Madeleine regarded her surroundings with an air of boredom.
“Same things every day,” she mused, picking up a book from the counter and, after glancing at the cover with indifference, let it fall back haphazardly.
Madeleine was in a bad mood. Everyone was acting depressed, all because some old lady who happened to be her great-grandmother died. What’s the big deal, she thought sulkily. She was in an old-people’s home for ages before she even died. It’s not like it was some big surprise.
“Adele! Come help set this table!” Her mother called from the dining room. Madeleine sighed and carelessly flipped her long, dark brown hair over her shoulder.
“Yeah, whatever,” she mumbled to herself. Weaving her way around all the old stuff now occupying the first floor of their house, she made her way to the dining room. Her great-grandmum had had other relatives, but of course she decided to give all her old junk to Madeleine’s family since they were closest and visited her the most. Madeleine’s mother couldn’t be more thrilled about it, either.
“Wow, Adele, look at this brass candelabra!” She exclaimed as Madeleine strolled into the room. Her mother was feverishly rubbing a piece of old brass, intimately holding it up to the light to see the effects of her polishing. Madeleine frowned.
“I’ve told you a million times, stop calling me that! It makes me sound like some French maiden! Call me Maddy if you have to.” Her mother rolled her eyes.
“Okay, Maddy, would you mind putting all the food people brought onto the dining room table? Everyone’s going to start arriving in an hour or so.” Madeleine stalked off to the kitchen where an onslaught of casseroles waited for her.
“Nothing says ‘Rest in Peace’ like a tuna casserole,” she muttered to herself as she picked up two in each hand. Spotting a plate of delicious looking sugar cookies, she glanced around to see if her mother was looking, and then put down the casseroles and grabbed one for later.
“Whoa there, lil’ missy! What do you think you’re doin’?” A crackly old voice said to her. She jumped and turned around to see an elderly man seated in an old wicker chair of her great-grandmother; she hadn’t even noticed him there before, he blended in so well. Old things all look alike, she thought, annoyed at being caught. She waved the cookie in front of her face and plastered on a sugary smile.
“I’m just getting a cookie,” she replied brightly. He smiled in that old person way Madeleine hated, the way that meant they were going to launch themselves into a long-winded story. He had a large gray mustache and it looked like it was bristling in anticipation, as if it were not merely facial hair but an additional appendage.
“You know, back in the day when I knew your great-grandmamma, we would have the most splendid time; we would-” Madeleine interrupted him hastily.
“That sounds fascinating, but you’ll have to tell me later; I have to go put these casseroles on the table,” she said, and left him. As she placed the funky looking mixture of ingredients she’d rather not know of on the table, Madeleine said to her mother,
“Hey, who’s that old man in the kitchen? Is he related to us?” Her mother shrugged.
“I don’t know what old man you’re talking about. I’m too busy to keep track of who’s where.” Madeleine scowled, her full glossy lips contorting into an upside down u-shape. She went back into the kitchen to grab another cookie as she nibbled on the first. She prepared herself for the old man, planning to say she was just looking for a missing casserole, but when she got to the kitchen, he wasn’t there. Well, what can you expect, she thought. Old people are like roaches; they tend to just disappear into the woodwork.
She checked the digital clock above the stove and sighed. Still half an hour until the guests arrive, she thought dejectedly. She decided to look through all the old stuff lying around. Who knows, she thought. Maybe Great grand-mummy owned some furs or something.
Ratty hat, fake wooden dresser, gaudy beads and moldy books, she thought to herself as she perused all her relative’s old belongings. She came across a small pillow she remembered from her childhood. The years had caused it to fade from a dark fuchsia to a mottled pink, and various spots splayed across the message written across the front, “Time is not our enemy,” but she could still recall it, once new, with ease. She would hug the pillow to her chest, fascinated, as her great grandmother Violet had woven wonderful stories, beautiful stories, stories of princesses and witches, dragons and dinosaurs, out of the air. Her great grandmother had changed dramatically several years ago, however, she recalled sadly. It was as if one day, as alive and jubilant as ever, she had suddenly decided to act like an infected sore and fester. No more stories, no more cookies, no more great grandmother. Eventually, her family ended up seeing her less unless; before she had died, none of them had seen her in well over two months. Madeleine shrugged and tossed the pillow aside. Old people are all alike, she thought. Boring. She continued to root through all the brick-a-back, and was about to call it quits when she came across an old painting that came in a heavily gilded frame. In the picture it was a dark forest, and eyes peeked out of every shadow. In the foreground was an old man; that looks just like the old man that was in here; except this guy’s weirder! Madeleine thought. There was also an old woman, not so old as the man but still elderly, who was leaning against an oak tree, and further back in the picture there were more people, their details more difficult to pick out.
