Portraits

Every night Harry sat at his workstation on the reception to the hospital with those two life-size portraits on the wall opposite. Learned medics Thomas Sandford and Sir John McAuley. You know the type of painting. Six feet high and four feet across. The two men looking distinguished in their dark suits. Sitting against a dark background with only the gold gilt frames to brighten up an otherwise dour scene.

As the weeks and months passed Harry began to hate those two men. He couldn’t think why, he just did. Every night they sat up on the wall and looked down upon him. He began to feel as they stared at him that they were wishing him ill will. He knew it was irrational. Harry began hearing voices late at night while he sat at his post guarding the empty offices all around. It was always the same voices of two men. Laughing and joking with each other. I think it’s called banter these days. Harry wondered what it was called in Victorian times.

It was the same then as now. Raucous joking at other people’s expense. Harry didn’t like it, he never had. It didn’t affect him though. When the two men talking the banter was aimed at each other and not him.

Slowly though night after night things began to change. The two old Doctors were now talking to Harry. Laughing at him, making jokes at his expense. He was at a loss what to do. One night he covered the paintings with sheets. This only made the two men angry. The banter and jokes became a tirade of abuse against the poor man sitting at his desk.

He thought of his wife and family, this was why he did two jobs. His day job in a call centre and sitting at this desk every evening till well after midnight. Eventually Harry snapped, he’s OK now. He’s been getting counselling.

The thing was he moved the paintings. It turned out that they were quite valuable. No one believed him when he said the two old men spoke to him and threatened him. Threatened his wife and children. Well he had to do something.

Harry left his post and dragged the huge paintings to the car park. Security arrived just as he was setting fire to them. The police said he had put lives at risk by bringing a can full of petrol to a hospital reception and then splashing it around the car park so close to the building.

The paintings wee destroyed in the fire. The voices stopped and Harry never heard from the two nasty old men again. He went to prison of course. His wife visited him for the full year he was inside. She said that they would manage just fine, she was just happy that he wasn’t hearing voices anymore.

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