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“In A Black Hollow It Reigns”- Oil on canvas, J. Wolitzky by Brandon Everett

The Gunther Observatory loomed tall and imposing, adorned with intricate carvings that whispered of forgotten secrets. Amelia stood at its entrance as the sun began to set, casting an eerie glow over the building. Her palms were clammy, and that tick in the side of her neck she would get every time she had to present a lecture or beg the Dean for more grant money began to thump unforgivingly.

Upon entering the observatory, Amelia was inundated with imagery that plastered the eyes, and sculptures that inspired the mind. Her favorite place in the world was the Gunther Observatory, because walking amongst the art was like trekking in a world beyond her own. She loved to lose herself in an Éléanore Dorette still life or imagine what it would be like to live amongst the stars so often depicted on canvas by Afanas Korolev. In her free time, she would spend hours at the Gunther, immersed in art or enraptured in conversation with Dr. Gale, the Gunther’s sibylline curator.

These fleeting thoughts were lost, however, as Amelia walked the vacant halls. The Gunther was minutes from closing and save for the lone security guard who was sure to be asleep at his station, Amelia seemed to have the place to herself.

She moved in silence, her gaze locked ahead of her. As she ventured towards the back of the observatory, she glanced up at a wayfinding sign that read WOLITZKY - CRYPTIDS. She paused for a moment, reaching a damp hand into her pants pocket. She pulled out a folded piece of parchment with an elegant script she knew all too well as that belonging to Dr. Gale.

Come. Wolitzky. It lives.

Still unsure what it all meant, she placed a hand on the side of her neck to quell the thumping, shoved the parchment back into her pocket, and proceeded through the door towards the WOLITZKY - CRYPTIDS exhibit.

She found herself in a small, square room she had visited countless times before. On the wall to her right hung “Grolar Boars at High Noon,” a large painting of a snowy landscape, the sun peaking over snow-capped mountains and a family of large, white grolar boars playing in the powder. To her left was “Wolitzky - Self-portrait,” featuring Wolitzky sitting on a stump in the frozen wilderness. His broad chest was puffed, his shoulders square, and his ashen beard seemed to shimmer in the shallow light from the single fixture above. Ahead of her was a piece she’d seen many times...and yet it looked different now. “In A Black Hollow It Reigns” was a floor-to-ceiling oil painting of a cave, bluish white with ice. You could almost feel the cold coming off the entrance. What was different though, was that the cave now seemed empty...when normally it wasn’t.

“You came,” a voice said from behind Amelia. She jumped and spun around.

“Good heavens! You scared me, Dr. Gale!”

The pencil-thin curator of the Gunther stood at the entrance of the exhibit, his sunken face seeming more skeletal in the failing light.

“I got your note,” Amelia stammered, pulling out the parchment and presenting it to Dr. Gale. “I don’t know what it means though.”

“You must see...” the man said, his voice trailing.

“See what?” She turned and pointed at the cave painting. “Dr. Gale, where is the—?”

“It never really looks at you the way it looks at others,” Dr. Gale said, his gaze lulling over Amelia and towards the painting in question.

“Ex-excuse me?” Amelia asked.

Dr. Gale slunk passed Amelia and farther into the room, ending in front of the cave painting.

“There’s a piercing that slithers across the darkness which settles in that pit in your gut that forms out of anxiety, the same pit that widens when you think about jumping from a bridge a hundred feet in the air, wondering if you’d survive the fall, wondering if the impact would hurt, your guts disintegrating across an expanse—”

“Dear god!” Amelia exclaimed.

“Would it be instant, your death? Or would cruelty linger among the wreckage, leaving you just barely alive, just barely feeling what can only be described as indescribable? That is what you feel when It sees you.”

“When what sees you? Please Dr. Gale, what are you—?”

“But you don’t know that it sees you, that you have been chosen, that you are no longer able to fulfill that which you were destined to do, for destiny withers once you’ve been selected.”

“Selected?” The thumping in the side of her neck was incredible.

“No,” Dr. Gale said, a bony hand stroking the canvas. “It never looks at its next victim like it does others, those that pass by on their way to something unknown and unimportant. They are but fleeting little fleas in the mist...”

A subtle grumble started to emanate from where Dr. Gale was standing. Amelia thought it was coming from the painting but dismissed the thought immediately. Then a roar, slightly louder than then last, made her rethink its origin entirely.

“...and it does not bother with fleas,” Dr. Gale continued, as he turned his sights to Amelia, his eyes wide and vibrating. “It lingers for sweeter meats.”

Amelia watched as a figure within the cave of the painting started to grow into view, a figure she knew well for it had always been there before. A hulking creature, larger than any man, with a coat as white as snow, skin as gray as death, and hideous as the day is long.

Wolitzky’s Yeti slumped out of the cave and moved closer into view, growing in size, it seemed, with each step. Its mouth was stained pink and glistened with saliva.

“It lives!” shrieked Dr. Gale.

Amelia tried desperately to respond, but instead gaped as a pale-gray hand reached through the canvas, rippling like water, and grasped the Gunther Observatory’s curator by the neck, pulling him screaming into the painting.

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