The Boy Who Shook Hands with Darkness Albert Kivak

Jul 28 2013 Published by under The WiFiles

Three days after Tom Brewer’s portrait hung on the wall, it began to move. The sallow, crinkled paper encased in the frame depicted tales of the coastline: the Ferris wheel, the carousel, the boardwalk, all drawn with brisk detail in the lower backdrop of the rendered picture. Rising dead center, a profile of Tom’s head grinned smugly, exposing cherubic white teeth. Its eyes flickered something more than life, the dark pinpoints rolling exotically as onyx marbles.
Tom knew it was alive. He couldn’t deny the sensation of being watched. The ill-fated, threatening caricature of his face, floated free in the spaces above his bedside and below the ceiling. It was snickering; its ghastly pale face with jet black hair (features of a crinkled pug-nosed hare) twinkling a cheesy smile slated star-crossed fire even Jesus couldn’t deny. Evil—it reeked of evil.
It was his own face drawn, but it was not his face. Tom remembered the story well—a story his mother told him, tucking him in bed—of John the Baptist. He came before Jesus, yet he was beheaded. Who knew why God allowed him to fall to the wayside? As his head dropped, splashing scarlet red, he must’ve seen his own body, lying in its pool of blood, Tom was quite certain of this. That same disjointed feeling arose in his soul and pervaded the conversation the next morning.
“What’s wrong?” Tom’s mother, Susan, asked as breezy as sunshine, cooking her morning meal. She banged the frying pan on the stovetop as she mixed egg whites with milk and flour, pouring the batter onto the cast-iron. “You seem like you’ve seen a ghost.”
“Maybe,” Tom said, under his breath, playing with his food. “Dunno.” He sat in his chair and peered through the clear glass of the dining table. His feet never stopped twitching.
“Do you have the flu? You’re not talking as much,” Susan commented, flipping pancakes with a spatula. “You want one?”
“No, I’m full. I don’t feel so good.”
“You don’t feel so good?” Susan asked, making another fresh platter. “You don’t feel so good? Why don’t you feel so good?”
Tom shrugged and poked at the burnt toast with his fork. The spare, half-eaten bacon solidified and became harder. It was beyond saving now. Golden gleam of the crispy fat looked like a burned victim and every time Tom poked at it, he winced. Susan came around to the table and laid her hand on his forehead.
“You seem fine to me. You sure you don’t want any pancakes, sweetie?”
“No Mommy.”
“Oh my God!” she cried in stricken horror, pointing to the round crepe building. “But, honey, these are your favorites!”
“I know,” Tom said, licking his lips. “Juss not hungry.”
“Okay?” Susan said, trying to figure out the anxiousness on his face. “Why? You’re not mad at me since I can’t come to the open house night?”
“Daddy’s coming…” Tom mumbled.
“Sure he will. Daddy will take care of you. I’m so sorry that I can’t be there with you.” Susan crossed back to the low simmering gas stove. “With work and all, I don’t want to miss anything, especially how hard you’ve turned yourself around. I’ve been hearing good things about you. Isn’t that right?”
Tom nodded, cheeks flushing.
“So Dad will come take care of you and look over your stuff.”
“Isn’t that nice, sugar plum?”
“No, I hate him.”
“You what?” A look of surprise came over Susan, and then anger. “What did you say, boy?”
“He’s not my dad.”
“I’m sorry I can’t be there like I promised, but I’ll make it up to you somehow. Okay?” She pressed on. “It’s just that I have been on a very tight schedule—you know?—been busy most of the week.” Something was smoldering, smelled of burnt batter; Susan scraped furiously to prevent further loss. “All right, Tommy?”
“But he’s not my Dad,” Tom said, and pushed back his plate.
“Are you thirsty? You want something to drink?”
“I don’t want to be with him,” he answered, stomach groaning restively.
“All right, fine. You’re getting water. Just plain old water. No orange juice—no nothing.” Susan poured her son a glass and sat across from him. She set her plate down and bolted chunk-size pancakes in her mouth, chewing as she spoke. “Get the orange juice out of the fridge, now, would you?”
“I said NOW!”
“Momma something attacked me in my bed last night.” Tom gasped at the brink of tears. “He said he was coming to get me.”
“Bring me OJ and we’ll talk.”
