It was only supposed to be a knockoff, a copy. It’s what I do. I paint landscapes and nature scenes that are the thinly disguised copies of major artists. It’s how I make my living. However, my latest work seems to have taken on a life of its own, and a rather disturbing one at that.
I live in a cheap apartment near downtown and make ends meet by selling my admittedly crude copies to starving artist shows or coffee shops. My current work was to be a simple autumn scene, complete with a babbling brook, trees splashed with the entire spectrum of fall colors, and the sun beginning to set amidst some pinkish clouds.
It’s not turning out how I want. These paintings usually only take me three or four hours, and quantity is what is of utmost importance. This latest work is taking me forever (three days now) and has stymied me at every turn. I noticed after the first day of work, at which I gave up on after five hours of frustration, that the colors did not seem as bright as I was going for. They’re darker than they should be.
I think it might be due to my new neighbor. Man or woman, I don’t know yet, as I haven’t actually seen the person. I know somebody is there, though, because after sitting empty and quiet for the past two months, I hear noises there at night. It was these noises, scraping sounds and the occasionally distant laughter, that have been interfering my ability to focus on my work.
When I woke up the second day, the painting seemed even darker than when I had quit the previous night. I also noticed a strange figure almost hiding behind one of the trees. I know I didn’t paint it. I never paint figures in my scenes. This mysterious person almost seems to be peeking out at me, as if knowing that I am painting the landscape and waiting for me to finish so it can…I just don’t know. I quickly painted over it today and tried to brighten the colors.
After much frustration and the annoying noises from the new tenant, I gave up again and went for a walk. I met a few friends and spent much of the day with them, returning late in the evening to find my painting altered again. Instead of the late day hues of pink and soft orange, the work was now looking as though it was to be a night landscape. There was a full moon in the background, and the trees were devoid of all leaves and decidedly skeletal-looking. My unwelcome figure had returned as well, only a shadow now and near a tree closer to the foreground. It was holding a lantern that cast a weak and eerie light that illuminated none if its face. I went to sleep and vowed to finish the damn thing in the morning no matter how long it took me.
After a fitful night of sleep (I was again bothered by the scraping and laughter) I awoke feeling dismal and weak. A look in the mirror showed me to be frighteningly pale. Perhaps I have not been eating well enough these past few days? I also noticed a small, fresh wound on my chest that had dried blood on it. I must have cut myself during my sleep.
I returned to the painting and noticed with a shock that the dark figure in the foreground seemed to be looking at something at its feet: a body. It was only a shadow, but I had the distinct impression that the figure was laughing at this new subject (corpse?) that lay on the dark ground. The painting was now extremely black, all traces of color gone. I had not painted a black and white study in years and began to feel very uneasy.
I considered simply tossing the painting in the trash and starting something different entirely, when I heard the vaguely maniacal laughter coming from the direction of my new neighbor’s apartment. I decided to plead with him/her to give me a couple of hours to whip out a piece just to get back in the flow of work again. I was ready to offer the person money to take in a movie just to have the noises cease for a few hours.
When I went to the door to knock, there was no response. I knew somebody was in there, because I could still hear the laughter. I shouted for somebody to open the door, but was again left standing. Feeling distraught and a bit nervy, I tried the door. It was open. I cautiously entered.
The room was black, as all the blinds seemed to be drawn, and it was difficult to see. Feeling for a light switch, I found one and flicked it. Nothing. The laughter was softer now, and seemed to be coming from the rear of the apartment. I felt my way through, sweat beginning to form on my neck, until I reached a closed door with a soft light emanating from the crack underneath. Carefully I turned the knob, my hands shaking.
Inside was a man with a lantern.