A Short Story - Winked

April 9, 2021

"That painting just winked at me!" a shocked Miranda said to Robby.

"Don't be crazy, Miranda, paintings can't wink at anyone," said Robby.

"I'm telling you, it winked at me. That little boy in the painting, look at him, it's like he's looking right at us."

"Yeah, it's a good painting."

"And that boy winked at me. I saw him do it."

"It was just your imagination, sweetie. Maybe we've been in the museum too long. Let's go get something to drink."

"It wasn't my imagination, I'm sure of it, Robby."

"Okay, if you say so. I didn't see it wink at you or anyone. Let's get out of here. I think three hours in a museum is more than enough culture for one day."

"Maybe for you, but I love looking at the paintings, the sculptures, they're all so wonderful. Just think of the work that went into creating these works of art. I can't do anything like this. I think it's just amazing that people can create such beautiful things."

"Yeah, they're great and all, now let's go get something to drink," Robby said. He took Miranda by the hand and led her out of the museum. They crossed the plaza and went into a restaurant.

On their way across the plaza, they passed a billboard advertising jeans. The woman in the advertisement winked when Miranda passed in front of the sign.

"Oh, my god!" screamed Miranda.

"What? What happened?" Robby suddenly stopped and looked around to see what her commotion was about. Miranda was staring at the advertisement. Robby saw nothing special, nothing to get excited about, so he took her hand again and gently pulled her away from the sign.

"That sign! Robby! The woman in that sign winked at me!"

"Oh my god, Miranda, you're going crazy, aren't you? The advertisement didn't wink at you."

"Yes, she did, Robby. I saw her wink at me just a clearly as I see you in front of me. I'm not going crazy!" She jerked her hand out of his and walked back to the advertisement. She looked at it very closely, all around the sign. She inspected both sides of it. When she got back to the front, the woman was just the woman. "Robby, I swear to you, she winked at me." Miranda poked a finger at the woman's face. Nothing happened. There was no response from the woman in the advertisement.

"What did you expect? Now stop being silly and let's go get something to drink."

"I don't think that will help," Miranda said.

"Regardless, I'm getting you drunk," said Robby.

Later, after several beers and shots, the two of them walked back to Miranda's apartment. Both of them had drunk enough that to say they walked is being generous, but they did eventually make to her apartment. Then they collapsed on her bed and fell asleep.

In the morning, "Oh, my god, my head hurts," said Miranda when she tried to stand up.

"Mine, too," said Robby. He stayed on the bed and didn't even move a foot. "If you're getting up, can you yank my shoes off, please?"

"I'll try," Miranda tried, but every time she pulled on a shoe it made her head hurt all the more. She gave up on that task and collapsed back on the bed, having forgotten why she had gotten up in the first place.

"My shoes are still on," said Robby.

"Yeah, so are mine, so what?" asked Miranda.

"Nothing, not important."

Miranda fell asleep again. Robby laid there for another 10 or 15 minutes, then made his way to the bathroom and take a couple of aspirin. Then he went into the kitchen and made some coffee. On his way, he passed several framed photos of people. None of them winked at him.

A few minutes later, Miranda made her way to the bathroom for some aspirin, then on her way to the kitchen, "Robby! Ouch. Robby! Ouch, my head. That picture of my grandma. She winked at me. Oh, my head hurts."

"No, she didn't wink at you, darling, you're still drunk."

"I saw her wink at me," Miranda said while slowly walking through the hallway. She passed a photo of her brother. When she walked by that picture he winked at her. She screamed. "Robby! Ouch, my head. Robby, my brother winked at me!"

"Miranda, sweetie, Jonathon isn't here. At least, I don't think he is."

"No, in the picture, he winked at me!"

She continued through the hall, past a picture of her parents. "Oh, dear God above! They're all winking at me! Robby! Oh, shit, my head hurts! Robby, they're all winking at me! Make them stop!"

Robby walked into the hallway to see what she was getting so upset about. "Watch the pictures when I walk by them." Miranda walked past a photo of her niece and the niece winked at her.

"Shit!" yelled Robby, "She winked at you! I saw it! She really did wink at you!"

"Yeah, that's what I've been saying, but you wouldn't believe me."

"Let's get the coffee. I think this is crazy. It can't be happening."

They went into the kitchen and grabbed a couple of coffee cups out of the cupboard. Then Miranda looked at a coffee cup with a cartoon character of a child with a dog. Then the child winked at her. "Shit!" Miranda threw the cup into the sink where it smashed into bits. "What the hell?" She asked.

"I don't know what's going on, it's the weirdest thing I've ever seen. I've never even heard of anything like this before," said Robby.

"I'm going crazy, Robby, I know it! You were right, I'm crazy!"

"No, you're not crazy because I saw it, too. And we can't both be going crazy in the exact same way, right?" He poured two cups of coffee and drank his black, Miranda put a little sugar in hers.

"What am I going to do? At work there are lots of photos, posters, ads, all that stuff, you know. What am I going to do? It's going to drive me crazy."

"Honestly, I haven't a clue. I don't know, babe, this is the weirdest thing ever."

"Well, you're no help," said Miranda.

As the day progressed, Miranda did everything possible to avoid passing by photos, pictures, and advertisements. Even pictures in newspapers and magazines would wink at her. She found avoiding all these to be very difficult, especially when she was out shopping. She had to look away from the pictures every time she passed any, or the winks would drive her crazy.