“This is probably worth some amount of money,” Madeleine murmured, and picked it up. It was surprisingly heavy. She carried it up the stairs to her room, where she set it down against the wall.
“I’m surprised Grandmum kept something like you around for this long,” she remarked to the painting. It was silent. “Well,” she said, going to the closet and standing on tip-toe to remove a blanket from the top shelf, “I suppose I should cover you up with something so you don’t get ruined.” She brought the navy-blue sheet over the painting and had started to drape it across the front when she fell down backwards.
“Oww,” she said, wincing at the pain that shot up her hips. She didn’t have time to dwell on it any longer, however, because before she knew it she was feeling dizzy, and then she felt really sick, like her body was twisting itself. Mercifully, it was then that she passed out.
When she came to, she rubbed her head.
“Oww,” she said. “What did I do? It really hurt!” It was then that she realized she wasn’t in her room any longer. Long, dark green grass curled around her feet, which were now clad mysteriously in yellow Chinese slippers. An unexplained, unfelt breeze caused the grass to slowly sway forward and back beneath her. She walked backwards slowly, only to bump into something. She whirled around; it was only a tree.
“Oh!” She exclaimed. She was relieved it wasn’t a person, but then got to wondering; why was there a tree here? She was inside; wasn’t she?
She looked around and saw that she was surrounded by many large, leafy trees that cast long shadows onto the flowing grass that seemed to stretch on endlessly, curiously devoid of weeds. However, she still wasn’t positive that she was outside; for, look as she might, she was not actually able to see any bit of sky. Green foliage obscured most of the area above her, and what else was there was dark and obscure; she doubted this was the sky because it was daytime. A stage, perhaps? She thought. Startled, she realized that the scene was quite similar to the picture she had just been looking at.
It was as she was taking a more careful look around that she noticed the old woman sitting next to a tree near her. She reminded Madeleine of when she had gone to brunch with her parents one day and they had happened to be there at the same time as a bunch of ladies from the Red Hat Society; it wasn’t that this woman wore red and purple, exactly, but it was more of the queer flair her clothing had. Her skirt was long and peasant like, and her shirt, a sky-blue blouse, was odd in that it seemed more of something that Madeleine herself would wear. Madeleine continued to stare at her for a moment, then walked over and said loudly, in case old age had consequently made the woman hard of hearing,
“Hullo, there. Could you tell me where I am?” The old lady shrugged.
“Well, you are here, of course.” Madeleine frowned; that was the kind of answer she’d expect to get from a child. She stretched her smile as much as she could and said,
“Look, ma’am, I don’t know how I got here and I need to get back since there’s a bunch of people coming to my house. Can you please help me?” The old woman sighed wistfully, then replied,
“I wish I could. You are in the Forest. What else can I tell?” Madeleine stopped smiling, her patience worn thin. Her large hazel eyes narrowed.
“What are you, senile? Or just old? I really don’t have time for this. How do you get out of this place?” She snapped, meanwhile glancing around for a path, or even a door.
The woman laughed mirthlessly.
“Get out? Do you think I would be here, were I able to get out? I am stuck here, most permanently.” Madeleine sighed; great, she thought, another old person who doesn’t know right from left anymore. She nodded vaguely to the old woman and started to walk away, figuring that eventually she’d find the way out on her own. The further away she walked, the darker her surroundings became. Finally, however, she reached a dirt path. She started to walk onto it, but couldn’t go any further. Try as she might, it felt as if she was simply encasing herself in gelatin; she could churn her legs all she wanted, but she wasn’t getting anywhere. What the-? Madeleine thought in disbelief. She tried a couple feet down, only to find the same thing happen. Must be some sort of force-field, she decided. Must be private property. She walked back to the starting point; the old woman was still there, leaning against a tree. Madeleine frowned at her.
