It had been three years since Elizabeth had first seen the painting. It had been two years since the painting had been moved to the attic, and it had been two years since her older sister, Bella, had disappeared. The search for the young woman had lasted weeks, involving the entire Lancaster family, the police and almost the entire town of Mayview, before her parents had abruptly ended it, upon hearing of the painting's disappearance. They never spoke of her, or the painting, again.

The painting had been there since the family had moved into the house, which they had inherited from the late Mr and Mrs Lancaster. It was a splendid house, with marble floors and expensive furniture, and Elizabeth's parents were overjoyed to have gained ownership of it.

They had arrived for the first time at the house on a cold winter afternoon in the pouring rain. They hurried from their car into their new home, and immediately Bella's eyes settled on the painting. She had walked slowly down the hall; her eyes fixed on the canvas, and took in the image of it, while Elizabeth and her parents moved to the drawing room to read the information that had been left for them. As they quickly scanned through it, Elizabeth's parents became more and more tense. The colour drained from their faces and their knuckles strained against their skin. And then, they suddenly sprinted from the room, pulling Bella from the painting. From that moment, Elizabeth and Bella were banned from seeing the painting.

The painting had been magnificent. The detail, the colour, the power behind it was enough to make you forget everything, and just stare into the depths of the streaks and lines, mystified by the majesty and wonder of what the nameless artist had created. It was a painting of a group of stunningly beautiful people, some female, some male, some old, some young, all posing gracefully, smiling at the viewer. To anybody who hadn't seen it before, would have thought there was nothing special about a group of people-but there was. You could just stare at it for hours, lost in it, pondering the questions the painting held, for each beautiful person was chained by their ankles to a pole behind them, and their mouths were shut, and upon closer look, it appeared that their were tiny stiches across their lips-they were sewn shut.

Now, as Elizabeth stood in the attic, she stared once again at the grandeur of the painting. Her parents were searching for her frantically in the many floors below, she knew, so she had little time to see it. She reached out to the painting and stroked Bella's flawless face, frozen in a perfect smile-she had joined the painting now.

Elizabeth could feel the painting's power drawing her in, and she succumbed willingly. As she pressed he hand against the canvas, she read the title engraved into the golden frame-Silence is Golden. She closed her eyes, and smiled.