Featured Review on this writing by Bert Broomberg

Windows

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic
Bobby's mother-in-law is missing. While working from home and caring for his grief-stricken wife, he notices something peculiar about the photographic mural hanging on the wall.

Submitted: February 10, 2019

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Submitted: February 10, 2019

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Windows

 

The rain pattered on the third floor apartment rooftop without interruption.  It had been raining for days now.  The buzz of a newscaster talking could be heard coming from a radio perched on the kitchen countertop.

“Now for your weather forecast from news radio WKLR.”  The news caster bantered.

As most of the harsh storms have passed we still have another lined up for the next couple days.  This extends our rainy day forecast to five days without sunshine. This will give us a slight slump in temperatures around the city.  There have been many lightning strikes in the area, so please be cautious when leaving your homes.

“Thanks.  Needed some more gloom.” Bobby muttered. 

Bobby stood over the stove stirring soup with disinterest.  Piping hot tomato soup always made his wife feel better no matter the issue.  But, he felt that this particular instance couldn’t be soothed with comfort food.

Bobby walked carefully toward the half-closed bedroom door with the soup bowl clutched between both hands.  He crept into the room quietly, set the bowl down on his wife’s night stand and stared at the lump of blankets and pillows that concealed a human.

“Beth.  Hello in there.”  Bobby said to his wife.

“MMM.”  Beth mumbled from under the covers.

“I can’t hear you.”  Bobby said.

“I don’t want any.”  Beth retorted while lifting the covers.

“I’ll leave it here for you if you change your mind.  But, try to change your mind soon so it doesn’t get cold.”  Bobby said patting the tuft of blankets.

Beth uncovered herself from the comforter and sat up.

“What if they don’t find her? Beth asked.

“They’ll find your mom.  A sixty-year old woman doesn’t just go missing in broad daylight.  The police said they’re actively searching the area where she was last seen.”  Bobby said comfortingly.

Beth collapsed backward with a frown.  She looked over at the tomato soup and grimaced.  She had a feeling of nausea in the pit of her stomach from worrying.

Bobby kissed Beth on the forehead and ran his fingers through her hair.

“I’ll be out in the living room catching up on work.  Feel free to come distract me.”  Bobby said.

Bobby shuffled into the living room and plopped down on the couch in the front of his laptop sitting on the coffee table.  He began to think about his mother-in-law and where she could be.  Was she ok?  Had she been kidnapped?  Worst of all, had she been murdered?  These are things he knew to keep concealed in his mind.

Deep in thought, Bobby’s attention was drawn to the photographic mural on the wall above the love seat.  It was a panorama of the city.  So many buildings just in one photo.  Silhouettes of people could be seen in hundreds of little windows spread throughout the piece. 

One particular man in one of the high-rise windows seemed to be looking right at Bobby.  Bobby squinted curiously and stood.  He walked over to the image and gazed right at the man.  The man had little dark dots for eyes but he was surely looking in Bobby’s direction.  Many of the other windows were either blank with a light on or merely had curtains drawn.  Bobby shook his head, let out a “Hmpf”, and went back to working.

-------------------------------------

The following morning Bobby walked into the living room, yawned big, and turned on his laptop.  As he waited patiently to start the day, he looked at the image on the wall to find the man in the window that he noticed the night before.  He scanned the area of the image where he saw the man, but the man was no longer there. 

Bobby looked slightly more to the right until the man in the image came into view.  The man was now peering through a window one building over from when Bobby first saw him.  The building the man now occupied was closer to Bobby’s field of view in the foreground.  Bobby knew this because the man’s eyes weren’t just little black dots anymore.  The man’s eyes were slight mixtures of subdued greys and blacks.  Bobby rubbed his eyes vigorously.  “Lack of caffeine.”  He said quietly to himself.

Bobby walked into the kitchen, turned the coffee pot on and withdrew a cup from the cabinet.  He looked back at the image on the wall. 

