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The Portrait
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The Portrait
A painting with a dark secret ...
[1,352 words]
Judith Goff
Dark imagination, things that slither in the night, the dark side of existence ... Fascinating. I imagine, I write, I dream ...
[February 2003]
Descent To Hell (Poetry) This is actually a song I wrote for a novel. [233 words]
Do You Feel Me? (Poetry) - [84 words] [Erotic]
Don't (Poetry) - [91 words]
Edge Of Eternity (Poetry) Loss and redemption. [189 words]
Epilogue (Poetry) - [35 words]
Eternal Curse (Poetry) Vampires... again. [124 words] [Horror]
Evil (Poetry) Another song? What's up with this? [118 words]
Fantasy .... Reality (Poetry) Written after a rude awakening. [73 words] [Relationships]
Freeky (Poetry) Feelin' kinda dirty ... feelin' kinda mean ... [81 words] [Erotic]
Games (Poetry) - [103 words]
Happenstance (Poetry) A little silly, perhaps? [66 words]
Heaven Bound (Poetry) As did Sylvia, I felt the need to express my feelings on this day of national tragedy, and as she so aptly stated, no reviews necessary. [124 words]
I Am Sin (Poetry) More vampires... [116 words] [Horror]
Imaginary Lover (Poetry) - [74 words] [Erotic]
Immortal Obsession (Poetry) Immortal cravings. [94 words]
In The Eventide (Poetry) - [100 words]
Insanity Part Un & Insanity Part Deux (Poetry) I believe I've lost it .... [155 words]
Interlude (Short Stories) Chance encounters can be dangerous.... [172 words] [Horror]
Lycanthrope (Poetry) Poem or short story... you decide... [197 words] [Horror]
Mezmerized (Poetry) Oh, the lure of the darkness. [165 words] [Horror]
My So-Called Life (Poetry) - [99 words]
Not Quite Haiku (Poetry) Just what it seems... [49 words]
Nothing Left (Poetry) Love realized. [138 words] [Erotic]
Only Words (Poetry) - [61 words]
Onslaught Of Love (Poetry) Secret yearnings ... [137 words]
Pandora's Bottle (Short Stories) First love, last love... [5,004 words] [Horror]
Player (Poetry) When the player tires of the game.... [57 words] [Relationships]
Please Now (Poetry) - [49 words]
Post Mortem (Poetry) In Memory of Mark Whitney Davis 1960-2001 You left me here alone ... WHY? [68 words]
Predator (Poetry) - [84 words]
Primal (Poetry) - [26 words]
Ravenous (Poetry) - [47 words] [Horror]
Requiem (Poetry) -Perhaps a final goodbye [40 words]
Reverie (Poetry) - [100 words]
Sacrificial Lamb (Poetry) - [94 words]
Sisters Of The Heart (Poetry) In Memory of Joey Callihan 1949-1999 [120 words]
Soliloquy (Short Stories) A woman seeking love, finds more than she expected. [173 words] [Fable]
Soul Of A Dove (Poetry) - [73 words]
Spontaneous Combustion (Poetry) A little heat.... [72 words] [Erotic]
Steam Heat (Poetry) A little something to warm a winter's day? [20 words]
Super Bowl High (Poetry) I've been a Bucs fan from the first inauspicious fumbling in the dark to tonight's awesome Super Bowl win ... This is dedicated to all of us diehard fans! Go Bucs! [109 words]
The Bell Tower (Poetry) Unrequited love ... [169 words] [Romance]
The Callous Heart (Poetry) Those lying guys... I mean eyes ... [89 words] [Relationships]
The Looking Glass (Poetry) - [155 words]
The Memory Book (Poetry) A real departure from my usual ... [155 words]
The Mists Of Dreams (Poetry) Sensuality. [69 words] [Romance]
This Man Of Mine (Poetry) - [95 words]
Those Eyes (Poetry) Can fantasy become reality? [68 words] [Erotic]
Traces Of You (Poetry) - [99 words]
Transformation (Poetry) I know, I know, vampires again.... [152 words]
Vamp (Poetry) I know, more vampires, I just can't seem to help myself... and who said vampires have to be male? [158 words] [Horror]
Vampire (Poetry) - [70 words] [Horror]
Where? (Poetry) Lost love [97 words]
Whispers On The Wind (Poetry) Something ghostly this way comes... [92 words] [Horror]
Winter Wind (Poetry) Alone. [128 words]
The Portrait
Judith Goff

She removed the painting carefully from the brown paper wrapping, setting it on the kitchen table. Yes, it was damaged, but she had to have it, nonetheless. Besides, the damage was almost part of the charm, the faded colors authenticating the age of the portrait.The old woman at Antiquities told her it was at least 100 years-old, and the clothing the man in the portrait was wearing seemed to bear that out. It was a steal at seventy-five-dollars, the frame alone was worth at least that much.

