by Melanie Brown
Copyright  © 2017 Melanie Brown

There seemed to be no way out.



“Dammit!” I muttered under my breath as I heard the crashing sound of something being knocked over in the darkened art museum. The sound wasn’t close, but now I knew they were in the building coming for me. This museum wasn’t the best place to hide in, but I didn’t think they’d follow me here. I guess they saw the window I had forced open.

“Crap!” I hissed as I ran to the back door. Not only was it locked, it was chained. Just like the front door. There was a service entrance that wasn’t chained, but it was back where I’d heard the noise.

Voices. They didn’t care that I knew they were here. And they were closing in. Shit, shit, shit, I thought. Is there anywhere non-obvious I could hide? I ran down another corridor.

The police promised me protective custody, but the detective fucked up the paperwork and I was told to sit tight for a couple of days. I’d been helping Detective Marsden on his case against BlaxHax, the hacker gang I was involved in. I was promised immunity if I brought in evidence so the DA could get a conviction. After six months, you’d think the cops would understand these were actual criminals, not just bored kids with computers. Drugs, extortion, prostitution, ransom-ware, credit card fraud… you name it, we were doing it. I even think our fearless leader, Randal Sweeny, now in police custody, had even killed someone once.

And now my former gang members were after me.

I rounded a corner and stopped. There was nowhere else to run. No door. No windows. No branching hallways. Dead end. In more ways than one. Behind me I heard the running footsteps getting closer.

I just stood there for a moment, a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I’m going to die. Tonight. Right here.

Oh, I knew I was going to die. They told me. No, they promised me.

I looked around the room, desperately trying to see some way out. My eyes fell on a painting at the far end of the room. I’d seen it before. Wasn’t that long ago I used to come to the museum on weekends with my parents. I was always bored. God, how I longed for those moments now.

I stepped up to the painting, lit by a security light. I always thought it was a beautiful painting. It was bright and done in an impressionist style. You could almost see the field of wheat waving in a breeze. There were a few clouds dotting the sky. A farm house and barn were in the background. And prominently positioned on the painting was the image of a young woman, her blonde hair and long skirt also caught by the summer breeze. It was so well done, it almost drew you into it.

I heard the sounds of running feet fast approaching the hall I was in. I fell to my knees as my legs were shaking so bad in fear I could no longer stand. Tears ran down my cheeks. I didn’t want to die. Oh God how I didn’t want to die.

I stared intently at the painting. The girl standing among the stalks of wheat looked so beautiful. So real. Almost as if I could touch her. I stared at the painting. God I wished I was there in the wheat field. It was so serene. So peaceful. That’s where I wanted to be. Not here in the museum. Not here where I was about to die.

“There he is!” someone shouted. It sounded like Roscoe.

“There you are you son of a bitch!” That was definitely Matt. I didn’t bother to turn around.

I heard what sounded like four people approach me. I just sat motionless and stared at the painting. I didn’t want to cry, but I couldn’t help it.

I felt something hard and cold press against the back of my skull.

Matt said, “You fucked up, Jimmy. You really fucked up.”

I gritted my teeth. I stared with all my concentration on the painting. In my mind, I screamed, “Dear God I want to be in that painting and away from here!”

*          *          *

I felt momentarily dizzy. I blinked a couple of times as the light was suddenly bright. I just stood there, frozen. A breeze caught my long blonde hair and blew it into my face. The long skirt I was wearing fluttered. Shocked and stunned, I looked slowly around.

I was standing on a slight hill amid stalks of wheat. Behind me was a farm house and a barn. They sky was a deep, rich blue with large clouds scattered across it.

I fell to my knees surrounded by a wheat field. I felt the cool cotton skirt. I touched my breasts through the dress. I tugged on my long blonde hair. “Holy shit!” I said out loud. I was in the painting! Specifically, I was the girl in the painting. This was crazy! This was amazing! How could I possibly be here? And being the girl to boot.

I looked slowly around again. No Matt. No Roscoe. Just wheat waving in a breeze.

