Paint on the Wall, a short story by E. J. Ruek

short story by author E. J. RuekPaint on the wall…an unfinished portrait or, maybe, just some messy, obscure attempt at “artistic statement.” Locked in with it by a rude wind that slammed the door shut when she’d managed to get the sash open, Linda waited for Steven to discover her plight.  (No use yelling for a deaf person.)

It was a big room…would make a nice project room once she got it cleaned up.  New drywall, bigger windows, a nice door would compliment the crown molding, tin ceiling, and hardwood floor.  She was glad they’d bought the old Victorian, despite its extreme neglect.

She was working though coordinating colors when she heard Steven’s footsteps on the stairs.  The door to the west opened, then closed.  The door across the hall….  The room she was stuck in was next.  She stood up, anticipating. But he moved on, his characteristic sliding tread  fading as he went on down the corridor.

She groaned and settled in, again. Half an hour later, and she was sorry she’d left her cell in the car.  She could have texted him.  She had to go to the bathroom.

Getting up, she tried the door, again, and, this time the knob came off.  Moving to the window, she looked down, hoping to see Steven.

“Well, this is a fine pickle!” Maybe there was a way down out the window.  She couldn’t just stay here and wet her pants.  Looking out showed no options, though.  And there was nobody in sight on the street.

Hollering, “Hello! I need some help,” didn’t bring anyone, either.  She yelled, again, this time louder – nothing.

Opening the closet, she hoped for a wire hanger, but the clothes rod – wood – was empty.  She tried to get it down so she could use it to maybe pry the door open, and broke a fingernail up near the quick – “Ow.”  The rod hadn’t budged.

She sucked her finger and went back to the window.  Light was fading.  Steven had to come looking for her soon…or come outside.  She could see the car, so she wasn’t worried.  But she really, really had to go to the bathroom.  “Damnit, Steven, where are you?!  …Hello!  Help!” she hollered–screamed, really.  “Anybody, please! I need some help!

She was still hollering when the stars came out and the walls began moaning.  It was coming from the painted wall.

She told herself it was the evening air making the house settle.  She flicked on the light switch, thankful they’d had the power turned on, but it was getting cold.  She hugged herself, rubbing her arms with her hands.  “Come on, Steven.”

The window sash crashed closed, and she cried out.  Somebody laughed – she swore it!

The door rattled, then, and, terrified, she backed away until her back was against the far wall.

Behind her, a thump that she felt up her spine.  She fled to the window, desperately trying to get it back open.

The moaning got louder.

She covered her ears, crouching down, and cried out.

Something brushed her shoulder, and she screamed, her bladder emptying itself.

“You have to leave,” said a whisper.

Wildly, Linda looked around.  “Who said that?!”

Faintly, a form….

“They’ll hurt you.  Leave.”

Shuddering, Linda huddled into herself and sobbed, “I can’t.  I can’t get the door open.”

“There’s a passage through the closet.  Go.  Quickly.”

Linda rose, her wet jeans sticking to her.  The form followed her into the closet.  A wafting stream of it pointed.  “There.”

Linda tried the place, desperately pushing, pulling, sliding.  Something gave, and a yawning square hole appeared.

“Stairs,” the voice hissed.

Linda stooped and stepped in.  Then turned.  “Who are…were you?”

“The girl in the picture.  They did that to me.  Go.  Or you’ll be there, too.”


Originally created in response to Jon Stone’s image prompt in the G+ group Writer’s Discussion Group.  Voters ranked it best.