“Eating right leads to a better life.”
The Cookie Monster* #quote
I'm still sick, though I am getting better I'd say. Perhaps in a few days I shall be better, but with these things you can't really know. This is unfortunate because that means I am weaker to psychic attacks for a little longer. Anyway onto the flash fiction!
The Bent Studio
The artist painted the walls of his studio himself. He used blacks and whites to make smooth curves and perfect lines into carefully crafted patterns. The way he united these patterns around the room made it impossible to figure out where the walls met the ceiling and where they met each other.
With his patterns he made the optical illusion that no matter where someone stood it looked like the walls in front of them went further away while the walls on sides closed in. The door was also painted so that it would blend in with them and become just another part of the sea of whites and blacks that made up the illusion.
The optical tricks made all of space visibly mutate and the ceiling closed in when the floor rose up. The illusion on the floor made anyone that walked on the floor sink into it. People have gotten lost in the small room because they couldn't find the door among the optical tricks.
To help the artist put his paintings on the walls to guide people. Because of the illusions of the rooms the paintings appeared to float freely as their frames blended in with the patterns of the walls and made the paintings jump free from the illusions. People could navigate around the room by using the paintings as landmarks.
The artist's self portrait served as the most important guide because it hung opposite of the door. In it the artist wore a dark blue collared shirt that fit snugly around his thin neck. The artist's skin was smooth as glass and gleamed like fine glass would. He had a delicate nose that looked regal in appearance. The expression on his face conveyed perfect calmness. Looking directly into the portrait's eyes for too long would rob someone of all their anger. His smile gave off a feeling of warmth and confidence. His short brown hair ran cleanly over his cheeks and forehead with a small curls at the ends. The artist's portrait seemed to act like a guardian over all the other art in the studio.
The actual artist then entered the room. The true artist had scraggly hair and eyes with a tired look in them. Small hairs dotted his chin and his cheeks appeared beaten and rough. His large nose arced a little downward. He wore an old, tattered red t-shirt with mangled jeans. He had a large, nasty scar that crawled along his forehead that everyone could see no matter how much he tried to hide it with his hair. He carried a big green suitcase whose color clashed with the optical illusions in the room so much that it looked like it tore apart the walls.
“So how are you?” the artist's portrait said to him in a strong, yet caring tone.
“Fine, thanks for asking.” the artist responded in a nearly breathless voice.
“I'm glad to hear that.” the self-portrait responded without moving his lips. The artist's portrait was the first painting that spoke to him, though now every piece of art he creates speaks to him with their own voices.
“What's in the suitcase?” asked a painting to the left of the self-portrait. The high-pitch voice of the painting sounded like it bubbled up from the bottom of a pool. The voice belonged to a watercolor painting of a park that the artist went to as a child. Despite the massive size he gave to the park there was only one child in it sitting on a swing. It was a little girl that used to be his best friend before he moved all those years ago.
“Is it a new brother or sister for us?” a whisper from a landscape of the woods asked. The artist painted the woods in a mellow autumn. Sometimes it seemed to him that the whisper from the woods came more from the fallen leaves than the trees.
“It's a new painting.” he responded. He opened the suitcase to reveal an incomplete painting and some of his painting supplies. He sat cross-legged on the floor and knelt over the unfinished painting. There was only one source of light in the room, a bare bulb hanging from the exact center of the ceiling. This made him cast a thick shadow on his developing painting.
A deep cave filled up the painting. And inside the darkness of that cave he had begun to paint a dragon. He hesitated when he grabbed his brush. Yesterday he finished the body, wings, claws, neck and tail of the beast. The last thing the dragon needed was its head. The artist looked at his brush and imagined putting the last strokes of color onto the painting and bringing the dragon's voice to life. He knew that if he never completed it, then it would never speak to him.
“You shouldn't be hesitating.” his self-portrait told him. “You shouldn't keep the painting waiting, it needs to live.” the portrait spoke to him with a thick tone. “Bring it to life.”
With that command the artist finished the last few brush strokes. He then heard the dragon moan and take a deep breath. “Thank you.” the dragon's voice sounded like someone tearing metal. Its words shook the insides of the artists ears. “While I waited for that last brush stroke I wondered if you would actually complete me. Was it okay for me to be afraid?” the dragon asked the artist.
“You shouldn't have worried. We're always willing to accept more members into our family.” the self-portrait answered.