“Don’t you have anything better to do than stand around in here? The place is creepy,” Madeleine said to her. As she said this, she realized the truth of her words; this was no ordinary forest. The continuous chirp of birds was conspicuously absent; in fact, the only living things Madeleine had seen were herself and the woman. “Where are we?” She asked, a trace of fear weaving its way into her normally self-assured voice. Glancing at the old woman, she realized that the woman was looking at her rather intensely. Looking down at herself, she realized for the first time that she was wearing a pale yellow dress, one she thought was like the princess dress from the dreams of young girls. Before she could wonder how she had gotten to be wearing the dress, however, the old woman interrupted her thoughts with a question.
“What’s your name?” She asked. Madeleine thought briefly about not telling her, but then decided that there was no harm in it.
“Madeleine,” she said.
“What about your last name?” The woman asked urgently.
“LeFlor?” Madeleine said, wondering why it mattered. The woman, however, gasped.
“Little Adele!” She exclaimed, then ran to Madeleine and hugged her. Bewildered, Madeleine managed to say,
“Not Adele. My name is Madeleine.” The woman stood back and eyed Madeleine appreciatively.
“My, how you’ve grown,” she murmured. Madeleine raised an eyebrow.
“Um, do I know you?” She asked. The lady beamed and replied,
“Don’t you remember me? Your Great-Grandmother Violet?” Madeleine’s face hardened.
“I’m afraid that’s rather impossible,” she said in a clipped voice. “She died yesterday. Just who are you, really?” The woman’s eyes became troubled, and she rested her chin in her palm as she thought.
“Oh, my,” she said softly. “I was wondering whether that had happened.” Then she frowned, confused. “But wait; you’re older by many years since I saw you last. How could I have died only yesterday?” Madeleine shrugged, uninterested. This woman shouldn’t make fun of her great-grandmother’s death and expect her to play along, she thought.
The woman, with a shocked look on her face, slowly sank down until she was kneeling against the tree.
"So I’m ‘dead,’ and you're stuck here, too..." she muttered, eyes staring into space. Madeleine eyed her with distain.
"I'm not stuck here...I'm out as soon as I figure out how," Madeleine told her. The woman, her clear hazel eyes reflecting the burden of her years, came to stand in front of Madeleine and proceeded to grasp her by the shoulders.
"Madeleine, dear, don't you remember me? Don't you remember baking choco-cho cookies with me? Don't you remember how I used to tell you stories about the Alabaster Prince and his castle?" Those eyes continued to search Madeleine's own. Madeleine stared back in disbelief, then gasped,
"Great-Grandmum, it's you, isn't it? But how-?" Violet hugged her gently and said sadly,
"I don't know; I don't know at all. I've been here for years, ever since you were about ten years old," she said. Madeleine shook her head.
"No, you've been around. Well, around in the sense you were living. You weren't at all the way you are now," she said reflectively. Her great-grandmother Violet bit her lip.
"Well, perhaps my body was there, but nothing more, for I am quite positive I have been here for these many, long years. But then that means that..." her voice trailed off, her mind obviously wandering where her voice refused to go.
"Means what?" Madeleine persisted. Violet rubbed her temple with her forefingers.
"Well, if 'I' was still around even when my self was stuck here, then the same would presumably apply to you..." Madeleine gasped.
"You mean there's a zombie going around, pretending to be me?" Violet frowned and shook her head.
"No, not a zombie! Just your physical self." Madeleine thought this over, and then shrugged.
"That dinner was going to be a bore anyhow. It's just as well my mind can't be there. So," she said, clicking the heels of her yellow slippers together, "How do we get back?" Violet smiled sadly and closed her eyes.
"Well that's rather the catch to the whole situation," she said. "You can't." Madeleine frowned.
"There has to be some way out of here; how do people get in?" Violet shrugged.
"Buggered if I know. One minute, I was looking at a painting I found in the corner of an old store, and the next thing I knew, I was here."
"I was putting away a painting when it happened," Madeleine recalled. "Was your painting a forest with people in it?"
"Yes, I believe it was something like that," Violet said. Madeleine looked around.
"Well, then, where were the other people? Are they here somewhere?" She looked around the perimeter, but it was in vain. Violet simply sat placidly with her hands folded in her lap as Madeleine flitted from place to place.
"Oh, they come and go," she said. Madeleine stared at her.
"Come and go-where?" Violet just shrugged.
"Every once in a while, we'll cross. They'll react the first time it happens; after that, it's like talking to a wooden plank. There's just no point." Madeleine sighed in frustration.
"Exactly how many people are here?" Violet sighed and her eyes looked to the treetops for the answer.
