The Deadly Painting (Part 1)

Living above an art gallery sounds like nothing to write home about and trust me, it’s not. Very few people walk in an out of the museum or walk past it toward Central Park or Columbus Circle, where the real attractions are. Millions of New Yorkers and tourists going about their business while I’m up here trying to figure out what the fuck it is about this painting I saw the other day that keeps me up a night, haunting my dreams of slutty strippers giving me lap dances and turning them into horrible nightmares of a gnarly hand reaching for my soul. The museum I live about is called 57th Street Art Museum (57th for short). It’s a small place, more of a gallery than a museum, but hey, I’m not an artist so what do I know? I’ve been in it a couple times; it showcases different paintings every week from impressionistic to abstract to concrete as shit. I saw one painting of two people having sex and I swear I was watching a porn video it was so life like. I mean seriously, some artists have too much talent.

Anyway, when I was there last time it showcased paintings of ninjas jumping rooftops in the night, Godzilla terrorizing a city, a portrait of an attractive supermodel resembling Brad Pitt with an unrealistically chiseled body, and lastly, an abstract painting that didn’t look so abstract. I’ll explain. From afar, it looked like a swirling rainbow dominated by yellow, blue, red, purple and a tinge of green. When I got closer, the painting morphed into something darker and more sinister. The colors faded into the background and swirled like toilet water when being flushed; I looked around once then twice to make sure it wasn’t just me, but no one else was in the joint so I guess it was. I mean, I smoke a little weed every now and again, but I was for damn certain I wasn’t high when I saw this shit. The painting turned into a scene. It panned through a cemetery in the dead of night, the background was foggy, and silhouettes appeared. It was like one of those scenes where a group of teens was some where they weren’t supposed to be, and some bad shit is about to go down because they played around too much and fucked with something they shouldn’t have. I know, shitty description, but I’m not a fucking writer. I’m just some asshole who saw some crazy shit and lived to tell about it. The silhouettes gradually got closer, the gallery grew darker and the doors closed ever so slowly. The thought of running crossed my mind for half a second, but I knew I wasn’t getting out of there, not until the painting showed me what it wanted to show me. Don’t get the wrong idea here, I’m not superstitious by any means but when something is happening right in front of me, I believe it. Logic be damned.

The fog reflected the painting and appeared in the gallery, the temperature dropped a good twenty degrees and a chill crawled its way up my spine to the point I cringed involuntarily. My legs wobbled and almost gave out, but it wasn’t due to fear. Well, maybe it was but I didn’t feel scared. In fact, I felt normal which was strange. Suddenly, in a flash, I’m in the cemetery surrounded by headstones and barren trees with chipped bark and broken branches, the moon shining over my head with a moderate wind coming in from the west, and the silhouettes . . . growing closer and closer.

“What the fuck . . . ?” I whispered.

“The name of this painting . . .” A raspy, throaty voice said from the sky, “is The Psycho’s Carnival . . .”

“Who’s there?” I asked like a dummy, “show yourself!”

“I . . . am Voltaire,” the voice replied, “the painting’s maker . . .”

“What do you want?”

“Find me . . .”

“Find you?!” I asked, “What do you mean find you?”

“Find me . . .”

“Are you trapped here, or something?!” I asked. “Where the fuck am I?!”

“find the painting. . .”

“What painting?! What the hell is going on—”

I woke up sweating profusely in my bed. I looked down and my hands were shaking, trembling. The room felt like a deep freezer and I could see my breath; I looked left and saw it was raining outside. The water hit the ground at a hundred miles an hour, sounding like a drum solo as the pitter patter developed a rhythm. I sat there and contemplated nothing for five minutes before I decided to get up and attack the day (more like let the day attack me). I went to the bathroom and freshened up, feeling lethargic throughout. When I got out, it seemed the room got even colder, but I attributed that to the transition from hot to cold. Suddenly, my chest started hurting and my heartrate increased. The sound of the water outside and the horns of traffic became distorted. My nose got stuffy and my vision blurred, I grabbed the door frame for support and soon my legs turned to jelly, and I fell to my knees. The floor felt like Antarctica and my hands started to turn blue, then red, then green, then yellow, and then a mixture of the colors.

