Weíre trapped here, inside this frame. How long has it been? A lifetime? It has been some 32 years that our bodies have been immovable, paint on canvas. Our minds are the only means of leaving this prison. We wander the night watching children as they sleep, longing to live their lives, to feel and touch and be in the world of form. Our longing has only grown over the years as we watched the children, looked into their sleeping minds.
We saw them laughing, running, playing, touching the world around them, each other. We can still remember when we could run and play. I remember playing kickball on the school playground; remember being pushed by Jimmy Keller, the feel of a skinned knee. I remember the feel of snowflakes melting on my tongue. My sister remembers an ice cream brain-freeze, the feel of her face buried in the fur of our dog, Crackers, how it tickled. I remember his rough tongue licking my face. We both remember the incredible pain, the metallic taste of blood in our mouthsÖ
That was the night we escaped into the portrait, the night we died. We didnít know it would be forever; we just wanted to get away from the awful pain, the horror of that night. We heard the screams from our parentís room, the sounds of struggle. My sister crawled into my bed whimpering and hid, trembling beneath the covers beside me. I tried to be brave for her, but I was trembling too. I looked over at the portrait our father had painted of us that hung on the bedroom wall. I told my sister to pretend she was in the portrait and that nothing could hurt her. I told her to close her eyes and wish herself into the painting. When the door flew open I did the same; I closed my eyes and wished myself into the painting.
The pain was intense but brief. The smell and taste of my own blood is something I will never forget. And then we were here, inside the portrait, trapped. For awhile we were adrift in shock, but safe. We were content to exist in this frozen state, out of body, in a painting. It was later, much later, during the night wanderings that the longing to be REAL kids again grew unbearable, brought us to this night in this room with these sleeping children.
We picked them because they like the portrait and can see us when we come out at night. Our minds have grown increasingly stronger. Sometimes the children we visit can see us. Most of the time, however, they are afraid and the parents put the portrait away or donate it to a garage sale. It was one such sale that brought us here to these children. We have taught them our favorite game: How to wish your way into the portrait. They have gotten much better at it. Tonight they will play for keeps; they wonít be coming back. They will stay and we wonít be playing with them again.
We watched their parents tuck them in, kiss them good night. Thereís even a dog like our Crackers that snuggles in bed with the little girl. My sister likes that. We like the mother and father; they remind of us our parents. Weíre sure they will love us as their own. My sister is growing impatient. She wants to nestle her nose in the soft fur of her new puppy. She wants to feel hot tears on her face, warm goodnight kisses again.
I donít want these children to be lonely like we were. I intend to find other portraits of other children and bring them home. Then I will find other children and teach them how to play the game with us. Soon none of the children in the portraits will be ever be alone again. They will have friends to play mind games with during the long nights.
My sister says itís time to wake the children for a game of hide and seek. She has gone to whisper in their ears. I will wait for them to come and seek me. They will find me easily enough. Then it will be their turn to hide. And I will leave and join my sister in the warm beds. She will already be happily curled up with her puppy, feeling its soft fur tickle her nose. I can almost feel the cold, bare floor on the soles of my feet, the chill night air on my face and neck. I will tip toe through the house, touching, smelling, and tasting long forgotten tastes, anything to erase that last metallic taste of my own blood.
I will crawl between the warm comforter and sheets, in my worn flannel pajamas, pound my pillow to the perfect shape where Iíll lay my head and finally sleep. After so long I will sleep again and dream of all the paintings I will find, of all the children I will find to play hide and seek within the frames. I will rescue all the trapped children, the ones who fled their beds in pain. Iíll find those who escaped the deaths by hiding in the pictures. Iíll set them free.
I hear the childrenís whispers. They are here; they see me. They are elated, as am I. Closing my mind to them I begin to countÖ 1Ö.2Ö. I step out of the portrait; I can almost feel the chill as I approach the boy sitting on the edge of the bed. My sister giggles from beneath her covers across the room. I feel the sob and the sting of tears as I settle into my new home. My sister claps and with her furry, white puppy bounds across the room and onto the bed beside me. We hug. As we revel in our freedom the plaintive calls from the portrait fade into the shadows. They wonít be alone for long.
Pam Patterson © October, 2002