes, racks of partially broken china sets, old forgotten trunks, and a large painting partially obscured and leaning against the wall at the end of the room. It was glowing now in the dim flickering light of a candle I had lit from the emergency storage box. Curious, I walked toward it, picking my way amongst years of accumulated family junk. Several explosions from outside startled me, yet I was still intrigued enough to move quickly toward the picture.

It was a simple portrait really. A rather dreary faded blue made for the background covering the canvas. The face however was hard to grasp. It was completely non-descript, neither male nor female. It somehow seemed to blur. It had a patina over a once silver plated frame. It was unsophisticated, but beautiful. Something about the single color slid gently into a haunting place in my mind. It seemed to be a family portrait, ancient judging by its battered frame. I stroked my fingers over the paint, surprised at the prickling tingle in them. Something was brushing itself against my cheek, caressing me. Hello. I feel you. The music of your soul is quite the symphony, a voice whispered in my mind. Anxiously I felt the recent calm slip away from my body. All I could fixate on was the strange blue color. I tried to focus on the ever-changing face but I could never really see it. Peaceful, isn’t it? I can keep you safe here. No war or danger. I just need your soul in exchange. I am made up of many different souls contained within this portrait. A part of me wanted to agree, but in the background of the invisible spirit’s silky voice, I heard the faint sound of moans. Home. Loss. Regret. The words gnawed at me. The spirit spoke again. Ignore that of which you do not understand. They are mere victims of their own undoing. You, of course, would be loved. I felt an even greater fear battle my calm. Would I end up like the other souls? Trapped in a void? I had to leave the blue portrait, had to pull away. The spirit was whispering again, more urgent.
But instead of listening, I thought of the war. Of teardrops glistening on skin, guns snarling in battle like mad beasts. I thought of bloodied battlefields. I thought of my reality. Slowly, the blue faded and the shifting face disappeared leaving me standing alone in the cellar staring at a blank canvas.
Above me, I heard bombs exploding, and the cries of my family headed toward me. Despite what was to come, I was home. A lone soul in the never-ending darkness of war. And with that, I blew out the candle.

Join the Discussion

This article has 9 comments. Post your own now!

IamtheStargirl said...
Sept. 7, 2010 at 7:15 pm

Wow, this is really good. You describe the emotions so vividly.

Thanks for writing and sharing this piece :)

Hippiechick10 replied...
Sept. 29, 2010 at 4:15 pm
hey iamtheSTargirl! thanks. I was just wondering- have you read the Star girl series? I just thought you may have because of your username....
IamtheStargirl replied...
Sept. 29, 2010 at 5:04 pm
Yes, I've read it, have you?
Hippiechick10 replied...
Nov. 24, 2010 at 1:47 pm
Yeah. They are wonderful and so... How shall I say it? Beautiful in the sense that they hold so much truth.
thepreechyteenager said...
Sept. 2, 2010 at 2:56 pm

I liked this story a lot :)  The description was really good and the time period made this very interesting.  There were a couple suggestions I had though.

I thought it was hard to differenciate between when the painting was talking and when it was the girl thinking.  You might want to think about staring  new paragraph whenever you change between them.

Also, how did the girl think that this was a family portrait when there way only one face?  Was there ... (more »)

Hippiechick10 replied...
Sept. 4, 2010 at 5:40 pm
Thanks for your feedback! I'd love to read your work. You are totally right about the one faced family portrait. It didn't make sense. I got lost in my story line completely and forgot the whole "family" portrait meaning.
Hippiechick10 replied...
Sept. 29, 2010 at 4:16 pm
But a family portrait can be one person, because they are a part of someone's family
thepreechyteenager replied...
Sept. 29, 2010 at 4:28 pm
That's probably technically true, but it isn't a reader's immediant thought when they're reading something titled "An anciet family protrait."  Anyway, this story rocked :)
Hippiechick10 replied...
Nov. 2, 2010 at 10:43 am
thank you for your advice!!!
bRealTime banner ad on the left side
Site Feedback