by Larry Rodness
Paperback: 356 pages
Publisher: Itoh Press (December 2, 2012)
File Size: 534 KB
Print Length: 193 pages
Publisher: Itoh Press (December 31, 2012)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
A supernatural fiction about a teenage Goth named Emylene Stipe who finds a charcoal sketch in an antique shop. When she brings it home an image of a young girl appears in the sketch and then materializes in her apartment. Emylene introduces this girl whom she nick-names ‘Poinsettia’, to the local Goth crowd and the two become fast friends. But Poinsettia has an ulterior motive for her sudden and strange intrusion into Emylene’s life which causes the young Goth to question her whole belief system.
The next day during her lunch break, Emylene returned to the antique shop to find the sketch sitting there on the dusty floor, leaning against the grimy picture window. She looked at it more closely this time. The artist had framed the winter scene by drawing a weathered old wooden fence that zigzagged from the foreground all the way to a line of trees that met the horizon. In the center of the sketch stood the subject of the picture, a great cypress tree surrounded by a blanket of pristine snow. Aside from that there was nothing distinctive about the picture at all except that Stelio seemed captivated by it. And yet the more she looked, the more Emylene felt a strange emotional tug. The sketch was serene and unsettling at the same time, evocative but distant—just the right mix of perversity for the heartsick Goth.
Her mind firmly made up, Emylene pushed open the paint-peeled door that creaked as if it objected to the intrusion. The air inside hung heavy with the smell of melancholia. The items on display, not so much antiques as other people’s castaways, were piled haphazardly onto shelves and tables in no particular order. This was not so much a store as a graveyard, a tomb for forgotten relics and memories. And if that wasn’t bad enough, Emylene sensed an air of gloom emanating from the shopkeeper himself who was behind his counter, staring sour-faced at her. He was a tall, gaunt man in his late sixties with wispy grey hair who had lived in the district for over thirty years and suffered them all— the druggies, the hookers, and the hustlers. He took one look at Emylene and made up his mind about her before she said a single word: Goths. If they were so in love with death, why didn’t they just slit their wrists and let the rest of us get on with our own miserable lives? Nevertheless, Emylene greeted him with a cheery hello.
“Hey there. The picture in the window, the one with the tree? How much?” she asked.
“It’s not for you,” he replied with a trace of a European accent.
“Maybe it is.”
“Why? Why would you want it?”
“I dunno exactly,” replied Emylene. “It just kinda speaks to me.”
“Really. And what does it say?”
“It says… ‘I’m lonely, I need a friend, a nice place to live.’ So, how much you want for it?”
The storeowner stared at Emylene at first with curiosity, and then with disdain. “A million dollars,” he replied. “You got a million dollars? If not, don’t waste my time.”
Emylene offered her prettiest smile while she lifted the picture from the floor and eyeballed it like an appraiser from Sotheby’s. There was nothing particularly artsy about it. The dust covering the frame and glass told her it had probably been lying around for months, if not years. Artistically, the scale was tipping more towards ‘garbage’ than ‘antique.’
“I don’t have that much, but I’ll give you a hundred,” she offered.
“You really want it? Tell you what. You come back here tomorrow…”
Emylene knew what was coming next.
“…dressed from head to toe in white. You wipe all that black polish off your nails and the paint off your face, and you come here dressed like…”
“…like a little lady?” asked Emylene.
“Yes, like that, and she’s yours.”
Emylene put the picture down where she found it.
“See you tomorrow then,” she sang as she left the shop.
Although she had never met this man before Emylene knew him all too well. Her parents had taught her early on that whenever people were confronted with something odd or strange, they generally went into “fear mode.” This man was afraid of something and desperate to keep control of his domain. To do that, he needed to demystify Emylene bydegrading and shaming her into showing that beneath all the make-up and the gear, she was as dull and ordinary as he was. Emylene needed to show him that she was a grown-up, and no one was going to push her around. Both were in for a shock.The next day Emylene returned to the store as requested, wearing the only white dress she owned and treasured—an exact replica of the bridal gown Miss Lucy was buried in, after Dracula turned her into a vampyre. When Emylene stepped across the threshold of the store, she looked more frightening than she did in anything she had worn in black, and the look on the store owner’s face instantly faded to the same pallor of white as the dress. As Emylene approached him she slowly opened her hand.
The owner drew back, fully expecting to find a beating heart pumping away in her little
palm. Instead there were five twenties. He hesitated a moment, wondering whether to deny her the purchase and shoo her out, but instead, he scooped up the bills. Emylene took the picture and exited the store. Not a word was said between the two. After she left, the owner crossed himself, and then oddly, tears began to roll down from his eyes. When Emylene returned to her apartment, she hoped to find another note tied to a black Bacarra rose, which signified that Stelio was back in town. She was anxious to surprise him with the sketch, but there was nothing waiting for her.
The next morning she looked again. Still no rose or note. A week went by without any contact from Stelio, which frustrated Emylene to no end. Whenever she dropped by his shop, she was told he was away on business. Was he avoiding her? Had he grown tired of her? Never, she told herself, how could he? Perhaps his wife found out about them.
In the meantime Emylene looked around for just the right place to hang the sketch. There really was only one place for it. A nail went into the plaster with two bangs of a hammer and the picture was hung upon the wall opposite the main door of the apartment so that it would be the first thing she’d see upon entering, and the last thing upon leaving. That done, Emylene took a moment to appreciate her new acquisition. Ignoring the slap-dash method with which the simple brush strokes were applied, she concentrated on the basic elements of the scene—a rickety wooden fence that zigzagged all the way back to a line of trees in the distant horizon. A few wavy strokes indicating a blanket of unblemished snow, and of course, the lone Cyprus that commanded center stage. So simpatico did she feel to the tree that, for a moment, Emylene fancied the artist must have had her in mind when he drew it—two lone entities against the world. That was all and yet, there seemed more although she couldn’t put her finger on what, exactly. Perhaps it was in the hastily drawn strokes that she had all but ignored until now. What was the artist’s intention? Was it just plain laziness or was there a sense of urgency? But then, because even Goths get hungry, Emylene stripped off Miss Lucy’s bridal gown and bounced downstairs to grab a sub.
It was 8:15 when she returned. When her world changed. When the glorious mystery of the picture began to reveal itself. When she gazed upon her new treasure and noticed for the first time footprints in the snow that were not there before.
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