“Beth.  Do we have any stickers?”  Bobby asked loudly.

“Yeah.  They’re in the utility drawer.”  Beth said somberly.

Bobby opened the kitchen drawer and fished out a sheet of oranges stickers in the shape of circles.  He placed a sticker on the image where the man in the widow currently was and another sticker where the man was before.

Bobby gazed at the image for a few minutes until Beth walked into the living room.

“What are you doing to my photograph?”  Beth asked.

“Guh!  Announce yourself next time!”  Bobby said with a gasp.  “I’m attempting an experiment.”

“Can’t you use a different test subject?”  Beth said.

“You see this guy here?”  Bobby tapped the man in the image with his finger.  “He was in a different spot last night.  The reason I know that is because he’s slightly larger since the building he’s in now is in the foreground.”

Beth looked at Bobby with an acutely puzzled look.  “I think you need to take a walk, hun.” 

“It’s raining.”  Bobby said while looking at the image.

“Yeah, it might help.”  Beth said.

Bobby glared at her.

“That image has always been the same and you know that.  But, if this will keep you from going stir-crazy then have at it.  Just make sure you remove those stickers when your experiment is finished, ya dope.  The last thing I need right now is my work getting ruined.”  Beth said with a frown.

“I will, hun.  I’m sorry.”  Bobby said without turning away from the image.

 -------------------------------------

Two more days passed and two more stickers were placed on the image that hung above the love seat.  The stickers formed a straight line that led into the foreground where the man now had more characteristics and features.  The previous windows that the man in the image had been in were now dark with the curtains drawn.  Bobby and Beth both stared at the image attentively.

“Maybe we ARE going stir crazy.”  Bobby said.

“Yeah.  Let’s get these stickers off and go to bed.  I need to refocus.  Maybe I’ll sift through my portfolio tomorrow and find a different photograph to display” Beth said.

-------------------------------------

The following morning Beth woke to a scream coming from the living room.  She threw off the covers, got out of bed, and scurried out of the bedroom.

Bobby stood against the wall staring at a tall man standing in the living room.

The man was facing the image that hung on the wall above the love seat.  He dripped colors.  Subdued hues of blues, browns, blacks, and hunter greens pooled on the floor and were absorbed into the man’s form at random intervals.  The process was silent.  He was silent.  His expression was simply a vague line for a mouth and two stark black globs for eyes that sat in shadowed concaves.  He had an average build and was average height with short black hair.  Or, at least, the impression of all these features were detailed in the colors that made up the man’s form.  The man looked like a living art piece.

“Who…what the hell is that?”  Beth asked Bobby with panic in her throat.

Beth ran to Bobby’s side and wrapped her arms around him tightly.

“I don’t know.  He was here when I woke up.”  Bobby said.

“His clothes.  The fashion is old.  1940s maybe?”  Beth asked.

The man did not break his concentration from the image hung on the wall.  He raised his arm with his index finger pointed.  He walked forward and pressed his fingertip on a specific spot on the image.

“Is he trying to show us something?”  Beth asked.

Bobby cautiously walked toward the man.  Once he was within a safe proximity, he pulled his gaze from the man and looked at the image.  The man’s fingertip was placed on the image where there appeared to be a woman walking into an alleyway.

“Who…who is that?”  Bobby asked the man.

The man reached for a pad of paper on the coffee table.  His finger began writing letters in colors that manifested from his fingertip.

M-O-M were the letters written on the note pad.  Once the man was finished he pointed directly at Beth.

“Mom?  You mean that the woman in the image is Beth’s mom?”  Bobby asked.

The man nodded in affirmation.

“How could that be possible?  She doesn’t live near here.  I think last time she even stopped by was weeks ago.  She went missing that ni…”

Beth went quiet mid-sentence.  She reached for her coat and an umbrella without hesitation.

“I’m going to go check it out.  That alleyway isn’t far from here.”  Beth said.

“Hold up, I’ll go with you.”  Bobby said.

