Struggling artist Leslie Jefferson keeps finding strange paintings on dark and disturbing themes in his studio. To all appearances, from the signature to the style, they are his work. Yet he has no memory of making them. Are these paintings the product of a sick mind, perhaps even his own, or do they portend something more terrible than he ever imagined?
Study in Black and Red
David L. Burkhead
Leslie Jefferson slid the key into the lock of his apartment door. Karen, his girlfriend, not content to wait until they were within, tickled the back of his neck.
Leslie pushed the door open and turned. Karen melted into his arms and tilted her face up for Leslie’s kiss.
“It’s been a long day,” Leslie said as he broke the kiss. “Make yourself comfortable while I grab a quick shower.”
“Don’t take too long.”
While the apartment was in one of the less affluent districts of town, it did have plenty of hot water. A few minutes later Leslie stepped out of the shower and wrapped a robe around himself.
A cloud of vapor billowed out of the bathroom when he opened the door. He did not see Karen but did see the open door to his studio.
Despite the warmth of the humid air, he felt a shiver run up his spine.
He crossed the hallway to the studio, his feet leaving wet footprints on the fake wood floor. In the studio he saw Karen looking up at a painting, a big twenty-four by thirty-six piece. Acrylic on canvas.
“Leslie, this is your best one yet,” Karen stood admiring the painting. “If a bit dark.”
The painting showed Philadelphia burning. Thick black smoke blotted out the sky. Tiny people ran, clearly screaming, in the streets beneath buildings engulfed in flame.
His work. His painting. Any inspection would show that. From his signature in the lower right corner to the style. Right down to the brush strokes.
The only problem was Leslie did not know where the painting had come from. It had not been there when he had left for his date with Karen. More than a dozen times he had found paintings in his studio, his paintings, but with no memory of having painted them. He thought he had been sleep-painting or having some kind of fugue state. But this one? He had not even been home and here the painting was, a painting showing a terrible scene of fire and death. But a painting that was clearly his work.
Where had it come from?