The Picture by Lisa B.
Brushstrokes brought me to life. Sensual touches of a soft tip on my wet skin, colouring in my mind, filling me up with memories, awakening my senses to the passion forming my shape under delicate caresses on the canvas, creating my small world and me within. I felt the yearning for me in every little touch; a hurricane of feelings stirring, at the flicks of a brush. From the start, I was wanted. From before I was, I was a fantasy.
The paint was still glistening half dry on the canvas when I first opened my eyes, taking my first breath of the damp air heavy with the smell of fresh paint, tasted the thick chemical flavour in my mouth, and felt the coldness of the slimy rug, creamy with paint beneath my feet. I stood by a window, looking out of it and seeing for the first time. My sight was a little blurry as my eyes were drying up to the world, but I was in no rush to see clearly. I knew where I was: home, in my big house on the top of the hill. It was the first time I existed in it, yet I knew it was mine. I knew the number of floors, the rooms behind every door and what had been exiled to the attic or the basement. I knew the books on the shelves and the words on their yellowed pages, the warmth of the fireplace, the colour of the walls and the softness of the carpets. I knew my bed and its cold sheets, standing empty, not shared with anyone.
I knew myself too, and I knew that I was just how I was supposed to be. Not a strand of hair falling in the wrong place, not freckle out of line. Full lips, toned arms; I was nothing less than everything the artist wanted me to be. Temptation to yield to.
I knew my garden outside, the trees scorched by lightning on the hillside and their brave new shoots sprouting towards the sky from their charred bases. The sky that stretched above, overcast with motionless, unchanging clouds threatening storm; I knew everything about my world and how, at the bottom of the hill outside my gates, it simply came to an end. It was a sudden drop to nothing. Not black, not a gap, it simply just wasn’t anymore: it was, what you might imagine emptiness to look like, without something to contain it. A chasm, a void, an abyss. Something you can’t see or grasp, that makes you feel you’ve gone blind or falling when you dare to look at it. I suppose I must have looked at it before. But like the rest of the details of my small world, it was something I knew of, but was not part of my view.
Strange, how I knew each strand of grass in my sloping garden under my window, and the unsettling end to my world, that gaped beyond the fence, yet, what I saw through the glass was different. It showed no grassy hillside beneath, no burnt trees and no gate at the bottom. Not even the abyss. My window looked to its other side: instead of my estate, and instead of the nothingness that crept on the horizon, I looked at another small world: the inside of a messy, chaotic room.
As the paint dried the rug softened and warmed up beneath my feet and the foul taste of chemicals disappeared off my tongue. My vision cleared, and I was able to observe the peculiar room outside my window. It wasn't part of my world, and it wasn’t anything like the rooms in my grand mansion. Its floor was covered with newspaper, stained with splashes of paint, and clustered with palettes, paints, brushes and canvases, and a big pile of clothes were thrown into one corner. In the middle, stood an unmade bed with a girl in it.
Lying on her back in her short pleated skirt and black thigh high stockings, she watched the clouds pass, through the skylight above. She watched them for hours before she reached towards the ceiling with her fishnet gloved hand, as if to catch a cloud, before finally sitting up, and getting off the bed. Her short hair a mix of purple and black, her face a canvas to smudged eyeliner pencil and streaks of paint. She came all the way to the edge of my world and as we looked at each other through my window and I felt the feelings that painted me, I knew: I met the artist, who had brought me to life.
Only, she didn’t know that she had.
It took time to realise that though she knew me and looked my way, she couldn’t see me, not like I could see her. Even when she talked to me, she couldn’t hear my answers. This meant I could say anything in reply.
‘Why can’t I meet a man like you?’ She would sigh, swiping on her phone.
‘I’m right here,’ I said, as I wanted to meet her too. Despite my memories, I was the only one in my world, and it was a lonely life, filled with the intense wants and needs that created it, driving me insane with no room to explore them.
‘You’d be worth dying for,’ she said another time, looking at me with shining eyes. I knew I was.
‘Those memories you gave me… we could try them all together,’ I suggested, but she didn’t hear me.
‘In fact if you killed me, I’d thank you.’ She bit her nail, and I was overcome with tingles.
‘Come, I’ll show you to the basement.’ I urged.
I was so excited until she turned and left the room. She never listened.
