In Search of Masterpieces (part 2)

If you’d like to read the previous part of this scene, you can find it here. Thanks for reading.

1216685140_ea1b0947ef

Two more steps and my body would have been a heap on the concrete floor.

I inched across the platform, releasing the door from my sweaty fingers, and it slammed shut behind me. When I tried to open it this time, it was locked.

I stepped into the hallway, but instead of a long corridor before me, I gazed at a shortened version, faced with yet another greyish-blue door directly across from me, just like the one I passed through moments before. Had my eyes played tricks on me or had it been there all along?

I had no choice but to but to exit one door and enter the next. The knob turned easily, and as if to say I’d chosen wrongly before, and the door opened to an elegant stairway, the walls and steps a pristine, white marble, with candlesticks mounted on the walls, lighting a path, that wound itself around and around endlessly. I hadn’t been aware that the museum had more than three stories, and in fact, knew I had climbed up just one flight to see the exhibit, remembering it now with the pain in my big toe throbbing the whole way; yet, here there must be at least three, maybe five floors of stairway. 

I gained momentum with each step, winding down and around, not even knowing if I was still in the same building. I recalled a mental picture of the outside of the museum, trying to remember if there was an attachment of some kind and could remember none.

“Is anyone here? Anyone? Hello?” My voice echoed.

As I walked the spiral, I felt like I was drifting, almost carried, and moving faster than I wanted to, and faster than my aching foot would allow me. Don’t give into it, hold it together. Almost there, almost there. Almost where? I found I couldn’t even so much as pause, and gusts of warmth inflated my body like I had been caught in an air pocket, taking one step and falling the next two. Cascading downward, the staircase narrowed, and I needed more air.

Faster, less air, warmth, then heat, spinning around the railing, I felt like I might lose my step and fall, so I grabbed the thick, marble railing and held it as it slid underneath my fingers, friction burning my flesh. The spiral didn’t stop for any floor, and I lost track of how many I’d passed, my disorientation emerging as the ground slipped from beneath me. I reached the bottom with a crash, landing on my side; my cheek hit the cool, smooth wood of the floor.

Faint classical music played in the background. It was a piano, something I’d heard many times. Even if I ended up in the wrong place, I wasn’t alone. A murmuring of voices flowed from a room nearby and the floors creaked with footsteps. I rose, drifting towards their voices and then I saw them all; people milled about, laughing, enjoying themselves, viewing grand art on the walls, and sipping from champagne flutes. A jolt hit me in a deep pocket of my stomach because it was all too familiar. This was the exhibition, the same exact one.

I spun around in every direction, gauging the parameters of the room. Patrons bounced in and out of my path as I searched for the exit.

“Looking for something?” A security guard towered above me.

I said nothing and walked in the opposite direction, and who did I see but Jake, standing by himself. He stared at a painting, smothered in an expression of dumb calm, the way he looked when I ceremonially removed my shirt or my bra for his viewing pleasure.

“There you are,” I said, trying to appear as equally calm. He wasn’t flustered in the slightest. He was lost in this painting. The recessed light cast a glow around him, holding him captive; a smile crept across his face as if he could barely contain himself. He stood motionless, unable to turn his head to look at me.

“Isn’t she incredible?” he exclaimed, fixated on a portrait of a woman, dressed in a white, flowing gown. An iridescence emanated from the painting, casting a glow around her husband.

“I looked everywhere for you,” I said. My absence hadn’t occurred to him.

His eyes were wild pinpoints, and I felt he was almost incapable of moving. I waved my hand in front of his face.

“Hey,” I yelled at him, loud enough for the next room to hear me.

“Hmm?” he finally turned to look at me directly in the face and shrugged.

“Where the hell have you been?”

“Right here. I’ve been here the whole time,” he said. “Marveling at this painting. Claudia, it’s called. Claudia,” he whispered the last to himself. “Isn’t she a masterpiece?”

I blinked my eyes several times.  “A masterpiece? No, I don’t think so,” I said, but he didn’t hear me.

The lights flickered on and off signaling the museum’s closing. The security guard, the same one who crossed my path, poked his head in.

“We will be closing in ten minutes,” he said, nodding his head at Jake. The evening had slipped away.

Jake glanced once at the lady in white and then grabbed my hand. Looking back over my shoulder, I swear she blinked her eyes. I knew she could see me. She stole my evening.

photo credit: The Tulip Staircase, Queen’s House via photopin (license)

Advertisements

In Search of Masterpieces

A bit of fiction today. It’s something I started and dropped a long time ago. Do you find it interesting? Want more? As always, thanks for reading.

3602601162_9a0a85b7ea

Jake tilted his head, staring at the painting of horses and fields of flowers, and drifted. I watched him walk away, and I let him. He could make his decisions. We didn’t need to be the hand-holding couple that was Noah and Laura, our partners in crime and purveyors of high art.  He could drift off and he would return, refreshed, with a kiss to my cheek.

