A SHELL OF HIS FORMER SELF

The portrait above the mantle looked good. But he was going to hell in a hurry!

Gideon Gray remembered his uncle less than fondly. He thought him to be highly self-absorbed and arrogant. Vain to a fault and a deplorable human being. The young gentleman was altruistic; a very giving and compassionate soul. Life was to be cherished and savored. In Gideon’s eyes, anything less would be a desecration of that perfect gift.

A more valued gift that this massive dwelling that had been bequeathed to him. The mansion was a hideous reminder of the debauched life that his uncle had presented. Dorian Gray was not remembered fondly.

The task at hand occupied Gideon and filled his minutes with every effort to remove any trace of his elder from the abode. The ornate trappings of self-centered avarice were torn down. And that picture! That insipid portrait of Dorian had been rumored to change with each indiscretion committed by his his father’s brother. Nonetheless, Gideon ordered it destroyed and replaced with his own ordinary image.

A month had passed and Gideon was settling into his new home nicely. The local populace was curious and as such still looked upon Gray Manor with disdain and jealousy. Rumors began to swirl about the hermetic Gideon. Unfounded as they were, the rabble were convinced that Gideon had chosen to live vicariously in Dorian’s ways. Angered by accusation, Gideon let his ire fester. He never noticed up until then.

Gideon sequestered himself in his study. Above the mantle hung Gideon Gray’s picture. It was a much more pleasing portrait than was Dorian’s. But something seemed different. It bore his likeness, but looked younger, more handsome. It was his own reflection that irritated Gideon. He appeared haggard; worn down by his surroundings.

The passage of time plagued Gray. For each day brought a more youthful glint in the portraits eyes. Gideon himself was ghastly. His flesh hung from his bones as if draped over his frame. Eyes sunken and gaunt cheeked, he bore the features of decay. The smell of death permeated the manse.

Gideon’s mind slipped further into his insanity. He did not understand what was occurring. Slumped in his large armchair, Gray stared at his portrait. He was no older than a teen. The wall mirror told his tale. Flesh had been peeled from his face; his nose dangling by a thread of sinew. He looked a shell of his former self. The portrait above the mantle looked good. But he was going to hell in a hurry! The curse of Gray Mansion would claim another victim

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