Supernatural Fiction posted March 20, 2014


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The portrait terrified him so.

The Crying

by Dean Kuch

Ghost Story Contest Winner 


 

The Crying

 

My name's Chelsea Bloch, and I'm a paranormal investigator. Okay, I know; you're probably laughing right about now, but please, hear me out —

I was interviewing my father for a television project about an incident from his youth. It concerned a frightening painting of a little girl who would transform into something far more sinister once the sun set. She was portrayed on the canvas in oils, crying, and pouting; a solitary teardrop falling from one eye. At times, my father would look at the painting and see her smiling malevolently, wickedly grinning at him.
Other times, it would appear completely normal, just as it had been painted.

He was certain the thing was cursed.

There were few records of the man who'd painted it. There was little mention of the tiny girl in the painting, other than she was the artisit's daughter. In fact, the previous owners told my grandparents the man who'd painted it was an aspiring local artist named Ethan Drake. He was committed to Mansfield, a state asylum, shortly after he'd finished painting the eerie portrait, when his daughter died a tragically horrible death. During an extraordinarily bright and sun drenched fall afternoon, just as the orderly on his ward started making the rounds, Drake sneaked out of the hospital. He climbed to the highest point, to the uppermost parapet of the decrepit sanitarium, then jumped to his death. A nurse found him that evening, neck broken, eyes staring eternally skyward, crushed upon the crumbling tombstones of the hospital's ancient cemetery below the hill.

I began to wonder who the child really was. All my dad knew was the little girl was the artist's daughter. She'd just lost her mom in a car accident. He'd captured one of the child's more melancholy moments as she reminisced about her mother. The moment was immortalized on canvas as a solitary teardrop fell from her steel-blue eyes. Hence, the name of the portrait – "THE CRYING ".

Dad told me he'd taken one brief look at the painting, and an eerie coldness washed over him. He couldn't say why.

Something about the damned thing was very ... wrong.

However, his mother would hear none of it, and scolded him.

"Calm down, it's just a harmless painting, for Heaven's sake," she chided him.

But, Grandma was wrong. Dead wrong.

She told dad the only reason they had purchased the painting was because they'd gotten a fantastic deal on it at a local yard sale.

"It was almost as if the guy had practically begged me to take it away for free."

Dad didn't doubt that one bit.

His mother decided to hang it up in the living room above the TV where everyone could see it. Dad and his two younger brothers arrived home from school to find it hanging there one drab Friday afternoon. They all played outside until it grew dark. When his mother called them inside, my dad's thoughts immediately fixated on the painting.

"Stay here with your brothers tonight. Your father and I are going out this evening. It's our anniversary, so you'll have to baby-sit for us and keep an eye on your brothers. We'll probably be out late. I'll give you a little spending money for your comic books, if you do a good job... okay? Are you even listening to me, young man?"

However, dad's mind was preoccupied with other things – evil, dark things – as he simply sat staring at the painting.

Of course, dad finally agreed. He lived for his comic books.

After they were left alone, dad prepared a quick meal of TV dinners and Pepsi. He tried to keep his focus off the portrait hanging above the fireplace.

Eleven-thirty, just after the evening newscast, Shock Theater, featuring show host Dr. Creep, with his ghoulish cast of supporting characters, came on TV. The boys all sat in the living room, then settled down to watch a movie.

Around eleven-forty-five, his younger brothers finally succumbed to the call of the Sand Man. Simultaneously, they both drifted off to sleep. Dad tried to keep his focus on the Creature Feature playing out on the tube. However, his eyes kept being drawn to grandma's latest acquisition to the home's decor.

At three am, the Star-Spangled Banner came on, accompanied by blazing jets and billowing white smoke across the screen as the music played. After that, the television screen went to a snowy static, followed by a test pattern. He explained that during his youth, they didn't have the luxury of twenty-four-hour television insomniacs enjoy today.

He thought he'd heard a giggle, faint and soft, echoing from the television just moments before he switched it off. He quickly dismissed the notion, however. Too much soda pop; far too many monster movies. That's what he'd attributed it to at the time. Simply his over-active imagination playing tricks on him.

Throughout the evening, my father's scrutinizing gaze kept being drawn to the picture of that little girl. He vainly attempted to concentrate on his new SpiderMan comic book. He got up, checked on his brothers (who were soundly asleep by then), and covered them each with a blanket. Once he knew they were safe, he sat back down to continue reading.

Once again, his gaze was drawn to the picture.

Something had ... changed.

Instead of the mournful frown, which had originally been painted, it had been replaced by a malevolent smile, stretched out upon the child's pallid face. Her plump, pouting lips were now curled up into a vicious, shark-toothed grin. He could vaguely see an angry row of pointed teeth protruding just beneath her upper lip. Her once lifeless and sullen blue eyes were now filled with malice and a vile flicker of delight. Her face nearly swallowed her eyes now; they sank so deeply into the sockets.

He screamed, which promptly awakened his two brothers, then begged them to look at the girl in the painting. However, her image had returned to the way it was before. Continuing to frown; still weeping and crying the solitary teardrop. The three boys moved in tandem towards the painting above the mantle. As they approached close enough to touch it, they all observed that the teardrop on the portrait was wet, dripping on the brick hearth below. All anyone could manage then was a stifled gasp. They all ran screaming from the house.