"Oh, I don't know; eight, ten maybe? Although I'm not sure about this one man..." she trailed off as if the subject was too tiring to address.
"What man?" Madeleine asked.
"There's this man that comes through every once in a while; he's actually moving. Most of us don't really move that much, just wait, but he's able to walk through these...'walls'..."
"Is he old? With a strange looking mustache?" Madeline asked urgently. Her great-grand mum smiled.
"Everyone here is old, dear. But yes, he has what we called a 'handlebar' mustache."
"That's him! That's the old man that was in my kitchen!" She exclaimed. Violet smiled distantly.
"That's nice, dear." Madeleine frowned at this, her hands positioned on her hips.
"What's wrong with you? Don't you want to get out of here?" Violet looked at her.
"What's the point? I have nothing to return to. Besides, I've tried everything you can think of. There is no way out." Madeleine kicked a tree in frustration, and it rung with a hollow ring.
"That's the problem with you people; you give up! Well, you can stay here if you like. I'm getting out!" She began to make her way around her enclosure, as it appeared to be one, feeling for a crack, a way out of any sort. She looked at the trees. Would it be possible to climb them?
"The trees don't lead anywhere," Violet remarked upon seeing Madeleine's upturned gaze. Madeleine continued to bang her way around for a little while more before sighing and coming to sit next to Violet. She plucked a piece of grass from the ground and put it in her mouth, something she often did while thinking. However, she ended up spitting it out violently.
"That's disgusting!" She gasped, gazing with new-found horror toward the grass. She could see now that the grass she had torn her piece from was now slowly oozing a dark green substance that congealed at the top. "What kind of grass is this?" She continued to spit, trying to wash the awful, chemical taste out of her mouth. Violet was smiling.
"It's paint, silly," she said. Madeleine stared at her.
"Paint?" She said in a disbelieving tone. Violet nodded.
"Everything here is just paint; extremely layered paint. The plants are kind of like real plants, though, since they have a sap of paint." Madeleine laughed in disbelief.
"But this all looks so real! And how could it possibly grow if it were paint?" Violet herself laughed this time.
"My dear, it doesn't grow. Everything here stays the same." Not sure of what to expect, Madeleine experimentally tried to part the grass and see the earth beneath it. However, she was unable to. There was no dirt; only interwoven grass.
"There must be a way out," she said again, although not so adamantly as before. She drew her knees up to her chest, pushing the soft yellow material of the dress to the side. What a dumb idea for an outfit anyways, she thought moodily. What kind of idiot would go through a forest wearing a yellow dress and slippers?
After sitting that way, her thoughts leading no where, she shifted her position as her muscles started to ache. This place starts to get to you, she thought. It's a place of total nothing-ness.
As she thought this, she realized her hand was sinking. She drew it back quickly, wondering what she could have moved it onto. Looking down, she realized that there was a slight indentation. After looking at it for a moment, she hesitantly felt it, only to find that it was nothing but a wet hole.
"Well that's rather curious," she remarked out loud. Violet glanced over to what she was looking at.
"Ah, yes, that happens when things are wet." Madeleine’s brow scrunched in concentration.
"So does it ever rain here?" Violet shook her head slowly. Madeline suddenly stood up and began to spit all around.
"Good heavens!" Violet cried, shielding her head with her hand and looking at her great-granddaughter in wonder. "Whatever has overcome you?" Madeleine, giving her salivary glands a momentary break, paused long enough to answer,
"Water! The paint dissolves with water! If we can get enough of it, maybe we can get free of this place!" A momentary glitter alighted in Violet's eyes before it dimmed and she replied,
"Well at that rate, you'll be spitting from now 'till kingdom come, girl." Madeleine ignored this and continued to spit all around her, but quickly came to the realization that Violet was indeed correct; after several minutes of non-stop spitting, all she had to show for it were a couple tiny marks in their otherwise immaculate surroundings along with a dry mouth. She sat down, licking her lips.
"Well, it was an idea," she conceded, disappointed. However, she now felt hopeful; while not quite in the realm of normality, their "cage" of sorts still adhered to certain rules, primarily those of art. Madeleine tried to cast her mind back to the art class she had taken freshman year. What ways could you ruin a painting? Because surely, that was what they were in; a three-dimension painting of sorts...nothing else could explain it. It was simply a matter of accepting things as they really are no matter what it seems they should be, she thought to herself.
