The Painting

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It was a bleak day. The wind was blowing hard and the sky looked like it might rain at any second. However, that did not stop Miranda from going shopping. She lazily strolled down the street, looking at the reflection of a store window to admire her reflection and browse through the items. A well-off woman, she had inherited a small fortune before she had gotten married to Richard, who owned a rather successful business, now Miranda stayed at home and entertained herself by going window shopping at nearby antique stores. She loved looking for new and sometimes unusual items, calling them her “treasure hunts.” Richard had a different opinion, and he often called them pieces of junk behind her back. He never told that to her face, since she has a terrible temper.

On this day, she was looking through the usual chain of stores. Miranda had often visited them so much that most of the employees knew her on a first name basis. She looked through them, but had not found anything new. She then proceeded to look at other stores, each one taking her father from her neighborhood. Suddenly, her eyes were drawn in to an old art store. She had never seen it there before, despite the countless times she had walked this path. Something about it compelled her to go inside and look around.

The inside of the store looked very bizarre. Vivid paintings on old, dusty shelves, with splashes of color that seemed to bring the store to life. Acrylics, water paintings, oil paintings, oriental paintings. Statues and sculptures littered the corners of the room. Pottery concealed the shelves. Paintings, photos, and tapestries encompassed the walls. Beautiful pieces of art were everywhere. Some old, some new, all took Miranda’s breath away. To her, the place was chaotic, yet beautiful. She knew she had found a treasure cove and seeked to plunder it of its riches, immediately.

“See anything you like?” wheezed a voice. Startled, Miranda spun around and scanned the room for the voice. Her eyes fell upon an old man sitting behind a counter. He wore an old business suit and looked very pale. His face was like a cancer patient, wrinkled and ragged. He was almost bald, except for a few strands of hair. His eyes, however, were a dark brown, making his eyes look completely black. For a moment, Miranda was shocked and was tempted to run away, but she thought, “He’s an old man, what could he possibly do?”

“I’m still looking,” she replied. She still was, wondering about how much she could possibly buy and carry back home. Her eyes were drawn everywhere and could not stay in one place.

“Take your time. You have all the time in the world, Miranda,” he rasped. She was shocked for a moment that he knew her name, but she relaxed. One of the other store keepers must have told him about her.

Suddenly, her eyes locked upon a single acrylic painting. It depicted a young boy, playing with a few toys. It was beautifully painted and looked almost alive. The face was illustrated so clearly that it almost seemed as if he were in the room. Yet, the eyes looked sad, almost as if he would burst out into tears. Miranda instantly forgot all the other paintings and knew that she must buy this painting.

“How much for this wonderful work of art?” she asked, almost breathless with excitement.

He smiled, with a wicked grin and replied, “Offer.” They haggled for a few seconds and Miranda quickly agreed to a price of five thousand.

She paid immediately. She was so afraid that it might get stolen or ruined that she called Richard to come and pick it up in the middle of the day. Knowing how frightening she could be when provoked, he agreed in order to avoid any argument. She hung it up in the living room and marveled at it.

“Doesn’t it look beautiful, darling?” she asked her husband. He looked at it and grudgingly agreed with her, but something about the picture seemed to scare him. He remained silent as she stared at the picture.

That night, Miranda couldn’t sleep. She kept thinking about the picture. She was obsessed with the painting. When she finally decided that she couldn’t sleep, she quietly went into the dark hallway that led to the living room to look at the painting. When she saw it, her breath rushed out immediately, as always. Then she noticed that something about the painting was different. The boy, who originally looked sad, was grinning wickedly, just like the old store keeper. The eyes gleamed with an unholy light. Suddenly, the boy looked toward her. Miranda stared, horrified, and at the same time fascinated. The boy walked toward her and reached out his hand. The canvas seemed to ripple when his hand touched it. Miranda remained rooted to the spot. Then a deformed, twisted, mutilated hand came out of the canvas. A quick scream echoed through the house and then all was silent.

Richard called the police that night and reported that his wife and the painting were missing. The word spread throughout the neighborhood, ridiculous scandals were created by many of the neighbors. The police found nothing. Years passed and Miranda’s disappearance became another suburban myth. Strangely, the shop where the painting was purchased just disappeared after the incident and the owner was never seen again. No one but the husband ever knew it existed.

In London, a couple was looking through a small art store on the outskirts of town. They came across a painting of a beautiful woman looking through a shop, holding a young boy’s hand. Both were smiling, but the woman’s eyes portrayed fear and misery. This went unnoticed by the couple, who were too breathless about their discovery. They went up and asked the owner of the shop how much it was.

The old man looked up, a wicked look of triumph momentarily lighting up his dark eyes and said, “Offer.”





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