His parents arrived home, finding the utility closet slightly ajar. The portrait was shoved deep within. No wet tears. No wicked, evil smile; everything was quite normal looking, really. It appeared just as it had when they purchased it earlier that day. The boys, after a brief and frantic search by grandma and grandpa, were found sleeping out in the garage. Heads covered, flashlights brightly blazing beneath their blankets, Bibles clutched tightly in their trembling hands.

Dad promises to this day, that whenever his parents left; he would make his mom take the painting down whenever he was asked to baby sit or left alone in the house. If she refused, he removed the painting from the mantle himself.

To you, this might seem like the end to the tale of the haunted portrait of the little girl. I only wish that were true. For me, it was just the beginning.

After interviewing dad, he'd told me that my grandmother stashed it in her closet. Being a paranormal investigator, I simply had to know.

I called grandma to see if she still had the painting.

"Yes, as a matter of fact, I do, dear. It's here somewhere; I'm sure."

I made arrangements to pick the painting up the next morning. When I arrived much later than I'd expected, my grandparents were gone. The painting was waiting for me, leaning against a wall by the garage. I looked it over curiously. Pouting child—check. Pale, nearly opaque complexion and cool, gunmetal blue colored eyes—check. Oh yeah, the teardrop. Let's not forget that. Pretty much as dad described it. I didn't notice anything out of the ordinary, though. A bit sad, but certainly nothing sinister.

I put it in the back seat of my car, then drove the eighty-four miles back home. When I got there, it was dark. I pulled the picture from the backseat, looking forward to spending a little quality time going over it. I began investigating the paranormal because I didn't fully believe in it. Rather, I didn't use to. I'd always sought some type of proof that such things existed beyond this earthly realm. I was about to get more than I'd bargained for.

I let myself into my apartment. I set the painting on my coffee table, going quickly to my bedroom to get my EVP recorder and SpiritBox®. After retrieving them, I powered the devices up, and went to get the portrait.

It was gone.

"What the..." I searched everywhere. Under my bed, behind the sofa, then finally, the backseat of my car. You all know how it is. You know you put something in a certain place, yet when you go to get it, it's gone? You question yourself, wondering if you made a mistake. Maybe I put it in the closet, or it's on the kitchen table; I just thought I put it on the coffee table. You get the drift. But, that picture had vanished into thin air. At least that's what I thought at the time. I dropped onto the sofa, scratching my head, and wondering— what the hell just happened?

'B-R-R-R-R-I-I-i-i-i-n-n-g-g-g-g-g!" B-R-R-R-R-I-I-i-i-i-n-n-g-g-g-g-g!'

The ringing of my phone nearly caused me to go into cardiac arrest. I quickly answered. It was Grandma.

"Hey, sweetie. Sorry Dad and I missed you today." I let her know that it was okay, I was sorry I missed them, too.

"We thought maybe you hadn't made it up, that something happened to you. Is everything okay? I knew you drove all the way up here to get this picture."

This picture, I think. Surely, she meant the picture.

"I'm sorry, Grandma, I seem to have misplaced it or something. I know I put it on my table, here in the TV room. I left the room for a minute, came back in, and it was gone."

"Chelsea, you're so funny! Always trying to put one over on your old grandma."

I began to question her sanity at that point in our conversation. I'm sure she was doing the same with mine.

"That's why I'm calling you, silly girl. I wanted to know if you still needed it. We left it outside for you. You know, just in case we missed you before we got home? We didn't want you to drive all the way to Dayton for nothing."

But, that's exactly what I've done, grandma.

Grandma's voice sounded again through the speaker. "Well, okay Chels, sorry to bother you so late. I just wanted to tell you I loved you. The portrait will be here if you ever decide to pick it up."

Was I missing something here?

"Grandma, that's what I'm trying to tell you. I did pick it up, this afternoon. Only, I can't find it. It's not here."

"Why, of course it isn't, dear. It's right here in front of me. I'm looking at it as we speak..."

My legs went numb. I felt my face flush red hot. I couldn't make my mouth form speech.

"...Well, goodnight sweetheart. We love you. Tell your mom and dad we said, hi."

"Guh-goodnight," was all I could manage in reply.

After she'd hung up, I began to do my self-questioning thingy again. Did I dream all this? No, that was impossible, and I knew it. I'd picked that cursed thing up, and it got up and found its way back home.

If I wasn't sure ghosts, apparitions, or the supernatural existed before, you can bet your sweet ass I do now.


It's also a sure bet that I won't be going back to pick it up again, either. I believe some things are better left alone.

I often wonder if the little girl's wicked smirk manifests itself there now, within the dark confines of grandma's closet. Sharp teeth faintly gleaming, eyes ablaze with unspeakable intent. I'm content to know it's no longer here, or currently displayed anywhere in dad's childhood home. It now simply sits alone, dirty and dusty within that closet.

If dad and I have our way, that's exactly where it will stay.


 


Writing Prompt
Write a Ghost Story. No limit on the word count.

Ghost Story
Contest Winner

Recognized


This is based upon actual events. I have no explanations for what transpired, or how the painting came to smile and cry real tears. As for the whereabouts of the "TEAR DROP" (the actual name of the cursed thing), well, it's really hard to say now. Maybe it will tun up at your house as an unexpected yard sale purchase. Then, you can decide for yourself.
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© Copyright 2017. Dean Kuch All rights reserved. Registered copyright with FanStory.
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