The room filled with the chatter of the paintings while the artist hung the dragon on the wall and gave it a mellow smile. Despite its intimidating voice the dragon made plenty of friends in a short amount of time. The residents of a ballroom painting welcomed the dragon, as did the landscape of the woods.
“Oh, we'll have a new family member tomorrow too.” the artist smiled as he looked around the room at all of his paintings.
“So, are you finally bringing her into the studio?” the self-portrait spoke more like he was giving an order than asking a question.
“Yes, she's coming here.” the artist responded with a glad and nervous tone. The artist grew a little smile and left his studio.
The next day a woman entered the studio. She wore a black dress that managed to look cheery despite its color. The dress clung to her body like curtains to a window.
When she walked into the room her brown eyes met the self-portrait's calming green ones. Despite the differences between the portrait and the genuine article she could still tell the portrait was supposed to be her love. She didn't care about all the physical flaws that the artist removed in his portrait, even the big, mangled scar that ran across his forehead.
As she walked across the room her black dress flowed into the illusions of the room and it seemed as if everything in the room followed her. Her red hair managed to break some of the illusions apart so as the hair moved the room twisted around it. She almost fell over twice before she got used to all the illusions.
The artist entered the room after her, carrying art supplies, including paints and a canvas. After he set them down he left and came back with two chairs, one for him and one for her. He set the canvas up while she posed in a delicate posture.
“She's quite beautiful.” the self-portrait spoke with a tone that made his statement sound like undeniable fact. “I'm glad you listened to my advice and decided to bring her here.” The paintings began to chatter, commenting on her and agreeing with the self-portrait. While he began painting her they continued to talk. The artist managed to ignore them enough to focus.
He painted his love's body nearly exactly as it truly was, though he softened the dress, smoothed the skin and made her expression a little more sly. In the background of the portrait he replaced the room's optical illusions with waves of ripe apple red.
“It's finished.” the artist told her with a short breath. He expected the portrait of her to start speaking and interrupt him, but it didn't. He turned the canvas towards her.
“It's wonderful. You're so talented.” she looked around the room. “Knowing now that all these wonderful paintings were in here I wonder why you didn't bring me in here before.” she said while the paintings began to chatter again. After he hung her portrait on the wall they left the studio. For years he entered and left his studio with all of the paintings still talking except the portrait of his love.
“You saw it today didn't you?” the portrait of her said to him one gloomy day. “A sign of age in her.”
“What do you mean?” he asked the portrait, still a little shocked at its sudden statement.
“You know her beauty isn't going to last forever.” the portrait responded. “Whatever imperfection you saw in her today, as she ages they will be more. Her beauty will fade until she's nothing but an ugly old hag.”
“That's not true, she'll always be perfect.” the artist responded with a sullen tone.
“My beauty will stay, I'll be youthful forever, I won't die like she will.” the portrait's soft voice patted his ears.
“Quiet you wretch.” the self-portrait snarled at her. “I should have never let him make you. I'm the only one he needs to listen to.”
“Forget what he said. You should get rid of her. Keep only me, I'll stay perfect while she'll rot away. Forget both of them. I'm the only one you will ever need.” her voice got both softer and stronger as she spoke.
“Shut up, both of you! You're not even real!” he yelled at the paintings. All the paintings began to talk at once, telling him to never say such things.
“Not real?” the self-portrait's tone became loud and angry, his voice boomed over all the other paintings. “There are only two options here. Either we're real, or you're crazy. Which would you rather believe?”
The artist felt at the large scar on his forehead. The more he thought about all of it, the more depressed he became. Though once he thought about her, the real her, he gained a new conviction.
“It doesn't matter if I'm crazy or not. Today is the last day any of you will talk to me.” he picked up a paintbrush and dipped it sloppily into black paint. He walked up to the portrait of his love. The paint that dripped from the brush broke apart the optical illusions of the room as it fell onto the floor. He moved his brush in wide strokes across the canvas.
“No! Stop!” the portrait screamed as she was immersed in black. He didn't leave any piece of the portrait uncovered.
“You killed her. You really killed her.” the self-portrait's voice shivered and shuddered. The artist turned to his self-portrait. “Are you going to kill me too? You wouldn't, not after all this time, all the time I guided you and help you make decisions.” The artist began to swipe his blackened brush along the picture. As the artist was about to finished the self-portrait said “I suppose the only thing I can do now is forgive you.” After that none of the paintings ever spoke again.