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Painted Words



By Skarlet Fever



This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to real people or events is purely coincidental.

This is an original story, and I hold all the rights for it.



Cover art: Tropical Gloom by artist Marcela Bolivar (http://www.marcelabolivar.com)

I do not own the art in any way, the artist holds all rights to it. Check out her work, it’s truly amazing!





Silence



A new life.

It’s what I wanted when I moved out of that town.

Peace. Quiet. Serenity.

Hard to find in a people packed city like this one, I know. But here, I’m no one.

It’s easy to lose oneself in the crowd. The massive swarm of souls engulfing you like a never-ending sea.

You can find silence even in the loudest place.

Ironic.

That’s because silence it’s a disease. It grows into you. Swallows up your mind, your conscience.Until there’s nothing more but empty space.

An entire universe, devoid of content.

I left my family behind. My so-called friends.

Just me and my books.My writings. Of course, I have to express all this nothing in words. To spread my disease like a parasite. The worlds I create are crooked, twisted. Nothing is real, but nothing is all there is.

Everything disguised as void.

Even more absurd is that people actually buy my books. I’ve made quite a nice living out of them. They like to consume every little bit of my already lacking soul, like the beast they ought to be.

Mindless creatures, starving for flickers of someone’s light, trapped inside the cruel white pages.

Torture.

Existence is pain.

Writing means selling out chunks of your essence just to assure your day by day pitiful life.

But it’s all I can do.

The only way I can run away from the world and still quietly hang in there…at the edge of society.

I could have been so many other things, my parents said. A noble doctor, saving lives, an architect projecting the structures of the future, a professor modeling the minds of the young.

Things I do not care about. I did not wish for them, and they, my ‘family’, despised me for it. Even after I found success in my career, they still dream about the perfect son I never got to be.

I live in a building now, so high that I can easily see the sky, her the murmurs of life seeping through the walls.

I don’t go out much. Only when I have to. When I happen to run out of food, I make sure to pick enough up to last me a whole week…maybe two, depending on if I even remember to eat. I forget that a lot when I lose myself in another story.

When I live another life, far away from reality.

I spend so much time alone I sometimes forget I could speak. It feels awkward when I do it. The words seem to barely scrape off my lips, like some unwilling participants to my existence.

And so, I am mute. Quiet. Even when I was but a child I only spoke when I was asked, I never initiated a conversation.

Speechless, but the voice in my mind is way too loud. All the words I want to say, they all disappear from my tongue and I give them the gift of writing.

Forced by my own inability, I prevail.

The silence continues while the whispers inside, as ever as loud.

No end in sight, no beginning to remember.

Just words ironed in my brain, scarring my nerves.

Words I can never speak.



Color



I don’t know when I started noticing her. The one living in the building facing mine, her room right in my view.

An artist.A painter of thoughts.

Her ‘room’ is most likely the art studio. I get to see her work with nuances.

Staining the pure white canvas.

Covering herself in the filthy palette.

What is art really? The pictures neatly created and hanged on the walls? Or the patches of color strewn all over her pale white skin…into her long wavy blond hair.

I get to see it all. The process, the final result. Like a TV series made only for my eyes.

It started by accident. I just happened to glance in that direction one day, and my retinas were caught by the crippled rainbow of shades.

I can’t stop.

I like to watch her from afar, like a beautiful bird in a golden cage. I don’t know her name, her story, I do not care for such details.

I just want to see her.

An angel, a flicker of light in the darkness.

Obsession. That’s what it is. I know.

A sick appalling feeling.

Yet I still do it. Again and again.

She’ll never know me. Or what she means to me.

She never will.



Obsessive



The snow covers up the dirt, the proof of life. The murk in the streets. All is white.

Blinding.

The cold freezes up the blood in your veins. The snowflakes tangle around in your hair, they pile up in your lungs, soaking them.

Yet she walks like a vision in the apocalyptic scenery. The cold only flushing her cheeks.The snow only adorning her features like some fine accessory.

The icicles seem to be melted away by her warmth. Her step is like dancing, soft and methodic. Like a faery of old.

She carries around a camera, snapping pictures of the falling snow.

I wonder how life looks like through her lenses.

How can I know? I am up here, away from it all.

And she is there, living in a world I chose to abandon. Finding a reason to keep on this cruel charade of life.Even having the audacity to smile.

She is never alone, aside from her ‘room’ where she’s only accompanied by the faces of the creatures from her conscience.

I know so much yet so little.

I know the way her lips look, the movements they make when they touch each other…when they depart…but I never heard the sound of her voice.

Her long fingers, I have admired a thousand times by now. Almost always tainted by the sickly colors, but I have never felt their touch.

How bizarre. The way I linked my life to this unknown woman.

She’s the only human ever that got my attention. The only creature that matters in my lonely world.

But she is not real. Not truly. A walking fiction.A dream.An illusion.

A walking corpse fueled by my reanimated emotions.

That’s what she is in my reality. It is so hard to forget that she actually exists, somewhere behind that window. In a life I’ll never know.

The goddess of my realm.Maybe.

But still, just a girl with no name.

Only this, and nothing more.



Fear



The snowstorm is atrocious. Not a soul is reckless enough to venture outside on this god forgotten night.

Not even a ghost of colors.

I can see her so clearly, not bothered by the white veil. As if it’s not even there. Like the ice covering the core of the world has somehow disappeared.

She is working tonight. Painting some grotesque black figure on the supersized canvas.

Everything is black. Just like her eyes. But on her, it’s not dark…dangerous.

It looks almost kind. Like the malicious residue is warmly embracing her skin…her creation.

Maybe she felt trapped by the obscene white that fills our skies…our world.

