It started with big, loopy ears. They drew you in; captured you, the way a small animal’s would. Yet as Hector Daniels drew, the figure grew larger and more complex. It was as if the drawing had taken on a life of its own. His father had once described it perfectly:
“The pencil, the heart. The paper, the soul.”
For hours, Hector connected pencil to paper. The pages spun from his desk like hands on a clock as he poured his soul into every picture. With each new sheet, his drawing took on a new pose, a new expression. Hector felt a smile spread across his face as he sketched the corners of his drawing’s mouth into a wide grin, only to feel tears welling in his eyes as he forced his drawing to experience sadness for the first time. He leaned back as he rested his wrist, and studied the contours of his drawing. Tenderly, he rubbed the sleep from his eyes as he admired his work. The beady, yet intelligent stare of his drawing held his gaze unflinchingly. For a moment, he thought it might speak. He laughed to himself for thinking so foolishly, but that was the moment he realized it.
This was his masterpiece.
Rising from his chair, Hector Daniels stared down at the perfect drawing he alone had created. It was his triumph; the culmination of years of practiced study and effort. He thought of scanning the room, to search for someone who he could show, but the studio was dark and empty. He had forgotten. Everyone had gone home hours ago. Sadly, Hector sank back into his chair, unable to tear his eyes away from the drawing. Lifting his pencil to his sketch pad once more, he continued to draw. They would all see it in the morning, he reasoned.
“Mr. Pearson?” the intercom cackled tonelessly. “Hector Daniels to see you.”
John Pearson sighed. No doubt another pitch for one of Hector’s drawings, he thought. It never changed. “Send him in,” he said, as the intercom clicked into silence. The secretary confirmed his order, and within moments, a pale, emaciated Hector shuffled into the office.
“Good morning, sir,” Hector mumbled, averting his eyes timidly.
“Good morning, Hector,” replied John. “What can I do for you?”
Reactively, Hector pulled a folder from beneath his arm and flipped it open. John watched as Hector moved; sluggish and cumbersome. The dark circles beneath his eyes made it clear the man had not slept in days.
“Did you go home last night, Hector?” John asked. Pausing, Hector caught his gaze and frowned.
“A masterpiece comes in a matter of moments. If I had stopped, I would have lost it.”
John did not reply. He continued watching as Hector thumbed through dozens of pages until at last, he found what he was looking for. Hector’s eyes lit up, as though God had graced him with some kind of divine inspiration. With a practiced, fluid movement, Hector approached John’s desk and placed a single page upon it. John adjusted his glasses as he looked down at Hector’s drawing.
The picture that gazed up at him was unlike anything that he could describe. As he flicked his eyes back and forth across the angles of the sketching, he searched his memory for anything that he could compare it to, yet he could think of nothing. The proportions of the drawing’s limbs and facial features were immaculate; Hector had always been one of his most gifted artists, but this was something different. It almost seemed unnaturally real. Slowly, John’s attention fell upon the eyes of the drawing. For a moment, he said nothing. The drawing stared back at him, not as a simple photograph or painting would, but as though the drawing were a living thing. He could feel it ‘looking’ at him, studying him. A deep discomfort filled his body the longer he held the drawing’s stare, until finally, he flipped the page over and looked up to Hector’s eager smile.
“What do you think, Mr. Pearson?” Hector gushed. “I can’t think of a proper theme for the character yet. Truthfully, I haven’t even thought of a name.”
Hector stopped as John held up a hand.
“Hector, “John began. “You are an outstanding artist. Always have been, and you have worked here for over 15 years. That being said, I know that things have been extraordinarily difficult for you since…the accident. You must understand, I have nothing but respect for your commitment and perseverance to this studio, but I am going on the record now to say that this has to stop.”
Tentatively, John placed his hand on top of Hector’s drawing. “This stuff you keep proposing? They’re disturbing, to say the least. My God, Hector, I can’t even describe what this is! Your talent as an artist shows, but characters like whatever the hell this is…it would give children nightmares.”
Hector stood motionless as he listened. His eyes shimmered like orbs of fire, but his face did not twitch nor did his chest heave with breath. Finally, Hector lowered his head and dropped his arms to his side. With his free hand, he reached down to his drawing and placed it back into his folder.
“I understand, Mr. Pearson. I will do better next time.”
Without another word, Hector Daniels turned from John, and left the office.
Tears were streaming down Hector’s face. Violently, he scrubbed his eraser across the surface of his sketching pad as his drawing disappeared bit by bit.