More than twenty minutes passed, and the crowd in the gallery thinned.

Noah and Laura discussed each painting as if it mattered, absorbing and dissecting each one. Honestly, it bored me to tears. I was back in Art History class feeling more tired than I ought to have felt at that moment.

“I’m going to search for other masterpieces,” I said.

“Oh, okay. Tully, don’t forget about us,” Laura said, offering me a token glance.

I wandered out into the main thoroughfare, and still no sign of Jake. Anxiety crept in as it usually did at this point, the point of which I felt betrayal, even though I knew the second I thought it, it was senseless exaggeration, the kind of thought process that Jake bemoaned, “You worry too much. You over think.”

The chatter of the main exhibit hushed in the background, as I milled around looking for my husband. When he wandered away like this, I tried not to take it personally. Was my company not exhilarating enough that he must leave my side at every social gathering? The truth was he didn’t like people much and being in their midst was like a small torture to him that he equated with scooping one’s eyeballs out with a spoon. The first chance he had to slip away, he usually took it, although usually I had an inkling as to where I’d find him.

This museum had more secured doors than a government building; the few doors I passed and tried were locked. Passing through long, narrow hallways, the wood floors recorded the clicks of my three-inch heels. With each click, click, I incurred a deepening pain in my toe, rubbing at the inside my shoe. This excursion to the museum needed to expire, I decided right then and there. Through each passing hallway, click, click, I felt like a rat in maze; every corner I turned I met a new hallway; the wood floor disappeared and was embellished with a padded busy maroon carpet better suited for a casino than a museum.

If it wasn’t for the recessed light, I might have tripped on the its endless design, feeling light headed as I stepped with purpose. There was possibly one alternate turn I could have made, but for the most part, I simply followed the path in front of me. I had come so far already I thought I should see the path through. Jake could be only steps away for me, for all I knew. It would be a shame to turn back now, all my effort wasted.

Clearly, I had embarked on a new territory of the museum with the exhibits behind me, although I saw no rope or security guard that might indicate its end. I saw no more golden plates inscribed with artists’ names. The ambiance had shifted to a more generic atmosphere of a hotel, with a requisite chair and lamp positioned at every corner. With more footsteps, I encountered a few potted plant until the maze seemingly ended in the form of a well-lit hallway. My eyes adjusted to stunning white walls. This must be the behind-the-scenes employee territory where they put together their glossy brochures and fine-tuned their calendars. I wondered if they ever met a living, breathing artist or if it was all dead people.

“Jake, Jake,” I said. My voice echoed through the narrowing hallway with its final point up ahead fuzzy and indistinguishable from everything I had passed so far. I never would have guessed the small, neighborly museum would have so much staff, or was this storage space? I begin to think I should leave a trail of bread crumbs or anything to mark my passage, but I had nothing to work with. I had left my exhibit program on a table on one of several possible tables I had passed, up to this point.

Several doors were locked when I tried them; the door knobs tight like they hadn’t been touched in some time. I knocked on a couple of doors, knowing it was useless. It was whisper quiet, but no one whispered. No one was anywhere.

“Jake! Jake! If you can hear me….Are you there?” I whispered, then yelled.

At the end of the hallway was a greyish-blue door, heavier wood than the flimsy white doors I had been pounding on. It must be locked like all the others and felt foolish to even try it, but given that I was at the end, what I actually perceived was the end of the museum, at least in this corridor. If I had tried another corridor, who knows, but this had to be the end. It was obviously the wrong way, I had miscalculated, I was tired, but I tried it anyway.

It opened the door to a sea of darkness.

I imagined cobwebs and artwork and furniture entombed in sheets, until my feeling hands located the switch to right. Flipping it on, I saw that I was on a landing platform with only a foot around me. Two more steps and I would have fallen to my death. I shook on my spindly heels and hung on to my gasping breath.

photo credit: 44th Floor of Trump Plaza Hotel (WHITE) via photopin (license)

Special Collections – Friday Fictioneers – 03/08/13

It’s time for Friday Fictioneers. Thank you to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for hosting this adventurous group of writers. This week’s gorgeous photo was provided by Jennifer Pendergast.

This photo inspired a supernatural element today. This feels more like a middle of beginning of a story, so I’m not sure how to categorize it. Join me at the museum.

Click here for more stories from the Fictioneers. Why not give it a try?

Genre: Mystery/Sci-Fi

Copyright – Jennifer Pendergast

Special Collections (101)

Nick limped up the stairs and leaned on the railing. His insides threatened to hurl, his body dripping with sweat underneath his sweater. He noticed a trail of blood, but from where he did not know.

“I can’t. I don’t want to,” he said, looking at Maureen who was gallantly curving around the staircase.

His words crushed her. “Don’t you hear the party? We’re missing it. I need this. We need this.” She didn’t wait for a response.

There was silence at the top, and no sign of any party nor of Maureen. He only saw a door with a padlock.