The Mezzotint by John Maudlin | Script Revolution

The Mezzotint



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Based On: 
M R James's original short story
A retired art professor presented with a painting of his cottage by a young female pupil seems to include a strange figure who has the uncanny ability to move within the landscape toward Creest’s cottage.

Creest is a retired art professor living comfortably in a rural village, Greeven. Every month he runs an art class for people in the area. One morning he is interrupted by a young woman, Hope Lincoln, dressed coquettishly, who has just moved to the village and would like to join the group. Creest, embarrassingly, finds himself uncontrollably attracted to her and agrees to have dinner at her cottage.
Strolling home, he encounters the local vicar who invites him in to the sacristy for a drink and relates the terrible history of the Felice family who had moved to the village when the vicar had not long taken over the diocese. They seemed to be happy, father, mother and daughter but the Vicar always suspected there was a secret being kept within that household. Then, during her eighth birthday party the daughter, Samantha, cut her own throat with the knife her father had given her to cut her birthday cake. Her father Phillipe was desolate. A couple of years later another migrating family seemed to offer him some salvation as he became a second father to their little girl and baby sat her often until one night both the young girl and Phillipe disappeared. During a frantic search Phillipe was found hanging in a tree with the young girl sitting underneath. No explanation was ever found to who had done it or, if it had been suicide, how Phillipe had gotten up there.
Disturbed by this, nevertheless, Creest attended Hope’s dinner that night. After the meal, dozing in an armchair, he unexpectedly finds Hope sexually arousing him. Powerless he watches until her face suddenly contorts into a demon and he jumps up to find that he had inexplicably dozed off.
As he leaves she presents him with a painting of Creest’s cottage. He lies and tells her it shows promise and she insists he keep it. The next day, troubled by his encounter and his growing obsession he wanders the village and runs into the vicar who offers him a glass of port. He discusses his problem and shows the vicar the picture. The vicar tends to disagree that it is worthless pointing to the clever way she had drawn the little figure poking through the hedgerow at the bottom of the garden. Surprised Creest is adamant the figure hadn't been there before.
The following day he goes around to Hope’s cottage but it’s empty. He is compelled to break in and search but finds not one sign she had ever been there. Returning home he explores the hedgerow in his garden as if expecting to see the shadow drawn in Hope’s picture. He turns toward his house and is startled to find a figure between him and the back door. A crow flies across his face and when Creest recovers the figure has disappeared. Back in the house he checks the painting and just as he had witnessed moments earlier the figure had moved from the hedgerow to a position in the middle of his garden.
He sees the vicar again who admits he did see Hope once in the church looking at some of the stained-glass windows. He heard strange giggling but when he went to approach her she seemed to have disappeared. Showing the vicar the painting Creest finds that the figure has moved even further toward the house. The vicar scoffs at any suggestion of the supernatural and suggests that it may be a trick with pentimento (over painting)
Desperate for an explanation Creest travels to London to consult an art expert but he finds no evidence that this is the case. Walking back to his hotel he is nearly run over by a taxi. As it drives off he can see Hope in the back staring at him with wide white eyes and leering like a fleshy skull.
In his hotel room he showers. The door opens behind him and Hope walks in naked. She fellates him. Then she looks up at him. Her mouth is full of razor sharp teeth. He looks down and she has emasculated him. He screams and wakes up in bed. He catches sight of the painting – the figure has gone but now his bedroom window is open. Creest suddenly understands the significance but the strain and the panic prompts a heart attack.
Waking up in hospital he checks himself out and heads home. He asks the taxi to drop him on the outskirts of the village and walks to his house. As he arrives the Vicar, unaware, sees his shadow in the dark and assumes it is a burglar and rings the police. Inside the house Creest can feel Hope’s presence. As he enters his bedroom lights go on and it is transformed into a place deep in his memory. Determinedly he ignores the vision and sweating profusely clambers onto the chair by his desk and opens out his laptop. Behind him sobs and cries beckon him but he doggedly faces the wall and continues to search his computer for the right files.
Outside his window he can see blue lights flashing. He digs deeper into the computer memory. Car doors slam. He opens file after file, deeper and deeper. There are bangs in his front door and then a window breaks. In front of him he has the file. His heart is racing and a pain streaks from his arm and then across his chest. Straining with every fibre he can muster his finger hovers over the delete button when suddenly it is grabbed by an arm low down beside him. He looks at the face. It is a beautiful boy with the bluest of eyes. Behind him the police burst in.

Submitted: January 17, 2020
Last Updated: February 2, 2020

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John Maudlin's picture

The Writer: John Maudlin

Graduate of Warwick University. Triple honours in Literature, Theatre and Film. Short listed for the Bridport Poetry prize in 2015. Have completed 3 screenplays and 3 teleplays, the latter based on my own short stories. I have also written drama and poetry. I write under the pseudonym of Ricky Hawthorne. Go to bio

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