Light has no meaning without darkness. It doesn’t even exist. Light is just the absence of darkness…and darkness the death of light.

So is white and black. Is she making a metaphor? Or it just looks like it, in my sick twisted mind?

Ah, while I was dreaming about the hidden meanings in her art she already covered every inch of space in black. Different tones of black. I never knew there was more than one color that can be described as black.

Horrid.

But alluring.

Just like the first time I saw her cacophony of nuances, I can’t move my eyes from the strange creation.

It felt like I was gazing somewhere deep inside my soul. An inferno of vandalized white.A monster.

But the cruel black did not steal any of her light. Covered in darkness she still shone brightly like a blinding star.

A star. A mere phantom of matter…from an astral body that was long dead.

Are they still beautiful if they are no longer there? Just a figment lost in time, that we are still somehow able to see?

A corpse. Like her.

‘A few more seconds’ I thought, conscious that I had to get back to my work.

And then it happened. What I feared most.

She turned around and her eyes met mine.

An avalanche of night staring right into my cold glassy pupils.

I stood still. Not daring to move one muscle.

Then she smiled sweetly, shattering every piece of my heart that remained whole.

And so, the bright light flickered from somewhere far beyond the never-ending darkness.

I flickered back.



Destiny



‘Trust me, Will, it’s going to be dynamite! ‘ my editor said, trying to coax me into agreeing to his scheme.

He was the only person I had left. The one that I was forced to maintain some sort of relationship, whether I liked it or not.

Rather not.

But nothing is free in this greedy disgusting world of ours, is it?

He had this wonderful idea, for my last book, The Stranger. He talked with some local artists and organized some sort of competition. They had to create a cover for my book, and I was to pick one that I liked and I HAD to accept it, on my creation.

STAINING my world with horrendous lines and shades.

Of course, he did not ask me first. I would have blatantly refused.

Alas, it was done.

I ended the call abruptly and I got ready. The meeting was today.

Wonderful.

The snow has gathered, heavy on the concrete, invading all its nooks and crannies.

Breaking it from the inside.

What was the last time I was outside?

I could not remember…Sometime before the snow…a week, maybe two.

More?

Who cares anyway?

I stumble my way uptown, keeping my gaze fixated on the asphalt. They say that people that look at the sky are dreamers. I guess I’m not really that into dreams. I don’t remember the last time I had one.

A dream.An actual dream.Full of fantasy and wonder.

I guess I could call her my dream. A living one, and yet a shadow.

I do have dreams with her. They do not differ from reality at all. I dream of watching her, protected by the glass of my windows. Unseen.

Even my dreams lack any sense of adventure.

And yet I create. A man with little to no imagination.

How strange.

There are many people on the streets. Maybe there’s some holiday coming.

Did Christmas pass already? Is it New Year Eve? Possible. They are all the same to me.

Meaningless.

After some more walking, I got to the place. Some young lads were already there, chit chatting. My editor was there, in the middle of them, maintaining the atmosphere.

‘Will! My dear! Here you are. I’m so glad to see you man, we should hang out more’ he said as soon as he laid eyes on me.

I just nodded my head in response.

‘Those are the wonderful artists I was telling you about. Look at all those wonders. God, I’m really happy I’m not you right now because I sure as hell could not choose from them. They are all amazing!’ he said with exaggerated excitement.

LIES.

Of course, he was lying.

They were just as bad as I thought they will be. Maybe worse.

Even if they were given details about my story the things they created… were just what they wanted it to be. Their creation.

I looked at them petrified, hands slightly shaking, speechless. What was I to do?

I can’t choose any of them.

Atrocious.Misery.Garbage.

My editor was looking expectantly at me, his sharp teeth glistening in the light, like a predator’s. He did not mind my silence. He was used to it. But he wanted an answer.

I was prepared to give him the bad news when my words remained stuck in my throat, almost choking me.

It was her.

Dressed in the winter gear I already knew so well.

She was huffing and puffing, trying to catch her breath. Her long hair was messy, rebelling against her funny fur cap. In her hands, she tightly held a plastic file full of sketches.

‘I’m so sorry for being late, I overslept. Please forgive me. Those are my designs’ she said in one breath, her facial expressions changing swiftly from apologetic to pleading and then ending with a shy, unsure smile.

Her voice was soft…velvety. It reminded me of melted chocolate in some strange way.

‘My apologies miss but I’m afraid it is too late. The writer has already decided on the cover. I advise you to be more punctual next time’ my editor said, in a harsh tone.

‘I…understand. I am sorry for disturbing you. Have a good day’ she said visibly dejected, but still managed to somehow pull up a nice smile as she politely waved us goodbye.

‘Let me see them’ I said, stopping her in her way.

The first words I uttered since I got there.

My voice sounded weird, rough, croaky from the lack of usage.

She glanced quizzically at my editor, but I extended my hand expectantly and she obliged.

Somehow, she managed to bring my story to life. She did not make her concept…her version…her art. It was my creation, simply transform into literal pictures.

I stared at them for some time, unaware of the silence that I had created. They were all expecting my answer. My decision. It should have been quite obvious really, just from the way I was looking them.

‘I want your art on the covers’ I said again causing an instant response.

All the other artists were pissed. They demanded their art to be the ‘winner piece’.

I just stared at them, lifelessly.

‘Are you sure?’ my editor asked, with hopes that I will perhaps change my mind, but I nodded in agreement.

He sighed and he quieted down all the ruckus that was created by my choice.

‘Thank you for giving me this chance. I feel really honored…and I can’t wait to read your book! I am kind of a big fan of your work’ she said ecstatically, the last part only a soft whisper.

