Estimated reading time — 6 minutes
I don’t know where to start, I mean the beginning is the obvious choice but I don’t think there is a discernable point where that is either. All I know is that the nightmares began about three months ago, they have altered my perception of reality to the extent that now as I write this down I have no idea if I am waking or dreaming. There is one thing I can be sure of, Michael James is a monster and I can’t trust him.
Three Months ago a man came into my art gallery, he had sullen features, a long bushy beard and paint stains all over his clothes. He looked at me oddly and then asked if he was able to get an exhibition slot sometime within the next few weeks. I informed him that we had a slot opening the next week on Friday but that it would only be enough space for five pieces. He looked pleased and then introduced himself as Michael James. He explained that he was a photographer and graphic artist. That he took photos and manipulated them using photoshop and other programs to make them appear more gruesome or macabre. His exact wording was “To show people what’s really on the inside.”
I was intrigued so I asked him if he could do one of me. He laughed but then took a photo none the less. It was somewhat unprofessionally done but… well the next week he had the finished product and I was amazed. There infront of me was a photo, me splayed out, chest opened, organs there for the world to see. I congratulated James on his piece and asked to see the others. He took them out one by one. These pieces looked more professional, like he had had more time with images. Glowing red hearts and brilliant white lungs against the grayscale backing of the human flesh that had been folded back. It amazed me how beautiful the pictures were comparative to how closely it reselmbed Autopsy pictures. It was that night when I had my first nightmare.
I went to bed, excited for the next day. Michael James’ opening would evidently bring a crowd. I had called most of my contacts and friends to come down to the gallery, none of them would’ve seen anything quite like this before. Then I shut my eyes, and the dream began. It was a day like any other. I got up, showered, had breakfast and grabbed a coffee at Jeano’s before heading to the gallery. I burnt my tongue on the coffee, I remember that. When I got to the gallery I could hear a noise coming from the back room. It sounded like panting, heavy, heavy panting. I walked past the front desk and walked to the back, I had never given much thought to being robbed but now the process was running through my head very clearly. Instead I found Michael James, crouched over a figure of a woman… heaving very heavily. He turned around to reveal blood dripping down his face and into his beard, the woman was dead. He flung out his hand and something flew at me. It was then I woke up.
That day I was a little shaken, I followed my normal pattern. Shower, Breakfast, Coffee and Jeano’s. It was when I burnt my tongue on the coffee that I slowed my pace and looked around. It was just like any other day, people walking by and acting like nothing was wrong. But deep in my gut I could feel something wasn’t right. I shook my head and passed it off as Déjà vu. When I got into the gallery I heard the heaving and panting coming from the back. I started to panic and grabbed a crowbar that was used to open crates upon arrival. I stepped cautiously towards the back of the store and found Michael James trying to move a rather large box into the back door. When I saw him I automatically lowered my crowbar, feeling foolish. He looked up at me, asking for a hand. Together we moved the crate into the back room as he explained that he had a stroke of inspiration last night, had spent the entire night working on a new piece that he would like to put in to replace the picture he had done of me.
Well when he opened up the box I was unable to speak. The photo was that of myself and a woman, lying on cement in the shape of a ying yang symbol, guts pooling together in the centre. There was a cut in my throat, it looked as if I had been stabbed there, the same mark appeared on her neck. The strangest thing is that between this and the original and only image he had taken of me I had a different facial expression and was in a different pose. Photoshop was either a skill that Michael James knew very well or… I don’t know, there was no other logical explanation.
That night the opening took place and Michael James chatted with each and every person there, individually, taking photos and laughing from behind his big mattered beard. He seemed so charming and happy. But still I couldn’t get the image of him covered in blood out of my head. I mingled to keep my mind of things, I met every one of his models and they all said that they had lovely experiences with James. Not one of them had an ill word to say about him. But for me, I could not shake the feeling. That night I slept again, and again I had a dream of coming into the gallery and of Michael James covered in blood over a dead body in the back. Then each night after that the same thing. I would always come in and find him with a new piece of work, a sculture or a 3d rendering. I featured in them many, many times as did a lot of my friends and contacts that had shown up on that first night.
He became famous, so quickly, his art was selling quicker than we had time to put them up. Some days I would have consequetive dreams all the same and then Michael James would come in the next day with five more pictures for me to hang up. I couldn’t cope anymore, coincident or not the nightmares just repeated and repeated and after two months of it I snapped. I made sure that it was a dream, I made sure that I could see him before I did anything. Then I took out my gun and shot him in the head. He ended up lying dead on the floor infront of his most recent ‘art piece’. Then a strange thing happened, the dream scope changed. The scene began slowly to move backwards and rewind until eventually I was getting out of bed again, this time with the gun in hand. I checked the bullets… one had been fired. I left the gun at home and walked back to the gallery. I found Michael James once again stooped over a dead body with blood drenching his body and a camera in hand. He attacked me savagely. When I woke up the gun was next to me, I picked it up. There was still a bullet missing. Something was wrong. I didn’t know what to do.
Things became more panicked in the nightmares from then on. Michael and I played cat and mouse, him trying to finish his work whilst I tried to find new ways to kill him. During the daytime hours though things began to blur. I remember once being sure I was awake and helping Michael carry a sculpture in and then just pushing it on top of him, watching him bleed out before I rewound to the moment of waking. Soon I didn’t care about his life anymore. I would chain him up and he would drink my blood whilst I was pinned to the floor under a fallen bookcase. Even now I have no clue how much of it was real and how much of it was the nightmares. But the moment I know now was real was the day I shot him last.
It was a day or nightmare like any other. I came into the gallery and decided to surprise Michael by shooting him before he could do anything. But when he waved hello I felt that perhaps this was an off time for it. So we sat down and had coffee whilst he talked about his new pieces and how much money he was bringing in. I fondled the trigger in my pocket and agreed that I was enjoying the percentage return I was getting as well. Then I pulled the trigger and he died. There was no rewind, no changing, no shift or wake up. He just died. There was a certain satisfaction I got from it, I’ll admit. So many times with nothing to show. Hell, there was some relief in all that. I might actually be free of him now, of his creepy art and his fucked nightmare ways. So I took a picture of him with his camera, I laid him out on the cement and took a picture. Just to capture my moment of triumph.
So yes, I guess that’s why I’ve done it. I guess that’s why I picked up where he left off. See every time I killed someone I just went back from then on, but I had the camera and all the pictures. My work is not as good as Michael James but… Well he was a true monster. I am just his apprentice.