Ib huffed as she stared at the burned painting in front of her. She had barely managed to avoid being stabbed by Mary, but she reached her painting in time and lit Garry's lighter against it. The painting caught fire instantly, incinerating not only the picture but also Mary herself. Ib didn't bother to turn around while Mary screamed, only waiting until the flames on the painting died out and hearing the knife clang onto the floor.
Ib spent a minute catching her breath. She slowly turned around and spotted the disturbing ashes of Mary's body on the ground, the knife next to it. For a brief moment, Ib actually felt bad for Mary. All she wanted was to live in the outside world and to have real friends. Ib frowned.
But she also remembered that Mary tore apart Garry's rose and tried to stab her. There were no regrets. Ib did what she had to do.
She stepped out of the room and paused. The blue rose petals were scattered all over the room, the empty stem lying in the middle. Ib bent down and lightly touched the stem with her fingers, carefully picking it up. She held it close to her lips, closing her eyes and wishing she could just open them and the petals would magically appear back on the stem. When she raised her eyelids, she was thoroughly disappointed. The stem was wilted; no vase water could repair that.
Ib stood up and glanced toward the stairs. Garry had told her that he would catch up to her. Ib may have only been nine, but she knew the kanji for death. She knew exactly what it meant, too. With the wilted stem in her hand, there was no doubt that Garry was…
She shook her head. She had to continue on; there was no point in remaining here. Garry would wish for her to keep going.
Ib remembered the Pink Key in her skirt pocket, the key that surely unlocked the door to the house in the middle of the Sketchbook. She made her way to that house and stuck the key into the keyhole, opening the final door in this bizarre world.
She found a set of stairs that led upward. Ib began slowly making her way up, still gripping the wilted stem in her hand. When she reached the top, she noticed she was back in the gallery, although it was much darker than before. Glancing out the windows didn't help; it was pitch black.
Ib didn't waste any time; she immediately went straight to the large painting that started this crazy mess. There were two words for the title, but the second one—World—was the only kanji she could read.
More words were underneath the title. Ib was able to read all of these words: Once you go in, there's no going back. All your time here will be lost. Will you still jump in? Suddenly, there was a flickering of white and the golden border around the painting disappeared.
There wasn't a choice. Ib couldn't stay here. If she didn't jump in, it was obvious that she would be stuck here forever. Garry and Mary were gone. It was time to return to the real world.
But what did it mean by all your time here will be lost? Did that mean that Ib would forget her experience here? Sure it was a scary one, but there was one memory she didn't want to forget.
Ib held up the stem and stared at it. Garry wouldn't want her to stay behind just because of a memory. She breathed a sigh and pocketed the stem. Even if she couldn't remember him, she could still hang onto the lighter and the rose stem.
She took a step back and prepared to jump. She began to count to three.
"Thank you, Garry…"
Ib sprinted and leapt into the painting, closing her eyes and letting the vibrant and wet colors drown her into the next world.
Ib blinked. Once. Twice. She turned around. A giant painting hung up on a wall was what faced her. It wasn't a painting she could interpret; it looked just like a mess of colors slathered together. The title had some kanji on it, but 'World' was the only one that she could read.
She began walking around and spotted a man looking oddly at a sculpture of a couch. She made her way past him, past the three headless sculptures next to it, until she spotted a painting on the wall in front of her. She felt her heart jump the second she noticed it, and she decided to step forward to examine it more closely.
It was a painting of a darker-haired man wearing a faded tank top and a long ragged coat. He was sitting down, sleeping. This painting was different compared to the others. Ib felt guilt and sadness for this man, even though he wasn't even real.
Why did she feel this way?
She read the title. Forgotten Portrait.
Forgotten…? Ib felt that there was more to this painting behind this title. Some backstory that she needed to interpret. But for the life of her, nothing was coming to mind.
It seemed odd to be thinking this way about a painting. But all Ib wanted to do was reach for the painting, to touch this painting, to be close to this man in the painting…
Ib snapped out of her thoughts when she heard her mother calling for her. "Ib! There you are. Your father and I were looking for you! Are you done looking through the gallery? I'm parched; let's go for something to drink!"
She began to walk down the stairs, Ib following behind. Ib turned around to glance at the painting once more. That man…
"Ib! Come on!"
Ib didn't have any more time to analyze it as she caught up to her mother and headed downstairs.
When Ib returned home, she began to empty her pockets to change into her pajamas. She pulled out her handkerchief, a red rose, a lighter, and a rose stem. She remembered receiving the handkerchief from her mom earlier that say, but where did everything else come from?
She found an empty vase on the side table in the hallway, so she filled it with water and set it on her desk, placing the red rose and the empty stem in it. She couldn't understand her judgment with putting the empty stem in there; it seemed more reasonable to just throw it out but she didn't. Something propelled her not to.
She fiddled with the lighter for a minute, not bothering to open it as she knew it was dangerous to play with fire. Her fingers grazed something on the side and she looked at it closer. It was an engraving of the English letter G.
G… she thought. G…G…