3 of 5 stars.
Life inspires art; art inspires life. This horror-laced tale shows both maxims in action.
Girder Schill, a down-and-out artist, uses painting to express and vent his abuse and rejection at the hands of his father. But customers aren’t clamoring for his angsty expressionist canvases. Not until wealthy patron Rasp buys Girder’s entire series. In need of the money, and wanting to skirt his agent, Girder takes a new work directly to the Rasp estate.
The butler, Nadir, is leery of the artist, but Rasp buys the emotional painting and commissions another. After a month, Girder returns with a new painting and doubles his prior price to which Rasp agrees readily, but also with a new proposal–for Girder to accept a stipend to paint yet another work while staying undistracted at the canvas-filled Rasp estate. Rasp seems to thrive off of the emotional vulnerability of Girder’s work, but Nadir is horrified as Girder accepts.
Girder temporarily moves in but starts to find canvases disappearing from the walls. Rooms of piled paintings are off-limits. And strange wet noises start to distract Girder from his task along with memories of his emotionally abusive father . . .
Often times, the unseen horror can be more powerful than the seen horror. The mind can play terrible tricks. That is the case with this story which ebbs in strength as scenes come into focus.
“Emotional Dues” appears in The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror: 2015 edited by Paula Guran and published by Prime Books. It first appeared in Burnt Black Suns: A Collection of Weird Tales (Hippocampus Press).
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