Bill walked through the art exhibit. It was empty save for a couple punk looking kids. Then again it was always empty on Halloween Night. Which was the reason he liked it; no ghouls, witches, vampires, demons, power rangers, or the scariest of them all: political figures. No, in the sanctuary of the museum there were no little brats ringing at his door saying "trick or treat!" He was sick of them all.
He was a short nerdy looking man. He had one hell of a temper and knew he would blow up the next time one of those kids left a flaming bag of dog doo on his front porch. He debated sitting on his front porch with a shotgun but decided to go into town again anyway. The museum always had a calming effect on him.
He examined the next work; a large piece perhaps six feet tall by four wide. It caught his attention before he even entered the room. He left it for last as it did leave quite an impression on him even from so far away.
The bright white circle that represented the top of what looked like a well is what caught his attention. As he approached, he noticed the walls of the "well" were all people. No, they weren't people; they were dead. He examined the painting with a closer eye. It looked more like a vortex of the dead falling into hell. He shivered. That wasn't at all what he expected. The rest of the paintings in the room had been bright and happy, certainly enough to take his mind off the stupid holiday. Then this… It brought his attention back in full.
He shook as he felt the picture draw him in. He vaguely remembered legends of the river of the dead… What was it called? Sphinx? Stinks? Anyway, just like those legends the people in this painting were ghost like, withered and gray. The hallow eyes, open mouths and odd shaped heads reminded him vaguely of Edvard Munch's "The Scream." Yet these were more disturbing. They were more realistic. They looked as if they were about to reach out of the picture and grab him.
Perhaps the most unnerving thing about the painting were the hands. One would think that a painting such as this would have hands grabbing at you, but no, most don't seem to want to touch you. Instead the second most prominent aspect of the picture were the hands, Bill's hands, stretching out as if reaching for the light. OK, they weren't exactly like Bill's, though creepily they were similar. Bill tucked his hands under his arms in an effort not to look at them. Perhaps the artist was falling down this well, but Bill felt as if he were a part of the wall, circling ceaselessly, wailing and crying for release, the light moving farther away.
He was bumped from behind. Jostled by the dead? "Dude, sorry!" No, just one of the punks. This particular one had a blue spiked mohawk, leather jacket and studs covering his face. The other punks laughed as they all walked off balance on the benches and pushed each other around.
"This is a museum at least try to act with respect!" Bill's temper flared. The calming effect the museum usually had on him was ruined by this painting. It evoked the horror of hell in him he usually felt. Now he had a perfect victim to take his anger out on. "You and your little friends are nothing but filth, I suppose you came to laugh at the art instead of using your minds.
"Ooh, Tony's gone and pissed off the little nerd." One of the punks laughed and they all gathered around.
This did indeed anger Bill and he felt his face heating up. The horror look in the punk's eyes told him he was getting his point across.
"Dude, chill, I said I was sorry!" Bill gripped his leather jacket harder.
"What are you doing scumming up this place anyway, you should be out trick or treating with all the gothic wannabe's."
"That stuff's for babies, like you," the punk spit.
Bill growled and pumped his fist to blast it into the punk's face.
"Get off him man!" The short, red mohawk guy grabbed Bill's arm trying to keep him from pounding his friend.
Reflexively Bill flung his arm back throwing the kid towards the wall. He hit the painting with a thud and screamed. His screams were drowned out by the security alarm going off, but that didn't keep Bill and the others from staring.
The redheaded punk was falling into the picture! The upper half of his body was already turning gray as he glided backwards and beginning to spin around the wall with the other bodies. The other two punks besides Tony tried to grab the guy's feet and pull him back out. The pull was too strong and one of the guy's grip slipped. He fell backwards hitting his head on the bench and knocking him out cold. The one who had the other foot was thrown off balance and put out his arm attempting to brace himself against the wall. Instead it fell flat onto the painting. The effect was slow at first like placing your hand on a cake and slowly sinking in. When it got up to his elbow the kid started shrieking and sliding in faster. His friend was in it entirely now and Bill watched helplessly as the second punk being sucked into hell.
"Where the hell are the guards?" Bill yelled at the punk still in his hands.
The blue spikes on the guy's head were shaking violently. "I don't know man, just let me go, come on man let me go… Please. Shit, man I'm gonna pee my pants, please let me go."
Bill dropped him not really thinking about him anymore. Bill was beginning to feel faint. The dead in the painting were definitely swirling now and the wail of the museum alarm turned into the howling of the deceased. He felt nauseous and dizzy as he stared at the white circle of light in the painting.
He felt himself floating and a weight upon him as if he was floating downward. The circle was getting smaller, farther away. It grew dimmer as Bill felt himself falling. The face of the last punk drifting before his eyes as if he was in the painting as well.
Then a thought struck him and horror filled his heart. What if he had fallen into the painting? He reached up to the light, grasping hoping to climb his way back up and into consciousness when he saw his hands. Just like those in the painting, mostly gray, with only a little pink, the life draining out of him. "No! God! No!" He called as he stretched harder for the ever fading light until it decayed to blackness and Bill was lost forever.
New York Times November 1, 2008
William F. Kurtz was found dead today in the Guggenheim Museum of apparent heart attack. Mr. Kurtz was found beside a painting, My Horror by Mike Bear, that the museum curator said had strangely been painted over black. It is believed this was done as a Halloween prank. The police have maintained Mr. Kurtz died of natural causes but are looking for eyewitnesses. Museum cameras show Mr. Kurtz arguing with 4 men in costumes shortly before the tape broke. The men have yet to be identified. Little is known about Mr. Kurtz and he has no surviving relatives. The museum curator is also offering a reward for information leading to the arrest of the vandals who destroyed the painting.
I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. Please send me any comments you might have, good or bad. Copyrighted 2008 by Christine Schnell. Go ahead and share it with others just keep my name with it.