Captivation

By Novid Shaid

Since its sudden appearance one morning onto the Arts corridor decades ago, the “Captivation” painting, a wonderful view of the countryside through a gigantic window perhaps in a stately home, had mystified academics, students and visitors to the university.

No signature or receipt could be found except for the title, which was etched into the wooden frame. The premises manager, then, finally attributed the picture to an anonymous donor or to a hidden artist of the university who wanted to decorate the corridors with their work, and if the painting was not of the highest quality the manager would have ordered its removal.

At first glance, this work of art would have pleased the eye because of the finesse and fluidity of the brush strokes and the perfect balance of the shading. Only when people glanced at the bottom corner, next to the meadow gate, would they raise an eyebrow and look again. A distinct, blank outline of an upright human being, a man, interrupted the space between the gate and the pathway leading to it, spoiling the atmosphere of the painting.

This shape was not graffiti because it retained the same texture as the rest of the scene and it did not prove the work was unfinished because the outline had been carefully drawn in to resemble the form of a man. And those who maintained the work was surrealist art were forced to admit that no apparent symbolism could be found in the figure; it looked more like a spirit.  This ghost-like blank figure gave the picture the resemblance of one of those classic haunted photographs which when developed had picked out an apparition.

The mystery of the figure was destined to persist as the artist or donor never came forward with an explanation. However, a terrifying development was to take place when an addition was unexpectedly made or one might say when the picture was finally completed which a horrified cleaner discovered, one wonderful morning in the present day.

The day before the discovery, a uniformed deliveryman entered the university carrying a box full of stationery for the admin office.

The staff explained how the man appeared to be in a trance, as he placed the box in the office and asked for signatures. One lady in the office mentioned that the man’s expressionless face and distant stare reminded her of people she had witnessed being hypnotised in a show.

Subsequently, the man’s behaviour made the admin staff very uncomfortable and an alerted security guard kept careful watch over the man’s movements. Then, as the deliveryman left, he told the guard blankly that he was going to use the toilet on the first floor along the Arts corridor. This statement shocked the guard, as the man could not have known the location of the toilet if he had never been to the university before. But the guard assented, not wanting to provoke a confrontation, and as the man left him, the guard instructed the office to call the police because he was sure this man was planning something, perhaps terrorism. But before the guard could realise, he found that the man had already reached the stairs and was rapidly climbing up to the first floor. The guard flew after him to ensure he had the man in his sights but when the guard got to the Arts corridor he stood dumbstruck.

The deliveryman had vanished. And he was not found in the toilets, the rooms along the corridor, and after phone calls from the delivery company, the arrival of the police and an entire search of the university, not anywhere in the building. After that the deliveryman was never seen again in the physical world.

It was only the next morning during the glorious sunshine, when the sunlight beautifully lit the corridors, that a cleaner, while dusting the paintings along the Arts corridor, made a nightmarish discovery. The “Captivation” painting had been violated. The apparition-like figure had been inhabited. Enmeshed and fitting perfectly into the outline, comically shrunken and with a petrified stare stood the deliveryman.

by Novid Shaid, 2004

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About Novid Shaid

I am a Muslim writer and English teacher. I have written poetry, short stories, a play, and I am currently working on a novella. My subject matter and themes are related to Islam, Sufism, politics and also my job as a secondary school teacher. My work is copyrighted and any works published here may not used or copied without my prior consent. You can contact me via the "Contact Me" page, if you wish to use any these writings. I am keen to gain the notice of publishers and if any are interested in my writings, please contact me via the "Contact Me" page. Was salaam, Peace

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