Art Collection.

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: The Dark And Suspenseful

It has been often stated that we must suffer for our art, Anastacia is about to learn a whole new meaning to this.

“I should have listened.” There wasn’t a day in the past twenty years that Cedric Walker had not repeated these words to himself, and each time they seemed to hold more meaning. They were made all the more poignant, by the fact that so many people had tried to warn him, but greed is a very powerful thing. All the signs were there but he chose to ignore them, he was blinded by ambition and greed. Five minutes in the company of Anastacia was enough to make the most foolhardy of suitors back off if he was truthful one look at her would be enough. To say Anastacia Merton had a matronly figure would be more than a kindness; it would be a downright exaggeration. She towered over Cedric and was twice his weight; her beady little eyes were lost in the folds of fat that made up her features. All this he could have learned to ignore, but for the fact that she was the cruelest most vindictive woman he had ever met. She delighted in humiliating anyone unfortunate enough to have any dealings with her, but she was at her best when it came to humiliating her husband.

The one saving grace Cedric had seen in the woman was her enormous wealth; she was the sole heir to a vast fortune. Cedric had always secretly believed that a woman of her bulk and voracious appetites would have a short life; he would spend hours fantasying about what he would do with her fortune when she passed away. But as luck would have it she not only looked like a horse, but she was also as healthy as a horse. The pre-nuptial agreement she had insisted he sign, had some small print he did not check. Cedric would only inherit her fortune if she died of natural causes, after at least thirty years of their marriage. He had spent many a night crying bitter tears since signing that document, he had made his bed and now he was forced to lie in it. Thinking of beds brought an involuntary shiver to him; Anastacia was insatiable in the bedroom and her perverse needs knew no limits. Cedric secretly feared he would be found suffocated beneath her enormous bulk some morning, she always insisted on being on top.

The sound of her screeching voice was followed by the din of something being thrown against the wall, moments later one of the servant girls passed him in the hallway in floods of tears. Cedric turned on his heels and began walking in the opposite direction; he had almost made it to the reception hall when the shrew screamed his name. “Cedric, Cedric, come her this minute”. Her high-pitched whining burrowed into his brain and he shuddered, his feet refused to move and he was stuck to the spot. For the briefest of moments he thought of ignoring her, but as always his courage failed him. Even if he did just walk out of the house, he would have to face her at some stage and she would be even more furious. With a sinking feeling in his stomach, he turned and walked slowly to the drawing-room. The great lump reclined on the antique couch with a fire in her eyes; her fat features were puce with temper. A thought flashed across his mind that she was on the verge of a heart attack, and he just managed to catch himself before he smiled.  

Anastacia launched into a foul-mouthed tirade that made no sense whatsoever to him, other than the fact she called the unfortunate servant girl every foul name under the sun. When Cedric remained silent, Anastacia grew even more furious and took her default position. That because Cedric remained silent he must be bedding the wench, she then went on to infer that his dismal performance in the bedroom, was down to the fact that the servant girl had drained the best out of him. Cedric had heard all this before many times, but his wife had a funny look about her this time, and he decided to try and calm her down before the situation escalated. Putting on his best performance Cedric attempted to reassure his wife of his undying love, even going as far as to sing the praises of her lovemaking skills and attractiveness in the bedroom. Eventually, he managed to pacify the great lump of lard to some degree; at least he pacified her enough to learn the real reason for her tantrum.

The servant girl had brought the morning paper, as usual, only this morning it contained a supplement. It was a glossy colored magazine on the subject of great homes, and as luck would have it. The center spread of the magazine covered the renovation of the DeLacey home. Melanie DeLacey and Anastacia had gone to the same schools and had a very unhealthy rivalry, a rivalry that had long since turned to intense mutual hatred. Mind you, to see them together in the same room, a person would be forgiven for thinking they were best friends. Cedric held the magazine in his hands and stared silently at the photographs, Melanie had pushed the boat out on this one. She had the whole enormous house re-decorated from top to bottom, but she had gone one step further. Melanie had spent a king’s ransom on art and antiquities, old masters that would be displayed in her very own museum. This was what had set Anastacia off; their home was even grander than the DeLacey mansion, but it lacked a private museum.

Cedric looked from the glossy magazine to the antique vase that lay in bits on the floor, the stupid cow was banging on about an art collection, and she had just smashed a vase off the wall. That same vase would have fetched a six-figure sum at auction; a sinking feeling came over him. He knew instinctively that she would make his life intolerable until he got her what she wanted. So believing that discretion was the better part of valor, Cedric foolishly promised her an art collection to rival the great museums of Europe. The money would not be the problem; she could afford to buy several museums and still not put a dent in her wealth. The problem was that she wanted only the rarest of art, items that the great collectors would kill for. Not only that, but her latest project was to be top secret, which meant he alone would have to source the items for her collection. Cedric just stood there as she planned her great project, smiling foolishly at her while inside the anxiety was reaching a critical point.