I just nodded awkwardly, not really knowing what was I supposed to say in this situation.

Not even sure that I could have spoken anything at all.

‘My name is ***. I can’t wait to work together with you!’ she said sincerely, and she shook my hand gingerly.

Her skin was soft and surprisingly warm.

I somehow had the ability to maintain a cold temperature even in the hottest summer days. It was like the fire that was supposed to be deep inside of me had died out some long time ago, and I was left with the inability to heat myself.

I left soon after that. Too many things have happened on the same day.

I needed to rest.

To quiet down the noises around me.

On the way home, despite the ice around me, the iced core of my own being, I felt strangely…warm.

Like I was touched by a ray of sun and for a mere second, I was fine.

Just a short.

Fickle.

Second.



Night



That night was weird.

Full of visions.

Dreams?

Maybe so.

Strange violent sightings. Loads of pitch black creatures forcing themselves into my throat, depriving me of my right of speech.

Velvet shreds tangling around my wrists, claiming my only possible way of communicating.

Why would they haunt me so? Who were they? WHAT were they?

Her voice…a resonance somewhere deep inside my mind, a vibration of lost times.

But the words she said made no sense…the sound so heavily distorted, like broken static.

Suddenly I was drowning.

Murky water filled my lungs, or was it ink? Acrylic?

A cruel joke I was playing on myself.

I felt pain, a sharp tingle in my chest. Like the water was contracting in my body cells like a living organism on the merge of dying.

A parasite.

My infatuation with her.

My obsession.

I stopped fighting it. There was no use. No chance.

It was already in me, part of my being.

Acceptance.

I took a deep breath, suctioning in every last bit of it, relishing it, like it was the source of my life.

My air.

As I got swallowed deep in the calm, tantalizing water, I opened my eyes expecting to find only the nothingness of my world.

But there was me…an image of me rather. I could see myself as clear as in a…mirror?

Yes, indeed, it was fluid yet it was capable to show one’s self-true form.

A marvelous invention…but so monstrous was my image that I shut my eyes tightly, afraid to open them up again.

And yet, despite my tries, I could feel that presence.

That hideous man was right in front of me, laughing hysterically in his deranged manner.

Looking at me with those cold dead eyes.

Inviting me to join him in that world of mysterious waters.

I hugged myself tightly not willing to let go of my sanity.

But no matter how hard I tried, I knew that at the corners of my mouth a sick smile was starting to form.

Who was I?

The human lost in thought?

Or the image in the mirror, waiting for my time to rise?

Awaiting a crack to form in the conscience of men…to take over.

To die long before you ever lived.

Incoherence?

Just water.



Light



The next day…or was it the day after that? I don’t really remember all that well.

Anyway, something happened.

A knock on the door.

Shock.

That never happened before, I was certain. No one ever did that.

EVER.

‘Must be some sort of mistake. Maybe if I just lay here, without making any noise, they will go away’ I thought.

But whoever it was had no intention of doing so.

The knocking became louder and Louder and LOUDER.

Like it was picking endlessly at my brain, trying to reach deep inside my head, searching for the answers I was never able to give.

Dejectedly I opened the door and froze instantly.

It was her.

Pure, sweet, carrying in her eyes all the hope and kindness from this abject world.

I stood still, my voice unable to awaken.

‘Hey, it’s me, ***, the artist that you chose?’ she said unsure that I remembered her.

I nodded, instinctively. It was the only response I knew.

‘Ah great, for a second there I thought it was all in my head’ she added, her tone shifting from relieved to witty.

‘I know it’s weird but hear me out a bit ok? I swear I’m not stalking you’ she continued in that same jolly speech of hers.

‘Actually, I have noticed for some time that we are neighbors. Well, sort of…I live in the building like next to this one. Our apartments are facing each other! What a coincidence huh? I even tried waving at you a few times but you never seem to notice me really. You are all immersed in your work. You always have that serious look on your face. Can’t blame you for that, really, people told me I’m quite the same when I get fired up with my art. I guess creative people are all alike in some way or another, right?’

She said all those things in just one breath, her whole body somehow animated by her words. While I just stood there like a daft person, not even inviting her inside.

Invite her, in My house? That right there is a foolish idea.

Even more idiotic than my own way of behaving.

‘I’m babbling, aren’t I? I do have that gift I’m afraid’ she said apologetically.

‘Well, long story short, I brought you these’ she added and she opened her bag, revealing a small brightly colored bowl full of homemade cookies.

‘They are not much…but I hope they’ll suit your taste. I just wanted to…welcome you in the neighborhood and thank you for picking me I guess. A little bit of both if I’m to be honest’ she ended her sentence with a bright smile and she gingerly handed me the overly adorned recipient.

I had to speak. I knew that. I forced the words to come out of my scarred throat.

It felt like I was spitting out tiny, sharp pieces of old glass, from the very core of my soul.

‘Thank you. It’s a very nice gesture. I’ll make sure to bring this back to you clean an unharmed’ I said, audibly I hope, and I gestured towards the bowl.

‘Ah don’t worry about it. I can come pick it up tomorrow…I could show you how my designs are turning out, I want your full approval on them’ she answered, happily, probably relieved that I actually responded.

‘Sure’ I remarked simply, already feeling worn out by the whole conversation.

She then waved sweetly and went on her merry way, leaving me stuck there, in that weird pose with the rainbow shaded thing in my hands and my door fully opened.

I woke up from that trance and I got back inside.

The cold found its way inside my humble abode since I happily invited it by letting the entrance free of any barrier.

The bowl was manually painted, probably by her.

Colors with no lines or boundaries. No shapes.