Tom Brewer walked to the refrigerator, shuffling slowly, opened the door and rooted in the back. He grabbed the carton on the lowest shelf and brought it out. Susan snatched it from his hand and drank straight from the container.
“So what happened in this dream?” she asked, peering over the table.
“I wasn’t dreaming, Mommy.”
“Is that right?”
“Right,” Tom huffed. His throat worked up and down, eyes glazing over, thinking back to last night. The drawers had shifted into a disemboweled snout, the shelves pulled back to show wrinkled clothes draped over the outcrop of frilly sun bleached hair. Its eyes were the crevasses within the folds, and its gaping mouth carved back in a sadistic glee of deranged sentient. “It was real.”
Tom’s pupils tracked his mother’s face, seeing only the rippling body and untidy sheets, as the cover rose in a misshapen hanged parishioner.
“They were real.”
“Who are they, Tommy?”
“My dad and my brother,” Tom whispered.
Susan’s hand jerked in an automatic reflex, knocking the glass over. It rose in the air and, falling, crashed back to earth. The most interesting thing happened (and when Susan relayed it over in her head, later, her disbelief turned to sudden unease) as she shrieked unable to stop herself. The glass had bounced off the parquet floor, not even shattering to bits and pieces. It rolled on the floor and came to rest at Tom’s feet, and the memories rushed unbidden with full force like the waves crashing against the cove.
——————————————– 2 ————————————————–
Her eldest son, Jake, was born eight years before Tom was conceived. He was just twelve when he was pulled in a riptide. Susan’s husband followed the same fate. Trying to save him, he was caught in the same whirlpool. Susan had screamed on the shoreline, kicking up sand as she ran back and forth at the edge of the beach.
Jake had waded out to wet, mossy boulder of a cape to search for abalones and common periwinkles. Susan couldn’t swim and watched the ocean fizz–slap around her son. He was only a few meters away from her when she looked up, but now was being towed out of the sandy bar. The vicious wave swamped over the bobbing frame, furiously keeping afloat with tiny, stick arms.
She could still see it now, as she sat in her workspace, finger rapping on the keyboard, a body floating, and two heads, one dipping under attempting to rescue the other one. They went under, both her son and her husband, into a sea of churning crosscurrent. Scummy lather foaming and creating a gyre of turbulent rotation, smash against the rocks, and, with that, they disappeared under the emerald foam.
Susan Brewer hung her head low as the monitor in front of her blurred, doubled, and blurred again. The accounting numbers on screen for her billing code job were arbitrary jokesters in life—simple digits with no meaning. The words spoken from Tom’s lips out-swam the digits.
Susan rubbed her forehead. Keeping the migraine at bay was useless. A name accosted her, just that name. She remembered Tom’s rangy demeanor, the hollowed cheekbones and the pale, anemic eyes, telling her something he could have never known because she had never mentioned it to him.
Jake, he had said. His name is Jake… like the lake… the lake of brimstone and fire…
The phone rang. She answered. It was the secretary asking if she was okay, she didn’t sound well.
Susan said she might have to punch out, but she could handle another hour.
Then the secretary said her fiancé Hal was on the other line.
After talking with him for a minute, Susan stood up from the chair and punched out, calling in sick.
———————————————- 3 ————————————————–
Later that night, Tom saw it again. It moved under the blanket sheets—a lump at the foot of his bed. He looked away from the covers, and then, stole a glance at the sheets, with wide, unblinking eyes. Heart pounding as if he was running the Colfax marathon, his throat itched maddeningly for a drop of water. He swallowed hard, perspiration matting his hair, and yet he still refused to budge. If he pretended to be asleep, the hunched shape would disappear also. It had to. He closed my eyes, and counted to three.
“One,” Tom mouthed. His throat bobbed. His pajama was soaking. What came out was a hoarse whisper, no more than a land breathing carp.
“Two.” The bed creaked. Something hideously grotesque flickered past the corner of his eye; an indistinct fuzzy blob hunkered at the far end of his bed. It was malformed in nature with blotchy, obsidian membrane, bulging in an ill-defined shape like a gnat’s eye. It was darker than its surrounding, squatting five or six feet from the spot where Tom lay frozen in terror. He shut his eyes…
“Three,” and opened them, again. His eyes bugged out in disbelief, as he witnessed a lumpy grey tissue (with a tunneled nose, and a crumpled face) rise slowly—oh so calmly—on the folds and mesa of the coverlet.
