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Authors: Ryan Casey

Tags: #Horror

The Painting

BOOK: The Painting
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Part One

Part Two

Part Three

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The Painting

by Ryan Casey

Editor: Cynthia Shepp

Cover Design: Adrijus Guscia

Published May 2013 by Higher Bank Books

This e-book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This e-book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your preferred store and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

Copyright © 2013 Ryan Casey


He knew they were still watching him.

“Donny, you’re going to have to come out of there.” Banging at the door, muffled voices.

He knew they were still watching him because he felt their gaze. He felt it from inside his body—their eyes examining every inch of his being.

The trees.

But there was more than trees.
The figures.
There were definitely figures. He’d seen them and he knew what they were now. He knew where they came from and what it all meant.

Watching… waiting… waiting for somebody else to come along.

He pulled his head from under the quilt as he heard knocking at the door.

“Donny, you’re gonna have to come out of there at some point,” she shouted.

He wanted to shout back. He wanted to jump out of the bed and run back to her, but he was completely frozen.


Would they see the figures too? Or was it just him?

Was it all over?

As he elevated himself from the bed, he tried not to look at the painting—not even in his mind’s eye. He still felt their gazes burning through the sheets and engulfing his body.

He knew they were still there.

He could still hear the creeping of their slender feet squelching across the marshy grass. Their little hands tap, tap, tapping the thin air.

“Donny, come on.”

She couldn’t hear them. Only he could hear them. Only he was special enough.

Pitter-patter up the stairs.

No. They weren’t there, not anymore. It was over. It was over.

They sang a song sometimes—a quiet song. It was hard to make out, but he heard the whispers and calls. It was sort of like a nursery rhyme—a coming home. Something his mother might have hummed to him as she moved back on forth on her rocking chair.

The cracking of a floorboard.

Pitter-patter of little feet up the stairs.

“Donny, I know you’re in there, and I know you’re scared, but you just need to get out of there or we’re gonna have to get you out of there ourselves.”

She’d found him. She’d come back for him. She was going to take him home and then all of this would be over.

But they were watching.

He pulled his head back under the quilt like he used to do when he was a little boy hiding from the monsters under the bed.

Resist them, resist them.

He heard a deeper voice outside the room, then a cough and a sigh. “We’re going to knock the door down, mate,” the man’s voice said.

More mumbling. He couldn’t knock the door down. Knocking the door down would let them in and then they’d see them too and
would take them away. They’d take Sara away.

Wouldn’t they?

But he couldn’t get up from under the quilt. They would be watching from the painting. They always watched from the painting. He kept still as his body shook against the dusty white sheets. A little bit of his foot was exposed at the end of the bed but he had to keep it still—the coldness growing closer and tickling its way up his ankles.


He squeezed his eyes together. The singing started. He heard it inside him, like headphones wired into his skull. The humming. No words—just beautiful, bright music.


He had to stop them. He had to stop them, warn them, and get them out of here.

He threw the quilt out of his face as the door crashed again and the light cut through the darkness of the room, stinging his eyes. He waved his hands towards them. “Get… get out, just go. You can’t be here, they’re watching—”

“Donny, it’s okay. It’s me,” the man said. He held his hands up in front of him like a perpetrator caught by the police.

“It’s the painting. They’re watching, and, and—”

“Donny, there’s nothing on the painting. Nothing on it. See? Look at it. There’s nothing there.”

Donny tilted his head towards it. The bronzing frame, the autumn leaves—

They’d be there. He couldn’t go back. He couldn’t risk going back. Manny Bates ended up here and she never got back. He couldn’t risk being another Manny Bates.

“Just look at it, Don,” Sara said, pointing her finger at it. “There’s nothing there.”

He squeezed his eyes together.
Just check. Just check, then you’ll know.
He turned his shaking head to the painting and almost immediately swung his gaze away.

The six trees. The forest. The grey sky. And the figures.

The six, hooded figures.

He felt their presence in the room as he smiled and shook his head. The cold crept up his flesh as Sara’s face grew ever more distant.

“See, there’s nothing there,” Sara said, her voice little more than a mumble as Donny drifted away into the darkness.


Sara leaned back against her seat and rolled her eyes. “But I don’t understand why you can’t just let me stay for a bit?” she said, curling her bottom lip.

Donny leaned into the car and kissed her, the spearmint from her chewing gum tanging his lips. She bit his lip and he yelped as he jumped back.

“Idiot,” he said, grinning, or more like baring teeth, as he caught the top of his head against the edge of the car door. “It’s just for a few days. You know how much this means to me. Besides, there’s no way I could stay in a big, scary house with you jumping around at every little noise. I just… I need to get a sense of what I’m writing. I need inspiration, y’know?”

Sara rolled her eyes as she gripped the steering wheel of the Land Rover, her dark hair dangling down in front of her eyes. “So you keep saying,” she said. “I just don’t get why you have to get so hands-on with your projects—other writers just bullshit.”

Donny scoffed and tilted his head. “Well, honey, you should’ve dated some other writer now, shouldn’t you?”

Sara tutted again and sighed as she reached into the glove compartment for another piece of gum. “At least the place looks all right, huh?” She curled her lips sarcastically.

Donny turned to look up at the house. The white paint peeled from the sides of the grey brickwork. Ivy clawed its way up towards the bedroom window—nature’s onslaught brutal and unforgiving.