“The fuck?” I said, “Am I having an acid trip?”

Of course not! I didn’t do acid! Well, not since that one time in high school chemistry class, but that’s neither hear nor there. The pain in my chest became sharper, like a needle digging into my skin and my heartrate increased gradually, the thumping sound consumed my eardrums and the cold colors of that painting crawled up my arms like a spider stalking its prey. The water mixed with the thumping resembled waves in the ocean, and as soon as I had that thought the floor turned to water and I went under. My whole body tensed up and my muscles trembled from the frigidness of the sea. My bodyweight dragged me down, down, down into the deep, the light of day falling away from me as an angel falls from grace. I desperately clawed my way up to no avail; the sea has consumed me, and I am on my way to a watery grave.

I woke up again and took a deep breath, the first thing I saw was the light and for a moment I thought I’d died. Turns out I was on my back looking up at my bathroom ceiling. I sat up and placed my hand on my head, the pain of the impact must’ve been intense because I had a splitting headache. It seemed that painting really left an impression on me (pun intended), the rain had stopped, and the horns became a little less intrusive. I heard the indistinct mumblings of people downstairs which meant the gallery must’ve opened. I looked at my hand and then the floor to check for blood, but I was good which meant the day might be good too. I got my clothes on and headed down to the gallery. It didn’t look any different than yesterday which meant there were no special events for the week, which was good because this place tends to get packed when some well-off joneses want to have a get-together.

I went back to the wall with the painting on it and stood for a moment, trying to figure out what the fuck was so special about this painting to give me nightmares and hallucinations. The longer I stood there and looked the more the colors appeared to move and blend with each other; suddenly, I was back at that cemetery with the foggy forest, black sky with a luminescent moon and frigid air. I looked to the forest and the fog opened like a doorway and revealed a path. At first, I was reluctant to go through, you know, because I was inside a painting in an art gallery that called itself a museum when it really wasn’t and some raspy, throaty voice kept telling me to find him. One ting that surprised me was that the cemetery didn’t smell like dead people (not that I’d know, or want to know, how dead people smelled) but instead smelled like a fresh, moist spring garden. Like the trees were pollinating which was weird considering the fact it was cold.

I decided to go down the path and see what was on the other side. While walking, there were growls, snarls and other terrifying sounds. Rips, tears, a distant scream and a cry for help all blended into a cavalcade of horror. I felt a looming presence at my back and jerked my head around, no one was there. I stood for a moment for my edification and when I was satisfied continued walking. The sky started to show some signs of color, a bit of purple here, a bit of green there. For a moment, I thought aurora borealis was about to emerge. Instead, I noticed the tinge of green trailed off in a specific direction and my eyes followed involuntarily, leading to a menacing, black castle. It was a sixteenth century, European style castle with a moat and drawbridge.

The bricks were scratched, worn and battered, as if it were attacked in battle. The castle exuded a dark and ominous energy that permeated its circumference. The horrible sounds faded from memory the closer I got to the castle, as even the terrible creatures behind the fog were afraid. The air became more frigid and the fog gave way to darkness with a tinge of green, then yellow, then blue, then red. The colors swirled around each other and next thing I knew, I was in the castles’ hallway. It was an ordinary hallway with little to show except portraits of eyes. Green eyes, yellow eyes, red eyes, blue eyes, orange eyes, just eyes all the way down. The thing about those eyes was that they moved. Not seemed to move or appeared to move.

They moved.

The eyes blurred and swirled and twirled and changed colors and morphed into different beings, all with an eye on their forehead. It was this moment I was convinced I was having an acid trip (even though I hadn’t tried acid since high school). I took one step and then another, the eyes followed my movements but did little else. The place smelled like a fresh spring garden filled with pollinating trees with a tinge of rose. As the colors of the eyes changed and switched portraits, so did the smell. When it was yellow it smelled of sunflower, when it was green it smelled of oak, when it was purple it smelled if deep lavender, and when it was red it smelled like the most precious rose.

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