No!! Tom thought. It’s supposed to vanish on the count of three!
The lopsided head moved like a caterpillar on a pair of flaccid stumps, paddling on a ganglion of severed nerves and sliding limbs. It raised its head, once, bubbling, black pus flowing out of its exposed cranium, velvet hair stippling the top of its skull like ingrown byssus, as it slunk towards him in a jerking manner.
Please, let this be a dream—please!
He felt it on his lower calf, the weight pressing on top of his blanket, rustling, breath strangled in his throat. Tom kicked at his bed sheets, entangled around his legs, with no luck. His arms and legs were weighted down, held down with bags of sand. Tom opened his mouth to scream, but nothing came out.
Say something! Anything! Scream! Mom! MOMMM!!!
He tried. His lips refused to part. Oh how Jesus, he tried—but the only sound generating from his voice box were faint, glugging sounds like the wheeze of a gastropod. The mental circuits wiring the vocal cords had cut short, firing disintegrated synapses down to bluish cold lips. Tom whimpered, observing the irrational bulbous head with blinking, gelatinous eyes. He saw it clear as daylight; that was the horror of it all.
This was not a dream.
This was real
It loomed closer in his periphery, drawing nigh.
Get up! GET UPP! MOVE! DO SOMETHING!! DON’T JUST LAY thheerrreeee!!!
But I can’t… Tom moaned silently. I can’t move! Someone help me! HELP ME! MOM!! MOOOMMMYYYYYYY!!!!!
The world’s asleep, Tom Brewer. Thin prudish lips curled back into a smile, revealing glittering white teeth that did not move. Mommy’s dead, Tommy. You already know this.
She’ll be where we are soon. It murmured, creeping forward, wobbling closer. She’ll love every minute of it. And so will you.
What are you?! He glanced up at the ceiling, then back down again at the half-shadowed amorphous hump of shriveled face. Did he really think it’d disappear that quickly? Did he really? Whooo ARE YOUUU??!!!
Hot air blew into his face.
Sweat dampening his armpits, everything went slack as his eyelids slid open, and he watched the black, decapitated head pulsating in the shadows. It was the head of the great prince of darkness and son of perdition. It transformed halfway up Tom’s torso. Now, he was staring at his mother’s severed head, as the world turned a metallic grey, and he screamed into the abyss—into eternity.
——————————————- 4 ———————————————–
“Ahhh…” Mrs. Gault said, steering her past chairs and desks for parents, “You must be Tom’s mother.” In a corner, Susan eyed the small sleeping cots stacked up for nap-time and nodded. The cookies and chips, whatever that was left-over, were gobbled up—every last piece. “Right this way.”
“Sorry I’m late.”
Tom’s teacher led Susan to the corner of the room, a workstation full of bright crepes and colored paintings. On the north wing of the wall, a single portrait was pinned on a cork board. “I never thought you’d show up, Susan. Where’s Hal?”
“Oh, he couldn’t make it.”
Francine Gault raised her eyebrows. “Shouldn’t he be concerned about Tom’s progress?”
“I think so.” Susan paused and asked. “Has he been progressing?”
“That’s the thing. Please, come here. Take a look,” Mrs. Gault said and directed Susan to her son’s drawing. “Your child is very intuitive. He’s always curious about the littlest things. Sometimes, I catch him speaking to someone else.”
“Has he made any friends?”
“One in particular.”
“Who?” Susan wondered aloud, heart beating fast. She knew the answer even before the clown spoke.
“Jake, claims it’s his brother.”
Susan sucked in a breath and let out a tremble of conspicuous air.
“I see,” she said.
“I don’t mean to pry, but were you married previously?”
“No, not that I know of.”
“Is Hal his father?”
“Yes, of course, why do you ask?”
“I want to show you something,” Mrs. Gault said, directing their attention to the wall with the bulletin board. “Yesterday, I had the students draw a self-portrait. This was a class exercise for today, actually, and the parents were supposed to figure out who drew what picture.”
“Did they do well?” Susan asked, peering at the classmate’s palm tracks covering cork board in gusty blue, red, and yellow paints. Above it, taped on the wall, a low hanging crepe paper dangled with the words: CHOOSE YOUR OWN FACE!
“Everyone got it right the first time, yes.”
