The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
The Woman in Burlap
by Naching T. Kassa
I have always despised the avant-garde. Those artists who think they are somehow ahead of their time, who aspire to shock and disgust. In my opinion, they are as worthless as a broken watch and as useless as a penniless husband.
My husband, Henri Rosierre, is not such a man. He is old, true, but I can deal with the wrinkles and the wispy white hair. I can even stomach his needs, as long as the lights are out. All I need do is think of his bank account and the diamond brooch or mink he’ll give me afterward. That’s what gets me through.
Unfortunately, my husband is a great lover of the avant-garde. He spends his money on hideous paintings and demented statues. These things haunt our house, marring our walls and wasting space. I’ve asked him to be rid of them, to invest in some other form of art, but he always resists. He says I can dispose of them however I wish, once he’s dead.
I wish today were that day. Then, I could be rid of her.
She is “The Woman in Burlap,” a painting by the now-deceased artist, Diable. It depicts a rather shapely woman dressed in a burlap tunic, her head covered by a burlap mask, her hands and feet covered by burlap sacks. An open door stands between her and a white radiator. It is said the door resembles that of the asylum Diable had been committed to shortly before his death.
Diable left a suicide note and Henri purchased that as well. Every stroke of Diable’s pen reveals the ravings of a madman. He begs that Woman in Burlap be cared for, that she should be cherished and never destroyed.
When Henri dies, that is the first thing I will do.
You see, my husband hung the monstrosity in our spacious sitting room, in an honored place above the mantle. I’ve looked upon that thing all day—every day—for the last six months. My hatred for it has grown and grown. It’s an all-consuming passion. A passion which has now encompassed Henri.
I’m afraid I killed him.
I didn’t mean to. I was fine until he returned from the office. But when he paused beneath the painting and spoke to it, and told it how much he loved it and how beautiful it was—well, I couldn’t take it anymore. I took up the poker from the rack and I hit him. I hit him and hit him and—
I pulled the painting off the wall and shoved it into the fireplace. My hands shook when I put the match to it. And then the flames took hold of it. They ate into the flaking paint and scorched the frame and canvas. A noxious scent filled the air, but it smelled sweet to me.
It happened in a blink of an eye.
One moment, she was confined to the canvas, the next she had stepped from the fireplace. She stood, no longer two-dimensional, no longer a denizen of paint. She approached me in her stilted way, as though she had only stumps for feet. Blood soaked the burlap and I suddenly understood Diable’s last words. They had not been instructions. They had been a warning.
I set her free.
And now she torments me. She is everywhere and no one can see but me. The police won’t believe anything I say. They arrested me for the murder of Henri.
It has been three days since I slept. The last time I closed my eyes, she pressed the burlap against my lips and nose, trying to suffocate me with the scent of blood. I awoke screaming in my cell and they took me to the asylum, the same one as Diable.
She seems to like it here.
And I cannot paint.
Fiction © Copyright Naching T. Kassa
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
More from Naching T. Kassa:
Crystal Lake Publishing proudly presents Arterial Bloom, an artful juxtaposition of the magnificence and macabre that exist within mankind. Each tale in this collection is resplendent with beauty, teeth, and heart.
Edited by the Bram Stoker Award-winning writer Mercedes M. Yardley, Arterial Bloom is a literary experience featuring sixteen stories from some of the most compelling dark authors writing today.
With a foreword by HWA Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient Linda D. Addison, you are invited to step inside and let the grim flowers wind themselves comfortably around your bones.