• Abigail

THE PAINTER ~ an excerpt

(Sometime during the summer of 2021, I started writing a YA dark fantasy novel set in the town of Dane's Chapel. It's still somewhere towards the top of my list of things to finish writing, and I fully intend to get back to it soon. In the meantime, please enjoy this random spooky chapter intro from THE WRITERS' NIGHT. Happy spooky season!)

You’ll hear the painter before you see him.

And if you hear him, you’re already halfway gone.

A word of advice, from the soul of Dane’s Chapel: turn away. Plug your ears. Because the longer you listen to his song, the closer he comes, the faster he comes, and the all more real he is when he inevitably arrives.

He isn’t ever in the one place, either. Sure, you can always find him on Bunter Hill behind the sawmill—there are ruins in its crevices, fallen marble walls and old stone ground to sand by time and the elements. You pick your way through the petrified tree stumps, climb through enough empty archways that used to hold glass panes, and you might find yourself in the darkest, dustiest corner of the ruins. Clusters of tiny bones, bleached white, hide amongst the rubble. The air is sweet, it’s oily, it’s poisonous. There’s always a sliver of sunlight, though, streaking through the clouds—even in the darkest and dustiest corner of the Bunter Hill ruins, a painter needs his light.

There is a pit in the ground. There is a grate over the pit.

Do not stand too close to the grate. Do not go near the ruins.

Because if you did, you would first hear the humming—it drifts on stagnant air, it sounds like buzzing in your ears. The melody is imperceptible, but it draws you closer. It draws the painter closer.

While it would be decent and convenient for the painter to remain in his grated pit, he does not always stay in the one place. You might hear humming as you walk down a dark street, late at night—the world is still and you are alone, the shadows have fingers and they caress your spine as you pass by. You might see an iron grate up ahead, in the cobbles; a grate you don’t recognize. It is dark. Maybe it’s a mirage. Was it there earlier? Better safe than sorry. Plug your ears and walk away. And that humming in your basement—it could be the boiler again, but there’s a trickle of light leaking in through the window, bending around corners and defying physics to penetrate the darkness below. He’s always below-ground, and he seems imprisoned behind his iron grate—but do not let that fool you.

As you approach the grate in the ruins, the humming grows louder. It invites you closer. It invites you to lean over the grate and peer down into its depths.

The painter sits in a narrow beam of sunlight. There is paint on his hands, paint on his bare feet, paint on his pointed face. He has a brush in each hand, a canvas propped against the wall of his prison. He sits amongst open jars of colors—every color, shades you can name off the tip of your tongue and shades that baffle the brain and befuddle the senses.

The painter will look up at you. And he will stop humming.

You should have plugged your ears.

You should have turned away.

He has a painting to show you.