(Editor’s note: SHORT SHOTS is a column where I review short stories from horror anthologies.)
“The Painting My Husband Keeps” is the quietly menacing opener to the horror collection titled Under Your Bed by Blair Daniels. The well-paced short story is narrated by a recently married woman named Tara who’s unnerved by a painting owned by her husband Eric. The painting depicts a young blonde woman in a white cotton dress looking over her shoulder.
When the couple moves in together, Eric initially hangs the painting above their bed. Tara instantly feels the eyes of the woman on her. At one point, she even thinks the blonde woman’s hands move, but her husband assures her otherwise.
After two weeks, she begs Eric to relocate the painting, so he places it on the wall at the top of the stairs. One night, the painting startles Tara so much with its realism, it almost causes her to fall down the stairs. Eric then moves the painting into his office.
Tara notices Eric spending more time in his office than usual and even catches him staring at the painting instead of working on an important project. When she overhears a disturbing phone conversation, she confronts her husband asking, “Who is this a painting of?” Eric accuses her of jealousy and denies knowing the blonde woman.
Tara investigates the origin of the painting by sneaking into her husband’s office late one night, which sparks another intense confrontation. The author Daniels effectively builds tension throughout the story and finishes with a satisfying climax that’s more thriller than horror. I absolutely love how the painting acquires a different significance by the end.
Published by Black Widow Press on June 30, the Under Your Bed collection features 13 horror tales. With 84 reviews on Amazon, Under Your Bed is averaging 4.3 stars (out of 5) with top reviewers praising the stories for their creepiness, while the two middling reviews say the tales are interesting but not scary enough.
“The Painting My Husband Keeps” feels like a creepypasta story with its realistic setting and relatable lead character. The narrative is delivered like a friend telling you about a traumatic event that happened in his or her life. The author’s storytelling style is conversational and engaging. Daniels effectively shares her narrator’s impressions of the incident and gives readers the leeway to believe what they want to believe. And, like most of the reviews say, it’s definitely creepy.