The Painting of the House

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic
When Jon Edwards spots a painting in a dusty old shop he had no idea of the events that would follow.

Submitted: March 02, 2017

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Submitted: March 02, 2017

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Jon Edwards mooched round the tiny shop. The old fashioned store, sometimes called a second-hand shop, was one of those places that bought and sold everything and anything. In the front window was a random selection of products ranging from VHS video recorders, paperback books and pocket watches. He ignored the collection of one-legged Ninja Turtle figures and flicked through the stack of CDs from the mid-Nineties. He smiled as some of the band names brought back memories of gigs and parties from twenty years ago.

His eyes wandered over the dusty paintings hanging on the walls. There were a few Lowry prints in wooden frames, some Paris street scenes and various countryside landscapes. Then he saw it. It was a painting of a large house. There was something about the piece. He just had to have it. There was something compelling about the framed summer scene. The house surrounded by long grass and trees in bloom. Then it occurred to him what was so enchanting about the painting. It was his house. It was the large house he had inherited when his aunt had died. That had been almost two years ago. His strange aunt had been quite a recluse. She had been his last living relative but due to her odd ways and the age difference Jon hadn’t had a great deal to do with her. He had heard the local rumours that she had been into all kinds of dark arts and obsessed with the occult. They had to be rumours and nothing more. Wasn’t every strange old lady living on her own branded a witch?

Jon stared at the painting. The piece would finish the living room off perfectly. It would certainly look better than the signed boxing poster than currently hung over the fireplace. The tiny white sticker on the corner of the frame said 250.

Without thinking any further Jon caught the shop owner’s eye and pointed to the painting.

‘I’ll take it.’

Back home he took down the boxing poster. He plonked it against the sofa. He carefully picked up his new purchase. He hung it in position handling it the way a clumsy uncle handled his new-born nephew. He straightened the picture and smiled to himself as he stepped back to admire the new piece.

He folded his arms and looked on with pride. It really was a special painting. The grass and trees in the front garden seemed to sway in the summer breeze. The landscape was empty of people. Perhaps the painting had been commissioned by a one-time occupant of the house as a keepsake. The house and gardens, captured perfectly in bloom, preserved forever.

Jon hummed to himself as he poured himself a large whiskey. He flopped onto the sofa. He couldn’t take his eyes off the painting. He raised his glass to the picture frame.

‘Cheers!’ he said.

One evening a week later Jon came home from work. He changed into his scruffs of tracksuit and t-shirt. It had been a particularly bad day at work. His manager was breathing down his neck and his colleagues were more bothered about gossiping and bitching than getting the job done. He ordered a take away pizza and grabbed a cold can of lager from the fridge. He took a long gulp of beer. He sighed. That felt better.

As he munched on the meat feast pizza his eyes went to the painting. The blades of grass seemed to be flowing. How on earth had the artist managed it? He sat forward. How astonishing. The grass was actually moving. Amazing what they could do these days.

A few days later Jon was sitting down to watch the new Tom Hardy series on BBC. His eyes drifted to the painting. Like the way your eyes dart if someone walks past your window, his eyes were often attracted by the picture. That evening though his glance was followed by curiosity.

There was something on the painting. He crossed the room and stood in front of the picture. He ignored the flowing grass and stared at the bottom left corner. There was a black smudge about the size of a thumb print. He scratched his head and stared. Had the mark been there the whole time? It must have been there yet he couldn’t recall the smudge before. He shook his head. It must have been there all along. Perhaps his eyes had been drawn in by the image of the house, the flowing grass, the swaying trees so that he simply hadn’t spotted the blemish on an otherwise perfect piece of art.

Oh well, he thought, still a wonderful picture. He sat back down on the sofa and tried to concentrate on the television.

One morning as he was having a cup of tea before work he noticed that the picture looked different again. He downed the last of the brew. The smudge seemed to have grown in size. What had originally been something of a small dark spot seemed to have spread into a longer thinner mark. The thumb shape now looked more like a finger. Could that be right? Perhaps he was concentrating too much on the painting. It couldn’t be healthy to stare and stare like that. The mark must have always been there and it couldn’t possibly have changed. He placed his fingertips gently on the canvas. It was dry under his finger. No wet in stain.

He would have to stop the constant glaring. Maybe then his eyes would stop playing tricks on him.

Several weeks passed by. Jon did not pay any notice at all to the painting. He tried to forget all about the strange mark. The whole thing seemed like a weird dream. Either his eyes had been playing tricks on him. All very silly, he told himself. His imagination going into overdrive. He smiled to himself. There could be nothing strange or sinister about the artwork.

He went over to it. He gasped. What had started out as a thumb mark and then a finger had changed again. The mark now looked like the blurred figure of a person. He stared and stared. The painting had changed. He was certain of it. When he had bought the piece there had been no blemish on the canvas. And now it looked like there was a person in the corner of the painting. The dark figure was too blurred and too dark to be made out but it was definitely there and it had not been there before. If he did not live on his own then he would have accused his housemates of playing a trick on him. Mind you, if he had a housemate then he would have been able to ask for second opinion on the alterations that seemed to be taking place.

He felt sick. His head hurt with it all. What was going on? The empty painting of his house now had somebody lurking in the foreground. He shook his head.

He had planned to stop looking at the painting but he simply could not resist. With a horrific, sick fascination he dashed downstairs the following morning.

He stared dumbfounded. The blemish had moved. The thin dark figure lurked in the long grass. He knew this wasn’t possible. But as he looked on he also knew it was happening.

With awful inevitability each morning and evening when he checked the painting it had changed. With a knot of dread in his stomach he sensed that the figure on the canvas was not only moving but was moving nearer and nearer the house.

Each evening he dreaded returning home from work. He would go to the painting. He would feel sick as he spotted the difference in the artwork from that morning. The figure definitely appeared to be moving. And was definitely heading for the house.

As the days passed the figure became larger as it moved towards the centre of the scene. It neared the front steps. The features of the person became clearer. It was a man. He was dressed in black. He was carrying something. There was something in his gloved hand.

A few days later when Jon checked the picture the man was clearer and he could see what was in his hand.

‘Was that-?’

Jon felt cold. The man was carrying an axe. Sunlight glinted on the silver blade. What did all this mean?

In the painting the figure was close to the house. It was getting closer. Jon ran to the window. He looked out expecting to see the axe man climbing the steps to the front door.

There was nobody in the garden. The grass swayed in the breeze. Was he losing his mind?

He returned to the painting. He stared, eyes wide in shock. One the canvas the axe wielding man was right outside. Something else had changed too. There was now a person staring from the window Jon had just looked from. He watched the artwork in utter disbelief.

Then, as he looked on, the axe wielding figure moved on the painting. It was actually moving as he watched it. The man was approaching the front of the house. He swung the axe back.

Jon heard the sound of breaking glass.

 

His body was found two days later. As part of the investigation the police discovered that an almost identical murder had taken place at the house exactly fifty years earlier. The original murder had occurred during a robbery. The items stolen included a painting of the house.


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