“Is that the mail?” Barbara called through from the kitchen.
Don leaned over the envelope that had come through the slot in the door.
“I don’t think so,” he replied as he looked down on the elegantly scribed address on the envelope. It was certainly his name and address, but there was no stamp. Don opened the front door and glanced up and down the street, but there was no sign of who might have dropped it through the mail slot.
Don was opening the envelope as Barb came from the kitchen, drying her hands on a dish towel.
“Who was that?” she asked.
“Nobody,” he replied.
Inside the envelope was what to be a professionally drawn illustration of Barbara washing the dishes. In the picture, she was dressed in the exact same jeans and T-shirt she was presently wearing.
“That is so weird,” Barbara said a little shaken. “Who’s it from?”
Don turned the envelope over. “There’s no return address,” he said.
The strange occurrence puzzled them for a few more days, but soon became an insignificant memory.
Then a second envelope arrived, again addressed to Don. In it was a drawing of Barbara comparing ingredient lists on packages at the local supermarket.
About a half an hour later Barbara returned from shopping.
“Don, you know that microwave rice you like? You can get Waitrose’s own brand for a third less, and the ingredients are identical,” she said from the kitchen as she put the bags down on the counter.
“Barb, come her for a minute,” he called.
He then held the portrait up to show her. “I think you have a stalker.”
The envelope again gave no clue to its origins.
Twenty-four hours later another envelope arrived. Don ripped it open to show a sketch of Barbara lying in bed, with a thermometer between her lips and a washcloth across her forehead.
What the f -, Don began in his own mind, when the door opened and Barbara entered, her brow and face beaded with perspiration. She was lethargic, and held herself up by the door frame.
“Don, Honey, I don’t feel very good,” she said before swooning a bit. Don escorted her to the bedroom, and helped her undress.
“Fetch me a night dress, please,” she mumbled. “There’s one on a hanger behind the door.”
Don swung the door enough to grab the garment, only to see that it was the very one from the latest drawing.
The doctor examined her and determined that it was a mild bought of the flu. She gave her an injection, and said it should the worst of it should pass in a couple of days.
Don sat by the bedside and looked at the drawing, the scene was almost identical. This can’t be real, he thought. This picture arrived before she did.
Then he noticed it. Unlike the previous two envelopes this one was stationery from The Carlton Condominiums.
Two days later Barbara’s fever broke and Don showed her the latest drawing.
“This is getting scary,” she said.
Don then showed her the envelope. “Maybe we should go check it out,” he said.
Barbara agreed, and the next day they headed to the apartment building.
As they arrived they encountered a resident just coming out of the revolving doors of the building’s lobby.
“Excuse me,” Don said to the woman.
“Yes Dear, is there something I can help you with?” the woman of about seventy said.
“We received an envelope with this address on it,” Barbara said, holding up the back of the envelope to show her.
“Oh, we haven’t had that stationery here since the Millennium,” she said. “That’s very odd.”
“This drawing was in it,” Barbara said handing the illustration to the woman.
“It’s a very good likeness,” the woman said. “It looks like Louise’s work.”
“Louise?” the couple said almost simultaneously.
“Yes Dear. Number 13,” she replied. She then excused herself and started on her way, before turning and calling back, “She doesn’t get out much, you know. Tootles.”
The couple entered the lobby and looked at the silver metal plaque on the wall.
“Eight to Thirteen are to the right,” Don said.
They turned down the right hand corridor and the entire atmosphere seemed to change. The hallway was painted in a slate grey tone, and Barbara felt the walls almost closed in on her.
Numbers 8, 10, and 12 were on their left, and 9 and 11 were to their right. Number 13 stood at the end of the hallway.
“I didn’t think places like this had 13s” Don said. “Unlucky or something.”
“Or Thirteenth Floors,” she agreed.
Don was just about to knock the door when it suddenly opened.
“Hello, Don – Barbara,” a woman in her early sixties said. “I have been expecting you.”
Barbara stood with her mouth hanging open, and almost bolted, but Don intervened.
“How do you know us? And how could you possibly know we were coming,” he said trying to control his anger.
“Come in, please and I will explain,” Louise said.
It was only as she fully opened the door for them to enter, that it became apparent that she was blind.
“Please, please do come in,” she invited.
It became obvious she was an artist. Her flat had numerous pencil sketches on the walls, and an easel, with a nearly completed oil painting on it, was positioned under the window. The variety and styles of the works were hard to categorize, as they seemed to encapsulate every genre and medium.
“Did you do all these?” Barbara asked.
“Yes, yes, over the years,” Louise responded.
“You are really talented,” Barbara complemented. “May I ask how long you have been blind? It must have really been rough not being able to draw any more.”
Louise gave a friendly chuckle. “I have been blind all my life,” Louise responded. She then reached out a hand and removed a dust sheet from off a sculpture. It was a perfect likeness of herself, but at about thirty years younger. It, however, had empty eye sockets, leaving an eerie melancholy to the piece.
“It is a self-portrait, as you can see. I turned to art, rather than bemoan my fate,” she added.
Don looked at the hollow sockets in the statue, and it gave him a chill.
“That’s amazing,” Barbara said. “But how did you learn?”
“It wasn’t easy at first,” Louise said. “I tried to have lessons, but no one really wanted to try to teach me. So I just tried different things, and everyone was astonished by the outcome. It’s like an instinct. It’s what I think has brought you here today.”
“How so?” Don challenged.
“I have images in my mind. Often they are places, people, or events, that I don’t know. But they are vivid. Sometimes, I can even sense the names and addresses or my ‘subjects,’ but I don’t always share them unless I feel the person really needs to see them,” Louise explained.
“So what was so important about Barbara’s pictures?” Don asked suspiciously.
“Oh, Barbara’s drawings weren’t important,” Louise said. Though I am glad she is over that awful illness.”
“Then why send them?” Barbara asked.
“So you would come visit, Barbara,” Louise responded.
“Why?” Barbara questioned feeling a sense of uneasiness.
“So you could see the painting,” she replied, giving a nod towards the canvas under the window.
There was the perfect likeness of Don in the process of making love to the unmistakable image of Janet, their next door neighbour.
“Barbara, please come back,” Don called out after her as his voice was muffled by the ‘whoosh’ of the revolving door as she exited.
Prompt A (character challenge):
Prompt B (sentence starter):
Prompt A (genre challenge):
Prompt B (sentence starter):
“There’s no return address.”
Prompt C (photo):
6. 24 hours