Anastacia had finally calmed down and gone for a lie-down, but not before she had insisted he give her a big hug. The spiteful bitch had taken hold of the back of his head and buried his face between her enormous breasts. Even though he struggled she held him there until he had almost suffocated, only then did she let him go. He had heard her sniggering as she walked off, leaving him gasping for breath. This was her way of warning him that his life might depend on her wish being granted; Cedric sat there wondering whether his hatred for her or his fear of her was the strongest. Either way, there was no way she would let him off the hook until she got what she wanted, Cedric would have a stressful few months ahead of him. When he finally got his strength back, he left the house to visit as many art dealers as he could find. He was well aware that she would want a report as soon as he returned to the house this evening and there was no way he wanted a repeat of the tantrum she had just thrown.

“Rubbish, Tat, absolutely hideous.” Or her most used word “Common.” No matter what piece of available artwork he showed her, Cedric was greeted by the same words. The corner of the drawing-room was piled high with auction brochures, but Anastacia had ridiculed everything. Whether it was an original master or rare sculpture, she just turned her nose up at it. He had visited every major auction house he could think of, yet nothing that they had on offer was good enough for her new project. Cedric was reaching the end of his tether, and he had become frightened by her latest obsession. He would wake at night to find her leaning over him just staring at him; her moods were becoming blacker by the day, and he had no doubt she was capable of running him through with a knife. When he suggested that he fly to London to source artwork, he was both surprised and relieved when she agreed. The fact that the shrew hated flying meant that he would free of her for a while at least.

Cedric stood in stunned silence, the receiver still clasped tightly against his ear, even though she had ended the call a while ago. He had always had serious doubts regarding Anastacia’s mental state, but now he was convinced that the woman was insane. He had been in London for just three days, and she had called demanding results. His beloved wife had just informed him that if he did not produce the goods by the end of the week, she would divorce him and leave him penniless. She had also intimated that she had no problem investing money to have him disappear from the face of the earth. Some people might say that she was just overreacting, but Cedric did not doubt for one moment that she would carry out her threats. He eventually returned the phone to its cradle, the room felt claustrophobic and he decided to get out for a walk.

Sitting in the small alcove he sipped the expensive brandy, the bar was an old-world style with exposed beams. A small oasis of tranquillity from a world gone mad, small groups of well-dressed people sat at the tables speaking in soft tones. Cedric wished he could stay here forever, or at least until his wife had passed away. The people that came and went all appeared to be at peace in their lives, and he wondered what it would be like to live an ordinary life. By the time the tall stranger joined him at his table, Cedric had already consumed more brandy than he could handle. Whether it was the appearance of the stranger or the fact that he was more than a little intoxicated. Cedric struck up a conversation with him, and before he realized it he was pouring out his troubles to the man. The tall eloquently dressed man was a good listener, and he seemed extremely sympathetic.

He awoke with a start and sat up, the sudden movement causing his head to throb and a wave of nausea to wash over him. It took him a moment to recognize his surroundings, and he felt relieved at the realization he was in his hotel room in London. Cedric felt terrible and his muddled brain tried to figure out why he felt like this, his clothes were scattered about the bedroom floor. He sat on the side of the bed and slowly the memories from last night came back to him, he had visited a quaint old-world pub and drank too much brandy. Fragmented images of some stranger came back to him; he had a long conversation with a total stranger, but he could not quite remember what they had spoken about. Still, he thought it was nice to be in company with someone other than the shrew. This thought triggered another memory from the previous night; it was of the threatening phone call from Anastacia, and suddenly the hangover seemed worse.

He pushed the breakfast around his plate until it had gone cold, the overindulgence of the night before had robbed him of his appetite. However, the thing that stopped him from eating was the memory of the phone call, the more he remembered her words the more he fretted. The sounds of the dining room seemed extra loud, and the growing anxiety made him jumpy. Finally, he decided he needed to get out and at least start looking, even though he held little hope of finding anything she would be happy with. Crossing the lobby he was startled to hear someone call his name, he turned to find the concierge approaching him. “A message for you. Mr. Walker.” Cedric looked at the envelope in his hand and a feeling of dread came over him, his first instinct was to tell the man he was mistaken. Something inside him warned him against accepting the envelope, but the confused look on the man’s face only made Cedric feel foolish. He reached out a trembling hand and took the envelope from the silver tray; he attempted a smile that he was sure came out as a grimace.