“I suppose that left-over one is my son’s.” Susan said, hooting with laughter.
Tom’s teacher’s smile turned grim. “The student’s wrote their names on the back. Tom didn’t write his name. He kept writing something else, so finally I crossed it out and wrote his name for him.”
“He knows how to write his name—I taught him how.”
“But do you notice anything out of place with your son’s drawing?” Mrs. Gault asked.
Susan edged up to the self-portrait. “No, I don’t see anything wrong.”
“The two stick figures near the bottom of the sand, who are they?”
The drawing was suspended with a thumbtack; Susan refused to answer.
“Tom says they’re his father and brother. He claims what he draws is Hell, and his brother and father are there, burning.” Mrs. Gault said. “Have you been teaching your son Revelations?”
“He’s been saying what now?”
“He’s become a bad influence on the kids. They’re talking about hell as if it’s a good thing. Also, your son’s been sleepwalking.”
“I’m sorry, but I didn’t come here to hear you talk poorly about my son.” Susan said, glaring at the teacher. “And about this sleepwalking incident, I’ve never known Tom to do anything like that.”
“It’s been recent.”
“Whether it’s recent or not, I came here to see my son’s work and progress—have you praise it—not tell me he speaks in tongue. Are you crazy?”
“I’m not lying, Susan.”
“Are you sure about that? Are you sure he’s not just wanting to use the restroom?” She countered, looking coldly at Francine. “You must have the wrong child. My child would never act that way.”
“All I know is your son needs help. Please get him some help. I’m just concerned about his state of mind.”
“Okay, fair enough. I’ll check up on him.” Susan said. “Right now, we’re leaving. Where is he?”
Mrs. Gault inhaled and led Susan to where Tom was sitting and drawing with crayons. The teacher bent over, placing her hands to her knees, skirt rising, and said: “Tom? You have to leave now.”
“Hey boy, your momma is here.” Susan said. “How do you feel?”
Tom looked up, peeked back down, and continued drawing.
“Put the crayons down, now, Tom. We have to go.”
Tom put down his red crayon and got up out of his chair. Susan gripped his hand tightly and pulled him out of the classroom. They went down the hallway and outside. When Susan arrived at her duplex apartment, on the very top floor, she pulled out the drawing from her shoulder bag. She had taken it off the corkboard before she left.
Save for the small figures in the background, it was a lame attempt to recreate the caricature from Laguna Beach hanging in Tom’s room. The only difference between the original and replica was the amount of hair drawn. In Tom’s version, the portrait of the face had long straggly hair piled on top of the dome shaped head. It was a blond color, just like hers. It was curly, just like hers. Through the paper, Susan saw something on the other side. She flipped the portrait over and, on the back, a name was blotted out with white-out, but she could still see through it. The shaky scrawl of Tom’s handwriting blazed up in Susan’s retina.
In the back was written Beelzebub.
—————————————— 5 ——————————————-
A scream pierced the night. Running footfalls clamored to the child’s room. It was small well suited for the dingy apartment of the upper story, nestled in the east chamber. The mother opened the door and rushed inside.
. Cold draft blew in through the opened casement window, fluttering the curtains. In the bed, the blankets were pulled over to the side and had fallen on the floor. There lay Tom rigid as a streamliner, thrashing his body, head flailing. Arms outstretched, he shrieked the most inhuman scream possible, eyelids dancing. Sweat drenched his pajamas, his eyes pulling upward to show white collecting wickedness, seeing something consecrated, not of this world. Sweat poured over his body like baby oil.
“Hey, Tom. Tom!” Susa Brewer shouted with a grating annoyance. “Snap out of it! It’s just a dream—a nightmare.” She approached the side of the bed and shook her only child. His skin felt sticky yet cold. How? The flu? Was he down with the influenza?
Tom’s eyes flew open and he stared at her, pupils shrinking from the ceiling lights and whimpered: “Momma, what happened?”
“You’re here,” Susan said, brushing his damp hair aside. “You’re safe here with me,” and double-checked the opened window. Nothing could get in since it opened with a crank on the bottom hung sash, so why was she so fearful?
“Where am I?”
“In your room, Tom. You okay?” She walked to the far end of the bed and twisted the window shut. “Did you open this while I was away?”
Tom whispered, moaning. “I won’t go back.”
“God, it’s freezing in here.”
“I don’t want to go back,” he murmured.
