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The Painting

The painting, she felt, would look great on the empty white wall to the left of the front door. That way she could sit on the second-hand couch she found on Facebook Marketplace five years ago and stare at it. She had gotten rid of her TV to make room for it, thinking if she took away the TV she’d have more time for other things like improving her lot in life.

She’d never thought of herself as particularly lucky. Just an ordinary girl. But the painting, the painting was a sign that she might be wrong about herself. She had won it. Not Nancy, not Stephanie, but her. This painting meant she was special.

She didn’t know who’d painted it. She didn’t particularly care. She assumed it was someone who died a long time ago, since it was an antique, at least that’s what the game show host had said. He, the host, must have said who painted it, but she couldn’t remember. She was too awestruck by her sudden fame. She was on TV and she had WON.

So, she hung it on her wall and sat on her couch and stared at it in all its glory, her glory. The painting was of an idyllic, peaceful small town in winter. The focal point was a simple bridge crossing a frozen stream. When she looked at it, she felt at home, a feeling she’d never known she hadn’t felt.

She sat and she stared. She stared and she stared and she stared. She got lost in her staring and forgot what time it was. She forgot about time in general. It was just her and her painting. She imagined what it would be like to live in that town, the one in the painting where it seemed like Christmas all year round, her favorite holiday, what with all the fresh snow calmly falling on the walkable small town where everyone knows your name.

She began to feel cold.

She looked outside, and she could swear it was snowing. Wasn’t it July? She had been on the gameshow during her vacation to Los Angeles in June, and it took a month for the painting to arrive and then another week for her to figure out where to hang it. It must be July. So, how was it snowing? She looked at her phone, but it was dead, which was weird because she charged it every night and she had only sat down to look at her painting after breakfast.

She noticed the smell. A foul, musty smell. The smell of old, dying things. Like visiting her mother in the nursing home. Which was odd because she always kept her home clean. It was the one thing she felt she was good at.

She felt a sensation on the back of her neck. She reached to see what it was and scratched herself something fierce. She looked down at her hands. Her nails were long, really long. They were dirty, filthy, twisted things. This was weird, because she had a habit of biting her nails when she was nervous. Which was often. All it took was an episode of CSI and she’d have them bitten to the quick. She was nervous now, but she didn’t dare bite these nails. They were disgusting.

A panic filled her from her stomach up through her throat, and she felt herself scream. But no noise came out. Just the raspy, dry space where a scream should have been. She got up to go to the bathroom, to look at herself in the mirror. Something was wrong, she thought, the mirror would tell her what.

But when she tried to stand her legs didn’t listen.

She tried again, but nothing. She could feel her toes move, and when she looked down to check, sure enough they were wiggling. But not her legs. This was odd since she made it a point to go for five mile walks every day. It was something she prided herself on. A tradition she kept alive even after the passing of her dog, Shiloh. It was these walks that, she thought, drew her to the painting.

The painting. She looked up at the painting in its ornate bronze frame on her white wall where the TV used to be. It really was beautiful, she thought. The quaint small town in winter. She imagined what it would be like to forget everything and fall into the painting. A world where all her fears and responsibilities were washed away. A world where nothing mattered. Where she could sit by the fire and just be. Forever.

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