After Bryan’s mother got her new job, they found themselves moving to a new part of their state. Bryan was unhappy about the move, especially having to leave all his friends behind, but he knew things had been hard on his mother ever since his father had passed away. Because of this, he was trying his best to remain positive about the move, but their new house had inexplicably sat abandoned for several years, which didn’t help to quell Bryan’s hesitation.
He had set the last of his boxes onto the floor and finally allowed himself a moment to take in his new room. His mother had made several trips to the new house on her own before deciding to buy, as Bryan was still attending school and unable to accompany her, so this was the first time he was seeing the house—including his room. His eyes then locked on something that caused him to gasp. Hanging on the far wall next to his closet was a frightening portrait of a man, who stood rigidly, like royalty; his hands grasped at the lapels of his finely woven antiquated equestrian jacket. His eyes were hard and leering, and no matter where Bryan walked in the room, he felt like the eyes were following him.
There was a nameplate on the bottom frame of the portrait, which simply read: Arthur.
“Weird,” he muttered.
He turned his back and ignored the strange portrait, beginning to unpack his stuff. Hours went by and he had unpacked almost everything. He unfolded the lid of the last cardboard box and began taking out his books to place them on the bookshelf. Reading was one of Bryan’s favorite hobbies and he was quite proud of his book collection. He didn’t just read flavor-of-the-month authors like a lot of other kids his age; he read classic novels and short stories by some of literature’s most celebrated writers.
His mother appeared at the doorway and leaned in. “How’s it coming?” she asked.
“Almost done,” Bryan answered. “Just this last box.” Without realizing it, he looked up at the portrait of the man again.
“Ah, that,” his mother said, smiling mischievously. “I thought you’d get a kick out of it. The old owners must’ve left it behind, so I left it on the wall for you.”
Bryan smiled nervously.
“Do you not like it?” his mother asked pensively. She soon sounded embarrassed. “Oh, I’m sorry. I was sure you’d like it. I can throw it out. I just thought—”
“No, it’s fine,” Bryan said, eager not to upset his mother, who was under more than her fair share of stress. “It’s…interesting.”
His mother smiled at him. “Finish that box and come downstairs. I ordered pizza.”
“Okay,” he said. He retrieved the last book and collapsed the box. Suddenly feeling the eyes of the portrait again, Bryan turned and looked at it. The dark piercing eyes of the man drilled into his own. Bryan shuddered without realizing it, then looked around. Spotting a dusting rag, he grabbed it and hung it over the portrait.
“Creepy,” he said, and left the room.
Bryan joined his mother in the living room and the two shared their dinner, and as they ate, she told him about all the neat places and stores in the area. Bryan began to feel a little better about the move after spending time talking about normal things. He decided that maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea for them to move after all—it would be a fresh start.
Later, Bryan went back up to his room to see what more work could be done. Upon entering his room, he saw that the rag he had used to cover the portrait of the man was now on the floor…across the room.
Bryan approached the portrait slowly and cautiously, like a dogcatcher approaching a rabid animal. With great trepidation, Bryan held up a single hand and pressed it to the portrait, and after feeling the cool glass encased by the frame, he suddenly felt very foolish.
“I’m losing my mind,” he said and shook his head.
Several months went by and Bryan adjusted to his new home. He made some friends, liked most of his teachers, and was even thinking of joining the spring baseball league at his middle school. Lastly, Bryan had met a girl named Danni, and upon meeting her, liked her immediately.
As the two of them got to know each other, Danni told Bryan about her love of reading, and his eyes lit up. “You should come see my book collection one day! I have tons!”
Danni agreed and she soon she came over. Bryan showed off his bookshelf to her, and Danni began to check them out until suddenly her eyes went wide.
“That thing is hideous!” she said and pointed to the portrait of the man. “How can you sleep in the same room as that thing?”
Bryan shrugged. “I dunno…I guess I am used to it. I think it’s neat. His name’s Arthur!”
“I gotta get out of this room!” she said. “I feel like it’s staring at me!”
Despite Bryan’s protest, Danni walked out of the room, still mumbling about how creepy it was.
“I can take it down!” Bryan called after her, and then looked over to the portrait. He shrugged. “I guess it’s safe to get rid of it,” he said. “I kept it long enough.”
He walked over to the portrait and grabbed the frame by the bottom. It didn’t budge. He pulled on it quite hard but the portrait would not come free.
“How strange,” Bryan said.
He went downstairs and saw Danni sitting on the living room couch. He playfully rolled his eyes and grinned at her. “I’m getting rid of it,” he said. “Just need a crowbar.”
He went out to the garage and retrieved the tool from its wall perch and went back inside. He walked back into his room and the crowbar tumbled heavily from his hands. The front glass plating from the portrait hung off the wall like an open door, and the frame was now lining a swirling and empty brown background.
The man from the portrait was gone.
On the wall was a piece of paper, and very fine, archaic handwriting said:
Thank for your company these last six months. However, it would seem that I must bid you farewell. I wish you and your mother the very best.
Bryan leaned in to examine the portrait – and found it wasn’t a portrait at all, but a hole that had been cut into his bedroom wall. It was quite cramped – roughly coffin-sized—and didn’t allow for much space…just enough for a man to stand.