“Blind…” he seethed through pursed lips. “They are all blind.”
Hector stared down at the pile of powdered rubbings that gathered at the base of his desk. Squinting through his tears, he slammed his hands onto his pad and ripped it from his desk, sending an eruption of papers and pencils across his living room. As the last of the pages fluttered to the ground, Hector’s face sank into his hands; burying his thoughts and tears into the warmth of his flesh. For several minutes, all that he could hear was the muffled beating of his heart, and the distant ringing of silence in his ears.
“I’m sorry, Maria,” he sobbed through the darkness of his memories. “I’m sorry I’m not the man you thought I was.”
Finally, Hector lifted his head. The pressure of his hands pressed against his eyes left him partially blind, but as his vision returned to him, he noticed something unusual. He rubbed his eyes and looked at his desk again.
Sitting there, looking back at him, was his drawing.
The eyes of his drawing stared at him. They were accusing him of something, something that he could not stomach. Fearfully, Hector looked around his empty room, hoping for some kind of answer. When he looked back to the drawing again, the eyes had changed. They appeared smaller, narrower, as though clearly communicating to him that there was no one else there but him. Hector had had enough. With blinding speed, he bolted from his chair and tore the drawing to shreds. The strips sailed through the air like the first inklings of snow in the winter air, yet Hector felt no sense of calmness. Still breathing heavily, Hector turned and walked into the kitchen. He pulled an unopened bottle of whiskey from his cabinet, and began to drink it straight. He could feel the warmth of the alcohol fill his veins as he drank, his anxiety washing away like course sand. Still carrying the bottle, Hector stepped back into his living room.
The bottle slipped from his hand as he saw the untouched picture sitting on his desk. He did not hear the bottle shatter on the floor, nor did he feel the whiskey splash against his leg. All he could see was the face of his drawing, burning through him with empty eyes. Hector blinked rapidly, hoping to flush the madness from his mind, yet the drawing sat unmoved. In its hand, Hector noticed something that he knew he had never drawn before. It was a quill pen, tipped with red. Slowly, Hector approached his desk, his face fixed upon the drawing. Its eyes followed him; silent, yet deafening in their intensity. It was a message, he slowly realized.
“This isn’t real,” he breathed. A sudden tap echoed from behind him, and Hector spun as he searched for the source of the noise. Beneath the table lamp across from him, Hector saw a fountain pen roll to a stop against the thick carpet beside his lounging chair. His wife’s favorite pen, the pen she had always used to write poetry. Falling to his knees, Hector felt the tears stream down his face. He leaned forward and collected the fountain pen, lifting it to his cheek as though it were Maria’s hand pressed to his face once again. He turned back to his desk, and saw the drawing smiling at him, the quill pen held high into the air.
“Maria…” Hector whispered. “I thought you were gone all these years, yet here you are as though it were only yesterday.”
He touched the pen to his lips. “You have not given up on me. All this time, I thought my inspiration would come from God. It has been you the entire time.”
Slowly, Hector climbed to his feet. He pulled his chair out from his desk, and lifted his sketching pad from the floor. Placing the fountain pen at the base of his desk, Hector picked up his pencil, and began to draw.
“The world will see our masterpiece,” he said, smiling.
It had been a week from hell. John Pearson sighed heavily as his car rolled into his driveway. The headlights slithered up the front of his garage like shining serpents, growing more engorged the nearer he came until the engine at last choked into silence, plunging the world into darkness. He had never been more ready for bed. As he walked up his front steps, he patted down his pants and jacket. He froze as he suddenly noticed a familiar lump missing from his pocket. Looking back to his car, John cursed into the cold, night air. He had forgotten his wallet at the office. Without another option, John stormed back to his car, and drove the long, weary drive back to work.
When he finally arrived, the digital clock on his dashboard glowed with mocking fervor.
“Ten f*****g thirty,” he grumbled as he pulled himself from the driver’s seat and unlocked the side entrance to the studio.
The halls of the building seemed to pulsate in the hours after everyone had left. As John walked, he couldn’t shake the feeling that someone was watching him, following him with hidden eyes and inaudible footsteps. Quickening his pace, John weaved through the empty passageways until he reached his office door. Through the smoked glass, John saw that a single lamp at the far corner of the studio was on. “What the hell?” he muttered, as he inserted his key and unlocked the door. The entire room was as black as pitch, save for the lone lamp. It shone like a lighthouse amidst a black sea, beckoning lost souls to safety, yet John felt no comfort in its glow. The room felt alive, somehow. As he looked around, he saw that the door which led to his office was open, which he knew he had shut before he left. Hector, he thought. Hector was the only one left at the office before he had gone home.
