The woman in black stood admiring the modestly framed 8×10 in. black and white print. It had been skillfully enlarged to avoid any distortion. The subject of the photograph was an ominous-looking, tree-lined path that could be a bridle path or perhaps a narrow roadway for carriages. It’s course kept the trees in line and persevered into a mist-shrouded tunnel of gangling fir trees and overgrown, deciduous Goliaths, seemingly unending in its perspective. Leslie liked it, very much. Her eyes swept the gallery, searching for Ron. Seeing him nearby talking with the gallery Director, Leslie waved him over. Ron was accompanied by the Director who had kept an eye on her ever since she entered the gallery. Now was his chance…
After introductions, the Director, M Toussaint expounded on the technique and interpretation of the print. Leslie asked about several of the other prints on display, hanging on every word the Director had to say. The entire discussion was no more than 15 minutes, however, Ron’s body language registered with Leslie as being an impatience level of defcon 3. She skillfully swayed the conversation to the price of the print, along with the prices of two smaller ones that had caught her eye.
Leslie was surprised to hear that the artist preferred the potential buyer to make an offer and M. Toussaint would convey any reasonable offer to the artist by email. The offer would be considered within mere minutes. Ron was incredulous when he heard that the artist chose to remain incognito, signing the print with only an illegible “D” along with strict guidelines that were required of M Toussaint and the gallery, to assure his anonymity and prevent any disclosure of identifying information on the subjects of his photography. Leslie was intrigued. She whispered in Ron’s ear, he shrugged petulantly, and Leslie made an offer.
M Toussaint was true to his word. Within 10 minutes, Leslie had acquired three prints by the peculiar artist, each guaranteed to be one of a kind. The prints would be delivered to Leslie at the end of the 3-day showing. In their stead, she photographed them with her cell phone camera explaining to M Toussaint that the prints were for her brother back in the States and she wanted to keep a visual reminder of them. . In reality, Leslie was just plain curious. She found the primary print of the weary woods to be mesmerizing. It was almost as if she could step onto the path– climb right into the photograph and walk along the path to its eventual terminus. Leslie had another more practical reason for photographing her purchases: she was itching to research the woodland scene online. First, she needed to gather Ron who had gotten his second wind and was talking sculpture with a woman who looked like Rosalind Russell in the role of Auntie Mame in the 1958 movie by the same name.
Ron and Leslie didn’t get back to their flat until well after midnight. Leslie was caught up in “Mame’s” eccentricities and stayed longer than she anticipated. Ron, clearly having spent his second wind, went straight to bed. Leslie wanted to start her search right away, so she sat at her laptop and tried all the most reliable image search engines available on the INTERNET. She wasn’t getting any close matches. Then she decided to examine the photo for any clues to the woods’ location or identity. She had a new program for that task. It promised to be as good as the forensic program she used successfully at the museum. First, she made print copies of the photograph with the home printer. About 30 minutes later, Leslie found something near the base of the scraggly fir trees in the foreground. It looked like an… “ewok”; an animated character in one of the Star Wars movies. Then she pinpointed another, only this one wasn’t the same… a rabbit…and another rabbit… dolls… Was that a man hanging from that tree? And a cloaked woman standing nearby?
She realized there were toys– perhaps stuffed animals and the like, and… people. There was a battered box by one of the trees. All the toy animals were pierced through with what looked like makeshift arrows. What at first seemed like detritus on the floor of the woods was actually the stuff of a war zone: a stuffed rabbit massacre? Leslie thought what an enigmatic woodland print she purchased: a photograph of squalid woods with a body count . She wasn’t sure her brother would like it. At that point, Leslie headed for bed and crawled under the covers, clothes and all, except for her heels.
That morning Leslie took her time waking up. It was Saturday. Ron wasn’t in bed so she assumed he was making them a scrumptious breakfast. After morning stretches, she wandered down to the kitchen. There was no sign of Ron. She walked through the flat calling for him. Nothing. Then she saw it. On the floor in the kitchen was a printed copy of the print of the woods. He must have looked at it. Hopefully he didn’t notice the crowd. She thought it strange that the artist incorporated the childish display in the picture. Leslie concluded that the artist staged the woods. She was puzzled that she had not noticed any of it in the gallery. She gazed at the photo and noticed something different but she couldn’t make it out. Scanning it back to her laptop, Leslie ran it through her new program. Leslie squinted, then screamed. She screamed until neighbors began pounding on her door, demanding to be let in. She screamed as she finally opened the door. When her neighbor wrapped her in her arms, she screamed while the rest of the neighbors searched the flat. Eventually, all she could do was choke back the tears and croak a few words,
“In the picture, Ron! Help him! They have arrows…”
This story was written in response to the above image (credit: islandtime)
Cognitive Reflection : Once more with feeling #11