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 Category:  General Fiction
  Posted: January 13, 2021      Views: 41

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Exceptional
This work has reached the exceptional level
A man wakes up to strange sounds
"Unmoving" by oliver818



Even in the dark something seemed off key, like a piano played by a child wearing novelty bear paws. The wind nibbled at the shutters, pulled tight against the icy-lipped wind. In spite of the darkness I could make out the frame hanging where I had put it only hours before. Whatever was happening, it could wait for morning. I closed my eyes, hoping the warmth of the blankets would drag me back down into unconsciousness. The high-pitched scratch of chair on wooden floor boards woke me up more instead.

"Who's there?" I called out, my voice loud in the empty bedroom.

The scratching came again, followed by a deep, visceral laugh. My eyes slapped back open. The house stood on the side of a snowy mountain, and the roads had been closed just after I arrived back home. Who could be downstairs making my kitchen chairs screech? I threw back the sheets. Cold air caused my naked flesh to contract, and for a moment I felt like a puppet pulled taut by unseen hands. I turned on the light, rolled off the bed, slipped on my slippers, grabbed my thick dressing gown off the bathroom door and tightened the belt. The laughter came again. I turned and stopped. The willow trees painted with breath-taking precision swung their melancholic branches in an an unseen breeze. I leaned in closer. The table where before sat two men, one fat and one spindly, now sat empty, half-filled wine glasses dancing around an unfinished bottle as the breeze swept in underneath the table cloth. Another guffaw rang out from the lounge.

I walked across the room, my heart pounding. The door screeched as I opened it, and I made my way down the winding staircase. Firelight shadows from the half-open lounge door danced on the hallway wall. I pushed the door.

"Welcome," two loud voices called out, and I felt my heart snap to attention like a corporal on midnight guard duty caught sleeping.

"Who are you?" I managed to say as my heart calmed.

"You know, who we are," the fat one said. "We helped ourselves to some wine. It's very good. Would you like some?"

"Jakob!" the thin one scolded. "Don't offer the man his own wine. Just pour it."

Jakob poured a generous amount of wine into a glass he picked up off the table and handed it to me. I took it, sniffed it, then downed half the glass.

"Look who woke up thirsty," Jakob said, slapping his thick belly with a bloated hand.

"Jakob!" the thin man growled. "We are his guests. Be nice."

"How did you..." I began.

"Get out of the painting?" the thin man finished for me. "If only we knew. One minute we were sitting by a river sipping Bordeaux, and the next we were in your bedroom, tripping over each other in the darkness."

"You haven't got any Salami?" Jakob asked. "I'd kill for a good chunk of salami."

"Jakob!"

"No, it's alright," I said, the alcohol rippling along my veins and filtering into my brain. "I don't, but there's a lovely block of Compte in the fridge, if you're not averse to French cheese."

"Not at all," Jakob yelped, and his chair creaked like a lightening struck tree as he stood up and lumbered towards the kitchen. His footsteps faded as he entered the kitchen.

"I'm sorry about him," the thin man said. "He didn't use to be like that."

I took another sip of wine. "He's Jakob. I got that much. Who are you?"

"I, good sir, am Lionel," he said, stretching out a thin yet darkly haired hand. "I'm so sorry to intrude on you like this, but we really didn't have a choice. Well, I didn't. As soon as you fell asleep, Jakob leapt out of the painting and disappeared. I couldn't just let him go. After all, he is my best friend."

I took another sip of wine, and then took a cigar from the packet that sat on the bookshelf. "Do you mind?"

"Go ahead," Lionel replied. "As long as I can have one too. It's been so long since I smoked."

I handed him one. He ran it under his nose, closed his eyes and gave a groan of pleasure. I smiled and leaned forward with the lighter.

"Now, I have to say, that is a good cigar," Lionel said, leaning back on his chair.

"I have a weakness for fine things," I said, lighting my own.

A large crash echoed out from the kitchen.

"What is that silly fat man doing in there?" Lionel sighed, standing up. "You stay here. I'll go and see what's going on."

He stood up, the cigar dangling from his lips, and left the room. The fire crackled. I let out a sigh, stood up and headed to the kitchen. Darkness filled the room and a sliver of moon showed through the far window. Something cold and sharp pushed up against my neck.

"Sorry about this," Lionel's dark voice said. "But we are going to have to ask for your help."

"Of course," I whispered softly, hoping to keep my throat intact.

"Take him upstairs, Lionel," Jakob said and I could smell the thick French cheese on his breath.

The knife stayed in place as I found myself propelled up the stairs and into my bedroom.

"Now," Jakob said. "Get into the frame."

I wanted to turn but the blade slipped beneath my skin and I felt warm liquid trickle down into my dressing gown. I walked towards the frame.

"Up you go," Jakob shouted.

My fingers caught on the bottom of the frame and I hauled myself up. A soft, warm wind caught my face, and long blades of grass tickled my face. I pulled myself upright. To my left, willow trees danced over a fast flowing brook. To my right, Jakob and Lionel danced hand in hand. Their lips met and then they were on the bed. I sat at the table, reached out for the more full of the two glasses, then turned away towards the river. I stared at the gentle flowing water, the dancing weeds and the hovering dragon flies. I don't know how long I listened to their fleshy poundings, but when I tried to turn my neck, I found I couldn't. The river stopped, too. The weeds came to a halt and the insects hovered unmoving.

"It worked, my love," Lionel's voice said from a distance.

"Better than we could have ever hoped for," Jakob replied, and I sat unmoving, a glass of wine half way between the table and my lips.
Pays one point and 2 member cents. Artwork by Sierra Treasures at FanArtReview.com

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