In my uncle’s house there is a curious picture on the lounge room wall. It hangs above the television, which seems an odd place for it, for something in its tone and feel is ancient. A thing long before electricity and televised entertainment.
It is of a girl, sitting at the top of some stairs. Behind her there is a night sky, redolent with the moon and flying creatures. Her face is dark and her eyes are strange, and it looks like blood drips from her hands. She seems to tell the viewer that there is no further to go, and that escape is a pointless dream.
Its darkness is not what is odd about it, no more than its placement in the room. My uncle has a fondness for the macabre.
What is odd is how familiar it felt, the first time I saw it, as though I had seen it before. or I knew those steps.
I asked my uncle about that. Perhaps he had shown it to me when he bought it and I had forgotten. Or perhaps he had others like it I was confusing it with. But he was enigmatic, which he often was. He said simply:
“You have a good memory.”
Sometime later, over drinks at one of his interminable soirees, he came up to me, looked at the painting then back to me and said further: “She represents the point of no return. The question isn’t what is outside, it is what is down the stairs.”
“So what is down the stairs?” I asked.
“Your memory isn’t as good as I thought,” was all he said.
My uncle is a strange man and prone to flights of fancy. I am sure confusing and confounding me would have been enjoyable to him and to his mind an innocent enough game to play. At least, that is what I tell myself every night now, for when I close my eyes I see the girl on the steps, and something tugs at me, like a memory.
And I tell myself I am imagining things, yet again, making something out of nothing. I tell myself this over and over, like a mantra.
And still it takes far too long to fall asleep.
(c) Helen M Valentina 2016