Mary Kate set the picture aside and went about the homey chores of feeding the cat and preparing a meal. She lived alone and liked it that way. She didn’t exactly hate men, just didn’t see a need for one of her own. Mouse, her ginger cat, was all the company she needed.

That night, she took the picture to her room to hang. It would look perfect on the wall by her dresser. She grasped the hammer in her hand and reached into the toolbox for a nail. “Damn!” She jerked her hand from the toolbox and jammed her bleeding finger into her mouth. “Great!” she exclaimed.

When she removed the finger from her mouth, the bleeding had almost stopped. She hammered the nail into the wall, then picked up the painting. Just as she raised the picture to hang on the nail, the finger began to bleed again, dripping a couple drops right on the face of the man in the portrait. “Holy crap!” What next, she wondered.

She dabbed the bloody spot with a Kleenex, but it was still there. Disgusted with herself, she decided to take a bath and forget about it. The damage was done, what could she do?

The next morning, she rose early. Sunlight streamed through the window, highlighting the picture on the wall. It looked different somehow. She got up and walked to it. Yes, it did look different. She studied the picture for a minute. There! That was it! The picture looked a little less faded than it had. Strange, or maybe she was imagining things. It wouldn’t be the first time.

She dressed and left for work, the portrait fading from her thoughts. That evening, when she walked into the house, she instantly remembered. She rushed to her room to check it out. She turned on the overhead light. Sure enough, it did look a little brighter. Especially the man’s head where the drops of blood had fallen.

She reached up, intending to take the picture down to get a closer look. The cut on her finger opened and more blood splattered the painting. “Shit!” Now what was she going to do? It was certainly ruined now. She placed it in the closet and slammed the door. Well, at least the frame was still good, she could always get another painting.

The morning dawned dark and gloomy. It was Saturday, no work, so she lay in the snuggled warmth of her bed. She looked at the closed closet door. Maybe the damage wasn’t as great as she feared. She had to see.

When she opened the closet door, light struck the painting. She gasped. The colors were definitely deeper, not nearly as washed out. She stooped to retrieve it, carried it to the kitchen and flipped on the light. Yes. It was brighter. The man in the picture was much more vivid, his dark hair richer and his complexion more ruddy. Strange.

Perhaps it was some chemical reaction from her blood. Made sense. If so, what would happen if she added just a little more blood, would it continue to restore itself? She had to know.

She carried the portrait to the bathroom, set it on the floor and got her razor from the medicine cabinet. Just a little, she reasoned. Not much. She drew the razor across her thumb. Blood welled in the slit. She bent over the portrait, letting the blood run in a scarlet rivulet. A single drop dripped onto the picture. She squeezed her thumb, letting a couple more drops sprinkle down.

She laughed self-consciously, suddenly aware of how bizarre this was. There she stood, a thirty-year-old woman, in her bathroom dripping blood on a damned picture. She picked the painting up and returned it to her closet. So much for that.

Thunder crashed; she woke with a start. A strobe of lightning slashed the room. Her heart thudded in her chest. Beside her, Mouse mewed for reassurance. He despised thunderstorms; so did she. She reached out to stroke his fur, as much for her own comfort as his.

Lightening flared again. In the stark white light she glanced at the closet door. She wondered if the picture had changed. She had to find out. She left the bed and opened the closet. She reached in and brought the portrait back to her bed, pausing to turn on the overhead light.

What she saw struck fear into her heart. The painting was positively brilliant! Colors fairly leapt from the canvas! What in the hell was going on? She cringed back, studying the image of the man. He looked so lifelike she wouldn’t have been a bit surprised to hear him speak.

His brown eyes were wide-set and framed with thick, dark lashes. His brows were heavy and elegantly arched. He was clean-shaven but the blue-black shadow of a beard was visible. He was staring at a spot somewhere off canvas, perhaps at the artist at work.

