The Eyes Have It
This week’s Flash Fiction Challenge from Terribleminds: Must Love Guns
Burned eggs were the first sign something was wrong. Sharon had fixed them the same way, every morning for the last twenty-nine years: over-easy, no runny whites, no hard yellows. Once, Mack could understand, but every day this week? Just odd.
She was asking funny things, too. Where was the toilet paper? Do you want to sell that painting over the couch?
Mack knew he wasn’t getting any younger, but by God, there was nothing left of the perky cheerleader he’d gotten naked in back of his old Chevelle.
Still, even though things were off, he didn’t think much of it.
Then Thursday, Mack woke from a late afternoon nap. The sky was dark and Sharon hadn’t called him for dinner. He wandered from the den and found her sitting in an easy chair, pointing the barrel of his Colt Python at the large painting in the living room.
He blinked. It was a dark print, one his mother insisted was a Nicola Casissa. A large bouquet of dark flowers sat in a dark basket-like shape on a dark table-like surface. It had been his grandmother’s, and her mother’s, and Mack considered it the ugliest thing in the house. He’d actually laughed when Sharon asked if they should sell it. It wasn’t his taste, but it wasn’t the sort of thing that should require an armed defense, either.
“Shar?” He stopped in the doorway, wondering who her real target was. He’d never seen her use a weapon before, but she looked comfortable enough with it.
“I sure am glad you had a gun,” she told him, never taking her eyes off the helpless peonies.
“Sharon, what’s going on in here? What are you doing with that?” His initial shock was wearing off, and worry was quickly replacing it.
“It’s been watching me,” she said, and her voice sounded strange. Was she drunk? Or had she gone crazy?
“What has?” He slipped into the room, checking behind the door as he did.
“See the eyes?” She raised the gun at the top of the picture. Mack saw plenty of flowers but nothing that looked like eyes.
He shook his head. “Honey, why don’t you put that down?”
“Look,” she insisted, and he realized what sounded so funny. It was like someone else was talking with Sharon’s voice. He dragged his gaze back to the painting and looked closer.
The flowers up by the basket’s handle, two navy morning glories drooping on their stems, had white and brown centers that did look a little like eyes. They were the right color–the same whiskey shade as Sharon’s eyes, in fact.
“Shar?” Mack’s voice cracked.
“Don’t worry, Mack,” she said. “Nothing’s getting out of that painting. Not while I’m here.” And the Sharon-thing smiled, crinkling viridian eyes at him.
Mack back out of the room, fear sending adrenaline crackling through his system. What was sitting in his chair? “Why don’t you put down the gun?” he suggested from the hall, keeping his tone calm, hiding his burgeoning panic. He thought about calling the police, but what was he supposed to say? His wife’s eyes had changed color? She was holding a painting hostage in their living room?
He peered around the doorway and watched her. She didn’t seem interested in him. She was just intent on watching the flowers. Those two particular flowers.
After a while, he shifted his attention to the painting. The dark colors and half-hidden shapes hinted at something sinister–and staring at it was oddly hypnotic. Once, just as he was turning his head to look back at Sharon, he thought the eyes might have blinked.
Mack eventually tired of standing and slid onto the couch next to Sharon’s chair. They didn’t speak, and the knot of tension at the base of Mack’s testicles slowly faded. Sharon’s gun never wavered.
Mack blinked at morning sun filtering through the closed blinds. He must have slept. “Shar?”
She smiled. “Good morning, Mack. I think I’d like breakfast.”
“Yeah.” Mack stretched. His neck hurt. “That sounds good.”
“I’ll have eggs, please. Scrambled.”
Mack stared at her. He never made breakfast. She turned green eyes on him and flashed a smile with too many teeth. He headed to the kitchen.
The next day was the same. Sharon tirelessly pointed his gun at the painting, Mack sat next to her and brought her anything she needed. Sharon didn’t sleep or get up to use the bathroom.
The third day, Mack woke from his makeshift bed on the couch and Sharon was gone. He found her standing by the stove, wearing her second-best apron and humming in front of a skillet of eggs.
“Good morning, Mack. Would you like breakfast?”
Mack looked around. The gun was nowhere to be seen. “What–what about the painting, Shar?”
“What painting, you goose?” She dished out a plateful of eggs and added buttered toast.
“In the living room. The painting you’ve been sitting in front of for the last three days. The one you’ve been pointing my gun at.” Mack felt something like alarm rise in his chest, but it might have been the smell of burnt eggs.
“Pointing a gun at a painting? Me? Mack, are you feeling alright?” She gave a quarter turn and he could see those teeth again. All those teeth.
“You said there were eyes in the painting, Sharon.” Mack’s heart was pounding. If she would just turn. He needed to see her eyes.
“It’s a painting of flowers, Mack,” she said patiently. She finally turned, looking at him, bright green eyes shining over the plate of eggs.
Mack ignored her offering, his legs numb as he returned to the painting. The navy flowers were still listing at the top of the bouquet, but the brown eyes, Sharon’s eyes–the one’s he’d looked into a thousand times, and seen recently in this very painting, were gone.
His gun sat on the coffee table, waiting for him.