Scarlett sat on the bed for a full minute before deciding on what just happened. Did the painting just… really.. was she going to really think that? The rational side of her mind said that paintings do not move. The are just images drawn on the canvas. They don’t have temperatures. The human beings in the paintings do not sweat. They can’t feel and do NOT get aroused… She was drunk and was imagining things.
But the irrational side of her mind, which was a major part, disagreed with all these logic. The side that was scared of the zombies and witches and Satan and aliens believed in the unbelievable. The guy in the painting, Tristan, did indeed turn his head away. It was like he could not tolerate the touch. Scarlett looked at her hands. She still felt the warmth of his skin. The tingling sensation in the fingers spreading everywhere like wildfire. Tristan was hot and cold at the same time. Clammy. Like he was breathing heavily from the inside of the canvas. What should she believe?
She remembered how she had felt a presence in the house since she brought the painting. Scarlett didn’t really believe in the supernatural. She didn’t believe in magic; neither normal or black or any other colored ones. She was not superstitious, never carried any charms or believed in omens. Her horoscope was never correct. She didn’t really believe in interpretations of dreams either. Didn’t she once dream of paintings coming alive?
It is true that she talked to the painting. She treated it as a real person, had given him a name. Was she going mad after being lonely for so long? How did people go mad? Was it a natural process? Did it happen suddenly? Or was it a gradual deterioration of sanity? How do people realize that they have gone mad? Was there any DIY sort of tests? Questionnaire or online tests that could give a hint on the symptoms of madness?
What kind of madness had symptoms like seeing things that did not exist? Was it hallucination or illusion? It was schizophrenia right? Scarlett had always liked that word. Schizophrenia. Sexy and sophisticated word. But now, nothing was sexy or glamorous about it. “Should I try to touch the painting again? Just to confirm that it was not my imagination.”
But what if it is still warm? What if she feels the slow rhythm of breathing? Then what? Oh dear, she did not have even half a meter of cloth on her body. Instinctively she pulled the bed sheet and wrapped herself in it. Could the painting see? Could it hear? Talk? Smell?
No. She did not have that much courage to touch the painting again. A normal person can handle only so much of stress in a day. What was she thinking? Has she actually accepted that the painting houses a real man? She needed more wine and food and rest. She needed a standing ovation for not screaming and holding her wits together. Definitely more wine is what she needed at that moment.
“I am going to sleep on the couch tonight.”
Tristan was relieved to finally hear Scarlett say something. No skin-peeling shell-shocked scream either. Did she ever behave in the way he expected? She had sat still, far more still than him, on the bed, for an eternity. From the corner of his eyes, he watched her walk out of the room clutching the bed sheet to her body. Tristan did not think he could survive this night with Scarlett lying on that bed with nothing but a bed sheet covering her.
What the hell had just happened? He needed to calm the violent waves rising and crashing in his mind. Her touch was so real. The changes in his body were so real. He was aroused and hard, the feeling rising from the tip of his feet to the top of his head. The tension in his body was real and so was the blood rush. He heard it in his ears. It was like going on a fast roller coaster ride inside a dark tunnel with every sense alert and every sound magnified. And it was all over in the blink of the eye. But feel of her fingers was burnt on his shoulders and his mind; forever.
Feelings. Sensations. After so many years, someone touched him and he felt the skin and warmth of another human being. He felt his own skin in that touch. He felt the thumping of the heart. That electrifying touch had sent a spark of life throughout his body. For a fleeting second, he had got his own body back. He felt sweat trickle down his back. He could smell the sweet fragrance of Scarlett. The torture was beyond he could bear. She kindled a hunger in him that he wanted to eat her up. The injustice of this moment was too much. Was he able to talk as well? Tristan tried opening his mouth. Nothing. He tried to feel his hand, shoulders, feet, anything. Nothing again. What had he done that this miracle happened? What should he do that it happens again?
Was Scarlett the key to his freedom? It was the feel of her hand that undid him. What would happen if she touched him again? Will she touch him again? Hope soared in Tristan’s heart and it stopped midway before reaching the peak. But what if she freaked out and threw the painting? It was always there, this question, hanging over him, teasing and threatening to fall on him and his future anytime. Will she push this away as a drunk mind’s imagination? The last three months was punishment enough without talking to Scarlett. She was his only connection to the real and living world. Will she stop talking to him again? Scarlett was making advances in conversations which was even beyond what he hoped for. Will she retreat into indifference and avoidance again?
Tristan’s future was hanging by the threads again.