Right, she thought, back to the painting idea. Water can ruin a painting; obviously fire could, but that's out of the question. She frowned. What other options were really available to her other than the most basic?
Absently, she picked up a piece of the paint grass and twirled it between her fingers. As paint gushed out in spurts, she dipped her finger into it and drew a miniature sun on the back of her hand. A green sun, she thought. Not exactly accurate, but whatever. By being in a painting, she decided, in a way, it was reality...
That thought echoed in her head; whatever she created in here was her own reality. Couldn't, then, she shape the forest to her own liking?
"Quick!" She exclaimed, tearing out a handful of paint-grass from its mooring and throwing it to Violet,
"Start painting!" Violet looked at her in complete bewilderment. Madeleine sighed in impatience, and made a gesture to indicate the dreary forest around them. "Look! Everything here is paint. Nothing here is really real, but that means that to us, everything here is real!" As she heard herself talk, she realized she wasn't explaining herself very clearly, and turned around and ran as far as she could before the invisible force field let her go no further. She took up another handful of paint grass and began to smear it over the area. It stuck. She turned back to Violet, motioning excitedly.
"You see? All we have to do is paint a door to lead ourselves out of here!" Another way to get rid of a painting, she had remembered, was to simply paint over it. Violet came over to join her, nervously smoothing out the wrinkles of her bright blue skirt.
"But what if it leads somewhere else instead?" She said, hesitating as she held a fistful of grass mid-air. Madeleine shrugged carelessly.
"Who cares! Anything is better than this boring old place!" She held the hem of her dress between her fingers and pulled as hard as she could with reckless abandon. The material quickly ripped in two, and the fibers began to fall apart and splurge together to become a splotch of petal-yellow paint that Madeleine was quick to spread onto her door. Violet, however, frowned and caught one of Madeline's wrists as she started to rip off another piece.
"Don't be so higgledy-piggledy about it, Madeleine. The door needs structure," she admonished, and with that, tore of a piece of her own frock and, using the edge of the cloth as a brush of sorts, gave a more definite outline to the door.
"All right then," Madeleine grinned, jumping up to catch some of the paint-veined leaves of the tree next to them. "Let's get painting!"
An hour or two later, arms sore from their efforts, the two stepped back to admire their workmanship.
"Quite lovely," Violet commented, brushing her paint-smeared hands on her blouse. "Would you like to do the honors, dear?" Madeleine smiled and gripped the slightly raised surface of paint that was to pass for a doorknob.
"Why thank you," she replied, and twisted. "I shall." Slowly, the door began to creak open.
Inside, it was all dark. They both stared at it for a moment, before Madeleine boldly muttered a "Here goes nothing" and passed through. Violet quickly followed, only to bump into Madeleine. Things had quickly lightened up as soon as they had stepped through, but the sight that greeted them was anything but what they had been expecting. There were many people, all crowded into a little area of off-colored trees and kinked-looking grass. Everything, in fact, looking slightly odd, compared to the reality-based landscape they had just arrived from.
"What are you all doing here?" Violet addressed them. "These are all the other people stuck in here," she said in an aside to Madeleine. The nearest man, who was of medium-height, middle-aged and balding replied,
"We haven't the slightest idea! We were all in our own areas a little while ago when suddenly everything began to shift and look weird, and ghosts appeared around us. After a while, the ghosts became more substantial, until it turns out it was just all of us coming together and eventually we were all here. So why did you two come through there?" He asked, still looking at the door. The entire group looked rather befuddled; Madeline decided it was to be expected, since most of them were old to begin with, plus the fact that much of their existence had been spent in an imaginary place of sorts doing basically nothing. Violet grinned and proclaimed proudly,
"It's all thanks to my great-granddaughter here! She figured it all out. This place is coming apart thanks to her!" Several of the people, however, appeared to get upset over this and started to mutter about the place coming apart. Violet frowned and said, "What, do any of you really want to stay here? Who cares what becomes of us once we reach the outside! Anything is better than this." Everyone nodded and agreed that that was indeed true. Violet was about to say more when a voice from behind her interrupted, harsh-sounding and malevolent. They all stared in surprise as a stout, mustached man appeared from the darkened entranceway Madeleine and Violet had created. Madeleiene gasped in surprise; it was the man from her kitchen! Violet leaned in and whispered to her,
“See? He’s the man who can walk where-ever.”