When she painted me, she poured into me the knowledge of myself and my universe, and whilst I knew her feelings for me, I knew nothing of her life outside the little room. Her world was foreign to me. I did not even know her name, and when she was not in the room, that world stood still, frozen in time apart from the changing light and shadows, and the clouds I gazed at through her skylight (a habit I picked up from her), many hours a day or even at night, just waiting for her return.
There was something addictive in watching her in her home. The way she sat on the floor, painting dark pictures, haunted houses and monsters, red paint like blood splashing across the room and onto her legs. Her bare feet left lovely crimson footprints on the floor. My breath steamed up the window as I moved closer and put my hand on the cold glass, my fingers drawing clear lines, sliding over the condensation. I wanted to see more. I wanted to be there.
One evening, after she washed the paint off her body, instead of her worn T-shirt she usually wore to bed, she reached for lingerie of black lace, and a little black dress. Again, I stepped closer, placing my hand on the glass, watching curiously, my skin becoming hotter, my heart beating faster as I saw her paint her lips the colour of blood and tie a choker around her neck. There was something irresistible about her, her flushed cheeks, the way her eyes shone with anticipation looking at her reflection in the mirror.
‘Come here,’ I whispered, hypnotised, but when she looked at me, she just smiled, saying “I hope he will be a little like you,” before putting on her Doc Martens and leaving me behind to burn.
I paced up and down for hours, jumping to the window as soon as I heard her push down the door handle.
‘Hey!’ I exclaimed in delight. Her enticing chuckle as she stumbled through the door had me burning with desire one minute and anger the next, when she fell into bed with another man, a stranger, right in front of my eyes.
I stepped back, staring at them in horror, forgetting how to breathe. Why? Why would she want anyone else but me? This could not be happening… but it was.
I wanted to gouge my eyes out, I wanted to go deaf, I wanted to scream the roof off, but I could not stop myself going back to the window to watch, even after I tore down the wallpaper and broke everything that could be broken within my bedroom walls. Shaking with jealousy and grinding my teeth I helplessly watched the naked bodies entangled on the bed.
‘I hate you… I hate you!’ I hissed, then screamed again, as loud as I could, but they were in a different world from mine, where my voice couldn’t reach.
In the morning, they left, but not before subjecting me to witnessing another session, when I attempted setting my house on fire in protest. It didn’t work, and I was left alone again, in the ruins of my bedroom with nothing to look at but torn pillows, burnt curtains, and the damaged books on the floor I had been throwing at the walls. I walked to the window again, to peer through Lisa’s skylight, raising my eyes to the clouds to cool my head, but I only saw them in the floating shapes I hoped to soothe myself with. One mistake. It was only one mistake on her part and maybe I would have been able to forgive that. But he came back again.
Returning time and time again for more of what should have been mine, the new man frequented the room every few days. Even learning her name was a stolen kiss from his lips. Lisa. Lisa B, as she signed it on her paintings, which he read, touching the letters on the corner of my world with his bony fingers topped with chipped nail polish, standing right by my window, oblivious to the death stare I gave him with my arms crossed.
‘Is there someone in that window..? This painting gives me the creeps.’ He shuddered. I raised my chin with a grimace. So I was creepy?! Had he not looked at his own face? And that excuse for a haircut..! I turned to my cracked mirror to confirm I was the epitome of beauty and raised my middle finger towards the window. As long as Lisa was on my side–
‘Yeah, that was kind of the vibe I was going for,’ she said, grinning at him, showing the gap between her front teeth.
‘What?!’ I grabbed onto the windowsill. That was a lie… That was a lie I could not accept. She loved me, and she was willing to lie about it to that man. I glared at them, brooding. Somehow, I would find a way to show them what creepy meant.
One evening when he came to invade my space again, whilst Lisa was in the shower, getting ready for their “date”, he stood in front of my window, absentmindedly placing his hand on it . I didn’t know what came over me, but I yanked it open. I’ve never done so before, but it did open, and grabbing his hand quickly, I put my foot against the wall, pulling hard. We both exclaimed in surprise as he toppled over me, falling through my window. Pinned to the floor, but I was ready to fight, until trying to push him off realised: a man not made of paint was a heavy mass. I didn’t know what would come next, and a rush of panic washed over me. For the first time in my life, I was scared, and I almost, just almost begged for mercy, though he probably didn’t have time enough to even think of hurting me.