“Go back where, honey?”
Tom pointed at the portrait hanging on the wall, stolid, full of waxen features and vulpine grin. Her son was losing it; he was imagining things because I wasn’t there for him as much as he’d like.
“What are you looking at?” Susan asked, turning to follow her son’s petrified gaze. A soft breeze rippled the curtains. “The portrait? Are you looking at your portrait?”
Tom’s upper lips quivered.
“There’s nothing to be scared of, Tom. It’s just a caricature, honey, a caricature, you know what that is? Why would you be afraid of something like that?”
“It is too!” Her son broke out crying and blubbered. “It is too, real!”
“There’s nothing there, now. It must’ve been a dream.”
“No, it is here.” Tom cried, gasping for air, shoulders hitching in a low tremor.
“What is here, Tom?” Susan said, crossing her arms, and rubbing her face. “There’s nothing here, babe.”
He pointed a shaky finger at the far wall where the portrait of her son hung in a wooden frame. The bulging forehead and the flicker of a muddy cornea revealed cherubic innocence and lips drawn back, flashing pearly white.
“That? That’s just a picture someone drew, Tommy, remember? We bought that at the beach?”
She remembered the wide-brimmed fisherman’s hat, and the man sitting in the nylon, folding chair in front of the easel, and feeling a tinge of attraction. She could feel his eyes on her long, smooth legs as she set her firstborn son down for the composition. In his quarters that night, he introduced himself as Hal Benedict, a good guy who gobbled her up more than gabbed.
“You said you wanted to have your face drawn. And the guy who drew it gave us a five dollar discount. Remember that?” Susan ruffled his hair. “You were happy about that.”
“That’s not me, Mom.” Tom persisted. “It’s not!”
“And why do you say that?”
“Something’s wrong with it.”
“I know,” Susan said with a nod. “You wouldn’t keep still. That was the problem.”
“It’s cursed—it’s alive!” he wailed, tears shedding. “You have to believe me.”
“Don’t be silly. Pictures can’t come alive, especially self-portraits. It took him nearly twenty minutes to finish drawing this,” She strode across to the wall, and laid a finger on the portrait, tracing the contours. “You’re lucky he didn’t take any longer than he did, so be thankful. He gave you life. Don’t you like the colors, Tom?”
He remained silent, eyes as large as Petri-dish, and crawled underneath his blankets.
“No matter,” Susan said. “If it continues to bother you, I’ll remove it, okay?”
“That portrait is you, Tom. I don’t know why you think otherwise.”
“All right. You go to bed now like a good boy.” Susan reached to the door. “I’ll be seeing you in the morning.” She flicked off the lights. “G’night honey.”
From the bed, came no answer. The room was thrown into the blackest of black darkness where there was no return.
————————————— 6 —————————————–
Susan woke up from a dream in a stranglehold. In the dream, she was a priest, baptizing a boy child. It kicked and screamed, as she dipped it in a basin full of holy water. When she brought him up, she realized it wasn’t water, but red wine and the scent of ancient nails. Streaks of prism color shimmered up from the largest of all abalone shell. She held the mollusk by the feet, dangling him, his hairless head dripping a cascade of baptismal fluid. She heard a strange pitter patter noise and shallow breathing, down the hallway, away from the altar. Something creaked close to her. It was approaching in slow, schlepping steps.
Susan awoke with a start. The stench of urine assaulted her senses as she inhaled a whiff of the cloying ammonia and tried not to gag. In the eldritch shadows, Susan saw her son next to the bedside, eyes adjusting to the dark. Tom stood facing the wall, adjacent to the headrest, tinkling.
“Jesus, Tom—how old are you?”
He made no attempt to respond; his eyes chivied back and forth under half-opened eyelids. He looked shriveled and his face blanched with a chalky pallor. Naked, except a pair of underwear, Susan noticed dollar quarter bruises on his back and neck, becoming vine-like as they traveled higher. Eyeballs kept chivying up and down like illustrative heartbreak, back and forth, under the layer of skin and eyelashes fluttering. Her heart seized with sub-zero frost.
Are you crazy?
(have you been hurting him?)
No, he does not sleep walk.
(your son needs help, please, get him some help)
There’s something wrong with him.
There was nothing wrong or aberrant about her son, Susan thought. Sure, it looked like bite-marks, but that was only where the fire ants had gotten him playing out in the backyard, all by himself.