Taking a seat in a discreet corner of the lobby Cedric examined the envelope, it was of high-quality paper and his name was written in an ornate script on the front. Removing one glove he ran his fingers over the paper, and he could have sworn he felt a tingling sensation in his fingertips. The logical part of his brain scolded him for his reaction to the message, yet he could not shake the trepidation he felt. It took every ounce of courage he could muster to open the envelope, and even as he was doing so, something told him the contents would have a profound effect on his life. In the end, it turned out to be a bit of anti-climax. It was a handwritten letter inviting him to view artwork; the writing was the same flowing ornate script that appeared on the envelope. It was a short letter containing an address where he could view artwork that was for sale, and it was signed by Solomon Belial. Cedric had put out feelers among the art collectors, and he presumed that this was how the message found its way to him.

By mid-day Cedric had crossed off every name on his current list, each name on the list had offered beautiful and rare collectibles, but nothing that would satisfy Anastacia. Frustrated he stopped for lunch, it was while he was waiting to be served he thought of the letter he had received this morning. On his arrival in London he had a list of art dealers drawn up, but nowhere on that list was the name Solomon Belial. He read back over the letter, but it offered no hint at what the man had for sale. Yet, something told him that this man was selling something very unique, and with little else on for the evening, he made up his mind to visit the address. Now that he had made up his mind a strange excitement bubbled inside him, he ate his lunch with little appreciation for the fine food. Suddenly the most urgent thing on his mind was viewing what Mr. Belial had for sale; he had an intuition that it might be just what the shrew wanted.

For long periods, he had a distinct impression that the cab driver was lost, increasingly the driver slowed to read street signs. It was dusk by the time the cab driver finally pulled over outside the large house. The driver appeared relieved that he had reached his destination; it was a leafy suburb on the very outskirts of the city. The large detached house stood in overgrown grounds and Cedric’s heart sank, he had been expecting some kind of auction rooms. A vision of some impoverished nobleman forced to sell the family silver came to mind, as he looked at the building. Were it not for the fact that the cab had already left, he would have immediately returned to town. However, now that he had come this far, he felt obliged to see what the man had for sale. He made his way to the front door and rang the bell; he had no sooner taken his finger from the doorbell when the door opened. The man standing there had skin like ebony and wore a turban and kaftan. Cedric handed him the letter, the man took a cursory glance at it before gesturing for Cedric to enter.

Cedric was left standing in the reception hall while the man with the turban disappeared down a long hallway. Glancing around him Cedric suddenly discovered the large reception hall was filled with antiquities, rows of pedestals displayed strange and wonderful carvings and statuettes. The walls were hung with magnificent oil paintings with unbelievable detail, and glass cases contained ancient weapons and papyrus scrolls. Even to his untrained eye Cedric immediately recognized he was looking at a very rare and valuable collection, and for the first time since leaving home, he felt hope. Perhaps after all his intuition had paid off, even the she-devil Anastacia would be impressed with such items. The sound of someone clearing their throat behind him startled Cedric; he turned to find the servant standing behind him. The man with the turban gestured with his head; and Cedric followed him down the long hall.

The tall man stood from his chair and crossed the room to greet him like an old friend; it took Cedric a while to recognize him. It took even longer for him to think where he met the man before it suddenly dawned on him that it was the same man he has spoken to the night before in the pub. “Delighted you could make it Cedric, I am sure that I have some items that will suit your wife’s collection.” There was the faintest hint of an accent in the man’s voice, and his dark eyes seemed to glint with amusement when he mentioned Anastacia. He gestured to a fireside chair before taking his seat opposite; they were no sooner seated when the man with the turban entered carrying a tray with brandy and two glasses. The servant placed the drinks on the small table and left without a word. “Please forgive Ahmed’s silence; I am afraid he is mute.” Again there was a strange glint in the man’s eyes as he spoke as if he found everything slightly amusing.

The brandy was the finest he had ever tasted, far superior to the most expensive from their cellar at home. Solomon Belial was the perfect host and kept his glass topped up, while all the time keeping up a pleasant conversation about the art world. Now and again he would take a piece from one of the many glass cases in the big room to show Cedric, his knowledge of artwork and ancient civilizations appeared limitless. By the time the conversation came around to the business at hand, Cedric was slightly tipsy and more than a little infatuated by Solomon. The brandy had loosened his tongue and he found himself once again sharing his innermost thought about his marriage, he held nothing back and painted a bleak picture of his beloved Anastacia. Cedric even went as far as to tell Solomon that he wished her dead, but then proceeded to tell him about the pre-nuptial agreement he had signed. Solomon listened to everything he had to say and nodded sympathetically.

