If he was honest, the mural was terrible. The colors clashed horribly, the orange was somehow a pukish neon, some weird things looked like orange spirits, and the worst part was where it had been painted. Next to his office, on the empty window that was between his and another shop.
“Why?” Theodore asked along, rubbing the few bits of hair left on his head. If he wasn’t careful, they’d fall out today and he’d never have hair again. The effect of this monstrosity, on the other hand, was going to make him pull his hair out, damned if it made him bald.
“Like it?” asked a sweet voice next to him. It was a new neighbor selling, weirdly, ideas. Original ideas were pretty expensive, but if you bought something called a “trope” then they were cheaper. And cliches were sold by the bundle. As if you could sell non-physical things. He opened his mouth, then shut it. Technically, that’s what he sold as a therapist. Services. But it wasn’t like he was trying to sell the idea of having peace of mind, or a “normal” lifestyle. Whatever normal was.
“It’s… colorful,” he manged to say without biting his tongue. She grinned, almost as if she knew what he’d really been thinking about. Hideousness in action was his private, innermost thought.
“I overheard you saying you wanted to paint something there though?”
“Something nice, soft, delicate, and peaceful!” he exploded, throwing his hands up in the air. “Nothing at all like this!” Then her words registered in his brain. “Wait. Did you paint this?”
“I received permission from our landlord as well, so you can’t complain about that.” She added, stepping back from… probably from the look on his face. Or his clenched fists.
“I knew that fucker hated me,” he seethed, trying to keep his voice low. It wouldn’t do for the “fucker” himself to hear. Then he’d probably be kicked out of the low rent office, and he needed this place. “You need to get rid of it.”
“What? Why? I was helping.”
He took some deep breaths, trying to figure out how to get to this girl.
“My clients… some of them have had some horrible pasts. Things that have gone terribly wrong for them. They come here to relax, to be calm, to retreat from the world that has done them so very wrong.” He sighed thinking about some of his more fragile clients, the ones that had battled the world around them for too long. “They would most likely get nightmares from seeing this.”
“So?” She put her hands on her hips. “I’m not seeing a problem. They’ll have normal nightmares for once, that’s what you’re complaining about? That there will be scary faces in their dreams instead of their ex? Their old school teachers they hated? Seems a fair trade off to me.”
He lunged forward and tried to strangle her, but she stepped aside and he hit something hard. The pole she’d been standing in front of. Gingerly he felt his face, and he was beyond angered when he felt the chip in his front tooth.
“You caused this!”
“No,” she said, watching him warily. He wasn’t stupid, he wasn’t going to lunge again. She’d probably bring out another pole he wouldn’t see. Then he’d hit his head, go to the hospital, and suffer under bills for the rest of his life since the health care system was shit.
“Get rid of it,” he said wearily. Without hearing what he answer was, he opened his door, went inside, and got himself a special treat – a cold glass of fruit water. Better to detoxify the negative thoughts in his brain before this got any worse.
The next day almost popped a blood vessel in his brain. The face was gone, and the girl stood by with new paint smeared into her hair and onto her clothing, but now it was more personal. He was on the window now, holding a small child to him in a way that looked, that was angled, to be obscene.
“I… you can’t do this,” he said, looking between her and it. “This is slander.”
“Not when it’s true,” she said, making sure to stay well away from him. Was his memory playing on him? Did those brown eyes seem familiar, that shiny red hair? Had she been a child patient of his, maybe years ago? He looked at the painting again and shook his head. No. This wasn’t him, and he wasn’t going to let this… demon child control the thoughts of others into thinking this was the real him.
“Let’s go inside and chat,” he suggested, hoping this would work better than violence. “I would like something painted there, and I admit that I said that. However, don’t you think I should get a chance to say what should be painted?” He tried to make the offer politely, but there was still a little heat to his voice. Hopefully she wouldn’t notice. “What’s your name, by the way?”
“Then, Honey, let’s talk about this over a glass of water.” He placed a hand on her back to user her inside his part of the building. Was she… sticky?
The door closed.
He didn’t notice the line of red ants that had found a hole in the wall, and were currently marching in through the little kitchen.
He did notice later when he was tied up, gagged, covered in honey, and staring in fright at the very furious girl in front of him.
Too late to escape the advancing horde.