The painting is uncovered, revealing the huge figure of a man without skin, just thin remnants of muscle and bones. But through the cartilage, you can see this dark shape, with lines vertically in colors of blue and purple and black – the heart.
His eyes flash open and immediately he moves to the edge of the frame and climbs swiftly out of it. Before the other guy can run away, he grabs him by the neck and lifts him up. With a malicious smile he says, “I thank you for your blood and life which will again make me whole,” and he pulls him close and takes a bite into his neck. After a mouthful of blood he holds the poor man again away from him at arm’s length and roars a bit as his skin grows over his body followed by hair. He his muscular and extremely handsome, and naked. He lowers his unconscious victim back to the floor and searches for clothes.
The victim’s sister has witnessed this and sits speechless on the ground. He manages to find clothes quickly, trousers and a loose fitting shirt, and turns to address the sister and stops short, recognition clicking in his eyes. It’s her. He doesn’t believe it. He slowly walks over to her, but naturally she’s terrified. He stoops over her and helps her to her feet – she’s in shock, and then lets out a scream and runs. He chases her, but the house is big and foreign to him, and she manages to hide from him. His eyes are frantic as he looks for her, but his voice remains calm as he calls out, trying to calm her enough to face him. He finds her on the couch in a well-lit living room, and she is clearly scared out of her mind but curious enough to stay put.
“You clearly don’t remember me, but we have a bond that goes back through and through time. Kiss me and let me reawaken you.”
“What?! Are you out of your mind?!” she screams, incredulous.
“Your brother is not dead, just unconscious. I only stole a few months of his life, off the end of it. I could do that to him or anyone else every four months or so and we could live together again. For the love of all things, kiss me and remember!” he yells as he lunges towards her.
“No!” she shouts as she tries to get away.
He throws himself on her and yells, “KISS ME!”
With that, he kisses her. She freezes for a split second, then in her memory it’s like a series of doors being unlocked; lifetimes of looking for someone that turned out to be him, lifetimes of waiting to find him again before moving on, lifetimes of an empty piece of her soul missing, a few times getting so close and then losing him again. Lifetimes of passion and love unfulfilled while he was trapped away. A heat wave takes over her, her heart begins to pound and she puts her hands into his short curly hair and grabs hold, forcing him closer. She remembers.
They kiss like that on the couch, pushing up against each other as time seems to stand still. Then her brother, Andrew, aka the victim, stumbles into the room and yells out in shock, “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me! What the HELL IS GOING ON?”
He hops off her, clearly happy with life and says, “I’m sorry, we haven’t been properly introduced. I’m Joseph, and I’ve been waiting a long time to be reunited with Julia. Oh wait, is that your name in this life?”
“Brilliant.” His eyes are radiating light and joy.
“Excuse me, but Jules, what the fuck is going on here? He popped out of a painting and bit my neck. Like a goddamn vampire.” Andrew is holding a bit of cloth up against his neck to stop the bleeding.
Joseph stands up to face him. “Oh, I’m not a vampire, I’m a much more cursed creature.”
“We can break the curse! My love, I’ve found a witch!” Julia stands up and rushes over to him in her excitement. “It’s too much of a coincidence, that finally we’re reunited and my best friend is a witch!”
A cloud passes over Joseph’s face. “Claude can’t be far though. Wherever the picture is, Claude is. It shouldn’t be long until he’s returned to check on the picture. He keeps a close eye on it, on me. You’ve come so close in opening it before and he’s ruined it far too many times. We have to move. Now.” Claude is her father – the man responsible for turning him into a monster and keeping their love apart for centuries.
“I’ll stay and distract him – clean up the house and change. I’m still in this silly party costume.” Julia motions down to the renaissance dress she is wearing, having completely forgot about it before.
Taking her by the hand, Joseph says, “The last thing I want to do is let you out of my sight.”
“Take Andrew with you. He’ll never let you harm a hostage.”
“Are you serious?! Don’t I get a say in this!?” Andrew is still holding the cloth to his neck and looking pissed.
“You know where to meet me?” Joseph is reluctant to separate.
“Of course, I’ve spent lifetimes preparing it.”
“I love you.”
“I love you.”
With that, Joseph grabs Andrew around the waist and they’re gone through the window.
