Friday, 29 April 2011

The Boy in the Picture

My sister is late. I check my phone again and sigh, sick of being jostled by the human stream pouring in and out of the tube station. Where is she? I only have an hour for lunch.

“Martha!” I startle as she materialises beside me. “Where the hell have you been? We won’t get a table in Mulligan’s at this rate.”
“Stuff Mulligan’s,” Martha wheezes, darting her head this way and that. She seizes my arm. “I want you to come and see something in the art gallery.”
“The art gallery? It’ll take too long to get served in there.”
“No, not to eat,” she said, propelling my protesting self along the street. “We’ll get a sandwich afterwards. You have to see this picture.”

I blow out my cheeks, and shuffle from foot to foot.
“This is it? This is why you dragged me here?”
“Look closer,” Martha says. “Look at the boy.” She points, and I see a small tatty boy painted with saucer eyes, clutching a grubby teddy.
“I keep seeing him,” she jabbers. “I’ve seen him in the street, in the office, even at the bottom of my garden.”
I sigh. I love meeting her for lunch on Fridays, and she’s spoilt it. There’s no time now, and I’m not in the mood for this.
“It’s true,” she squeaks.
“Oh for god’s sake Martha,” I let slip my temper’s leash. “I can’t believe you’ve wasted lunch for this. You don’t keep seeing some figure from a crappy painting.” I turn to leave. “You’ve always had a stupid imagination.”
“Where are you going?”
“Back to the office, of course. It’s too late for lunch.”

But later I leave my desk, and sneak to the toilets, clutching my phone. Casting furtive glances over my shoulder, I lock the door, and dial with shaky hands.
“Martha? It’s me.”
“Megan! Are you okay?”
“No.” I gulp to quell the panic rising in my throat. I want my big sis to tell me everything is alright, that it’s just a stupid trick.
“You’ve seen him, haven’t you?”
“Everywhere.” Hell, he was even standing by the photocopier, clutching his horrid teddy, his wide eyes staring at me, unblinking. Fear pounces. My voice cracks. I can’t speak.
“Megan, let’s got back to the art gallery. It closes at six; meet me there after work.”

Our heels clatter up the marble staircase, and we totter into the gallery. The painting is there, innocuous, unremarkable. We walk up to it, and look. Martha gasps. I gawp. There is no boy with a teddy. Where he stood, there is nothing, only a painted street with busy people rushing by.

We look at each other. Martha’s dark eyes are wide in her chalky face. I try to speak, but I can only stutter stammering sounds. I’m trying to say we need a drink, when she grabs my hand. I freeze. Hairs on my neck shudder. There is someone behind us.

We swing round. It’s the boy and his teddy. We step back. He is standing looking at us, his huge eyes riveted, unblinking. He steps forwards. I cannot move until Martha yanks my arm, and then we fly for the door, and I daren’t look back.

(Yes, I know that's a rubbish ending, but it can't end there! I love this story so much, I'm going to have to write a longer version. Watch this space![but don't hold your breath...])


  1. A few stories this week about someone late or missing entirely. After Icy's, I feared the sister was dead. The ending has a ghost story quality about it that I enjoyed, even if it's not what you were aiming for.

  2. Oh yes, I agree - you have to give us more. I want to know about this boy. Great work!

  3. Well done. This really caught my attention and held it. But I'm really confused about the word "materialises" It feels like she is some sort of ghost, but then we get nothing else about that...instead the kid is a ghost. Or is this like a sixth sense type of thing? It's weird and...I don't know. I think it actually helped out the story. It really makes me wonder actually and that single word really grabbed me by the throat and kept me in the story.

    If it was intentional, bravo. If not, we'll say your subconscious then gets the bravo. But overall...Bravo!

  4. There is definitely more here, I can sense that you are going to write more. Stay true to the beginning though. It holds a kernel of something very interesting. The movements between locations was too quick, jarring even, but I guess that's the speed with which you've captured it. looking forward to reading more.

  5. I agree, there is something to this, definitely expand it! I wonder if it might be a possibility to start it with glimpses of the boy and then move on from there? Just a thought.

    By the way, I've given you a blogging award, head on over to my blog to pick it up, if you wish. x

  6. Paintings coming to life are always freaky (it's a big part of Freud's theory of the Uncanny) but I do enjoy a good ghost story! Please expand this!

  7. Thank you all ever so much for all your comments!

    Heartful - I'm staggered! Thank you, will pop by later.

    Michael, it was intentional, so I'm chuffed you got it, it was meant to be unnerving. I haven't entirely decided where I'm going with this story yet, but I loved the sister suddenly 'appearing' as a prelude to the boy from the painting.

    IBC4, I pruned this horribly to make a shorter 'flash' piece, and I agree, it is jarringly quick.

    Icy, Deanna, John, Merlene, I've possibly watched just too many episodes of Dr Who to write an original piece, but I'm keen to have a go!


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