Mary Kate reached a trembling hand to touch the portrait, almost expecting her fingers to come away smeared with fresh paint. Scary. Scary, but fascinating. She propped the portrait against a chair and sat down, her knees suddenly ready to buckle.

How could this be? Could it really be the blood? She had to know. She ran to the bathroom, grabbed her razor and slashed her thumb again. Standing over the picture, she pressed hard on the wound, letting the blood rain down on the picture. This time she didn’t place it in the closet; this time she hung it back on the wall.

She dragged the chair over to the wall and sat down. She stared at the picture. She sat there all day, not leaving to feed Mouse; not leaving to eat; not leaving to sleep. Sometime in the interminable night, she drifted off. She dreamed.

In her dream there was a man. The man. The man in the portrait. When she woke to her alarm, the dream faded. She rose stiffly from the chair, wondering how she managed to sleep at all. Mouse wound his hungry way around her ankles as she made her way to the kitchen and popped open a can of Nine Lives tuna. He ate like his life depended on it; it did.

Several days passed, and every night she dreamed of the man. And every morning the dream vanished from her mind. And at least one time, every day, she fed the portrait. The colors grew steadily more intense, the man more and more like a photograph than a painting. Mary Kate stopped leaving the house

Night after night, Mary Kate dreamed of the man, and one morning she was too weak to do more than feed Mouse before slipping back beneath the covers. That night she awakened to a strange sound. A slurping, wet, liquidy sort of sound.

She managed to raise up on one elbow. Moonlight glinted from the dark hair of the man kneeling beside her bed … the man sucking the fingers of her hand. He looked up at her, a smile appearing around the finger in his mouth. Blood ran in a thin stream down his chin, staining the white sheet Technicolor red.

Mary Kate watched him for a while, confused but somehow not very surprised. Finally she lay back, too weak to watch, too weak to care. The man continued to suckle, deep sounds of contentment issuing form his parched throat. Mary Kate’s heart slowed, ta dum, ta dum, then it stopped. The man stood up, wiped the smear of scarlet from his mouth, then smiled as he saw the cat curled up on the bed. “Here Kitty Kitty … here puss.”




"Holy Crap! That was amazing Judith!" -- Michelle.
"Thank you, Michelle! I haven't posted much but poetry, it seems most people don't want to read the longer stuff, but thought I'd try again ... thanks for taking the time!" -- Judith.
"Count me among the readers of short stuff but this certainly opened my eyes. What a great story Judith. Thanks for this. " -- Just A Guy.
"Thank you, JAG! I know we all have limited time, that is why I usually post only poetry. Good to see someone is reading this!" -- Judith.
"Enjoyable indeed. Love this kind of stuff. If you post more, I'll definitely read them!" -- Tessa.
"Wow! Very entrancing! Loved it Judith!" -- Molly B.
"Thanks, Tessa!!! But be careful what you wish for!!" -- Judith.
"Molly B, happy to see you enjoyed this. Sorry about Amarantos, I will try to get more to you soon." -- Judith.
"Another grasping story Judith... the first non-poem I've got to by you and I liked it! (Period after portrait, fourth to last paragraph)... Suspense build up was great!" -- Reagan Rothe, H-Town.
"Thanks, Reagan! I'll correct that typo!" -- Judith.
"Great Job Judith! Have to admit I've read all of your posted work here on storymania and I haven't found a single one I don't like or could somehow relate to. I don't usually do this review thing because it always seems like the same 'ol thing, "great job nice work" you know? But in your case you deserve a pat on the back! " -- Jennifer, Piru, California, USA.
"Thank you so much, Jennifer!!! Wish you posted more reviews!!!" -- Judith.
"Art imitating life.. or life imitating art? Bravo. You have broken through the tired drudge of the first peel and come away with the fruit. Excellent piece. The only thing I would change are some of the fades... there are references to fade or faded in the 1st, 6th and 7th paragraphs... and I would change slashed to ignited... Take it or leave it.. Otherwise, very well done." -- D. G. Williford.
"You do write extremely well. I think you could have written many different endings to this tale. I'm not particularly a vampire genre fan. I guess after reading Bram Stoker's original, all other vampire tales seem anti-climactic to me. I wish more of these young kids on this site would show more appreciation of your fluent writing style, grammar, and punctuation, instead of just the shock value, weirdness, and gore of the tale itself. " -- Richard.


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© 2003 Judith Goff
February 2003

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