Nightmare in the Gallery

byejls©

Jaleesha was starting to get very tired when it happened. One by one, each monitor on the security board went black. There was no alarm, just blackness on each screen. She looked at the circuits, and there didn't seem to be a power outage in any area of the Institute. Following procedure, Jaleesha powered down the system to reboot. When in doubt, that was the first thing you always did -- reboot. The system was slow to come up but when it did, all of the monitors came to life. Jaleesha scanned each security point and didn't find anything amiss. To be safe, she recorded the incident and noted that she would begin rounds early, as a precautionary measure.

Room by room, locked door by locked door, Jaleesha painstakingly covered the first floor. Up on the second floor, there was nothing that looked out of place. For a moment, she wondered if it was her imagination, but she knew better. Still, the fact that the cameras went down concerned her. The alarm controls showed they never wavered. It was probably something way too technical for her to figure out.

She decided to switch up her path, check the stairs at the end of the Promenade and then enter the European Gallery from that point, instead of off the Great Hall. Silently, she made her way around the room until, "Jaleeshaaaaaaaaaa...."

She was standing in front of The Nightmare and the gargoyle could not be seen. A cold breeze passed over the back of Jaleesha's neck as she screamed and the lights went out. The last thing she was aware of was cold hands taking hold of her.

When George arrived at work the next morning, she was not in the Security Office. Her partially eaten candy sat on the desk, the only evidence that she had been there. He called her apartment and even went by, but no one answered the door. After a week, he persuaded the superintendent to open her apartment to see if she was all right. There was no sign she had ever returned there from work, that Halloween night. The police took a missing persons report, but weren't convinced there was any foul play.

They say George changed after that night. He wasn't the happy-go-lucky guy he used to be. His superiors suggested that perhaps he might want to retire. When he told them there was no place he would rather be, they dropped the issue but suggested he talk to someone. Even on his days off, George could be seen sitting quietly in the American Art Gallery staring at a couple of small bronze statues. One of them was Jaleesha's favorite, John Quincy Adams Ward's Freedman. The second was an unnamed statue that had been anonymously donated, as a companion piece to Ward's. It was the figure of a young female African slave, nude to the waist. Her hair appeared to be wrapped up in fabric, her breasts were full and round, there was a manacle on her right wrist, and her belly was swollen with child.

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