While standing in a grocery store line waiting for the cashier, Miranda avoided looking at the magazines that were in the rack at the register. A little boy in front of her was looking at a comic book, and he raised it up to share it with her. As soon as he did that, all the cartoon characters winked at Miranda. She jumped, startled by all of the sudden winks, and the little boy laughed and said, "Mommy, look, they wink!"

"Don't be silly, Scotty, pictures don't wink," said his Mom.

"They did, Mommy, I saw them. I think they winked at that woman."

Miranda dropped the things she had in her hands and ran out of the store, breathing heavily. She stopped just outside the doorway, almost ready to pass out. The store security man walked up to her and asked, "Are you okay? What happened in there? Do you need a doctor?"

"No," said Miranda, "I just need some air, thank you, though."

The next day when Miranda went to her office, she was flooded with all kinds of images of people in all forms. She works for an advertising agency, and the walls throughout the offices are covered in posters, advertisements, and drawings. Almost all of which feature people. And every one of them would wink at her when she walked past.

She squatted below posters and pictures, anything with a face printed on it, just to avoid it winking at her.

"Um, Miranda, what are you doing?" asked Sandra, her manager.

Miranda had just crawled under an advertisement with four different faces in it. "I'm, um, well, I was looking for something I dropped."

"Did you find it?"

"No. I don't know where it is."

"Brush that dust off your pants and get me the report you should have finished, okay?"

"Yes, ma'am, I bring it right in."

Miranda brushed off the knees of her pants and hurried to her office, pictures and advertisement faces winking at her all the way to her office. She put her hand next to her face so she wouldn't see the winks.

She was glad to have gotten through the day with no one else noticing the winks, but would she be so lucky every day?

By the end of the day, she was so exhausted she collapsed on her bed and immediately fell into a fitful sleep.

After a week of having every face of every kind in every photo and advertisement wink at her every time she passed one, she was ready to see a psychiatrist, or counselor, or somebody who could help her.

Robby said, "I don't know what's going on sweetie, it's so weird, but whatever it is, I'm sure it won't last much longer." He was trying to be comforting, but she wasn't buying it.

"Robby, there is no way for you to know that. For all you, and I, know this could go on for the rest of my life. Or, it could end right now," Miranda was definitely showing the stress of this problem.

"Yeah, I know, you're right, of course. I was just trying to help. I guess I don't know how to help you. Maybe this is some kind of twilight zone thing or an outer limits thing, that's happening to you."

"Seriously? Are you seriously comparing real life to TV shows? This isn't a joke! It's real! It's happening to me every minute of every day!"

"I'm sorry, I just don't know what to say," Robby said. He went out to the living room and sat down on the couch, feeling dejected and rejected by his girlfriend.

A couple of minutes later, Miranda went out and sat with him. She wrapped her arms around him, kissed him, and held him tight.

"I'm sorry, sweetie, I didn't mean to be so rude to you," Miranda whispered to Robby. They sat on the couch for some time, just holding each other.

That night after they went to bed and Miranda was sound asleep, Robby got up and went for a walk. He walked down the road a block and a half and knocked on the back door of a van. The van appeared to be a typical camper van. But it wasn't. Inside were a crew of 3 men and a bank of screens showing every room in the house, and computers connected to a network of paintings, advertisements, photos, and magazines. Robby stepped into the van.

"I think we've taken this more than far enough," said Robby.

"I don't think so," said John, the producer of the reality show. "I think we should let it go another day or two."

"No, she's so stressed out right now she's ready to pop."

"But, we owe it to our viewers."

"Our viewers have seen enough of this, I say we're done. It's time to pull the plug."

"What do you guys think?" asked John.

The other two agreed with Robby, "I think we should bring to a conclusion."

"Yeah, she's had enough. Any more and she might have a nervous breakdown. We can't have that."

"Fine! All right, we'll pull the plug. In the morning, when she wakes up, it'll all be over."

"Thank you." Robbie stepped out of the van and walked back to Miranda's apartment.

"Where'd you go?" asked Miranda. She had awoken while Robby was out.

"Oh, I just went for a walk. I needed to get some fresh air," Robby said.

"Come back to bed," Miranda said and took his hand and led him back to bed.

The next morning Robby was up first and had the coffee brewing and breakfast cooking when Miranda got up. When she walked through the hallway, she automatically ducked below the pictures so they wouldn't wink at her.

When she got to the dining table, she saw the newspaper, and on it was the face of the President. She immediately shied away from it. Robby was watching her and the newspaper. It didn't wink.

"Hey!" Miranda shouted out to Robby, then she walked up to the table and the newspaper.

"Robbie! The President didn't wink at me!"

"Well, I'm glad about that. What would the public think if the President was seen winking at such a beautiful young woman like you?"

"Robbie, seriously, the picture didn't wink at me," Miranda walked to the hallway and past the photos of her family members. Nobody winked at her.

"Robbie! Nobody is winking at me! It's stopped! The winking has stopped!"

"Oh, that's fantastic! I'm so happy for you," Robby said from the kitchen, trying to sound excited.

"Oh, my god, I'm so relieved. All that stress is going away. Look baby," Robby had joined her in the hallway and she was walking up and down the hall past the pictures. "Look, nobody is winking!" She gave Robby a big hug and kissed him several times.

"I'm so happy for you, sweetheart." Robby wasn't sure if he should say anything about what was really happening or not. She would eventually find out anyway when the reality TV show had this episode on the air.

"I hope it stays this way," said Miranda.

Robby said, "I'm sure it will, sweetheart, I'm sure it will."