The Painting. Short Story.

So! How was everyone’s weekend? Mine was pretty damn awesome. There was some drama, but that will resolve itself one way or another over the next coming days. I went out on Saturday (Thursday too, I got free booze to boot!) and had a really fun night, despite someone hitting me in the back of the head accidentally.

I also agreed to go to a concert with my friend, it’s in October and that’s really all I remember. I can’t recall who we’re going to see, rather than asking, or trying to find out, I’m gonna wait, it’ll be a fun (I hope) surprise.

My sister stopped by very briefly on Sunday, so we had a bit of a catch up, she also took the dogs with her, so the house feels really empty at the moment. It’s weird, but luckily they won’t be gone for too long.

Today has been one of those unproductive/productive days, where you don’t get anything done, but you feel like you have. I went to the doctors this morning to see about this damn cough that just won’t go away, apparently I don’t have lung cancer, my main fear from the television ads that told me I had it. “If you have a cough for more than 3 weeks, you have cancer.” There may have been reassurances there, perhaps a “may” but I was far too concerned with panicking to really listen. I’ve been given some meds to take care of it, if they don’t work I’ve to get a chest x-ray to make sure I don’t have something growing in my lungs. Like a tree or TB. The sexiest of all diseases. High, flushed cheekbones, paleness, if I was a woman in the 1800’s I’d be smokin’ for a few months or so before the whole lack of medical knowledge did me in, but at least I would have died sexily.

Hacking up lumps of phlegm is everyones secret fantasy.


Ok. I feel really grossed out after typing that. I’m going to go shower, maybe in some bleach.


On with the show!


The Painting.

She always loved that feeling of inspiration when it struck, white and pure and desperate, wanting, needing to be released. But she could hate it too, at times like this when her body ached and when she wanted nothing more than to surrender to the painless dark and go to sleep. It had been a long, tiring day, but groaning, she sat up and turned on the light. It wouldn’t take her too long to jot down some ideas, then she could finally go to sleep. She picked up the small notebook beside her bed and the pen, then quickly wrote out what was in her head, followed by a quick sketch. She looked at the sketch, then added a few more details. Feeling better once it was written down, she placed everything back on her nightstand, turned off the light and lay back down. In the darkness her mind started to spiral down the idea pathway, changing and shifting it, honing it. She wasn’t too concerned with remembering, the sketch should be enough to jog her memory in the morning. It was intense, but then it wouldn’t be the first time she had experienced this. Just ride it out and when the picture become clear and resolved itself, she could finally allow her brain to shut down.

She fell asleep after another few minutes and the night passed fitfully, she tossed and turned as the image assembled itself again and again in her mind, revealing new features and depth. She woke the next morning feeling slightly groggy, but she knew what she had to do. It didn’t take long to phone into work, fake being sick. She told them she’d need two days, after all, it was better to be safe than sorry. With that done, she had something small to eat and she began to gather her supplies.

She liked painting in the kitchen because of how bright it was, the windows were large and, if she needed, she could open a window to try and disperse the fumes. The kitchen had everything she needed in order to paint. She set everything up, then looked at what she had written down. She still remembered her dreams from the night before, but it comforted her to check, both to see how it began and to see how far she had come. The sketch, though it was done quickly, looked barren and childish compared to the intense beauty she had built in her head. She picked up a brush and began to paint, daubing bright colours on the white canvass.

She spent the entire day painting, not stopping for anything, far too engrossed in what she was doing. When she finally laid down the brush, both mentally and physically exhausted, she was entering the home stretch. She wanted to continue but she couldn’t, her arm was sore and her eyes tired. She didn’t want to make any mistakes now, not when she was so close to finishing. She tidied away some of the things and cleaned her brushes, she left her painting and the paints where they were, after all there was no point in tidying away what she would be using tomorrow.

She was quite hungry, but too tired to really cook anything, so she settled on a bowl of cereal,  she ate quickly, then went to bed. It wasn’t that late but she was still tired from both the harsh day yesterday and the poor nights sleep she had the night before. When she lay down, she fell asleep almost immediately and the night past quickly and without any memorable dreams. When she woke the next morning she felt refreshed, energised and ready to finish.
The painting looked a little different than it had the night before, though that was surely just the morning light. Those figures that looked a little closer were always that size, that tree hadn’t been slanting to the left, it was slanting to the right. Obviously she was more tired than she realised. Smiling, she assembled everything and started to work again.

When she was finally done she stepped back and looked at it. It really was quite wonderful, perhaps the  best thing she painted in years. It wasn’t the first time she felt this way and she knew it wouldn’t be the last, so she left the feeling of triumphant accomplishment wash over her. She cleaned her brushes and tidied some of the things away, once the kitchen was relatively clean she made herself a sandwich and boiled the kettle. She ate her food quickly, barely chewing it. She had skipped breakfast and it was now almost three. When the kettle boiled, she made herself a cup of tea and sat down at the table, enjoying the rest. As she drank her drink she studied the painting. Really, it was quite remarkable.

She blinked, obviously she was still quite tired, it looked like some of the bushes moved slightly, it must have been some clouds. The bushes moved again. She stood and went closer to the painting, trying to figure out what was casting a shadow. Out of the corner of her eye something moved, in the painting, the people had changed position, one of them was waving now, but at what she did not know. They appeared as though they were getting closer. They were definitely moving, but moving slowly. She stepped back from the painting, trying to decide how insane this made her. Faintly, she could hear the steady noise of traffic, the cars in her painting were moving ever so slightly forward. She leaned closer again and a tiny puff of air blew at her face, just as the trees swayed. She reached out slowly and touched the paint, it was completely dry and smooth, there were no ridges no changes in texture, it was like touching cold glass. Her hand dropped from the canvas and she stepped back a little. The people were closer now, their faces a bit more distinguishable. She rubbed her eyes, but the changes stayed. It was weird, very very weird. She picked the painting up by the edges, careful not to touch its surface and carried it upstairs. It took her longer to get it into the attic than she expected, though mostly because she wouldn’t let it touch her. Once up in the warm, dusty darkness, she climbed over various boxes and old exercise equipment until she reached the back of the attic. Carefully, she faced the painting against the wall, then moved boxes so it was surrounded. It was simple, once the painting was gone, no one but her would know it existed and if that was the case, no one else would know of the evidence that proves her insane. She traversed the short distance and climbed down the ladder, quickly sealing everything up. Soon, all of her art supplies were cleared away. She’d just forget about it. It was easy. She picked up the sketch and the list and took them to the fire place. As the page burned, she wondered why she didn’t do the same with the painting.

In the attic, there was a faint thump. The ceiling creaked as something moved through the dark, towards the hatch, towards freedom.


About Alan James Keogh

I am a 26 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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2 Responses to The Painting. Short Story.

  1. Grampy says:

    Hey, Alan! You just keep getting better all the time with your stories. Also, as long as you aren’t hawking up chunks of lung, your cough should get better, too! Have a good one.

    • Thank you!

      Generally I’d be in agreement with you but had to get it checked out cos I’ve had it since the end of March or so, it got much, much worse for about 5 days a month or so ago and I thought it would go away completely once I recovered from that, but it stayed low level. Figured I’d get it sorted at the doctor rather than wait another few months!

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