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life imitates art.

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The marvels of the city were numerous, but Sarina had never heard of a living painting before.

The museum was shadowed and immense in its emptiness, and her footsteps echoed like thunder, disrupting the heavy silence that hung over the walls like a shroud. The masterpieces adorning the walls seemed to stare as she passed, but she paid them no mind. She was wandering, yes, but she knew what she was looking for.

Even so, the breath seemed to leave her body when she found it, as it had every time she’d come before.

The painting was simple, nothing like the gilded walls that surrounded it, yet lovely, and the same could be said for the woman it depicted. Dark eyes seemed to follow Sarina as she approached, slowly, as if she could cause some harm by being anything less than reverent. It wasn’t until she was standing just before the portrait that she spoke.

“I’ve seen you watching.”

Silence. Sarina sighed, finally pressing both hands to the frame. She was standing so close that her forehead nearly brushed that of the woman in the painting, watched by eyes that held a whisper of desperation behind their careful serenity. She began to chant under her breath, and this time she knew the words.

There was no great catastrophe when she was finished, no gasping for breath or tumbling from the wall, but those eyes seemed brighter, sadder. They appeared to widen slightly as she stood up straight again, one hand carefully outstretched, so close the tips of her fingers nearly brushed the soft dry paint. She heard a wisp of a trembling breath, and then a hand grabbed her own.

The masterpiece ducked clumsily to peer out from the edge of the frame, taking a dainty step over and out. Sarina caught her as her legs wobbled, and her skin seemed a careful balance of rough and soft, the fragility of dried paint and the coarseness of the canvas she was painted on. A spiderweb of cracks covered her cheeks and nose like freckles. “Thank you,” she breathed. Sarina just nodded, her own eyes wide with awe.

“Are there any others? Any - like you?”

“N-No. No, I don’t think so.”

Sarina finally looked away, letting out a long breath. It wouldn’t do to be distracted by the slight blush in the other’s cheeks, not yet. “It’s just you then. I thought as much.” The others stared with dead eyes, with nothing like the light that had always been in hers.

The girl shook her head frantically, clinging to Sarina’s wrists. “Please, take me out of here,” she whispered, and Sarina wondered suddenly why someone would create something so beautiful, breathe life into it, and then leave it to history, to be ogled at like an animal in a zoo but unable to communicate. Alone.

“Are you sure?” she asked, though she was already reaching for her knife. At the girl’s nod, she tore into the portrait, now just an empty background in an ornate frame. When she finished, it was unrecognizable - no one would notice that the subject was missing, only that a great masterpiece had been destroyed. The girl only watched, expressionless.

“Let’s go,” Sarina grinned, buoyed by the destruction, and received a shy smile in return. They both turned away, and Sarina felt long fingers entwine with her own.

The girl pressed closer as they walked, and didn’t look back.