I walked past that damn painting every day. I worked for Mrs Steinem – a miserable old widow. She lived in an old house up on the hill on the edge of town – talk about a cliché.
I didn’t like the old lady, but the money was good. As long as I could pay my rent and bills, I was happy.
Steinem had money. Maybe the reason she had so much was that she hated to spend it. The knock-off painting in the hallway a case in point.
Surely the old woman could afford the real thing, not some imitation which was clearly a knock off. Granted, I was no expert, but even I could tell that the painting was fake.
I couldn’t put my finger on it, but there was something ‘off’ about the painting – especially the way the eyes followed me when I moved through darkened hallway. Steinem was a tight-fisted old mare, refusing to pay for lighting, except for one spotlight beneath that painting.
It made the painting seem dark and disturbing with Mona Lisa’s face taking on a sinister appearance. Maybe it was a trick of the light, but I could’ve sworn that those carefully-placed hands moved when I walked past.
Mrs Steinem was dying. It wouldn’t be long before she would be reunited with her husband. As her breath rattled through overworked lungs, she still had the ability to make me flinch when her papery hands reached out to me.
I often asked her about her husband, but those beady eyes of hers would always avoid my gaze. For whatever reason, the old woman was reluctant to talk of her husband and how he’d died.
If she was protective of the memories of her husband, she was even more protective of that damn painting, even admonishing me once for asking if the decorators could take it down to redo the wallpaper in the hall.
“Never touch it!” she hissed.
Her eyes warned me not to argue.
She died three days ago.
I was asked to start drawing up an inventory of Mrs Steinem’s belongings so they could be valued and then auctioned off.
As I walked past the painting, realising that nothing could stop me taking the wretched thing down now.
I felt a sharp pain as my hand made contact with the painting and then….nothing.
I woke up sometime later, watching men and women in suits with clipboards looking appreciatively at me. I tried to move but couldn’t. I screamed yet nothing came out of my mouth.
I heard a voice beside me.
“It’s no use. You’re trapped here.”
My eyes shot to the left, next to me was someone I recognised from Mrs Steinem’s collection of photographs – her husband.
“I loved her, you know,” he said, his voice sad. “She was a witch, but I loved her.” I felt something crawling its way around my neck. “You can be my wife now.”
I felt a malevolent presence consume me.
Trapped – forever.
Written is response to Thain in Vain’s Week 43 prompt: Let’s write a scary story! Use this picture as your inspiration!