Artist As Witness

Entry by: Corone

19th June 2015
Artist as Witness

That wasn't there before. Reg looked again, then back up to compare his painting with the view. For the most part the canvas displayed what he saw outside the window. Not a particularly exciting vista, just a small block of flats near a park. He’d been focusing his attention on the park, as he always found trees required a little more effort. But there was something wrong with his painting of the building opposite. One of the windows had the curtains drawn, which was strange because he hadn't drawn any of them in that much detail. All the others were simply glass reflecting the sky or the sunlight. Whoever lived there must have just had the curtains closed that day, and he’d got so involved that he’d not taken a step back. But he was a little unnerved he didn't remember painting something he must have been so focused on.

Coming back from the shops the next day, Reg was stopped by one of the many policemen surrounding now the flats opposite. There were panda cars everywhere, and even a local news crew. He must have lingered a little too long, wondering how this change would affect his painting.

“Excuse me sir, we’re making inquiries in the local area. Do you live nearby?”

“Yes,” he answered, taking a mental note that the policeman’s badge said ‘Tomkins’. You never could be too careful. “I live over there. But I didn't see anything. What’s happened?”

“I'm afraid I can’t say very much sir, but we are investigating a murder in this building. Are you sure nothing has caught your notice over the last few days?”

“No, I'm sorry,” he said, trying not to think of the closed curtains in his painting.

When he got inside he wanted to look at the painting again, but he forced himself to put the shopping away first. He was just being silly, just being a stupid old man looking for something to break up the days after retirement. Alice wouldn't have stood for this. She would have told him to get his head out of the clouds. But she wasn't here any more and the painting was, just something to pass the time, now a mystery squatting in his living room and daring him to look again.

As he had begun to dread, the painting had changed again. Now the curtains on that same window had opened a little, revealing a little of the room within. He looked up and stared out of his window, but the light made it impossible to see through any of the windows in the building opposite. Was he doing this in his sleep? He got out a magnifying glass to take a closer look, and found details he could never have painted. Through the curtains it was quite an ordinary bedroom. He couldn't see much of the bed, but there was either the arm or leg of someone lying on it. There also seemed to be a second figure by the window, right up to the curtains, but only a sliver of their side was visible. It was the mirror opposite the window that caught his attention though. Written in red were the words ‘See Nothing’.

He painted over the section with the window, making a white hole in the image that he would return to later. Then he sat down with the paper, having had more than enough of painting for one day. The cover story was about the murder opposite, which he should have expected. The report said it had been a young woman who lived alone. There were the usual witness statements that she ‘was a lovely girl’, and ‘who’d want to do such a thing’. She had apparently had a promising career as an artist they said.

At breakfast the next day he looked at the painting again, and to his horror, saw that the white splash had been coloured in. He picked up the magnifying glass and looked at the freshly painted window again. This time the curtains were almost entirely open. He could see the back of an easel and the body of a woman on the bed. He couldn’t clearly see what had happened to her but there was blood everywhere, running down the sheets and pooling on the floor beneath. When he moved to look for the other figure he dropped the magnifying glass. It was there at the window, but not hidden this time. There was something indistinct about it, unfocused when the rest of the room was so clear. Nothing was especially distinct except the eyes. They stared directly at him with unspeakable malice, a smile touching the lips of the unformed mouth.

There was nothing for it; he called the police, asking for Constable Tomkins directly. Later that evening the constable came round, with a look that can only be gained from a long shift on a difficult day.

“I gather you have some information for us sir,” he said very officially.

Reg invited him in and took him over to the painting. “There, take a look,” he said.

Tomkins took the magnifying glass and Reg watched him shudder as he looked at the face.

“Are you saying you saw this man in the young lady’s flat?”
“Well, no. Not saw exactly.”

Tomkins seemed to slump a little. It had been a long walk to talk to a crazy old man. Murders always brought this sort of thing out in people.

“You see, I didn't paint that. It sort of happened,” listening to himself, Reg was suddenly very embarrassed. He and Tomkins looked at each other, neither knowing what to say.

With a sigh, Tomkins got out his phone and turned on the camera.
“Perhaps I should just get a photograph for our records,” he appeased. “Then I’ll be on my way.”

“Good. Good,” replied Reg. “You will make sure the detectives get to see it won’t you? I'm sure it’s important.”

“Yes sir. I'm sure everyone will want to have a look. Although I should warn you that if we find a gentleman matching this description we may have to ask you to come in for further questioning.”

“Of course,” Reg said as Tomkins leaned over the painting and took a few pictures. As soon as he was done he left quickly before Reg could offer him tea.

Once Tomkins had left, Reg took another look at the painting. The curtains were fully open this time and while he could see more of the woman he chose not to linger on the gruesome details.

However, the shape of the man was nowhere to be seen. He checked over the other windows, and they were all as he had painted them. Perhaps it was over. He sat back in his chair and relaxed. But then he noticed him own curtains were open, and a long dark hand sat curled around from behind them.

He sat frozen in his chair as the curtains gently pulled aside and the man from the painting oozed around from behind them. Everything about him was indistinct, except his clear dark eyes and the broad smile that remained locked in place. Reg could hear something sticky as he moved, as if he was tacky with wet paint, but he left no trace.

“Just keep looking,” the figure whispered, as Reg couldn't keep his eyes off him. “Every time you look you make me become more real.”

As the figure got closer with his sharp teeth, Reg could only think of the photographs on Tomkins phone. How many people would look at them? How many times would it be copied and stared at again and again? As if it was reading his thoughts the figure’s grin widened before it sunk its teeth into Reg’s throat with terrifying hunger.