By Charles Reis
Many people love art museums, but Michael isn’t one of them. Being only ten years old, he’d rather be playing video games than go on a class trip to one. Out of the twenty students touring the facility, he’s the most bored. Whenever the guide speaks, he zones out.
The guide talks, “This piece here dates back to the 19th century and was completed by an unknown artist from Romania.” Unlike before, Michael becomes observant when he sees this artwork. It’s a black and white engraving that illustrates a skeletal figure next to a little girl. The figure wears a cloak and wields a scythe and appears to be draining the soul from the girl.
This is the first time he’s paying attention to anything at the museum. A sensation of mystery emanates from this picture that fills his mind and captivates him. To him, looking at it is like looking out a of window to see a magical world. Once he’s close enough, he lifts his hand to touch it.
However, his teacher stops him, “Don’t touch, you know the rules,” she says firmly. He looks at her with displeasure. He never liked her, which is the reason why he likes to give her so much trouble. He’s determined to do what he wants, no matter what the rules say. So he comes up with a plan.
“OK, we are now off to Native American Art,” the tour guide says as he leads the group. As the students follow, Michael purposely lags behind. When they are several feet ahead of him, he returns to the artwork.
Michael’s seduced by what he sees. That seduction is so strong that nothing is going to stop him from touching it. Once he notices no one is looking, he springs into action. In his act of defiance, he touches the center of it.
A skeletal hand stretches out from the artwork and grabs the offending hand, sending a cold chill throughout Michael’s body. A skeletal face emerges and peers right into the boy’s eyes. The smell of decaying flesh fills the air. Though terror overpowers Michael, he struggles to free himself. Despite his best efforts, it isn’t letting go.
“She said, don’t touch,” it says in a deep voice.
The teacher turns around, “Michael, where are you now?” She’s very frustrated since she believes Michael is hiding. As she passes the artwork, she becomes puzzled. After she examines it, she swears the picture had a girl in it, not a boy.