He smiled and turned back to face Sara. “It’ll do for a few days. Just a few days.”

She slumped back into her seat and sighed. “Well, give me a call some time, yeah? I’ll be ready for you when you get back. No doubt you’ll need some warming up.” She nibbled at the edge of her lip.

The bottom of Donny’s stomach tingled as he thought about the nights they spent over the winter—wrapped around each other in front of the fireplace. He couldn’t think about that now. He scratched his head as he grew warm between his legs. “You’d better be ready,” he said, before leaning back into the car and kissing her on the cheek.

He could see it in her eyes. She tried to hide it but she was terrible at covering up her apprehensions.

“I’ll be okay,” he said.

Sara opened her mouth to say something before sighing. “Of course you will. And you know where I am if—”

“I’ll be all right.” He smiled at her and let their eyes connect for a moment. He couldn’t blame her for showing concern, especially after everything that had happened.

She closed the car window and half-smiled back at him through the glass. Then, she stepped on the gas and waved as the Land Rover sprung into life.

The car accelerated down the country road and past the trees. Donny was on his own with his case and this house, only the cawing of nearby crows for company.

Time to work.

The sound of Sara’s car leaving was still just about audible in the recesses of his eardrum. It was sweet of her, for worrying and for caring. Maybe he just wasn’t used to that sort of thing. But it was sweet. It was nice to have someone to fuss over him.

And she was fantastic in bed.

He reached for the old, oak door. It looked recently polished, unlike the typical house of a madwoman you’d come across in the horror stories. The handle wasn’t rusting away, covered in cobwebs, or anything like that. It was bronze—shiny bronze. He could see his reflection in it staring back at him. Should he knock? He knew there was nobody in. Not since the last woman had left here—well, passed away.
Manny Bates.
Apparently, the house had been abandoned for several months before she showed up spouting madness. All sorts of petitions to let her stay and petitions to make her leave sparked up, but before they could have any real impact, she was dead. Stuffed in a hole in the ground with no living family to mourn her. The council promised to reclaim the house and renovate it to re-sell.

That was last October. Six months later, the house was still derelict. Jason Watson, a friend of his in the publishing business, let him know about the place. Friend of a friend even sneaked him a spare key. Always was a dodgy bastard. “
A horror writer’s haven,”
Jason had said.

It’d take some sort of a haven to finish this manuscript on time.

But knocking on the door was polite, regardless. If he suddenly copped off, he wouldn’t want somebody walking around his house without permission. It was just politeness. Etiquette or whatever.

He’d make a shit bailiff.

He knocked at the door with the bronze handle. It clattered against the wood, echoing through the house and into the sky above. Somewhere in the dense trees across the road, a family of crows protested the noise, cawing in frustration.

What was he doing knocking on a dead woman’s door?

He pulled the key out of his pocket and slipped it into the door, twisting it to the right. To his surprise, the door started to open.
Jason had come through.
As he pushed it further open, he noticed a resistance from within—and then the sound of paper tumbling to the floor.

“Hello?” Donny called. Again, probably nobody around, but he didn’t want to take his chances. It was bad enough being in the middle of nowhere, let alone a creepy old house. He didn’t want another
on his hands.

After no response, again, he pulled himself into the hallway and closed the door behind him. The hallway was narrow. Empty photograph frames decorated the walls, the cream wallpaper flaking at its brown edges. The green carpet was thick and spongy, curving around his feet like a damp forest. In the middle of the floor, a pile of yellow letters were scattered around, all addressed to Manny Bates.
Poor soul.
All she wanted was somewhere to squat and the council had left the place to rot before she turned up anyway. Wasn’t like they had grand plans for it.

Donny sighed as he picked up the envelopes. Unread mail—he’d hate that. Something someone was trying to tell him in his life, never to be acknowledged, let alone answered. Death should have an answerphone at the very least.

Then again, from what he’d been told about Manny Bates, she’d probably not have been able to understand what the letters said anyway.

He slipped them between the handle of his case and his hand as he crept down the hallway. There were two doors—one on either side of the corridor, and a staircase further down on the left. At the end of the narrow, echoey hallway, there was another door, slightly ajar. He stepped into the open door and pushed it further open, the hinges creaking and crying out after months of stasis.

Inside, there was a kitchen area. Dust lined the circular wooden table in the centre, chipped black and white tiles echoing beneath his feet. The grubby windows let in fragments of light as white dirt crusted on their surface. In the sink were three damp, mouldy dishes, unwashed and unmoved.


There was a peculiar feel to the house, but not in the way that Donny had expected. Perhaps it was the fact that it was just so normal. Then again, when traipsing into a madwoman’s house looking for novel inspiration, a person should probably have their wits about them, or be a rock star, or something.

He walked over to the back door and grabbed the rusty-orange handle. He tried to move it to either side, flakes of crispy metal sticking to his palm, but it wouldn’t budge. Made sense. He wasn’t here to sunbathe anyway and, even if he was, he’d picked a horrible weekend for it.

He didn’t think much of it at first, but as he brushed the wooden chair and dropped the letters and his bag onto the table, he noticed the rectangular object resting against the wall, blending in with its unkempt surroundings.

BOOK: The Painting
11.33Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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