The Deadly Painting (Part 3)

“present in sun but not in rain,” I continued, “since there’s no sun, there’s no light to reflect off you to create the shadow. Doing no harm and feeling no pain, though the shadow mimics you it doesn’t feel what you feel, and it also doesn’t do anything to you, so there!”

The man chuckled and nodded his head, “very nice, the answer is, in fact, a shadow.”

“Alright, I solved your riddles.” I said, “What’s next?”

“You catch on quickly,” the man said, “next, you must walk through the forest,” he paused, “but not the way you came.”

He pointed toward the green sky and the light shaped itself into a staircase and descended to my feet. The staircase sparkled in the night and seemed to have no end in sight.

“Isn’t the forest down there?” I pointed to the ground.

“You won’t be walking through that forest,” the man said as he walked up the staircase, “follow me.”

The sky turned even blacker as we ascended the staircase, the colors no longer changed but remained a constant steel grey. Thunder and lightning permeated the skies and dark clouds clustered and let out a hellish rain. The raindrops were the colors of the rainbow; the rain went from a drizzle to a maelstrom. Suddenly, we were surrounded by a sheet of rainbow water and the staircase resembled the painting. It was like walking through a hypnotic portal toward another dimension.

“Enjoying the view?” The man asked.

“I guess you can say that.”

“Yes, the creator does have a . . . unique mind for such things.”

“You sound like you know him.”

“Oh, I do.” The man chuckled, “I know the creator very well.”

“Alright, tell me about him.”

“Well, the creator is a loner, so to speak,” the man started, “he often keeps to himself, doesn’t enjoy the company of those not of his creation. He is a bit cantankerous for such a young age but, I feel he can be turned around. I’ve tried, in the past to get him to indulge in his own reality but he insists on staying in the one he created.” The man paused, “it really is unfortunate that his reality hasn’t turned out as he expected, but it is necessary that he return, so that eh can create to his maximum capacity.”

“Basically, you want him to get real and grow up.” I added, “And you want me to turn him around somehow?”

“Yes.”

“I don’t know the guy from a can of paint, no pun intended but,” I paused to look at the view once more, “sure, I guess I can try.”

“Thank you,” the man said as the staircase ended with a rainbow door that had a knob that changed colors constantly. It was red, then blue, then green, then yellow, then scarlet, then orange, the purple, then gray. The man grabbed the knob at certain colors and the door opened to reveal a room filled with paintings, each more impressionistic than the last. Some were of landscapes, others were of big cities with high-rise buildings lighting up the night, some were of beautiful women and attractive men.

Wow, I thought, this guy has some talent.

“As you can see,” the man started, “though he has great abilities when it comes to art, his creativity has hit a peak.”

“I’m surprised he pulled this much out his ass,” I said, “but yeah, some of the work is a bit repetitive.”

We reached another staircase that was shorter than the last one, it still spiraled for some time, but I could see the top and a ray of light peaking out. We walked up the staircase in silence and I took in all the guy’s work. Most of it had a sadness about it, a melancholy that reflected someone bitter not at life but at their reality. It elicited a wide range of emotions on the lower end of the spectrum with anger being the highest and depression and suicidal tendencies at the bottom. He never seemed to paint anything happy or cheerful, like he’s stuck in a perpetual dark age (which wasn’t too far from the truth). The closer we got to the top the more the rainbow faded into blackness, a dark feeling came over me along with a coldness that only perpetual loneliness and solitude could breed, like stepping out of a hot shower where the cool air feels like the north pole, biting into your skin and eroding the warmth. The paintings themselves exuded a melancholy; a sort of lingering sadness formed from old wounded that never healed. Like the death of a loved one who was omnipresent, who you never thought of in a casket until the day came where they were, it had that strangeness that something else was supposed to be there but was taken by circumstance never to be returned. There was a feeling of pain, loss, and regret in the air as we got closer and closer still. It was so palpable I felt my eyes tearing up though I had nothing to cry about; sure, my life wasn’t the best but it wasn’t the worst either, especially since most of my family is still alive; although, I prefer to keep my distance.

When we got to the doorway, he was sitting in front of a canvas painting, the work in progress looked to be something dark, filled with agony, guilt, shame. I didn’t have to look at the guy to know he was broken on the inside and could only create beauty from pain. There was no joy in his brush strokes, each one seemed filled with a negative emotion, draining the soul from his very body. Though they were slow, methodical, and had the air of a professional who’s trained for years, his fingers looked arthritic and vascular, his hands moving back and forth like a witch waving a wand. There was a black aura surrounding his presence and it smelled of ash; in fact, the room smelled like a graveyard and I almost threw up as the scent was so odorous. Once I composed myself and the smell faded, I took a hesitant step toward him, he didn’t move. I took another step and then another until I was directly behind him. His aura was so powerful I felt sweat dripping from my brow, my heartrate rose gradually and my hands fidgeted, for a moment the only thing I could hear was my heartbeat and the soft, scraping sound the brush made as it stroke the canvas. The strokes began to match the rhythm of my heart making a terrible melody, the creator remained stiller than a dead man.

“So, Otto,” the creator said with a hoarse voice, “this is the one you’ve brought to convince me?”

“it is, creator.” Otto responded, “it is time you go back to your world, sir.”

“This is my world,” the creator responded, “I created it.”

“True,” Otto said, “however, your own creation is destroying you and I can no longer stand idly by, you must return so you can create worlds more beautiful than this one.”

“Flattery was always your strong suit, Otto.” The creator said, “that’s what I like about you.”

“Then heed my words and return,” Otto pleaded, “We don’t want to watch you destroy yourself anymore . . . it breaks us to do so.”

“I know you care, Otto.” The creator said, “But I can’t. There’s nothing for me to return to. I gave away everything and cut ties with my family, the ones that are alive anyway, and I have no way of making money. No one would by my art.”

An Idea came to me, “I believe I could help with that.”

The creator moved for the firs time and Otto smirked.

“I work in an art gallery,” I started, “And this work we’re in is on display right now. People come every day and look at your work and wonder where you’ve gone. All you have to do is make an appearance and everything should be fine.”

“You lie, boy.” The creator said, “something so convenient wouldn’t—”

He looked at Otto, “you planned this, didn’t you, Otto?”

Otto smirked again, “Guilty as charged, sir.”

“Wait a minute,” I started, “You mean it was you? Screaming to find you when I was in the graveyard?”

“That was I.” Otto nodded.

“So, you’re really trying to throw me out, after all I’ve created for you and the others?” The creator asked, “Is this how you treat the one who sacrificed everything for you?”

“If I must incur your wrath to save you, then so be it.” Otto responded, “I will watch you doe no longer, and the others share the sentiment.”

“Then where are they?”

“Trying to fight off the darkness,” Otto said, “their trying to fight you.”

The creator turned from Otto and looked at his canvas as if seeing it for the first time, he looked around the little room he trapped himself in and out the window into the darkness he created. He looked out the door into the hallway, at the paintings on the wall; he looked at the sadness, looked at the pain, looked at the loneliness and solitude, and his eyes widened as Otto’s message finally resonated with him.

“When did this happen, Otto?” The creator asked, “When did I fall from grace?”

“You fell when you first came here,” Otto said, “but I believe the fall started long before, and only you know what happened before you came.”

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