How strange.

The intensity of it burned my pupils.

I laid it down, carefully, afraid of shattering it and wasting its precious content.

I took one cookie and I bit down expecting the sweet taste to feel my taste buds.

But that did not happen.

Instead, to my amazement, I found out that the cookies were salty.

Slightly bitter.

A strange taste.

I found myself enjoying the complex mixture of aromas.

So that was her, the object of my desire.

A woman that did things like this for a stranger like me.

A very emotional, colorful person, whose aura vibrated with every word.

Her lips moved sinuously, in ways I never knew they could.

Her voice reached a musical level that was almost imperceptible to human ears.

Her eyes wandered so deep in your soul…planting speckles of light in places were only shadows dared to wander…were darkness reigned.

How was she real? A human like me but so different.

Like another being entirely.

Was she special?

Was I just completely lacking any sort of humanity?

Pertinent questions that remained unanswered.

Or was it…how she said it? A little bit of both?

Perhaps so.



Presence



She really came. Just like she said she will.

She seemed very pleased that I had practically devoured her cooking craftsmanship.

Embarrassment.

A feeling I perpetually had while she was in my proximity.

Her sketches were now a lot more detailed. Colors were slowly added in, the shapes were a lot more polished.

I declared myself content with her work and I encouraged her to maintain the same approach.

Fine my way of saying it was a lot curter and to the point, but she got the idea.

Even though I was reluctant at first to invite her inside, she proved to be a responsible visitor. She did not wander around my house led by indiscreet curiosity, she did not ask pesky questions about my life or anything uncomfortable.

It went actually fine…nice even.

She somehow persuaded me into inviting her more often, only for work-related business of course.

I also gave her my telephone number, so she could ask before coming, in case I was busy.

It might seem strange but I did own a telephone. Although it only had my editor’s number and now hers too I guess.

That’s because I had no other use for it.

All the other contacts I deleted way before I moved towns.

At first, they called, numbers I never really bothered to remember. So I don’t know who tried to reach me. Could have been more than one person. I recall that it just rang and rang for days until it finally stopped.

They understood my message.

Silence.

Was that not my preferred answer? How could they know, since they never tried to see me for who I was… the person hiding deep inside the broken shell.

I liked it.

The feeling of being disconnected.

Untouchable by their wicked, poisonous grasps.

And now I had her. Only a few buttons away at any time.

It felt dangerous…and pleasant.

Truly, it brought me more satisfaction than I am willing to recognize.

I liked the situation.

Having her so close was infinitely better than watching her from afar, though I still did that too. It was already my daily routine, it was too late to try changing it.

But her actual, physical form, materialized right centimeters away from my grasp…

A strange feeling I could not explain.

Excitement?Love?Desire?

Desire…never characterized me.

No, that’s not it.

WRONG.

It was far more simple…easier to understand.

I was…happy.

Happy.

Her presence made me happy.

Her smile made me happy.

Her voice made me happy.

She was my happiness. As bizarre as that sounds.

What would she do if she knew…she must never find out.

No.

I will keep it hidden.

Al those feelings.This precious little warmth that has found its way into my heart. I MUST protect it. Locked within away from their eyes…prying embers of hell.

Away.

Even from her.

Forever.



NEWS



It became somehow…normal.

Those visits.

She would talk and talk, filling the void my silence left.

She liked to tell me about her art. The explanation behind her every line. The reason she chose every shade.

The inspiration that birthed the creation.

It felt nice.

Just standing still, listening to her voice.

Humming in my ears…ever so sweetly.

I could fall asleep right there, letting her words echo in all my being, like some sacred mantra.

Even after the covers were finished, she’d still find reasons to come over a bit.

To see how I’m doing.

To simply greet me.

Sometimes she’d bring food, politely lying that she has cooked way too much for her. A repeated ‘accident’.

I did not understand her.

I’m not sure I do, even now.

But that’s just how she is…and how she was.

A sweet lovable creature that somehow wanted to waste her time on a secluded nobody like me.

She called me a friend yet I betrayed her trust from the start.

Practically praying on her from afar…filling her image with all my unspoken wishes.

Virtually raping her privacy.

Raping her.

What a chilling thought. As chilling as it was, as deranged as it seemed, it was the truth.

A monster and nothing more.

Was I even allowed to dream? Should I not just make her leave? For her own good?

My conscience was heavy. Like concrete blocks tied to my legs…damning me to the bottom of the ocean.

That filthy water.

I had to tell her. I owed her that at least.

‘Her next visit. Surely I will tell her then. To stay away. To forget about my sickly existence, for her own good. And mine. It had to be done…so I could hold on to my sanity, a little bit longer’ I thought.

Even I, as lowly as I was, had to do what’s right.

So I let her in, that One Last Time as I have decided, my heart heavy, my throat even drier than before…foreshadowing my failure.

‘William, you will not believe what happened! It’s totally mental! I still can’t wrap my head around it!’ she said, entering like a storm of excitement.

I signaled her to take a seat which she refused, preferring to walk around while she told her tale, a quirk of hers.

I, on the other hand, made myself comfortable and tried to remain attentive to her story, while also waiting for an opportunity to speak my own mind.

‘They accepted my latest collection “The art of black” in a fancy art show in the glamorous area of the city! With a party and everything! I get to invite whomever I want and all the “crème de la crème” will see my creations. That is complete madness. When I sent the pictures last month I never imagined that I’d actually win.’ She said, still looking quite bewildered.

This girl was so easily frazzled. Almost any small thing could get her from utterly depressed to completely fired up.

However, this was no little thing. It was a big accomplishment for any artist, I felt the need to express my sincere admiration.