"Hello, my group. So it seems you have outsmarted the painting! Do you really think you're out of the woods yet?" He bellowed. One of the women of the group, an elderly Italian woman, shrank back in fear as he came to stand in front of her, leering down at her wrinkled, frightened face. "I control you! This is my painting, and I have created each of you with the precision that only a master has! You are mine," he snarled, his dark eyes glowing fiercely. Madeleine walked toward him, hazel eyes glowing with a different type of emotion. Violet tried to half-heartedly hold her back, but Madeleine blazed on, unrelenting.
"So you're the old man that stuck as all here? What kind of sicko are you? I don't have time for people like you. If it weren't for you, I would have had my great-grandmother around for a couple more years than I did. Instead, I merely had the pleasure of visiting her empty shell. Thanks a lot, you bastard!" She said, and with strength that didn't befit her willowy body, shoved him hard. He stumbled backwards and growled at her.
"This has been my world for decades! You think you can stop me, little girl? You would have been happy here; living forever, with a pretty yellow dress none-the-less. Thankless brat!" He said menacingly, and then smiled, an expression that looked out of place on him. "However, that is okay. I shall repaint you into, let me see...how would you like to be a rock, little girl?" And, reaching a hand into the pocket of his plaid-colored vest, he brought out a large paintbrush.
"I hope your painting gets moldy!" She proclaimed childishly, and spat in his face. He howled, and thrust blindly with the paintbrush. She dodged his efforts and shouted to rouse the confused people.
"Quick, let's cover him with paint so he can't move! You two hold him down," she said, gesturing to two of the strongest looking individuals, "And everyone else, let's cover him!" Everyone sprang into action, taking handfuls of grass and leaves and even stripping down tree bark in order to cover up the man. While they did this, he was constantly struggling and shouting obscenities, but to no avail. As they started to cover him a little at a time, anchoring him to the ground he had tied them to, the sky began to drip, large gobs of dark purplish-bluish-blackish paint splattering everywhere. Violet glanced up briefly and remarked,
"It's raining bruises, folks!"
Finally, all that remained was his face; even his hair was covered in paint. Everything had begun to fall apart; the trees were slouching dangerously, and the grass was more or less simply one giant goop. Panting with exertion, the group stopped, unsure of what to do next.
"If we cover his face, he might suffocate," Violet said. Madeleine reluctantly agreed that that might be so. The group began to argue; some could care less if he died, it befit him; others even after all their years of entrapment still would not harm anyone, even him. Before a decision could be reached, however, the sky began to fall more heavily again, and a glob of paint fell down and landed on his face, splattering outward and completely covering him. Before anyone could react, his body quickly sank into the ground, and everything around them started to decay even more rapidly. Everyone started to move at once, Madeleine included, until she felt suddenly weak, and everything started to twist and darken. Given the numerous cries of surprise, she assumed the same thing was happening to everyone else, too. Just before she slipped into darkness completely, a hand grasped her own, and she heard the voice of her great-grandmother, saying,
"Goodbye for now, Maddy."
Once Madeline came to, she found herself in her room, alone. From the sound of things downstairs, she decided that the party must be winding down. Wow, I sure had one weird dream, she thought to herself. In fact, she remembered, I don't even remember lying down to- her thought stopped there as she glanced down at her hands, having wondered why they felt so stiff. They were covered entirely in dried paint that splattered its way all the way up her arms. On the back of her right hand was a childish rendition of a spring-green sun . She hurriedly climbed to her feet, spinning. She found the painting behind her, leaning against the bed. It had changed. What had formerly been a gloomy looking forest was now a rather abstract painting of greens, blacks and purples, save for one area near the middle; a picture of a short, mustached man, his mouth open in an endless scream. Madeleine shivered. Well, she thought, that's that; I better go downstairs before all the cookies are gone.
Madeleine was the same Madeleine after that, yet different too. She no longer minded when people called her Maddy instead of Madeleine; in fact, she started to request it, claiming that Madeleine was "too old fashioned, too stuck in time." She never told anyone about the painting; however, everyone who knew her knew she had a curious hatred of any sort of painting, especially one with people in it. They put it down to simple artistic temperament, as Maddy soon started to spend her time writing a multitude of impossible stories; later in life she became a modestly popular teen fantasy writer. As for the painting, Maddy refused to part with it; she was too afraid of someone else falling victim, although it seemed unlikely. For the rest of her life, Maddy indeed refused to get too close to paintings; it's unlikely anything would happen, she always thought, but you can never be too sure.