There was a spring in Victor’s step as he left the kitchen. In the dining room, he took a steak knife from the table as he passed through, toward the door to the room with the fireplace. He turned the door knob and steadied himself. With a flick of his arm the door flung open—Victor sprinted out. Fleeing for dear life, half-naked and wielding a knife, his visage was yet the epitome of focus and calm. The vampire spotted him immediately and gave chase, but Victor reached safety well before the bloodthirsty villain could come within striking distance. Losing sight of Victor’s reflection in the mirror, the vampire resumed a stony look and retreated to his painting. Victor, now adept at running this eerie gauntlet, strolled over to the mirror, ducked and crept beneath it, then stood and went to the door to the hall.
At the door, he turned and surveyed the room; the knife flipped and flashed in his grasp. After a moment of thought, he stepped away from the door, venturing out into the room once more, only this time he left the security of the wall to the right, instead following the wall ahead—the wall with the painting. He neared the possessed portrait, checking the mirror over his shoulder—even though it was impossible at that angle for his reflection to be seen. His fist clamped around the knife as he held it in front of him; his feet moved without a sound. Soon he found himself standing before the homicidal artwork. His eyes fixed on the cavalry officer, who stared into the distance, showing no signs of life or any desire for human blood. Victor reached out and touched the canvas; it bowed ever so slightly beneath his fingers. He stepped in closer and examined the work. At that range every brush stroke was visible, transforming what at a distance appeared monolithic into a vast, hand-woven web of colour and contour, ten thousand individual flicks, dabs, and caresses forming an intricate alliance, an ecosystem of shape and shade where each member plays its part, seemingly insignificant alone, yet vital to the whole and vibrant within it, so that sixty-two dollars worth of paint should embody a life, a lifetime, a story, asking unanswerable yet inescapable questions, all declaring both the frailty and wonder of man, and the unsearchable light from which he was born.
“Incredible,” gasped Victor. “It almost seems a shame.”
He stabbed the painting with the steak knife. He drove the blade at the officer’s neck, but found the canvas was impervious to the assault. Victor started and stared. He ran his fingers over the artwork’s surface. Not a scratch.
His knuckles suddenly felt slimy. He looked down and saw only the handle of the steak knife rested in his hand: the blade had melted into an unpleasant-looking, pulpy goo. The strange substance dripped from his hand onto the floor. Victor knelt to inspect it, scooping some up with his finger. He sniffed it.
He dabbed the substance on his tongue.
He massaged the substance with his tongue against the roof of his mouth. He swallowed and smacked his lips.
“Huh. Crushed garlic.”
The knife handle dropped from his grasp and he stood up.
“Vampires don’t turn things into garlic. Garlic is supposed to repel vampires. Nothing in this house makes sense. I’ll tell you one thing though,” he said, glaring at the officer in the painting, “I’m going to figure this out. I killed the beast and I’m coming for you too. Just have to figure it out. That’s all.”
Victor stepped back, looked once more at the painting, and then left the room.
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