‘Congratulations! You, of all people, deserve this chance the most’ I said, trying to sound as gleeful as I was able to.

And that was the truth. With no exaggeration. I saw her collection…. All those strange paintings that only used black.

Shades and tones of black.

Not even a speck of white on the canvas.

No colorful tint disturbed the reign of the complete absorption of any visible light.

A strange concept, but endearing.

Unique.

Hypnotizing.

If anyone deserved recognition, that person was her, and that’s from an objective point of view.

‘Thanks’ she said and she showed me that sincere smile of hers, that made my words infinitely harder to mutter.

‘Your support means a lot to me! I really wanted to share the news with you. And also…’ she glanced at me uncertain if she should continue speaking so I gave her an encouraging nod.

‘I…ah…I wanted to invite you. To the art show. Some other artist, friends of mine, will come…and I really wish you’d be there too. If you want, and you can…You’re invited to the after party too, it’s not gonna be extra loud or things like that. We’ll just hang around. I know it’s kind of…out of the blue but what do you say? Could you come? Will you at least consider it?’ she spoke so fast that I could barely follow.

She wanted me to come to her big event? How could I refuse….but I had to.

I had to tell her that I was no good.

My mind was so hectic that it was not doing what it was supposed to. Instead of thinking about what to say, I noticed something.

She never mentioned her family.

It was always friends, other artists.

Never relatives.

Why?

For some reason, I wanted to know that, and my mind remained hooked on that aspect, while completely ignoring the matter at hand.

That how I found myself talking without really making any sense.

‘What happened to your family?’ I asked, my inquiry causing her face to fall for a few seconds before she managed to construct a convincing smile.

‘They abandoned me when I was quite small. Big enough to understand that my family was leaving me behind…but not to quite grasp the reason why. Now I know. And I don’t hate them, not really. I have no idea where they are, and I do not wish to know. I let them be. My existence seems to have no meaning to them whatsoever.’ She ended her sentence with a melancholic look on her face.

‘I’m sorry…for asking such private matters’ I had the decency to say, in all my stupidity.

Of course, it had to be something like this. It was obvious to anyone.

But I just had to ask that idiotic question.

To satisfy my thirst for information.

Yet she was still standing there, leaning against my window still, awaiting for my answer.

After I screwed up so badly.

‘I’m sorry but…’ I started when she abruptly cut me off.

‘Look, I know socializing it’s hard for you. I understand that. But I worry for you. You’re always here. You barely go out, and when you do it’s for groceries. You have no one…and don’t get me wrong I’m not judging you, but you’re not fine. I can see that. And I want to help you. Meet some new people. Maybe come to my place once in a while for a change. I’d be very happy if you’d at least come to the show.’ She looked me in the eyes compassionately.

Her every word hit me with full force.

She cared.

I felt myself giving up, my conscience only an insignificant buzz somewhere far away in my head.

Yet I wavered, unsure.

‘Please’ she added, pressing on every single letter.

And I cracked.

Just like that.

My good intentions vanished like they never even existed.

Ok’ I answered simply, one mere syllable unable to contain the whole magnitude of my emotions.

She sighed, relieved at last, and then she smiled widely.

She then got on to writing on a post in note everything I needed to know.

The address, the time…

Then she proceeded to stick it on the back of my working laptop, a place in which it could not go unnoticed.

She left, just as chipper as the moment she walked in.

There she was, victorious again.

And I, defeated in this game of socializing.

I was in a dangerous place.

My safe haven was shattering profusely.

The fall was steep.

Unforgiving.

Was I ready to leave my world of solitude?

No.

I was certain of that. If it was possible I never wished to leave. To get myself back in the eye of the crowd.

The victim of society.

Paranoia.Anxiety.

They made their presence felt, now more than ever.

And yet, I had to do it. To break my vow of isolation.

For this ray of sunshine that touched my shadow was so bright…to alluring.

I had no chance to fight it.

No will to shield myself from her benevolent aura.

Instead, I wanted to bathe in this miracle…because they lasted only mere seconds before disappearing forever.

I was greedy and curious…just like Pandora when she opened that box filled with all the pain and suffering that the humans never felt before.

Blinded by my obsession…just like Midas and his gold.

Ah…how sad is this.

That nothing is ever truly new, and we are just damned to repeat what has already happened, times and times, over and over again, until…

What? Until what?

Does it ever stop? This repetition…this lack of actual novelty?

Even I, a seclude… no matter how much I try, I’ll never break free from this joke that time pulls on every single human.

And we are all bound to simply repeat…

Like a broken disk left on replay.

The weave of time unending.



THE WORLD



As the date of the show was rapidly coming I started to regret my choices in life.

REALLY REGRET THEM.

There was no way in all hell I could do that.

It’s been ages since I was in a room with that many unknown people…What was the last time?

My sister’s wedding I think.

Agonizing.Traumatic experience.

But now, I had a reason to go…

Her. I did not wanted to make her sad on her special day. To let her down…

I am not a great person. I am mostly nothing and no one really. But to disappoint her like that…what kind of monster was I supposed to be?

I could not skip this event...no matter how much I wanted to.

How much pain it will bring me to be there.

‘It doesn’t matter. My feeling don’t matter. I don’t matter’ I said to myself when that day finally arrived.

I made a whole pot of lavender tea and I forced myself to drink every last drop of it, in an attempt to calm myself down. And I was not really a tea lover.

Now coffee, that’s another thing. I enjoy my cup of black reinvigorating liquid as much as the next person does. I often use it so I can stay up as much as possible to write. But it also made me agitated…so it had to be avoided.

So, it was tea day. Calm day. Or so I was desperately trying to fool myself.

