Part Three

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The next few days had the tenant's mind filled with his dream. Was it a dream? He wrestled with the possibility of his experience having been real. But the answer on the note... He would think, then justify his thoughts with the theory that it must have been a prank. By whom? One side of him would ask. Any of the other tenants... it must have been, the other part of him would answer. But why would they do something like that? If it was a prank, was the answer real? And that girl... her eyes... those flames. He could not make sense of it, so he stopped trying to and assured himself instead that it had to have been a dream. It must have been a dream. Yes, it must have. Yes... just a dream.

A few days later, at school, he found himself with a free period and nothing to fill his time. All his lessons had been prepped over the weekend (he hadn't had anything better to do then either) and he was feeling too angsty to sit at his desk and read. He went for a walk. All the students were in their classrooms and the faint, but constant mutter of voices could be heard like a waterfall from far away. Every now and again a boy or girl desperate to reach the bathroom came speeding past him. He strolled aimlessly down the corridors, focusing on trying to make his mind as empty as they. As he came around one of the corners, he noticed that hum of voices getting softer and softer. Had he been down this corridor before? He wasn't sure how he could have missed it, but just as he began considering turning around, he passed an open doorway to his left. It wasn't customary for unattended rooms to be left open as small children could go inside and cause havoc. He poked his head in. It had an abandoned look, save for a canvas that stood on a paint-splattered easel in one corner and a mass of painting utensils which seem to have been well used, though not in bad condition. The tenant felt himself being drawn to it. He looked around once more, checked his watch- he still had over half an hour to kill- and entered the room.

The canvas was not new. It had a painting underneath, but someone had painted a white primer over it- obviously unhappy with the previous artist's attempts. The tenant looked around at the tools scattered around the easel on various work-benches and stools. He picked up a paintbrush and ran his fingertips through the bristles. They were soft, even though the brushes looked to be quite old. Their owner was obviously meticulous about cleaning them. He noticed a metal cup filled with something that looked like water. Picking it up, he smelled it and recognised it as a solution for soaking used paintbrushes in. He could create something there, on that canvas, and leave everything as he had found it. No one would know. The temptation overwhelmed him. He began by picking up a palette- wooden and stained with colour. Using the acrylic tubes nearest him, he squeezed a drop of yellow and two drops of white onto one corner of the wood. This he mixed together by wounding circles through the paint with a medium-thick brush. Next, he mixed a half drop black with five drops of blue and one purple. He mixed this unevenly, so that whole sections of the paint were all black or all purple or blue streaked with either of the other two colours. Then he squeezed some white into one of the palette dips and touched a dot of black to it, creating a very light grey. Once this was done, he sat back and closed his eyes. He had been avoiding his dream for a while, but now he pulled it purposefully forward. He summoned it from the place in his mind reserved for those least comfortable thoughts. Then he began to paint. Before, he had always like to use a reference picture when putting paintbrush to canvas, as the ingredients were so expensive. But now, he felt free. His wrist flicked to and fro as the colours brought his platform to life. After a while, the school bell rang, and he sat back to view the scene that he had made. He smiled, then stiffened. Slowly, he turned around to face who he was sure to be standing behind him. There wasn't anybody there. "Hello?" he called, "is someone there?" No answer. He had felt it, he was certain. For a moment every hair on his arms and his neck had stood on end as an eerily familiar warmth crept up his spine. No, he thought, it can't be. It was a dream. Just a dream. He looked around again. He was alone. Hurriedly, he cleaned the paint things he had used and, deciding not to paint primer over what he had done- the owner could do that if he wished- he made his way back to his own classroom for the next lesson.

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