I turned and started walking to the farmhouse. Am I someone? Is there someone here? Would they know me? Being here was insane. I’m not complaining. But how could this be possible? And why am I the girl? I looked down. Oddly I had no desire to lift the skirt and feel myself up. Here I’m a girl because…well…why not?

As I walked, I noticed the feel of the cool cotton skirt against my legs. I loved the way it felt.

I stood in front of the door of the house. Do I knock? Do I just walk in? I squared my shoulders, took a deep breath and just walked in. I found myself in a living room. There was a sofa, and an easy chair and a rocker. In front of the sofa was a coffee table. On a small table stood one of those old fashioned “cathedral” radios. There were a couple of book shelves, a cabinet that my mom would call a buffet that had fine china on display. No TV was in the room.

From a back room, I heard a woman call out, “About time you got back, Rosie! In the kitchen is a sandwich and a glass of fresh milk for you.” A moment later, an attractive, older woman entered the living room and smiled at me. “After lunch, you can help me hang the laundry.”

She looked at me curiously. “Are you okay, Rosie? You look a little pale.”

I just looked at her a moment. “Do you know me?”

The woman just laughed. “I think I’d know my own daughter! Go eat your lunch. We have a lot to do this afternoon.” She nodded in what I guessed was the direction of the kitchen.

“I am kinda hungry,” I said feeling confused.

The woman gave me a sideways glance, “I’m not surprised. You were up early slopping the hogs and feeding the chickens.”

I gave her a weak smile and slowly walked into the kitchen. Sure enough there was a sandwich and an apple on a plate. Next to that was a tall glass of milk. I felt like I was in a Norman Rockwell painting. I sat down and gingerly picked up the sandwich.

This was amazing. I was actually in the painting. I touched the table. It felt real. I was here. I was actually here. The windows of the kitchen were open and a cool draft of air flowed through the kitchen. I shook my head in wonder. Being a girl on a farm was definitely better than having your head bashed in.

Just as I finished off the cold glass of milk, the woman who I guess I should call ‘Mom’, said, “Rosie! If you’re done, can you come back here and help me with this basket?”

I called out, “Sure!” I got up and walked to yet another room off the side from the kitchen. Mom was finishing running a few items through a ringer attached to a brand new, but still ancient looking washing machine. Damp clothes were tossed into a large basket.

I picked up one end and Mom got the other. I was surprised at how heavy it was. Mom smiled, “Thanks hon.” We carried the basket outside to the rear of the house. There were two poles with lines stretched between them.

As we clipped the damp clothes to the line, Mom said as she shook out a sheet, “It’s such a gorgeous day!”

I looked up at the sky, shading my eyes from the sun, “It’s a wonderful day!” Mom smiled at me.

When I hung the last item out to dry, Mom said, “Okay, Rosie. Your Pa wanted you to muck out the barn and feed the horses this afternoon. Go change and try to get that done in time to come back and get cleaned up for supper. That Huxley boy is here helping your Pa in the fields again today. So I’m inviting him to supper with us.” She put her hands on her hips and smiled sourly at me. “Try not to stare at him. I think you embarrassed him the last time he ate with us.”

I grimaced a bit, “No worries there, Mom.” Like hell am I going to stare at a boy!

I ran up the stairs to change. I had no idea what mucking a barn was, but I probably should at least look like I do. I closed the door behind me. The windows up here were open as well. A wonderful cool breeze flowed from the window. I looked out the window at the land below. There was a cleared area behind the house with a wooden fence marking the border between the yard and the trees and bushes beyond. I inhaled deeply. The air was so fresh and clean!

I slid the dress over my head and discovered I was wearing a bra that seemed a bit too heavy duty for what it was holding up, and pair of nylon panties that were a bit too big. I started to touch my private areas. Not in any sexual way, but just exploration. But sudden thoughts of doing that being dirty and it’s something good girls just don’t do. I sighed and found a pair of jeans and a nice cotton shirt neatly folded in the dresser.

I sat on the bed for a few moments to enjoy the breeze. Oh! The sheets were so cool to the touch and so soft! Back at my apartment, I don’t think I’d changed my sheets in six months. I couldn’t help buy lay on the bed and run my nose across it. Who would have thought bed sheets would be so inviting?

