“Careful, sweetheart,” said Niles, helping her from the car. “Dr. Mendez said you should take things slow.”
Clinging to her husband’s arm, Lisa forced a smile.
After twelve months, the doctors had pronounced her cured and released her from the Schuyler Falls Rest Home.
A stranger now in a strange land.
Her long convalescence had been a dark, hopeless time. Only Nile’s visits had kept her sane. His tenderness had slowly coaxed her back from the pit. Even in the grip of paranoia, she’d understood how lucky it was that she’d married a man like Niles.
There were only two bright spots in Lisa’s life: her husband and her brother, Lionel.
Lionel had never displayed any bitterness toward Lisa, despite their father’s leaving his entire fortune to her. The two remained close, and Lionel continued to live in the big house on the hill along with his sister and brother-in-law.
“Sweetheart, let’s get you inside the house. There’s someone anxious to see you.”
“Welcome home, little sister!” said Lionel, hurrying over, kissing her cheek.
Niles, spying fruit, cheese and champagne sitting on a side table, laughed. “Champagne, too? What a grand idea!” he said, paring an apple.
“Lisa’s homecoming is a celebration.” Lionel gently caressed his sister’s cheek.
Lisa smiled at the tender gesture, her eyes filming over. She was so lucky!
“Look, honey,” said Lionel, pointing to a print hanging on the wall. “Not the original, but unless I rob a museum, this is the best I can do. You’ve always loved the painting – it’s a ‘welcome home’ gift. I hope you like it.”
The Mona Lisa smiled benignly from the wall. Lisa tried to decipher the meaning behind the enigmatic beauty’s expression.
What do you know, Mona Lisa?
“Thank you,” she said reverently, studying the print. “She’s beautiful!”
Niles grinned. “And now, champagne!”
Lisa accepted a glass, gazing contentedly at her gift.
Several moments later, frowning, she set the glass aside.
Something wasn’t right.
Mona Lisa’s face had altered. The smile, once benign, was now ghastly. The dark eyes soulless…
Lisa turned away, rubbed her eyes, then hazarded another look.
The print kept changing, quickly morphing into something hellish.
“Do you see that?” she asked Niles, pulling on his arm. “Look at the print!”
Niles looked. “What about it?”
“She’s changing! She’s… oh God! She’s a monster!”
Niles sat up, alarmed. “Lisa, there’s nothing wrong with the print.” He looked helplessly at Lionel who was staring at his sister.
Lisa, grabbing the paring knife, ran quickly toward the print. “Must destroy it… must!”
Niles grabbed her arm, wresting the knife from her. “Lionel, call the ambulance.”
Hours later, Niles returned home. He entered Lionel’s room and saw him lounging on a sofa. In silent greeting, Lionel lifted his champagne glass.
“How’d you do it?” asked Niles.
Lionel smiled. “Smoke, mirrors, a little thing called projection. It wasn’t hard. How’s ‘Lucky Lisa?'”
Niles poured himself a glass of champagne. “She’ll be lucky to get out of the rest home before age ninety.”
“Come here, lover.” Lionel held out his arms and Niles slipped into them.
“Now let’s really celebrate.”
Word count: 523
Author’s Note: This story is written in response to ThainInVain’s weekly flash fiction challenge. For this week, she encouraged us to write a story based on the photo above. ThainInVain’s challenge can be found here.