Julia looks around and goes to her room to change. The sky is quickly darkening. She hurries into rolled jeans, a cute top and her favorite pair of Toms. There’s work to be done, but she hasn’t seen her soul mate in centuries, she can at least look good when she sees him again.
She hurries through the house, picking up and cleaning. She adjusts the picture frame and closes it again. Memories flashing through her – the time she almost drowned on a voyage across the ocean because she went back into the hull to find the portrait, but was able to use it as a life-raft until her rescue. Unfortunately, the freezing temperatures gave her amnesia and she couldn’t remember anything about the portrait, nor how to open it, but kept it until her dying day.
She shivered and looked out the window. He must have started. How could he start without her? Didn’t he understand the dangers? If they’d waited so long, couldn’t he wait just a few hours more? Or was there something wrong? Dark clouds had filled the sky, and what looked like funnels of dark mass and energy were tornadoing on the roofs of some houses – not causing destruction, but clearly sucking up something and bringing it up into the mass of darkness above.
Julia ran out of the house and straight to the cave at the docks, punching in a number as she ran. “I need you to get to the caves as fast as you can! Now! I’ve found him and something’s wrong!” She could hear yells coming down the winding corridors of the cave and knew something was indeed wrong. In her hurry she forget to bring a weapon of any sort. She ran down the halls until she reached a brightly lit and large room, and saw Joseph kneeling down with his hands chained up above his head. Her brother was standing off to the side looking down on it all, and at the helm of the portal was Claude.
“Joseph!” she screamed as she ran to him.
Joseph looks up and sees her, anguish clearly written across his face, “No! Julia don’t get any closer!”
“Hello, Julia. Right on time. I’m sending this evil back to hell where it belongs!” yelled out Claude.
“He’s not evil, Claude! He never has been!! He messed up once, centuries ago, by doing whatever was in his power to save my life! Your daughter’s life!! You should be grateful!”
“He made you a monster, and he made himself one in return! I should send you both to hell!”
Julia runs to stand in between Claude and Joseph.
“Julia no!!” shouts Andrew.
“I love him, father. I have waited so long for him, I will not give him up now!”
“Andrew, hold your sister back!”
Andrew slowly starts to make his way to her.
“Andrew, I love you, but you know I’m the better fighter. Don’t make me hurt you. Back down. You know this is wrong.”
She turns to Joseph and kneeling beside him takes his face in her hands and says, “Don’t worry, I’m not going to lose you again.” He lets out a scream of pain as bolts of dark energy flow through the chains and into his arms. Julia looks up, her eyes murderous and focused on her father.
Claude jumps down to remove Julia and they fight – it’s fast and intense. He doesn’t want to really hurt her, but he is determined to get rid of Joseph once and for all, but Julia is not giving up. He gets the best of her at one point and while she is knocked out on the ground he makes his way back to the controls and opens the portal. “One good knock to the head is all it takes for the amnesia to slip in and you’ll forget everything! You’ll forget him!”
“She never could truly forget me, don’t you see?!” Rage is pulsing in Joseph’s eyes, “You can’t stop us! She has been hunting for me always! And I never gave up on her!”
Just then, the witch friend walks into the cave and surveys the scene. She has a spell book under her left arm and her right hand is on her hips. “Well, this has got to stop.” She lifts her right hand and gestures towards Claude, throwing him back and away from the controls. She opens her book and begins to chant and starts to close the portal.
Andrew, in the meantime, has had enough. He sneaks around and lets Joseph free. “He’s crazy – this has got to end. Save her and protect her. It’s your turn now.”
The witch shoots some energy from her hands at Claude, and his screams wake up Julia. She looks around and remembers what’s going on. In slow motion she watches as Andrew unchains Joseph and offers his hand to him to give him energy. The witch shoots at her father again. She gets up and runs to Claude. “Stop! His fate is far worse than death!”
The witch stops and Julia delivers a roundhouse kick powerful enough to knock Claude back against the wall, and just as he’s about to spring up, snarling, Joseph grabs him by the neck and throws him down on his back at their feet.
“Don’t you know how the storybooks always end, Father?” Julia says without emotion, “True love conquers all.”
Together they lift him up and throw him screaming into the portal.
The witch ends her spell to close the portal and take off the curse.