“Who’s going to watch…him?”  Beth said pointing at the man.

“I’ll just lock the door behind us.  I don’t think he’s here to harm us or cause trouble.  I think we’d know by now.”  Bobby said.

Bobby and Beth exited their apartment in haste and the man stood with his gaze fixed on the image hung on the wall.

-------------------------------------

Beth and Bobby rounded the corner at the intersection in front of their apartment building.  They both walked briskly while hunched under an umbrella.

“It’s just up here.”  Beth said.

Bobby stopped in his tracks.

“You really want to go down that alley?”  Bobby said.

“I have to.  Whomever or whatever that man is, I think he’s trying to help us find my mom.”  Beth said with tears welling in her eyes.

“It’s a stretch.”  Bobby paused.  “But, let’s check it out.  I’ll go first.”

Bobby led Beth into the alleyway and handed her the umbrella once they reached the half-way point.

“Looks like it’s just dumpsters and garbage cans.”  Bobby said.

He looked back at Beth.  She was dripping wet standing prim with tears in her eyes.  She was silent.  Staring at Bobby intently hoping he would find something that would lead to an answer.  Bobby stared at Beth for a long moment.  Water beaded off his hair and trailed over his lips.  Heartache filled his chest.

“I’ll check it out.  Stay put.”  Bobby said. 

Bobby continued. “Your mom looked panicked in the image.  As if she was trying to avoid someone.”

“There was said to have been a lot of gang-related activity around here as of late.  She probably got lost trying to find a shortcut out of the area.”  Beth said.

Bobby walked to the back of the alley.  He looked through trash piles and behind stacks of boxes but found nothing.  He walked over to the other side of the alley and his face went as white as a ghost.  He began retching violently.  Vomit spilled to the pavement at his feet.  Bobby doubled over and fell to the ground.

“Bobby!  What’s wrong?”  Beth shouted with panic in her voice.

As Beth approached Bobby’s vicinity she too began to retch and vomit.  Bobby crawled to one of the trash can’s near him and dug through it.  A large photograph was inside.  The same one hung on the wall in their apartment.

“Beth, I thought you said you took this photo.  Are you sure you didn’t buy it at Ikea or something?”  Bobby asked concerned.

“No.  I did take it.  It’s one of a kind.  I never sold the image.”  Beth said.

Bobby slid the large photographic image toward Beth.  “This looks like an oil painting, Bobby.  Not a photograph.  The exact cityscape, though.”  Beth explained.  “It’s signed by someone and dated 1944.  Looks like there’s a certificate stuck to the back. ‘Missing Local Theoretical Physicist Wins Painting Competition – Stripped of Title and Winnings Due to Rumored Unorthodox Scientific Experiments On People of the Community – Suspected in the Disappearance of Several Individuals - Investigation Still Open’.  There’s an image of the contest winner on the back as well.”

Beth paused. 

“The man in the photo looks like the man standing in our living room.  Do you think he was a tenant in our building at one point and maybe all this junk is his?  Maybe the landlord found it all in storage or something?  Still doesn't explain why he looks the way he does, or why he's in our painting, though”

Bobby reached into the trash and retched harder.  He pulled out a metal tube that had the biohazard symbol in yellow on it.

Beth back-pedaled away from the trash cans in order to get composure and cease the feeling of nausea in her throat.

“I think we have even more problems now.”  Bobby said as he held up the metal tube to show Beth.  “We need to get to the emergency room ASAP.  We both got a good dose of radiation poisoning.”

“Why on Earth would there be radioactive material in a Chicago alleyway?”  Beth asked in a confused tone.

“Must be something that nut in our apartment had in his possession.  It must have fallen out of its protective casing when it was thrown in the trash.”  Bobby said while holding back vomit.

The canister Bobby held began to vibrate.  Three protrusions opened on the outside of it.  The canister emitted a bolt of electricity that zapped the painting Bobby found in the trash.