Then, his expression changed. I couldn’t have guessed that my world would affect him, as he was my very first guest, but it was clear as day. This place was a temple to my worship, the walls and the very air soaked up and radiated the want for me. I recognised that new, shiny look in his eyes, and remembered I was above all, a fantasy. A laugh forced its way up my throat. I couldn’t stop, bursting in hysterical laughter, lying under the man Lisa betrayed me with, who probably felt like he forgot something but it was too unimportant to dwell on, in light of the promising situation at hand as he pushed himself up and sat on me. The face he wore was of confusion and lust. It was time to paint new memories of my own. My stomach was hurting from the laughter.
I knew I could open the window after that, and I did every time Lisa decided to betray me and invite someone over. The look on her face when she walked into the room to see them gone, but their shoes left behind was priceless. I started to enjoy the game. Especially, when I managed to snatch them before they had the chance to get into her bed and ruin my day.
I never had so much fun in my life. I beamed at her as she stood by my window, watching, but still unable to see. I wondered how far I could take it, grinning as my hand gripped that first one’s hair whilst he was loving me on his knees. His shoes were still in Lisa’s room, tossed into a corner with a growing collection of new pairs in various sizes.
Glancing down, I slid my hand onto the man’s face and looked into his eyes; robbed of memories and full of pleasure. I never bothered to pick up on his name when he was with Lisa, and he didn’t know what it was anymore.
‘Would you also thank me, if I killed you?’ I smiled at him and he practically melted.
I kept him so far, for he taught me of the window, but as far as I was concerned he had his reward and more. The rest, I could not be bothered to keep alive longer than a few hours, but we always had a little fun, inspired by the memories I came to existence with, we painted new ones with their bright, crimson blood.
One day, police officers entered the room. They bagged up the shoes and coats and a few jeans, shirts and boxer shorts and asked all sorts of questions, leaving Lisa white and trembling. I listened, whilst her ex-lover was giving me a massage. I could not relax into it.
‘Enough,’ I said and he obediently dropped his hands. Lisa already felt like something was wrong, but those officers confirmed it. Seven missing people, all last seen by her, in her bedroom. It’s true I could not have cared less about what happened to her, after what she had put me through, but I was worried what would happen to me and my world if she was forever gone and someone else took that room. I had to act fast. Maybe, I could take my home somewhere else. Glancing back at the man behind me, I wondered if it was time to discard him. I didn’t know if it was a good idea to leave him alone, as I was unsure of whether he would stay put, but I also had no idea when I would get the chance to snatch up another human for my entertainment, given the circumstances. Besides, I got used to his stupid face. Maybe he’d be useful.
That night, when Lisa was asleep, I opened the window and for the first time, stepped out onto the windowsill. The cold wind of the abyss chilled me to the bone as I waited there, trying to calm by breathing. Below, there was my grassy hill, but all I saw was the gaping void, standing between our worlds. All I had to do was jump. Taking a deep breath, I leapt out of my second floor window. My feet hit the ground almost immediately, it was much closer than I thought. Lisa stirred.
My world hung on the wall behind me, I finally got to see it from the other side: the gothic gate, the burnt trees, and my great house on the hill with only my small window lit, and a dark silhouette in it that wasn’t me.
‘Be good!’ I kissed my fingers and briefly pressed them onto the small window on the painting. ‘I’ll be back soon.’ I smiled, thinking it should be easy enough to take the frame somewhere safe. Maybe, I could also take the artist.
Quietly, I walked to her bed, and leaning over her, I pressed my hand over her mouth as I switched on the lights.
‘I think you know me,’ I said with a smile on my lips, watching the fright I gave her grow into pure terror as she recognised me. We knew, Lisa and I. We knew this all wasn’t my fault, and I was surprised to see how scared she looked, considering she knew me, but it wouldn’t have been much fun otherwise. Maybe she knew that too. For she knew everything as well as I, of those memories I didn’t make for myself, and what was hidden in my attic and my basement. She was right to be scared, I just thought she would be more excited. Well, she would have to get into it. I wasn’t going to rush this one, although I could barely hold myself back. Grinning, I leaned in to whisper in her ear.
‘When we’re done… Remember to thank me.’