Within These Walls
By BR Chitwood
The scowl on the old man’s face, the fierce intensity of his stare, was unsettling to the vain young man waiting in the dimly-lit parlor for his ‘new girl’ college inamorata. Fifteen minutes had passed since the house madam showed him to this huge chair – a stuffed monstrosity that swallowed his body.
Ben Willows was not accustomed to long waits and inconveniences. He was a football star for the Carville Lions, a team destined for the top spot in the Indiana State Finals. Brittany Beale, the ‘new girl’, would learn he was not to be kept waiting.
Willows sent his own scowl back to the portrait hanging over the parlor’s concave fire place…he added some twisted, wide-eyed facial grimaces for added self-indulgence. In a rather common practice among his football friends he extended a rigid right-hand middle finger at the long-haired square-faced man in the painting.
He looked at his wristwatch, shook his head in further disgust and began his habit of pumping his right foot up and down. Eyes fixed on the Parlor portrait, Willows could swear the scowl on the old man’s face had morphed into bulging blood-shot eyes filled with hatred, the wrinkles deeper with hideous hues of darkness and menace. The long hair on the old man’s head looked longer, more unruly, and tinged with a garish dark gray satanic pose. The eyes were near hypnotic with hatred, his ugly scabby lips stretched in gritted madness. With all of this there was a sense of movement to the concave area, like a television screen changing in size.
Was this some fancy ‘motion’ portrait that the electronics companies developed? A new toy to get a rise out of people. Well, he did not find it at all entertaining. It was but a sorry gruesome nuisance. Ben would not be picking up Brittany at this address again. they would arrange to meet elsewhere. He felt a tinge of anger that she would not have told him of this parlor nonsense.
Ben Willows yelled angrily for the house madam but got no reply. He repeated his yelling but deep silence was the only reply. With his long wait, the scowl in the painting was now becoming scary, chilling moments for Willows despite his fearlessness.
Willows felt a numbness settle within his body and he was confused with the building fear and angst he never before had felt. He tried to lift himself from the chair but could not. He felt his body’s desire to move but he could provide no navigational assistance.
He finally felt a looseness come back to this body and he carefully put his hands on the chair’s arms and lifted his body. A small smile came to his face and left quickly when he felt his body slammed back into the chair.
Panic became total with no way for him to control it. The cold sweat over his entire body gave way to uncontrollable relief functions and a feeling of embarrassment that brought tears to his eyes.
“What do you want from me?” he wildly screamed. “What is this? Is it an initiation I’m not aware of? Come on…this is too much. Where is Brittany?” Then, he yelled her name with an anger mixed with pleading.
Music came suddenly to the room, low and foreboding, mixed with shrieking Cello breaks.
Twelve hooded figures of different shapes and sizes dressed in black robes and matching cone hats marched into the parlor and formed a circle around Ben Willows chair.
Willows watched as each hooded person one by one removed something from their attire.
“What’s happening?” Willows squealed.
He was answered with silence.
A circular portion of the tiled flooring slowly sank six feet from Willows’ position. The circular parameter of walls and flooring of the pit was glazed mortar, brick, and metal.
“Please tell me what’s going on.”
The taller hooded figure finally spoke, a small flashlight shining down on some script from which he began to read.
“Ben Willows, you have violated by your past unlawful actions, herein described, our Codified, historic supplements to our special town’s charter and legal summations…”
“Whoa! Hey, I’ve done nothing wrong in Carville. You’ve got the wrong guy…this is crazy. This house is crazy. You robed geeks are crazy. Let me out of here…where’s Brittany Beale? This is her home, right?”
The robed speaker spoke: “Brittany Beale can’t help you, Ben Willows. And, no, this is not Brittany’s residence… Now, unless you want to be gagged, be quiet and listen to the unlawful actions…”
“This is crazy! No! No! I’ve done nothing wrong, and you and your pals here just picked the wrong guy to pull this crap! Now, come on, let me out of here, or there will be bad results for you people…”
“Number Six, please apply the bindings to Mr. Willows…”
As Number Six moved down the short make-shift four-step ladder, Ben Willows met him and tossed him roughly to the pit’s floor. The hooded ones around the upper opening took up spots on the upper rim to stop Willows.