“Hector!” John called. “Hector, are you still here?”
There was no answer. Warily, John stepped beside the door, and flipped the light switch. Nothing happened.
“Hector! I swear to God, I will fire you if you are here and you don’t answer me!” There was still no answer. Shaking his head, half from anger, half from fear, John crossed the darkened studio and pushed open the office hall door. As the door creaked open, John saw a lit table lamp down the hall, just across from his secretary’s desk. He began walking towards it.
“Damn waste of time…Hector!” John called again.
Something along the wall caught his eye. The aura of the lamp had slowly begun to illuminate the passageway that John was in, and faintly, he saw pictures running down the left wall. Side by side, the pictures neatly formed a line all the way down the hall. Out of curiosity, John plucked one of the pictures from the wall and held it up to his face.
It was Hector’s drawing.
Something was different, however. The thing, whatever it was, that Hector had drawn was now larger. Its eyes, although not outright demonic, peered at him with an indescribable energy. In its outstretched hand, the drawing held what appeared to be a quill pen. The tip of the pen was colored red, though John could not tell what made the tip of the pen so important as to be colored differently from the rest of the sketch. He realized it didn’t matter. The entire drawing felt evil.
“Hector, I know you’re here!” John called as he crumpled the picture in his hand. Glancing at the rest of the pictures, he reached out to tear down the others, but something made him stop. The nearest picture was nearly the same as the one he had just destroyed, but only just so. Looking to the next, the picture was likewise slightly different from the one before it. John continued walking down the hall as he jumped from picture to picture. Like a flipbook, the pictures pieced together suddenly brought the drawing to life.
The thing in the drawing began by holding up the quill pen. As John walked, the thing started moving, swinging the pen back and forth until it stopped over a blurry pile. The thing raised the pen high into the air, and then stabbed it down into the object. A red stream flowed down the unknown pile, as the pen became covered. The thing smiled at John, who rounded the corner around his secretary’s desk. Holding the pen proudly again, the thing began walking towards him, growing larger and larger in each subsequent picture until John could see no more of the thing’s body on each page. Only the face of the thing could be seen, as its eyes bored into his soul. John followed each page, as they led into his office. The thing held the pen up in front of its face, the tip glowing crimson in the muted glow of the office. Slowly, it reached up and began writing on the page as though it were a window; a barrier between its world of black and white, and John’s.
John felt sweat beading from his brow as the thing scratched the ruby letters into the page, he looked around, but there was nothing in the room with him. The thing paused, and then continued its jagged writing.
John stopped. The final page was pinned to the wall at the far corner of his room, yet as he looked around, he could see none he had not already seen. The thing stood motionless in the final frame of its message, its penetrating eyes wide and unblinking. He looked around quickly, expecting someone to jump at him. Suddenly, he remembered his wallet.
“F**k, I need to get out of here,” he cried as he ran to his desk.
It was there that he saw the final drawing. Neatly placed in the center of his desk, was the last letter of the thing’s enigmatic message. Scrawled in red letters, John stepped away as he realized what the thing had been using to write with. “Ink…” John repeated. “It’s written in blood. Christ Almighty…it’s written in…”
The pain punctured deep into his back as John straightened his body involuntarily.
“Hush,” a voice whispered into his ear. “Sleep.”
John spasmed as the pain sparked through his body quickly and quietly. He tried to force a scream, but no sound came forth. He sank into the arms of his killer, as darkness began to cloud his vision.
Hector rolled Mr. Pearson’s body onto his desk, and with a quick jerk, removed the knife from his flesh. With mechanical precision, he turned and lifted his sketching pad from his briefcase and placed it delicately beside the body. In the soft light from the table lamp, Hector saw the dark blood seep from beneath Mr. Pearson’s shirt. He flipped his shirt pocket open and pulled Maria’s fountain pen from within. Lovingly, he caressed his fingers across the surface of the pen as he pulled the chair out from Mr. Pearson’s desk and sat down. With a contented sigh, he spun the pen in his hand and dipped the pen into the slowly expanding pool of blood beneath Mr. Pearson’s body.
“It will be our masterpiece,” he cooed, as he touched the pen to the paper, and began to draw.
It started with big, loopy ears.