“What a perfect day for a sketch!” Tyler exclaimed. The young man sits down on a bench while pulling out his pencil and sketchpad as he surveys natures canvas. The wind gently rocks the massive oak tree in front of him as the amber leaves slowly make their descent to the grimy Toronto park ground. It was an unusually cold day in October, the kind most folk would want to stay bundled up indoors with their loved ones enjoying a cup of tea, but not Tyler, this is the environment he gets his best work done.
“Ah yes, my old pal the oak, lets see what beauty you will display today for me”, Tyler begins sketching; he starts at the trunk noting every knot, every crevice, every line in this rather ordinary tree, but to him it was special. It wasn’t long before his furious lines begin to climb to the top of the page as he fills in the branches, and then the leaves, and now the dull grey sky. Tyler has been sketching for years, in fact he comes to this park every Thursday precisely at 3 PM, not a minute over. One time though, the subway was delayed due to an inconvenient suicide and that really upset Tyler, not that the person died but because he was late to his favorite spot by a 5 minutes. It never happened again, Tyler made sure of it.
As Tyler was finishing up his perfect sketch of the magical oak tree, an old man darts out from the bushes behind him, startling Tyler.
“What the… hey I’m trying to sketch here and you interrupted me!” , Tyler yells out. The old man begins to enter a coughing fit. “Are you alright? What were you doing in those bushes?” The old man coughs some more then abruptly stops, he straightens his composure and fixates his eyes on Tyler, he reaches into his trench coat pocket and pulls out a pair of sunglasses and places them on. He straightens his torn fedora and coat and slowly makes his way to the young artist.
“Good sir, I can see you have a good heart, may I interest you in an invitation to an Art Show?”, the old man proudly declares.
“An Art Show?”, Tyler replies.
“Yes an Art Show! You are an artist after all? I see you’ve been sketching that magnificent tree, oak is it?”
“It is Oak; but wait you’ve been watching me? For how long?” Tyler is nervous now.
“Oh not long, not long. But let’s get back to the matter at hand here, will you come to the show?”
The old man pulls out a torn piece of paper and flaunts it to Tyler. The words “Art Show” are displayed in what appears to be human blood. Tyler leans back in fear away from the Old Man as he lets out a terrifying smile.
“You’ll come, wont you boy?” The old man smiles even bigger now.
“No, erm no thank you, I’m busy, I must be getting to class now”, Tyler nervously lets out. He quickly packs up his supplies and darts away from the Old Man, pushing him in the process. Tyler refuses to look back at what used to be his perfect spot, now tarnished by some homeless junkie, he marches ahead.
The doors to The Toronto College of Design, fly open as Tyler quickly rushes to his locker. A group of students are sitting in a stairwell looking over each others work.
“Why the rush Tyler? the trees talk to you in the park again?” A student yells out, the group begins to laugh at the troubled young man but he ignores them. They wouldn’t understand his artistic genius. He runs down the stairs to reach his locker. “That stupid junkie ruined my spot, now he made me late for class” He thought to himself. He fumbles to put his code in the lock but eventually…
As Tyler opens his locker door, a bloodied severed arm falls to the ground. Tyler jumps back and lets out of cry of sheer panic. The bloodied arm, now lifeless on the ground appears to be holding something in its closed fist. Tyler is beside himself, immobilized by fear, yet curious as to what the arm is holding, he reaches out to touch the arm. “I’ve never touched a dead body before, although I guess it isn’t a whole body, just an arm” , he thought to himself. He opens the closed bloodied fist of the arm and pulls out a piece of paper. Tyler unravels the crumbled up piece of paper which reveal the words “Art Show”.
“What the actual…”
“Wont you come to my show?, a voice lets out.
Tyler swings around and behind him stands the old man from before .
“What!? You? But it can’t be, did you follow me”? Tyler asks.
“Good sir, I just wish you would attend my show . I haven’t had any visitors in awhile , and with your eye for the arts, it would be an honour if you attended”
Tyler still in shock , looks around the locker room to see if anyone else is witnessing what he is . The room is dead like the arm on the ground in front of him. The smell of rotting flesh hits his lungs, his eyes begin to go bloodshot.
