I, am an artist. Well, not in the traditional sense but I do indeed possess some kind of artistic talent. I usually get by with making commissions suggested by my limited amount of fans, although I am grateful to have any at all, considering my subjects to paint are a little, obscure. A few years ago I became obsessed with anatomy. Learning how the body worked and its structure was more appealing than most things others find pleasurable. The one thing that appealed more to me however, was what lies underneath all the muscle and flesh.
Yes skeletons, the configuration of bones lying beneath our skin. There was always something taboo about them, something that seemed to stir up an unjustified fear in so many. I wouldn’t paint them blandly though, I’d add a bit of personally to each one of my masterpieces. One aspiring to be an astronaut, another a beautiful dancer. Each one with a specific craving to be someone of worth. As much as I love giving them their own distinct personalities, I didn’t know how far their desires could reach until I received a seemingly harmless request from an anonymous individual.
I was just about to call it a night, having finished 3 commissions that day, when an email suddenly presented itself onto my computer screen accompanied with an audible bing. I stared at the screen then shifted my eyes to the time, it was almost 3:20a.m. Why would someone request something so late? Despite my better judgements I opened the email. Very little information was provided about the desired piece or the one seeking it. The only information the email contained was a phone number and a message asking for a life-sized painting. I figured the person sent the email as a prank so I disregarded it. I would call the number in the morning to check if this was legit.
I awoke from a beam of light penetrating through my window, descending down from the sun’s calescent surface. I sat up in bed and immediately powered up my laptop and logged into my email. I was aghast to see I had received 5 more emails from the anonymous sender, each one explaining, in a bit more detail, what his aspirations were for the piece.
“The background should be blank, just an empty, black void.”
“The bones should be anatomically correct, realistic with shadows and accurate lighting.”
“Its expression should show sadness or loneliness, a yearning to be alive once more.”
“I will transfer money to your bank account for supplies.”
“Do NOT contact me until it is finished, as I am a very busy man.”
Well, at least I now knew his gender. I quickly logged into my bank account, the money was there as he said. I had received $50,000 from my unknown client, I eyed my screen befuddled; how did he know my account number and why send such a large amount of money? Taking his last comment into consideration, it would be best to accept the offer for now and refund him later, I just could not accept this much money for one piece.
Beginning the piece was a bit more troublesome than I expected. For some unknown reason, I just couldn’t get the measurements to line up. I decided to use my own measurements for the piece, and soon it began to take shape. Laying down the paintbrush, I stepped back, thoroughly admiring my fatiguing magnum opus. It embodied the details of the strangers emails perfectly. I glanced at the clock, it was 7:34p.m., nearly the entire day was preoccupied with finishing this piece; the feeling of exhaustion began to cripple my brain. I decided to contact my mysterious client in the morning and hit the sack a little early.
Throughout the night, I heard the sound of crepitation emanating from the direction of the painting. I glanced at it occasionally, but couldn’t find the cause of the sound. My eyes searched around the room, slowly collapsing under sunken anchors, eventually forcing me into a deep slumber. When morning finally arrived, I spent some time carefully inspecting the room, especially the painting. It didn’t take long to discover the source of the unpleasant late night crackling. Collected below the painting was chips of dried paint, littered across the floor. Looking closely at the painting, I could see that the skeletons’ thin mouth was turned upright.
How could that be? I could have sworn I painted it with a scowl; the reasoning behind it eluded me. I ran my fingers along the ridges of chipped paint, following along the line of the newly painted smile, its very existence causing my hairs to stand on end. I wanted to rid myself of the painting as quickly as possible. I phoned the client and patiently waited for an answer that never came. I tried again a few minutes later, then an hour, then four. The man would not answer and there was nothing prompting a voicemail. I quickly powered up my laptop and sent a reply to one of his emails, periodically checking for a response.
The day swept by in a foggy haze, the confusions of the painting dissipating as my mind tended to my other works. Before long, I had forgotten the chipped paint and the foreboding smirk that stood in its place. Even my attempts at contacting the buyer took its departure. That night, the strange sounds I’d heard the previous night once again made their presence. I tried this time to ignore them, fearful of the mystifying anomalies I was sure to witness. Just as the night before, I was lulled to sleep by my growing suspicions.
A sharp twinge like jagged knives jolted me from my dormancy. I surveyed my arm desperately trying to locate the source of the pain. The paralyzing realization hit me like a train tunneling into a stalled car. A patch of skin the length of a six-inch blade was torn from my muscle. Blood bubbled on its surface, burning like acid through sheet metal. My ability to sleep through its removal baffled me. I searched my bed for the culprit, thinking it to be the doing of some parasitic monstrosity. It wasn’t until glancing at the painting did I discover the horrifying culmination.
A small patch of skin sat layered over the skeletons bones, my skin. I staggered shrinkingly to the painting, carefully scraping at the patch, it wouldn’t come off. It was as if I merged my own skin to the painting itself. It even felt smooth to the touch in comparison to the rough, callous surface of the canvas. I knew I had to get rid of this painting. I quickly remembered my fruitless attempts of contacting the buyer and decided to check my email before calling him again. His response muddled my brain like a cold sweat during springtime.
“My apologies sir, I’m terribly sorry for the delayed response. As I stated before, I am a very busy man. I’m afraid I have already come to collect the painting. It is exactly what I wanted. Well worth the money. But there is still something I need from you before my purchase is complete.”
The meaning of his words flew over me like a pigskin through a field goal. I was never one to believe in the paranormal, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that his words ran deeper than the mariana trench. I had to destroy that painting by any means possible. I snatched the painting from its resting place and carried it to the garage. Anchoring it against the wall, I hunted the area for a gas can and drenched the painting in gasoline. I watched the flames devour the painting, the canvas tearing with audible shrieks. With a closer inspection, I could have sworn I saw the skeleton move.
I backed away in horror as the skeleton withdrew from the canvas, its bones blackened from the burning embers. I stared wide-eyed as it met my gaze. It slowly unhinged its crooked jaw yelling out words that fueled me with terror-stricken adrenaline.
“Give me your skin!”
I sprang towards the door in a frenzied panic. As I reached for the knob, I felt his skeletal fingers wrap around my ankles, quickly pulling me down. I screamed in agony as he tore through the flesh of my shoulder with daggered claws. I watched in horror as it tried hopelessly to attach my shredded skin to its badly burned cartilage.
I had to get rid of this thing, but how? I looked around the room and quickly spotted my old club hammer resting in a corner. Acting quickly while it was distracted, I head-butted the beast, which proved more painful than useful, and shoved it aside. It groaned as I leaped from the ground and rushed for the hammer. The creature stumbled after me as I gripped it tightly in my hands, bringing it down hard onto his skull. It fractured underneath the excessive force, splintering like a tortoise’s shell on impact. He howled in misery, sheltering what was left of him with his battered hands.
I dropped the hammer to the ground, my trembled breathes ringing in echoes through the recrudescent silence. I gathered the bones, setting them ablaze once more to ensure its death. The hospital was able to patch up my shoulder as best as they could, I decided to make up the lie that a rabid dog attacked me. I never brought up the incident to anyone. As for painting? I never again painted a life-sized piece after that, who knows what kind of spirits would come to posses it?