But that was weeks ago. The scars had already healed by then. The scratches on his arms looked nothing like the attack of fire ants. They were splotchy red as if someone had taken a thin razor and sliced open the skin without drawing blood. Susan watched her son make a stabbing motion with his hand, turn around, and shuffle out of her bedroom in slow disconnected steps. She watched him walk down the corridor to his room and lie down on his bed, stepping over the low side rails, muttering an incantation. Susan followed her child into his room and her gazed settled on the opposite wall instinctively.
The caricature of the child in the portrait wasn’t Tom. She had known this for many years, putting on the impression contrary to what her son believed. The caricature was of Jake. Hal had drawn Jake when he was little and, now, Susan wept bitterly.
He wasn’t supposed to die, only that bastard… only that bastard…
The perfect plan Hal had Susan concocted had backfired. Only her husband was supposed to drown, not Jake, dear God, not him. She missed him. Even if she had wondered why he was born only to perish underwater, she missed him terribly. In the end, she left the portrait hanging for another night. And then, the end came for Tom the following night.
———————————————— 7 ————————————————
The voices were one. They were all in him and coming from him. She recognized her husband and Jake gurgling upward like an open fissure from Tom’s little voice box. The same speech patterns of his deceased family members flowed out in legion of lesions, as Tom wailed and filed his teeth, grinding and gnashing his canines.
“Honey, are you okay?” Susan Brisket asked as her son writhing under the sheets, tightening her robe. “It’s just a dream—it’s all over, now.”
She stood at the side of the bed, assessing the rumpled sheets rise and fall. “Tom, stop acting like a monster and come out from under there. Please.”
A deep rumbling croak uttered from its depth, leaden and squealing. “No, fuck you!”
“Baby, get out from under there. Who told you that? Who told you to use words like that?”
Vulgarity twisted in the bedspread, rising and falling. “You,” it cackled, then, here was Tom’s real voice, unaided, brittle with heart, came lisping out. “Help me, Mom. Help me. It’s got me.”
Susan grabbed the bedspreads and yanked the coverlet off of the (fetus) boy lying on his side, convulsing uncontrollably. Restraints that were simply belt buckles and his father’s ties had unclasped themselves and were gone. Tom sprang up, angry-dark, tottering with gleeful rage, throwing the sheets over her, suffocating her, obscuring her vision. The white sheet seemed to have taken a life on its own, as it choked her breathing, the fabric becoming hands. Susan was thrown against the wall, rising two feet off the ground, arms flinging upward and out in surrender. She flayed about, thrashing her head, shrieking in her mind. Please stop, please! Tell it to stop! Tommmmyyy!!!
She couldn’t see, but she heard the voice from the depths of hell, clotted, purple, and bruising pillory. His slate tongue flicked and, she heard him from two inches from her face, the blanket sheets smothering her mouth and nose.
“Hell is a fun place, Mother… better than heaven!” Susan smelled sash cloth and ashes. She prayed incessantly, relentlessly, never ceasing to repent and pray God for deliverance.
“Mother, God can’t help you,” It moaned, screeching with laughter. “There is no God.”
Blood drained from her face and began to leak down her nostrils and out her ears.
“You killed us. Now pay for our sins.”
And then, finally, miraculously, as it had whipped her off her feet and onto the wall like a malevolent magnet, it (whatever it was) let her go, and she dropped with a sudden thud. Susan scrambled out of the blankets, screaming—a scream that pitched continually out of her soul like gambler’s tossed dices, chattering, never-ending.
“We are all waiting for you,” it said, as it leapt out of the apartment window. “Join us…”
When the screams died down, and Susan ran to the window, she discerned a small cadaverous figure at the bottom of the concrete pavement, looking back up at her with lambent eyes.
“Tom! Get back here! Tom!” she shouted from ten stories away. “Where are you going?”
Down at the foot of the stairs, the thing smiled a leering grin and rasped, “Search for my father—my real father.”
The cock crowed three times, and it was gone.
Oh dear God. Susan thought, heart squeezing with terror. Hal!
Dawn descended and the rain began to fall. Somewhere off in the distant thunder crackled and boomed, lightening striking the top of the Susan’s flat. It flashed brilliantly, and, in the light, she saw the portrait of herself hanging, and its eyes moved just the way her son told her.

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