The odds were too much for Willows and he was finally subdued again by two of the larger hooded people.
A booming voice came from the parlor fireplace area. “Bring him to me. Tie him to the post in front of me. Then, all of you leave the premises…”
The Hooded speaker appeared to be leader of the twelve and spoke to the large Satan-like man in the painting: “Ben Willows is by protocol our prisoner, Sir Wainscot. Please allow us to end our session with him. You’ve never interfered with our proceedings before, Sir Wainscot.”
“That is so, but that changes today. All of you! Out of my house now, or face my legendary wrath. You have ten seconds to leave this parlor, and, henceforth, be advised that your special Charter ends as of this moment. Your services, and the stipulations you have all agreed to go with you. You must never speak of this long-run we’ve had together. You will receive no more in compensation and are free to do whatever you wish to do, other than speaking ever of this odd relationship we’ve had through the years…Now, go.”
“Ben Willows, come to the fireplace and we shall have a ‘fireside chat’. Your will is mine, Willows, until I release it back to you after our meeting. Now, do come forward.”
At the fireplace, Willows was told to sit directly in from of Sir Wainscot. At this point Ben Willows had uttered not a word…to the point he could be bewildered by anything, this day had brought that blessing or curse to him.
The two were silent for some seconds until Sir Wainscot spoke.
“I’ve found myself passing through many clouds today, Ben Willows, and I can easily guess that you have a mind filled with questions and observations…
“First, it is doubtful you have ever talked to a painting or have seen anger spewed from an inanimate object or seen motion and size in the ways you have today – or, for that matter, been accused of matters you knew nothing about (in fact, I stopped the proceedings prior to your hearing of those matters).
“The first cloud I passed through today was some sense of hatred for you and thoughts of how I would unleash my painful ways on you.
“The second cloud was confusion as I oddly began to like you. I always worry to a substantial degree when I face those kinds of weak wayward conflicts. Why did I begin to like you? Multiple reasons, really. I noticed you were in many ways like me.
“The third cloud was watching your moves, your versatility in adverse situations…very appealing, may I say? Very appealing, and much like me. After all, regardless of your perceived mission for the day, picking your girlfriend, I did not expect you, and it started a bit of a fire within me.
“The fourth cloud is the easiest for me to explain, perhaps not in the most satisfying way for the listener… How is it a ‘painting’ image talks and feels emotions?
“We live in a strange and wonderful world, Ben Willows. I lived in a time when important people like me could be forced into an exile of sorts, like, in a painting, to live and function in most ways except for eating – and those nasty bodily functions. I can internally visit all parts of the world without leaving my sanctuary here in this lovely little Indiana town where I am to be through eternity – of course, it was not called Indiana then…it was small waterway on a patch of earth.
“You are a football player, a very good one, I’ve found out. When you leave here in a few moments, I will permit from time to time some memory of us together – perhaps a time when you need cheering up, perhaps a time when love needs a boost, or, any number of things. But, this day, the date, the house, the painting, me, may come by you so fast at times you will think it is some kind of déjà vu…you will wonder why you are seeing a passing face so warped and ugly – but it will be a good memory.
“Finally, I can tell you love and family will come to you and your life will be well spent in works of goodwill and faith. AND, Faith is most important, Ben Willows. There will be many contradiction in life, but allow no one to disburb the position of your Faith.
“There will be those times when we see each other on a street, a bus, a plane, and we will have enjoy the site of one another – it will be a boost to our day and to our lives
“Now, leave me, Ben Willows, and when the evening breeze hits you, you will meet a lovely young lady… Goodbye, Sir Willows!”
By BR Chitwood