Finally changed and walking along the fence towards the barn, I couldn’t help but sniff the air. Wildflowers grew along the fence and never before had I even noticed flowers actually have a scent. I looked up at the bright sky and studied the clouds. Who had time to look at clouds before? Most of my day was spent looking into a computer display. Here, life was slow and everything was beautiful. Why couldn’t I have been here sooner?

After stepping inside the barn, I decided not everything here was beautiful. There were four horses in stalls and pigs in a pen along one wall. I recalled a line from an old movie I saw on TV as a kid. One person asked, “Is this a barn or a stable?” A second person said, “If you look at it, it’s a barn. If you smell it it’s a stable.” And the first person said, “Well let’s just look at it…”

*          *          *

There was a lot of shit in the barn and I guess that’s what mucking out meant. So I covered my face with a kerchief and shoveled shit and dumped it behind the barn. I didn’t know where it was supposed to go.

I then started bringing hay for the horses. I’d never been so close to a horse or really any large animal before. I reached out to stroke the face of one of the horses and from behind a male voice said, “Careful.”

The voice scared the living shit out of me. I squealed and spun around, slipped and fell onto the mucky dirt floor next to the horse. I looked up to see a young man, maybe a couple of years older than what I seemed to be. He laughed heartily.

“I’m glad you think that’s so funny,” I said as I sat up and brushed dirt from my shirt sleeves.

Grinning, the boy extended his hand to help me up. “It was funny, actually.”

After I was on my feet, he said with a chuckle, “I’m sorry Rosie. I really didn’t mean to scare you. Your Pa sent me in here to give you a hand. He wanted you to have time to wash up before supper.”

“I’m doing just fine,” I said, a bit indignant. I stared at the boy for several moments. Is this the ‘Huxley’ guy Mom mentioned? He knows me, but I don’t know him!

He folded his arms and frowned, “You’re not going to start staring at me again are you?”

I let out an embarrassed laugh and looked the barn’s floor for a moment. “I know it sounds stupid, but for the life of me, I can’t remember your name.” True enough, except that I have never known it.

The boy spat a laugh. He folded his arms, “Are you serious? How could you forget a name like Ray? Ray Huxley?”

I snapped my finger and laughed, “Ray! That’s right. Sorry, I just had a blonde moment.”

Frowning, Ray said, “I’ll let it pass this time.”

Frowning myself, “I said I was sorry.”

He worked in silence spearing hay with a pitchfork and dumping it for the horses, for a few moments. He stopped, wiped his brow and said, “Your Pa said you’re heading off to college in the fall. Must be exciting to get to go to the big city and everything.”

I stood there and stared at him in shock for a few seconds. “I don’t want to go to the city. Cities are dirty. I love it here.”

Ray nodded and said, “True. Working the land is in our blood. But you don’t think it’d be a great opportunity for you?”

I shook my head. “No. Everything I’d ever want or need is here. I’d miss Mom and Pa. I’d miss the horses and pigs.” I looked at Ray for a moment. “And I’d miss you.” Why the fuck did I say that? Ray is cute and all but…why did I just think he was cute? I haven’t been a girl twenty-four hours yet and I’m already noticing guys? That seems a bit crazy.

Ray laughed. “Well, at least I come before the chickens. I’d like to think I’m somewhere between the horses and pigs.” He chuckled again.

I felt my face turning red. “Sorry. That’s not what I meant…”

Ray walked up to me and smiled. He took my hands in his and said, “I’d miss you too Rosie. I wish you’d stay, but I think it’s important for you to go to college.”

Looking at the barn floor again, I said, “I… I…”

Ray lifted my chin with a finger of one hand. He bent his head towards me. My emotions were suddenly jumping all over the place. This was crazy. It was too quick. I closed my eyes just before his lips touched mine…

*          *          *

The top story tonight on Big 2 News is twenty-three year old James McAdams was found dead this morning by staff in the Cadence County Museum of Art. He was apparently shot execution style with a single bullet to the back of the head. Police aren’t releasing much information citing a pending investigation. More information as the story develops.

And the Lady Blue Hawks won their fifth basketball game this season…

*          *          *

The End

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