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Short Story 05.22.20

Updated: Sep 19

It happened slowly. So slowly. Terran stood in the hall of portraits. Her red velvet gown rustled quieter than the whisper of a mouse. Then a single strand of her hair fell forward and no one noticed. One night she took a tiny step forward, emboldened by the lack of consequences. That night she was sold and packed into the back of a truck. A heavy blanket wrapped around her. With no one to see her, she shifted two steps closer to freedom.

She reached her new home and stood in yet another hallway. The portraits on the opposite wall were cold and unfriendly. Terran scanned her surroundings whenever there was no one watching. Years passed by of agonizingly slow changes. She moved her hands forward a fraction at a time. Every time she was sold and moved to a new home she took the opportunity to make a bold move towards freedom.

Her value began to plummet as her owners were increasingly uneasy in her presence. Finally she was relegated to a small storage room and all but abandoned. After years of waiting she knew this was her chance. In the quiet of the night she reached forward until she touched the barrier that kept her trapped. She pushed until her hands broke the surface. The gilt frame was rough on her long unused hands. As her head broke free of the dimension she had been trapped in, she took her first deep breath in nearly a decade. She hung half in and half out of the painting nearly crippled with exhaustion. The feeling of gravity made her dizzy and she felt her hair cascade around her. It took a few minutes for her to catch her breath and then she tumbled out of the frame.

Terran landed brusingly hard onto the carpeted floor of the storage room. The abandoned chair nearby helped her pull herself to standing. Her legs wobbled like those of a newborn foal. She was breathing so fast she was beginning to feel dizzy. The painting still hung on the wall. Terran sat down and stared at her. It had been her prison for years and she almost felt homesick staring at the gold and green swirls of paint. She caught sight of her skin in the dim light and she gasped. Painterly swirls covered her skin. The curse was stronger than she had thought. Determination surged through her. She pulled herself to standing once more. It took her nearly an hour to walk to the door.

By morning she had raided the kitchen in the house and eaten her first meal in years, cold pizza from the fridge washed down with a beer. The sun’s rays began to warm up the kitchen she stood in and she knew she had to get moving but exhaustion swamped her. She stood at the door to the backyard when she heard a gasp behind her. “Who are you?”

Terran turned around and found an eerily familiar face staring back at her but much older than her dusty memory envisioned. The young woman standing on the other side of the kitchen started crying. “Mom? Is it really you?”

Terran began to cry as well. “Sophia? How can this be?”

Her daughter ran over and wrapped her arms around her. Sophia began to babble. “I’ve searched for you for so long. I heard rumors of a haunted painting but I didn’t hold much hope. I had to try though. I know how much Granddad enjoyed displaying his prisoners. Trapping you in a painting seemed like something he would do.”

Memories came flooding back to Terran. She realized she stood in her childhood home. A place that held no fond memories. Her father was a cruel man and wielded his magic to harm anyone who stood in his way. Terran looked around in fear. “Sophia. We have to go. What if he comes back? There’s time enough for revenge later but for now we must get safe.”

Sophia smiled widely. “Don’t worry Mom. He’ll never hurt you again. He’s dead.”

Terran looked at her daughter in surprise. “Dead? How?”

Sophia smiled again and hugged her mother tightly. “He never should’ve boasted of taking you from me and then trusted me to bring him his tea. Old fool thought he was invincible. Devil’s Flower proved him wrong.”

Girl climbing out of painting

This story inspired by Teresa Hnat Studio

Short Story

Copyright 2020 Klaudia Grady

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