Cedric followed Solomon down the winding staircase; it was the deepest basement he had ever come across. Eventually, they reached the bottom where a locked door barred their way; Solomon took a big iron key from his pocket and fitted it in the old style lock. “What lies beyond this door is no ordinary collection, only a handful of people have ever even set eyes on these items. They are the rarest works of art ever created and each has its magical quality. But be warned Cedric nothing in there comes cheap, and they always find their way back to me in the end.” Were it not for the pleasantly numbing effect of the brandy, Cedric might have recognized the sinister tone in Solomon’s voice and the sneering smile on his face. But the thought of finally shutting up his nagging wife was all that occupied his mind, and he just nodded silently in reply. The heavy door swung inwards, Solomon flicked a light switch and the room illuminated. Cedric looked inside the room and his mouth fell open, he turned to Solomon but he was speechless.

Anastacia hounded him morning, noon, and night, but for once in his life, Cedric stood his ground. He had made her promise to wait until he had complete the exhibition before she even got to see it, and he was going to hold her to that promise. He had allowed her to see some photographs of the collection, but she was yet to see any part of it in person. From the moment the crates arrived, he had locked himself in the ballroom, arranging the pieces just as he had seen them in London. He was always careful not to stand too close to the centerpiece, even though he knew it would only show its real magic when the exhibition was complete. When he finally had it all together he stood in the doorway, and once again he was struck dumb by the grotesque beauty of it all. He could feel the subtle changes in the room as the exhibition settled in, it had cost him dearly but he could not wait to see her reaction.

The centerpiece consisted of three enormous paintings, arranged to give a panoramic view of the strange world they represented. A world where vast forests and meadows were occupied by strange hideous creatures, a place where small groups of peasants fled these creatures in terror. The detail with which everything was depicted was unbelievable, and the longer one looked at it the more horrifying the detail became. Acts of utter depravity and cruelty seemed to appear at will on the canvas, and the forest seemed alive with moving figures. Around the paintings he had arranged the pedestals; on each of these, he placed the demonic statues with their enormous erect members. Sometimes from the corner of his eye, he caught movement from these figures, and their leather-like skin appeared to glisten in the light. Even Anastacia could not help but be impressed by such a rarity as this.

“Oh my god.” The big woman repeated these words over and over as she stared in disbelief at the exhibition. The look on Anastacia’s face was a mixture of horror and fascination; now and again she looked at him before returning her attention to the room. “Move closer to the paintings my love, the detail is incredible.” Anastacia shuffled forward as if in a trance, once she neared the paintings, Cedric stepped outside into the hallway. The first movement might have been his imagination, but within moments the statues had come to life. Anastacia attempted to scream when they dragged her inside the painting, but one of them ripped her tongue out. They dragged her nearer the forest before they began to violate her, Cedric watched in fascination at what they did to her. When they dragged her into the forest, he closed and locked the door.

Cedric arranged his chair and sat in the hallway, as he did most days. Sometimes he would sit here for hours without as much as a glimpse of her. Other days she would appear at the edge of the forest, she would stand there looking pleadingly in his direction. Her enormous naked body was covered in scars, and the skin hung in strips from some parts. But she looked very much alive to him; she would stand there until some movement in the forest would send her running with her mouth open in a silent scream. They would return her to him on the thirtieth anniversary of their marriage, but she would not survive her wounds in the mortal world. Cedric would inherit her fortune, but then he would pay the price for the art collection. The devil was quite the art collector, but he drove a hard bargain. Sometimes we suffer for our art he thought, and he closed the door.

 


Submitted: November 09, 2020

© Copyright 2020 Patrick G Moloney. All rights reserved.

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Comments

Celtic-Scribe63

Another great, chilling tale from your expert pen.

Poor Cedric! almost as loathsome a character as his wife!

Your story would not be out of place as a good old, Hammer Horror, B movie.
Diana Dors as Anastacia and Michael Ripper as downtrodden, Cedric.
A very good read, indeed.

Wed, November 11th, 2020 1:40pm

Author
Reply

Many thanks again for your continued interest in my work. It gives me great. It gives me great encouragement to read your comments,

Wed, November 11th, 2020 6:06am

Black Dog

Great stuff, there's enough here, you could easily make this into a novella or, full length novel. I love Anastacia, I thought she was going to be beautiful but, secretly awful. But giving her such imposing physicality was really effective.

Thu, November 26th, 2020 12:59am

Author
Reply

Thank you for taking an interest in my work, I am delighted you enjoyed it. It is always heartening to have some one give positive feed back on my work.

Thu, November 26th, 2020 6:01am