The occasion was something that people would refer to as ‘fancy’ so I searched for my only decent suit, a dusty old thing I wasn’t even sure I brought with me.

I managed to find it though, packed away in a drawer. Thanks to my peculiar eating habits it still fit me like a glove despite having it since I was a teenager.

Did I actually buy it for my sister’s wedding? That’s a possibility.

I looked at the man in the mirror.

Visibly tired.Awkward stature.

An extra from a movie scene, that would describe it best.

Skin as white as paper sheets, from the lack of sun, eyes a glassy blue like a creepy porcelain doll you see in those old horror movies. Disheveled black hair.

Every aspect made my decision to go rather questionable.

I sighed.

A long painful muted scream my lungs simply gave out.

The man in the mirror seems to be in sheer agony.

I left, wishing to go back inside from the minute my feet touched the slimy ground.

The snow has melted, spring was coming. Or was it already here?

I looked at the trees and I was surprised to see the little green buds hanging on the scrawny branches. Was winter over?

Oh well, it’s not like that affected me in any way.

I kept on walking hating the sound my steps made in the fresh puddles. It felt like everything was damp. Soaked in the ashy scenery.

In the end, I got to where I was supposed to be.

The Art Gallery.

Inside I was greeted by an usher boy, a skinny little thing that seemed to hate his life almost as much as I despised my own.

The participants were, sadly, how I expected them to be.

Uptight, narcissistic people, that just searched for a new decoration for their dog’s mansion, or something like that.

Few were those that actually looked at the pieces, trying to figure out their hidden meaning. Really seeing the mastery of their creator.

I looked around searching for that one figure that had any importance in this pointless congregation.

She was truly easy to spot.

She was dressed in a black dress, probably to fit the theme of her collection. A form-fitting one with a little bit of lace at the neck area, and she wore her long blonde hair in an intricate hairdo.

Soft elegance, decent.

It fit her.

She somehow managed to spot me, from way across the room, and she made her way towards me.

‘I’m so glad you came! I was beginning to think that you blew me off.’ She said as she pulled me into a tight hug.

I never felt her body so close to mine.

Or anybody that close to be sincere. Not even my mother’s. Not as far as I could remember anyway.

The sensation was…etheric.

Like she was trying to bundle up all the broken pieces of my soul and put them all back together, ‘fixing’ it.

And there was I, reactionless as usual. Not even being able to put my hands around her warm little figure, a mere social convention.

‘What do you think?’ she asked me after she let go, her eyes shiny from the joy of her art being discovered.

‘It’s a lot of people’ I managed to say.

‘Oh tell me about it. Half of them obviously have no idea what’s the difference between Van Gogh and Picasso. I don’t expect them to understand my technique or my idea. But, as ignorant as they are, they do have a certain influence and I really would not mind them paying for my tropical escape’ she ended her speech with a playful wink.

She then excused herself, not before promising that she’ll wait for me after the whole ordeal was over.

So I had to go through all the art show.

What an imminent pleasure.

Even though I knew the collection from my unnatural habit, this was the first time I could see the pieces up close.

It was obvious that every tiny speck of color had its purpose. Every line was deliberate. The expressiveness she managed to convey using only black was really breathtaking.

She carefully titled every piece, to show the viewer what she wanted them to see.

But even those were abstract and quite hard to grasp.

‘Eternity’ was just some sort of black hole full of swirls and turns at first sight. A second glance though revealed the real picture obscured by the first impression.

It somehow gave the illusion of a hidden light, soft lines emerging from the center, captivating the eye.

Was it the way she perceived time? Or it was the idea that you could get lost in that abyss forever?

‘Eye’ it showed a huge distorted circle. It gave the idea that it was a pupil unable to see.

Blind.

I do not know how, but as I looked at it, I felt that my own image was reflected in it…a trick created with the tip of a thin brush.

Alas, the one that truly stole the show was ‘The world’.

This one was truly hard to get. It was black. Utterly and completely so.

Nothing seemed to really pop up…just the absence of anything.

A farce the artist played on unseeing eyes.

You just had to lower yourself, as if sitting down, and then you were able to truly grasp the piece.

Down, at the very bottom of the black canvas, you could finally make out the figures. Barely etched elements representing souls.

Humanity.

Agonizingly trying to conquer the world.

A trap, for ‘the world’ was nothing. Just an endless void. And as they tried to reach it they would just disappear, never to be seen again.

A clever metaphor for the human nature. The predator, the greedy being that wanted it all, not realizing it lost itself in the process.

Death.

Memories forgotten.

Even after I carefully analyzed all the pieces, I came back to The World and I looked at it intently, losing the concept of time and space.

I regained my stability when someone patted me softly on my shoulder.

‘There you were. The show it’s finally over. I’m glad to see that at least some people actually enjoyed the art. I saw you scrutinizing every piece with your focused face on. I’m guessing ‘The world’ stole your heart? She asked gleefully.

‘Yeah. You could say that. It’s the hardest one to understand but once you do it completely clutches your attention.’

‘I’m glad you got it. I’m afraid that most of the people here completely missed the point. Maybe that’s why it’s the only painting that was not bought. What a shame. It’s my favorite too you know?’ she said with a sad smile.

‘ I’ll buy it’ ‘Since you like it so much I’ll give it to you’ we talked at the same time.

She laughed, amused by this happening.

‘Buy it? No way. It’s yours, really. Consider it a gift, from an artist to another. Come on, take it down, let’s wrap it up’ she said dismissing my intent to legally acquire it.

‘This is too much. It’s your work. You deserve to be paid for it.’ I insisted.

