Ok, so it may seem a little strange to post to weeks worth of challenge responses in a row, but I found Thain in Vain’s current prompt to be very inspiring. Here’s hoping my darker dreamings are as entertaining as the lighter fare…
Here we go, with “Carrion Carriage”
“What a morbid piece,” Janey said, shuddering.
“Carrion Carriage,” Doug said, reading the nameplate. “Appropriately named.”
The canvas was almost black. In the center was an old-fashioned horse and buggy. Both were black, but with a strange, sickly green aura effect that allowed them to stand out on the dark canvas. The horse was nearly skeletal, bones showing through tattered skin, its eye sockets hollow. On the driver’s bench, a skeleton clad in a heavy cloak, a fine top hat perched upon its bony brow.
“It’s actually kind of stunning,” Doug said, staring closer at the piece. “The amount of detail is amazing, considering it’s all painted in black and that kind of yellow-green. The shading is impeccable, all fine lines mixed with hatching to give the illusion of depth.”
“Enough of the art critique, Doug. I don’t like it.”
“Look!” Doug exclaimed, ignoring her protests, “There’s even a passenger in the carriage. The lines are so faint as to be barely visible but…”
Doug stopped, pulled back. Drew closer again, and stared.
“Holy shit, Janey, it looks just like you!”
“Stop it, Doug!”
“No, really! Ha! That’s why you don’t like it, isn’t it? Christ, Janey, it’s just a coincidence. This thing’s like a hundred years old.”
“Can we go now?” Janey said with a sniff. Doug relented, with a last glance back at the painting as they left the gallery.
A month later, Janey was dead. The sniff at the gallery had turned into a terrible congestion, the congestion into a nasty cough, the cough into a raging fever…and then it was over. It rained at her funeral. A week of sun before, sky clear as it could be, then storm clouds the morning of, thick, roiling, black, angry things, filling the sky and blotting out the sun.
Doug stood in the rain for a long time after. Everyone else was gone. His parents, her parents. Friends. Family. Just him, the rain, and her muddy grave. He’d long since lost track of the wetness on his face, which drops were tears, which were rain. Suddenly, he felt himself struck by the urge to run. Soaked to the bone, wearing his wool suit, he ran, breath ragged, heart pounding. He had no idea where he was going, he just felt the need to go.
And there it was. The gallery. His heart sank, then his anger pulsed. It was the painting, the god damned painting! He rushed through the gallery door, straight to the canvas. He ran up, wanting, needing to see her face again.
It wasn’t there. The carriage was empty.
The cold of the gallery began to seep through his clothes. He shivered, sighed, then turned away to leave. He must have imagined it. He must have. As he slouched towards the door, another young man walked past him, looking at the painting.
“Huh!” the young man exclaimed, “Mister, did you notice? The passenger looks just like you!”
Doug sniffed, coughed, and shivered.