Early Kills: The Portrait

This was my next attempt at writing.  I had some free periods during the school day, so I attempted to write something more along the lines of what I was into.  (which was a lot of Lovecraft at this time)  It’s not terribly original, but I enjoyed doing it at the time.

The Portrait ( Sep. 10, 1992)

Bret ran a small antique shop on the southern side of town. He had a pretty good location in a strip mall that saw customers coming in from multiple directions. Bret had some pretty fair prices and was always willing to bargain. Due to this and his pleasant, outgoing nature, he was pretty well known and had a decent sized group of regular clientele.

He was little surprised when his friend and frequent customer, Jack, walked in carrying a large portrait wrapped in brown paper. “I picked this up on my way back from London,” Jack started, “I saw it and thought it would be perfect for your shop.”

Bret was eager to see what his friend had discovered. “Oh, man, let’s see it!” The two men set the portrait down on the counter by the register. “Wow!” Bret exclaimed, his eyes lighting up. “Who is this?”

“He was a seventeenth century sorcerer. The legend said that he killed a dragon for a king and in return asked for the king’s daughter’s hand in marriage. The king refused and he took her anyway. The king sent his men after them. They were never seen again.”

“What was his name?”

“Frederick something. He was as Frederick the Black due to his dark hair and eyes. They say when he was casting a spell, his eyes would turn red. Silly, superstitious stuff, but still fun! The painting was found shortly after he disappeared.”

“You mean it’s been around that long?” Bret asked, clearing a space on the wall.

“At least! Possibly longer. It’s had many owners. Nobody ever kept it very long.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t know.” Jack glanced at his watch. “Nobody would ever give me an answer to that. Hey, I’ve got to head home. Almost dinner time.”

“Okay, thanks for the portrait, man!” Bret walked him to the door. “Come back by when you can. I’ve got some coins I want to show you.”

“I will! See you!” Jack stepped back outside as a cloud passed over, darkening the skies.

“See you, Jack.”

After Jack left, Bret looked at the painting. Really looked at it. On it, was a man who did not resemble what was generally considered the image of people who claimed to be sorcerers. Freddie, as Bret now thought of him, would have stood six five or six six in real life. He was thin, but looked robust as well. He was likely very strong when alive.

Freddie was also dressed head to toe in black, (in given with his nickname) in addition to the aforementioned black hair and eyes. His hands formed an arcane gesture that Bret did not recognize. Wait, did he have dark eyes? It seemed now to Bret that his eyes were red. The reddest eyes that Bret had ever seen. Eyes that seemed to look into your very soul. . .

“Ah!” Bret woke with a start. It was dark outside. “I must’ve dozed off while looking at this painting.” He thought to himself. It’s past closing time. “I hope nobody came in and saw me sleeping.” He locked up the store and went home. That night, everyone in his dreams seemed to have red eyes.

The next day, Bret went in to the shop and hung the portrait up on the wall. He noticed that no matter where in the shop he stood, the eyes seemed to look directly at him. He noticed the background of the portrait for the first time. The full moon hung in the sky to the left of Frederick’s head. The trees behind him. The stars in the eyes. The sky. The eyes. The red eyes.

“Uh, well, Freddie,” He said, attempting to shake off the daze that had overcome him, “How do you like your new home?” He half expected the man to reply.

The rest of the day was relatively normal. Customers came and went. All of them noticed the painting. It seemed to provoke a reaction of some sort in everyone. Some loved it, others didn’t. The ones who didn’t, were strongly repulsed for reasons they could not seem to relate.

Bret went home again that night. He dreamed. He dream it was himself in the portrait. But who was running the store? Who? He tried to see. He saw someone behind the register, talking to old Mrs. Higgins. Holding her hand and reassuring her everything was ok and that Bret would be fine. Just feeling a bit under the weather. The man turned and looked back at the portrait. He had dark hair and red eyes. He smiled diabolically.

Bret woke with a start, covered in sweat. The sheets were soaked in it. He glanced over at his wife. “Still sleeping,” He noticed. “Just a dream. It was just a dream.” He thought to himself. It was five am. He stayed awake until it was time to open the shop.

When Bret came into work that morning, he noticed the picture seemed brighter somehow. The fleshtones brighter. The blacks darker. The greens greener. The eyes redder. Bret closed down the shop early and went home.

A month passed and Bret had the dream every night. He was trapped in the portrait and Freddie was running the store in his “absence.” He dreaded sleep now, attempting to stay awake with coffee and pills. He dreaded going to work, but had bills to pay. The painting seemed very lifelike now. It almost seemed as though Freddie could reach out and touch you.

At closing time, Bret turned off the lights, and locked up the store. He was far too drowsy to notice the red eyes glowing in the darkness.

Bret dreamed again that night. In his dream, old Mrs. Higgins bought the portrait of Bret. As she turned to leave, Freddie spoke. “Well, Bret, I hope you like your new home.” He smiled that evil smile as Bret woke screaming.

His wife sat up next to him. “What is it?”

Bret didn’t hear her. He looked over at the clock. Four am. He only had one thought on is mind. The store! He’s in the store! Bret jumped out of the bed and threw his clothes on. He drove to the store rapidly as his wife stood in the doorway. “What the hell’s going on?!”

As he turned on the light, Bret immediately looked at the picture frame. Frederick’s body was beginning to bulge out from the portrait. It looked as if he could walk right out at any moment. Bret ran to the back of the store and began fumbling around in a large box. Finally, he found a pack of matches. (Bret never smoked in the store because he was afraid of accidentally starting a fire)

He ran to the front and saw Frederick was larger now. He was smiling that damn smile! Bret struck a match and threw it at the painting. It bounced off and onto the floor. He thought he heard laughter as he desperately attempted to light another. It fizzled out. He tossed it to the ground and cursed. Trying again as Frederick’s body began to pull out of the portrait.

Finally, he succeeded and held the match to the painting. One of Frederick’s hands attempted to grasp his hand as the flames began to lick and crawl up the painting, but he was forced to pull back. Flames rose up the canvas and covered the wooden frame. Frederick began to scream as the portrait went up in flames. The screams echoed in Bret’s ears long after the painting has been reduced to a pile of black ash on the shop’s floor.

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