From my dining room wall, the coastal painting beckons me. Hues of blue, green and gray, behind glass, recessed in a shadow box.
“Come here,” a seductive voice whispers.
Male, the voice comes from somewhere inside the painting. I move closer. I study the knoll rising from the sea. Atop its plateau rests a cluster of cottages, their cedar turned gray from the sea spray. No one’s walking about, no vehicles travel its winding lanes. I look for, but cannot see who’s called out to me.
“Come here,” again in whispered voice.
Intrigued, I try to figure out how to get behind the front glass of the painting. Some may say I’m at the verge of madness. But, there’s no madness here. I’m sensible, rational, and pragmatic. These are my shield.
“Who are you?” I ask.
“I’m your friend.”
Suspicious and doubtful, I hesitate and look around, sizing things up.
Offering assurance and self-confidence, he croons: “Don’t be afraid. Just keep your bearings. You’ll be safe.”
I’m intrigued by the challenge: Just how far into the painting can I go? My mind’s eye travels up and over the bottom of the frame. Surprisingly, I plunk into cold knee-high water. Seagulls squawk and swirl above small dinghies in the shallows. The ocean’s stench of brine, decomposed seaweed, and stranded shellfish invades my nostrils.
Feeling uneasy, I question if I should go back.
The voice senses my hesitancy. “That’s it…take it slow,” it persuades.
“Where are you?” I shout.
“Take the steps up the retaining wall. I’ll meet you there,” the comforting voice promises.
When I get there, no one waits at the top of the steps.
“I’m here,” I yell.
I walk the smooth cobblestones to the nearest cottage. No one there, either. Confused and impatient, I wait.
The wind picks up. Fog is checking in. Darkness threatens. A distant fog horn trumpets a foreboding and ominous warning.
I walk back to the steps. Waves are crashing over them and tantalizing the edge of the village. The dinghies rock almost onto their sides.
I feel trapped, lost, and in danger. I can’t figure out how to get out of the painting. I panic. The crashing waves compete with my cries for help.
Then, I hear the voice again. Now it’s loud, menacing.
“We’ve got us another one,” it taunts.
Other voices join in to pour out a terrifying cackle.
I hunch my shoulders and drop my head. I’ve allowed myself to be outwitted.