This week’s #writephoto prompt is
Drew Duckdown liked to think himself cultured. He visited art galleries and museums every third Saturday, he took his coffee with almond milk and he wore fairtrade y-fronts. He maintained strong opinions on the exhibits, voicing his views whenever a crowd formed round a piece of sculpture or a painting. In particular, he enjoyed educating viewers on the failures of the artists, especially those which had been critically acclaimed. It showed his independence of thought, he told his cat, Militant.
This particular Saturday, a crowd had gathered around a small watercolour when Drew entered the main gallery. He’d been expecting this, having read in his local paper, the Penge Trombone that this piece was only exhibited every fifty years for a week and then withdrawn by the reclusive family who owned it.
To Drew who had studied the blurry image in the paper it was a trite pastiche piece with little merit. It was a classic representation of the one thing he hated most: it was derivative.
Drew took his time to move through the throng to study the painting. He was already scoffing at the naive brushwork, the errors of perspective and the washed out palette when he reached the front. He took in the lighthouse, the isolation, bleak finality of the picture and shuddered.
A voice at his shoulder said, ‘you see it, don’t you?’
Drew shook himself and ignored the voice, preparing himself to share his first opinion when the voice filled his other ear.
‘You can see him, can’t you? No one else can.’
Even as the words were spoken, Drew’s eyes were drawn to the face in the top window of the lighthouse. It seemed impossible that he could see a face let alone discern its individual features and the … yes, the horror in that expression.
‘Who is that?’ He wanted to whisper but the words came out almost as a bellow. Drew felt people begin to move away, giving him space, thinking him maybe mad.
The voice, however continued. ‘You know, don’t you?’
And Drew did. While part of his mind felt his legs give way and him fall to his knees, the larger part took in the cold stone walls, the rough wooden floor and the small cot-like bed on which lay a copy of the picture, the lighthouse picked out by a shaft of sunlight from the small window in the curved walls.
Drew pulled himself to his feet and, stretching looked out of the window. On the other side of the glass a crowd of people were surrounding a man who had been stretched out on the gallery floor. Someone was pummelling his chest while another bent to his face, apparently intent on giving the man mouth to mouth. Gasps and words of concern could be heard as all faces focused on the inert man.
All faces bar one. Drew’s gaze lifted as if against his will and his eyes met a weathered face, the sort of face you might see on a lighthouse keeper who has spent too long in salt-lashing winds. The man nodded and his lips moved as Drew heard his voice, that same sibilant voice in his ears, just as if the man stood by his shoulders.
‘Your turn, Drew Duckdown.’
As the man turned away, the crowd seemed to drain of energy. The man who had been giving mouth to mouth, rocked back onto his heels, shaking his head and, to Drew’s horror he reached forward and gently shut Drew’s eyes.
Later a few people reported they heard a scream. One woman said she thought it came from the painting. When she told the police this, she laughed nervously. ‘Obviously that couldn’t have happened, but still…’
Later still, a tall weather-beaten man with a sibilant voice collected his family’s painting and returned it to the security vault for safe keeping.