The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
The Picture at an Exhibition
by Mary Ann Peden-Coviello
The sounds of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition provided the background at Les Beaux Arts Gallery’s display of unusual art. Esoteric paintings lined the walls, and elegantly dressed patrons sipped champagne and nibbled hors d’oeuvres while murmuring about the works.
“Do we have to do this?” Sam had been complaining ever since his girlfriend had presented him with passes to the gallery opening. “A bunch of stuffed shirts twittering about Pierre de Artiste’s radical use of color or Quincy Pifflepuff’s spatial whateverness. I mean, come on . . .”
“Yes, Sam, we have to. It’ll be fun.” At Sam’s sour glance, Jennifer flashed him a smile and said, tucking her arm into his, “Okay, maybe not fun, but it’ll be easy extra credit for Art Appreciation. And you totally need those points.”
Sam’s eye roll was almost audible. Jen giggled and skipped ahead into the first gallery.
Hands jammed into his jeans pockets, Sam wandered into the gallery, shuffling past each piece without a pause — until he glanced at a painting no one else seemed inclined to study. One art lover after another passed by, nattering on about each picture, then skipped the last one as if they hadn’t even seen it.
Something about that work tugged at Sam’s soul, a whisper, a feather-light tickle, luring him.
“Jen, that one in the corner – it’s different, isn’t it?”
“Huh? What? Oh, look at the landscape with the flags – the bright blue stands out like it’s 3-D!” Jennifer bounced toward a painting displayed in the center of the gallery.
Sam found himself in front of the odd artwork, mesmerized.
He stared at the dark, disturbing image. Four naked figures, bodies cracked and crazed. Behind the figures, storm clouds threatened and roiled.
Thunder growled inside Sam’s head. Lightning crashed. Buzzing like an angry hornet’s nest commenced in his ears.
Sam stepped closer to the canvas, pulled inexorably forward.
One kneeling figure, hands covering its face, lifted its head and stared deeply into Sam’s eyes.
The world shifted sideways. The Earth quaked. A sound that was also pain reverberated.
Sam peered out of the painting, despairing as his body standing in the gallery turned his own eyes back toward him. With a taunting smile, the creature from the painting – now wearing Sam’s body – strutted out of the gallery.
In the painting, Sam hid his face in his hands.
Pictures at an Exhibition played on.
Fiction © Copyright Mary Ann Peden-Coviello
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
More from Mary Ann Peden-Coviello:
Women write horror and have written it since before Mary Shelley wrote FRANKENSTEIN. This anthology is to highlight the fact women write great horror and to kill the fallacy that they aren’t in some way up to standard. They are. Read here stories by Elizabeth Massie, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Lucy Taylor, and a plethora of other great writers as they work on your nerves, get inside your head, and bang out some of the scariest tales written today. I’m proud to present these women for your consideration, as Rod Serling might say, as I ask you to step into FRIGHT MARE. Lock the door and windows, put on a light, and remember, it’s not real. It’s not real. Midnight awaits, monsters scheme to take you away, the strange and weird wait in the shadows, but it’s not real. Is it?
Edited by Billie Sue Mosiman, the author who brought you the SINISTER-TALES OF DREAD collections and her latest suspense novel, THE GREY MATTER.