Before Bobby could stand, a crack rang in the sky and a bolt of lightning struck the alleyway.  The pool of standing water that Bobby laid in was charged and the alleyway lit up.  Once the lightning had passed, Bobby was gone.

-------------------------------------

Bobby and Beth’s apartment was silent.  The only disturbance was the pattering of rain drops on the windows and the faint sound of a clock ticking.

The silence was broken by Beth bursting through the door in tears.  Her hands quivered and her breathing was rapid.

“What happened to Bobby?  Why did you send us there?  Beth asked.

The man from the image that hung on the wall stood still staring at the image solemnly.  His hands were at his sides and a look of defeat was illustrated across his face.  He raised his arm and pointed with his index finger to the image on the wall.

Beth walked over and stood next to the man.  The water from her coat and boots mixed with the colors that dripped from the man’s form onto the floor.

She looked at him and then at the image.  The man’s finger was lined up with a man looking out of a high-rise window.  The man was Bobby.  The window he was looking out of was their apartment.

Beth stood staring in shock.  She grabbed her umbrella and walked out of the apartment in haste locking the door behind her.

The man looked at the apartment door for a moment then turned his gaze back to the image on the wall.  He looked deep in thought.  He then looked near the window where there was a book shelf standing in the corner.  He walked over to it and ran his finger along the spines of the books gathering dust.

The man’s finger stopped on a book with the title “The Theory of the Multiverse”.  He pulled the book from the shelf and thumbed through it.  Colors from his hands pooled on the pages and darted back into his skin.  His face had a stern expression.  The look of someone in search of an answer.

The man closed the book and stood still for a moment.  He walked toward the image on the wall that hung above the love seat.  He now saw within the image that Beth was standing in the window next to Bobby and Beth’s mother.

The man tucked the large book underneath his arm and re-entered the image.

-------------------------------------

Here is your forecast for the week from news radio WKLR.”  A voice could be heard from the radio sitting on the kitchen counter.

Just like last year we’re experiencing some unusual weather patterns even for spring.  There are more storms lined up for the next few days with many lightning strikes happening in the tri-county area.  So, take extra care when commuting.  We won’t have any sunshine until later this week it seems.”

“Now for your daily news.”

“Rich, will you shut off the radio.  I’m sick of being reminded of how crumby it is outside.  Winter was long enough.”  Jenny said from the other room.

“An investigation is under way that involves the disappearance of three people that occurred one year ago. This case was reopened once a fourth person had gone missing in the same area of the city…”

“Yeah, yeah.  Turning it off.”  Rich said from the kitchen.

“Hey, take a look at this.  I found it in the closet behind some boxes.”  Jenny walked into the kitchen covered in dust.  She held up a large photographic piece to show Rich.

“That’s neat.  Must have been left behind by the last tenants.  Want to hang it up somewhere?”  Rich said.

“Yeah, how about in the bedroom?”  Jenny said.

“Nah, this is more of a living room piece.”  Rich studied the image with his chin pinched between his index finger and thumb.

“Ah.  An art major now, are we?”  Jenny said laughing.

“Well, I do have a Bachelor of Arts.”  Rich said with a smirk.

“In Applied Science.”  Jenny said still laughing.

“Alright, I’ll come down off my horse.”

Rich walked over to the couch and pointed to the wall above it.

“How about here?”  Rich said.

“Sure.  Perfect.  It’ll tie the room together.”  Jenny said.

Rich hammered a nail into the wall and hung the image carefully.

“I like it.  We should get more like these for the other walls” Rich said.

Jenny wrapped her arms around Rich and studied the image.

“You see those people in that window?  There’s four people gathered around a table.  The one with the light on.”  Jenny asked.

“Yeah.  Looks like their reading something together.  It’s interesting seeing what moments in life simply pass us by.  Going unnoticed.”  Rich said with a genuine sense of curiosity and bewilderment.

The sound of rain pattering the windows filled the room.


© Copyright 2019 Ryan K. Mallegni. All rights reserved.

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