“Am I imagining this ? Like the trees ? Is this a nightmare ?” Tyler thought to himself .
“This is no nightmare old sport , now come along with me, the show is beginning soon” the old man smiles . “Please you will understand once I show you”
Tyler nods. A sense of acceptance washes over him. He knows the old man will continue his pursuit of him if he doesn’t give in . Besides how bad could this art show even be ?
“Where is this show? Where are you taking me?” Tyler asks.
“Why it’s just down this hall” The old man replies.
Tyler looks down the hall of the locker room and to his surprise, a bright red door is at the end of the hallway, a door he has never seen before yet feels familiar to him. “Has this door always been there? I don’t spend too long down in the locker room anyways, I could have easily missed this door before” He thought to himself. The Old Man gestures to Tyler to approach the door. Tyler begins walking slowly, with the invitation tightly gripped to his hand like it was to the fleshy severed arm. He arrives at the door. “No this door has never been here before, but yet its paint job is faded, this couldn’t have just appeared out of nowhere”.
“Come on now, it wont bite” The old man gleefully interjects.
Tyler reaches out for the door knob, it feels cold and foreign to his touch. He slowly begins to turn it and a sense of dread washes over him as the door creaks open to a dimly lit red room. He scans the room slowly, emptiness, the room is painfully dull yet terrifying. A single red light is on in the far corner in the room, and in front of it a man (Whom Tyler failed to notice at first) is sitting there with a box on his lap. The man is wearing a bright white dress shirt with dark pants and most strangely a mask of what appears to be the Easter Bunny, he slowly creaks his head at Tylers sudden appearance.
“Hello, my name is Tyler, and i’m here for the art show” Tyler nervously lets out, mumbling every last word.
The rabbit man, slowly tilts his head and in a low rumbling voice lets out a bunch of indecipherable gibberish in a language Tyler has never heard before.
“Im sorry, is this apart of the show or something?” Tyler looks around the room again to see if anyone else is there, or if theres any conveniently placed cameras.
“Its a prank right? Those jerks from earlier set me up!”
The rabbit man tilts his head again and slowly lifts the box he is holding and tells him;
Tyler is stunned at the rabbit, and he slowly walks towards it. The rabbit man lifts the box for Tyler to take. Tyler stares into the dark eye holes of the rabbit mask and sees nothing, a dark abyss where a man once was. Tyler was never good at reading people or peoples emotions but he sensed nothing but dread and evil in this being. Tyler takes the box apprehensively . The box is no bigger than an average box you would get during Christmas to hold a small gift like a toy or underwear.
“OpEn” , The Rabbit says.
Tyler looks back up at the creature, then back down to the box. He opens the lid to it and is shocked at what he discovers. A beating human heart. The Rabbit nods its head. Tyler drops the box and escapes out of the room. The heart rolls out of the box and down at the Rabbits feet as the single red light begins to flicker.
3 Months Later
Tyler never told anyone about that dreadful day in the red room, he chalked it up to merely an illusion caused by all the stress he was under, with all the pressures from his family telling him to treat his “mental illness” and with finals coming up, there was a lot on Tyler’s mind that day.
Today though is special, today all the students in Tylers year get to exhibit their final pieces at a prestigious art gallery in the city for everyone to see. Tyler of course is displaying one his many sketches of the magnificent oak tree in the park; which he thought to himself would be a surefire hit with the masses. As the nights festivities began, Tyler decided to stroll around the gallery, checking his peers work. “amateur stuff, look at the shitty line-work in that one, and don’t get me started on the blending techniques used in this piece, amateur work”, he snickered to himself.
A crowd appeared huddled around one piece in particular down the hallway though, curious Tyler approached. and there , in plain sight for everyone to see, was a painting of himself opening the box with the still beating heart in it next to the Rabbit Man. And placed right underneath the painting, was a plaque reading