Darkness...complete and utter darkness...entombed...no space to move...thick viscous liquid around him...panic...heavy breathing...sudden burst of light...a crack in the fabric of things, opening up...reflection...a blade cutting through his cocoon...anxiety...sudden pain as the blade cuts into his chest...split in half...falling to the hard wooden floor...a wave of blood washes over him and he blinks his eyes...glaring light...he glances around the room and sees flesh hanging from rusted hooks...crimson red stains all over the floor and walls...cool breeze...the meat sways back and forth...in the center of the room is a lotus...slowly he walks to it and kneels...blood drips from it's petals like early morning dew....the blade lays beside it...cold steel against his fingertips...dull pain as it cuts through his skin...the lights go out...excruciating pain as he repeatedly slams the blade into his chest...the floor hits him hard...a burst of light as a spotlight illuminates the lotus and his dying body...the blood drips off the petals and onto his face...running down like tears...everything goes black.
Dreary overbearing skies hung low as an unkindness of ravens silently perched upon the roof. Silver sunlight fell between the spaces in the blinds and startled him awake. Blinking his eyes he jumped up with a start with the remembrance of something horrible the night before. Oh, horrible inhuman cries that come from deep within the soul. Surely these screams must haunt him from within a dream. Surely this could not be reality.
He ran a hand through his hair that was haphazardly sticking up at various angles and felt the familiar warm stickiness of the tools of his trade. He gazed across the room into an old wood frame mirror and saw his face covered in a deadly shade. Heavens, this must surely be a faint remembrance and not true reality. He tried to wipe away the stain that covered his body from the night before. He paced back and forth across the attic floor, his footsteps the only sound as they creaked across the old floorboards. Tortured souls stared back at him from the canvases that were scattered across the attic.
Reasoning...must be reasoning...surely this was nothing more then fantasy. He looked across the attic floor again, gazing upon the accusing mirror and picked up a mason jar full of paint brushes and hurled it. The glass shattered with a deafening sound and he let out a scream. None of this can be real, just a dream. He picked up a jagged piece of the glass and stared at his reflection for a moment. He looked wild, as if possessed by something that could not possibly be him. The glass fell out of his hand and hit the ground as he lit up a cigarette. He puffed it down in a couple drags and then began pacing again as he used the first to light a second.
Why dear gods, why?! Light filtered in from a crack in the door at the bottom of the stairs. He stared at it frightened, the cigarette burning filter. A sickening scent filled the air as he let it fall and watched it roll down the stairs as if guiding him. He stepped onto the first stair and stopped. Like a scared child, he quickly backed up and curled up underneath the window next to his work area. He lit a third cigarette and pulled deeply on it, rocking back and forth. The canvases watched grimly as shadows played tricks across them. This cannot be. Surely this could not have happened. He screamed again as he threw his head against the wall. The cigarette fell from between his fingers and as he went to grab it, burned his hand. A soothing pain enveloped him and suddenly he was calm.
He pulled himself to his feet, knowing he must see the travesty from the night before. He slowly walked towards the stairs between the rows of demons that watched from fading paint. Reaching out for the railing, he took a step and froze for a moment. Terror was beginning to well back up within him. A trail of paint stopped halfway up the stairs and a crimson rag lay on the ground where it ended. The light shone through at the bottom of the stairs and called to him. He slowly walked down the rest of the stairs and put his head against the cool wood of the old door. He kept telling himself it was all a dream as he reached down and put his hand upon the knob. Such horror could not possibly be anything else.
The door swung open and he stepped out, blinded for a moment by the artificial light. He took a deep breath and looked up and his knees buckled underneath him as he gazed upon the canvas that awaited him. A guttural, animal like scream issued from his lungs and he fell to the ground. Oh travesty of travesties how could this be? Please dear gods take this image from my sight. He stared at the canvas, horrified at what direction his work had taken the evening prior. Tools of his trade lay scattered across the kitchen floor. Blood red paint splattered across the room. In the center lay a painter’s cloth with a canvas on a stand in the center. Photographer’s lights cast an eerie glow upon the piece. He screamed again and threw his hands over his face.
Surely this cannot be true. Why in the heavens above would this be allowed? He walked over and ran his hands along his work. His fingers came back wet, it had yet to dry. He took two steps back and fell to his knees and wept. He pounded the floor and let out a cry as his vision grew blurry. Why, oh why? He pulled himself back to his feet, stumbling, and ran back up the attic stairs. Out of breath he lit a cigarette and pulled at it, as if it would erase from his eyes the vision he had seen.
Breath slowing, he looked up and saw his work staring at him again. He felt his eye twitch and sudden calmness overtook him. He knew what had to be done. He walked over to the remnants of the mirror and selected a large shard of glass. Then he took another drag from his cigarette and tossed it to the side. Slowly he descended the stairs.
He gazed upon the canvas in the kitchen and saw it for what it truly was. His masterpiece, his Venus. Her skin nailed to the canvas, a true martyr for art. Stretched and distorted like a strange religious effigy. Red blood ran across at hazardous angles and her pale face stared out at him from the center, watched him, as if asking for tribute. Yes, tribute is what she deserves. He walked over and ran his fingers along her face as he lowered himself to his knees. Looking up at his Goddess he realized this was truly his masterpiece. A bloody Venus that demanded the proper tribute.
He slowly ran the shard of glass along his arm and watched as the blood began to trickle out. He could feel her eyes upon him as the glass cut into his other arm. Proper tribute is what she would get. He felt life begin to leave him and he started to smile. A true masterpiece, a true work of art. Art to die for. He began to cry tears of joy, as he slowly faded away beneath the portrait of his Goddess. The apartment grew silent, the only witnesses being the faces that watched from the canvas.
(Canvas appeared in A Never Ending Night)
Artwork by Pasta Fagioli