‘You are right, it is my work. That means I am free to do as I please’ she shut my mouth with her mischievous smile.

Like the Cheshire Cat that would always get poor little Alice in trouble.

After she covered the picture with a lot of care and love she proudly put it in my arms.

‘Well now, I’ll give you the time to bring this puppy home. But I will be expecting you at my place, to join the party. It’s a must! And if you fail to show up, I’ll come for you. I swear on my acrylic paint I will!’ she said, pointing fiercely at me.

I had managed to go through them all even without socializing but a party… things would be rather hard.

Almost impossible to avoid human interaction.

Defeated yet again, I nodded in agreement.

This woman was surely going to be the death of me.



Game



So I obliged.

I really believed that she’d stay true to her words if I did not partake in her idea for a small gathering of people to be named a celebratory practice.

I did take my time though, by hanging the painting, changing myself into a more comfortable attire.

I never was the type to rush anywhere. And since I do appreciate punctuality I usually just leave a lot earlier so I could be as slow as I want and still get there in time.

But now I was just stalling, so I could gather my courage to act.

This was sort of a double problem.

The first time I get to visit her and a party. At the same time.

I left home before I had the chance to make up my mind.

When I arrived I knocked on the door, ever so lightly, hoping that maybe no one will hear me and that I could go back home with a good excuse at hand.

The door opened.

Unlucky me.

It was her, of course, who else would answer her door?

She was also dressed in a different manner. A skirt, a stylish sweater, and her beautiful long hair free at last.

Deep down I wanted to pull my fingers through her shiny tendrils, to feel the smooth texture of that blonde miniature bundle of sunbeams.

An urge that I successfully restrained.

‘I knew you’ll come, well not really. I just really hoped you would. We are just a few here. Some people that I collaborated with, a few friends. They are good people really. Don’t worry. They won’t pry and prod you. Don’t be so concerned please. You look like a lamb that’s about to be slaughtered’ she said trying to encourage me.

‘The silence of the lambs’ I said, without thinking.

‘Was that a joke? Oh my gosh! This is a first! A miracle of Jesus! Fast, say a wish, this is the time when anything is possible’ she said laughing.

I was not joking. That was not my intention whatsoever.

I was as serious as one can be, but I chose to keep that for myself.

Her apartment was a great deal bigger than mine and decorated with a lot more flair. Paintings in various styles were adorning the walls, though my instinct told me that she probably created them all even if they seemed to have been made by people with different visions. She had the talent to be extremely volatile. She could see a single thing in a hundred ways.

The furniture was not opulent. Rather simple but very well chosen to match each room. All the walls were white, probably to emphasize on the pieces of art they held. Firefly lights were strewn around creating a sort of eerie atmosphere. She had books and colored scented candles, but few others knick knacks were in sight.

There were five people that I did not exactly know but I recognized them from the show.

A petite woman with fiery green eyes that locked on mine almost instantly as I entered the room. Her hair was black and short, her demeanor like a hunting wildcat.

I avoided her sharp gaze.

Another woman was significantly older than anyone else present. She gave the air of a teacher…some sort of mentor. Stern appearance indeed, but her features became infinitely softer when she looked at ***. Her dear pupil, one would correctly assume.

A strange guy, clearly a tattoo fanatic was idling by the appetizers. His hair was painted and arranged to look like a burning flame. Eccentric to say at least.

A man, with glasses, was the exact opposite of the body art lover. An art dealer was the idea that instantly formed into my mind. He really looked the part, with his brand clothing and stylized hair. He gave my neighbor a certain kind of smile that made me dislike him in a matter of seconds.

The last person was a frail looking girl. She surely seemed exhausted. She had huge black bags under her eyes. Her hair was a dirty brown and it lacked any manifestation of life. Oily, almost like autumn leaves it looked like it could crack at any time and turn into dust. Sadness?Depression maybe? Who knew what was her ail, but she most likely had her issues with life.

‘Guys, this is William, a fantastic writer and a good friend of mine’ she announced merrily.

I felt their eyes fixated on me so I quickly mumbled a salute so we’d get over that situation already.

‘Now let’s introduce everybody. This is Eloise, a master in the nature-inspired department’ she said and the cat woman smiled purposely.

‘Madam La Fe, the one that introduced me to the world of belle arts’.

The older woman politely nodded her head.

Vincent, a tattoo artist with a fiery personality’.

Flame boy flexed his arms so I could see his work in its full glory.

Daniel, my trusted advisor that’s been helping me make a stand in the industry’.

The art dealer showed a cold smile, clearly finding my presence unnecessary. If looks could kill then he’d have massacred me right then and there. The way he probably treated any man that dared trespass on ‘his territory’.

‘And finally Anna, an old friend of mine, that breaks the painter's circle. She is by no means an artist, but her passion is music. Be it instrumental or vocal she’s an angel nonetheless.’

The girl looked at me in a daze. Like she was not really perceiving my presence. Drugs was it? That kept her so lost from reality?

‘Let’s all get along and have a great time together’ she ended the awkward episode with a sweet smile, a low key encouragement for me to get involved in conversations.

I knew who I did not wanted to engage right from the start. I made sure there was a lot of space between me and the lady hunter. Also the arrogant art dealer. I had no interest in wasting my time on people that I clearly disliked.

To my surprise, Madam La Fe approached me. We exchanged pleasantries and then she started talking about her favorite pupil.

‘I find it wonderful that my dear has managed to surround herself with people so talented. So drawn to the mystic side of life.The unknown, the hidden beauties, the wonder of ones way of expressing themselves. She grew so much, both as a person and an artist. I am sure she is made to do great things, achieve the unachievable. Shatter the concept of art as we now know it. I am certain.’ She went on, eulogizing her and making her own opinions known about the styles that were in trend nowadays. The lousy artist, popular without any merit or talent, the ignorance of the public.

A long conversation in which I did not really have to participate more.Much to my delight.

It still drained me, all the information being thrown in my way, forced into my ears. The synaptic response my brain was compelled to give.

Alas, the lady was pleased, and she excused herself, giving me a few moments of respite.

I used that brief pause to observe the people around me. Flame boy and music lady seemed now to share the same state of rapture. Whatever narcotics they used, they seemed very happy and tranquil talking about things that made no sense, despite my attempt to follow their conversation.

Catgirl was flirting with the sour man. She could really not take the hint that his interest laid in different places. I was glad though, that I was safe from her suffocating presence.

The mentor and the pupil enjoyed a cup of tea together, reminiscing about old days.

I enjoyed my solitude as long as it lasted.

Then I was invited to join the two astral souls that were lost in the great wonders of the universe.

‘You are a writer Will, you surely understand the true meaning of words. Leaving your mark on the world, as a mortuary reminder that you were sometimes alive. What a wonderful thing’ the man said jumping from a subject to another.

‘A song is simply a mirror of one’s soul. A momentary confession. A ruse…it is sometimes like that. You betray your own feeling and chant about the beauties of life when you really just want it all to end. How sad the life of a mockingbird’ she added not sure of her own belief.

I soon slipped out of that confusing conversation that circled around art, apparently the major subject of tonight, but also dwelt on their deepest fears, wishes, desires, and uncertainties.

Was she a beacon to people like this? That searched for an escape in their passion? Not deformed by social conventions…not willing to give up their visage of the world we all live in?

My pondering moment was disturbed by the woman I so greatly tried to avoid.

‘Aren’t you lonely darling? Idling around by yourself?’ she asked in a sultry manner.

I smiled feeling extremely out of my element.

‘What’s the matter? Cat got your tongue?’ she said smiling victoriously, probably thinking that it was her charm that made me falter.

‘Take him easy Lou, I’m afraid he is rather shy and not much of a talker. I barely get a few words out of him and I do know him for quite a while now’ *** jumped into my defense, bless her soul.

She then proceeded to go check on those two, a look of concern darkening her features.

‘A shy guy huh? I do like me someone that actually listens to what I say, for a change’ the cat lady said and tried to touch my face, but I avoided her grabby hands.

I then excused myself, sick of that conversation.

There was a balcony that provided a good source of fresh air that I badly needed.

This whole ordeal started to exceed my capability of handling it.

I lacked the training and the will to go on and about this stupid game of socializing.

I was tired and fed up.

And it was about to get worse.

On the balcony, I stumbled on the other person that I desperately wished to evade.

I mumbled a greeting, half-hoping he would not hear it.

He unfortunately did.

‘How did you meet *** exactly? I do not recall her telling me the full story’ he asked, suspicious of my intentions.

‘A contest. I chose her art style for the covers of one of my books. When she found out we live so close to each other she insisted we become friends.’ I answered, resuming the whole story into as little words as I could.

‘Yes, that’s her M.O right there’ he sighed.

‘She just keeps bundling up all the broken lonely souls she happens to stumble upon, like she’s some Mother Theresa. One of those day she’ll find a psychopath and that will be the end of her. I keep telling her to stop but to no avail. That girl worries me so much. And all I get to do is sit and watch as she parades around another freak of hers’ he pressed on, spitting his venom all over me.

I just left right then, sick of his attitude.

Hurt by his words?

NO.

Afraid that they were true.

Was I just another humanitarian cause for her?

I looked at the druggies and her motherly attitude towards them, and the reality of this possibility hit me with full force.

Such a good kind heart she had, it all seemed plausible.

I felt ashamed…that I had hoped that she accepted me for who am I, not with a vile intention of ‘healing me’.

I HAD NO NEED OF THAT.

HEALING.

Even the word sounded like some cheap mockery.

I stood secluded on a chair for the rest of the event, not willing to participate in any more torture.

Unable to detach myself from my own suffering.



Desire



I don’t know when the party reached its ending.

I don’t even recall them leaving, one by one or clutched together like sheep.

But soon enough it was all over, and when I came back to my senses she was just waving goodbye at the last of them.

She then came at me, her attitude a mixture of worried and apologetic and something else I could not quite get.

A glint in her eyes, that made her look different.

‘I am so sorry. I did not even get the chance to spend some time with you. They are good people, each and every one of them, but they can be a little extra sometimes. Those two and their drugs…’ she trailed off and she sighed profusely.

‘Are you ok? I noticed you got lost in the picture there. Was it Lou? Did she pester you after I told her to take it easy?’ she inquired and I shook my head.

‘Daniel…’ she understood somehow from my attitude.

‘What did he say this time? He does have a habit of speaking without thinking. He feels like I need his protection and he is hostile towards any new people I bring in my life. I guess he went even harder on you considering…’ she trailed off again and adverted my gaze.

‘Considering what?’ I could not maintain myself from asking even in that awful mental state I was in.

‘Well, various things. Anyway, I am so sorry. I just wanted you to relax and have a good time. It all went sour because of me. I should have backed you up a little more. But Madame was so into her old memories…then those guys crossed the high line.’

She looked truly troubled by everything that happened and I did not know what to believe.

Where did her kindness ended and her true feelings started?

Were we ‘friends’ by any means?

I remained silent, and this time she did not fill the void with her chipper thrill.

She was hiding something from me, that was clear enough.

We were alone now, and it was late.

I just wanted to get back home and forget all about it.

The show.

The party.


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