Incendo

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A short story I wrote, about an insane artist searching in vain for perfection.

Submitted: September 15, 2008

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Submitted: September 15, 2008

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Devoured.

I scribbled furiously upon the sheet of rough, unforgiving canvas.  Etching, scratching, with such incessant fury that it seemed my very own blood was being drawn into the lead of the pencil, being soaked into deepest fabric of the structure of the canvas.  My blood, my life, my soul, siphoned from me and absorbed into this vampiric canvas.  I knew of no thought, no consciousness of presence, no sight and no smell and no hearing.

Nothing in heaven, or in hell, or on earth, or in the far reaches of the universe existed, save for the canvas and I.  We were alone, floating in a dimension of pure nothingness, without sound, without sight, the canvas and I.

This tiny, unassuming, blank piece of paper shook me to my core with its unbelievable rebelliousness; my utter inability to seize it, conquer it, and make it bring life to my mind's image.  With every stroke of the pencil and every flick of my wrist, my fingers coiled increasingly tighter around the hard, wooden, cylindrical mass.  My hand shook violently with erupting frustration, and in a instant, I had exited the world of definitive reality in a rapid flash of blood red.  I flung my pencil madly in my clenched, sweaty fist, beating the canvas with the graphite point in a merciless, emotive frenzy.  I struck it with as much prudery and precision as a four-year-old finger painting, or a monkey aimlessly tossing around its own defecation; creating a series of rough, disorganized scratch marks.  In the onslaught of my rampant, frantic dementia, I brandished the pencil and viciously impaled the wicked canvas; with such a phenomenal force that the canvas was gored straight through and the pencil had scraped the hard, wooden drawing table that the canvas lay upon, leaving a small indent within its surface.  Tumultuously raging with unbridled fury and despair, I lifted the offending pencil, drew back my arm and hurled it with the bulk of my wrathful strength.  I felt the wind from the force of my arm's swing disrupt the strands of my hair.  I watched through a barrier of hysteric tears as it ricocheted off the adjacent wall and rolled pitifully on the floor, halting at my feet.  My blood, my soul, and my life, no taller than the sole of my shoe and no heavier than my little toe, lay meekly before me, no more majestic or stately as a common mouse.  I had relinquished all of me to this.

 

Nothing more than a ordinary pencil, manufactured by mortal human hands.

I stared at it, with one of the most loathsome of stares, and suddenly the pencil seemed to take on a fearful personification to me; it morphed into a threatening, demonic object right before my eyes, and my composure broke in the overwhelming malevolent force of its presence.  My knees shook, the weight of my body had become too much of a burden for my legs.  I felt weak, anemic, dismantled. . My legs crumpled underneath me and I fell with a soft thud upon my carpeted floor, curling my body in a fetal position and sobbing quietly. The pencil retained its position in silence, and in my raving, crippling insanity I believed it to be mocking me, laughing uproariously at how I had wasted my life toiling away with it as my sole instrument; how I had treasured it, how I had exalted it, how I had loved it.  As I lay coiled and half-dead, peeking through the crevices of my fingers, I knew I had very well earned the derision of this pencil, the canvas and the erasers and the table and the whole of my artistic belongings.  In their persisting defiance they united against me in laughter and scorn, like mean-spirited playground children kicking dirt in the face of a targeted outcast.  I turned my focus away from their collective sardonic characters and allowed my gaze to digress to the ceiling, the walls, the carpet I laid upon.  

Spontaneously, without any warning, I felt my heart  leap into my esophagus and then slide swiftly into my gut, as if riding up and down the expanse of organs.  It then began beating adamantly, rakishly, like a megaton equine animal pounding its hooves ruthlessly against my ribcage.  I choked as an intense feeling of nausea gripped me, and I grasped my chest in a ridiculously futile attempt to slow my heart's beating, for I genuinely feared it would beat itself straight out of my body.  The room surrounding me began to spin and gyrate violently, and I felt as a sample of blood trapped in a vile, being whirled inside a mighty centrifuge; my mind and my body becoming progressively torn from each other, more and more transforming into completely separate objects.  My lungs grew heavier and heavier with each successive breath I took, and it felt as if my throat was collapsing; as if I was being suffocated, constricted, trapped within the many muscles of a behemoth python. The air around me was growing thicker, denser.  I began to tremble violently, watching my sweat and tears travel from my face and onto my carpet.  I heaved, took another breath, and lay still, my leg twitching slightly, desperately trying to regain my composure and repair my shattered sanity. I wrapped my hands around my forehead, covering my temples.  Gradually, my vision grew becalmed, and the room returned to its normal, stationary state.  My terrorous heartbeat slowed, and I released the clutch on my chest. 

Afterwards, a peaceful, placid feeling filled my body.  I squeezed my eyelids and did not dare open them until I was certain I had been restored, and took another look at the room.  The walls and ceiling were painted in the most glorious, immaculate of whites, and showed no signs of discoloring or dilapidation in all the many decades I had viewed them.  The carpet was a soft, flawlessly stainless tan color, with not so much as a twinge of that musty smell that inevitably befalls fabric of considerable age.  I took a tentative glance at the art table, where the unruly canvas lay, blanketed in a sea of eraser shavings.  Beneath the table was a pile of all my numerous unsuccessful attempts, all crumpled pieces of canvas which I had, at one time or another, endeavored upon to bring my art to life upon.  There were thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands more of these failed attempts lying in repose around my unkempt, cramped studio.  I cautiously let my eyes wander to where my pencil lay, just a mere few inches away from me.  My previous air of tranquility dissolved instantly in the caustic atmosphere emanating from it; I had not rid myself of its sickening malice.  I continued staring at the foul, horrid object, and I contemplated; on how this pencil, this little, finite pencil, had become my most feared and despised adversary.

I had been in this meager room for 40 years, in the company of nothing more than my ivory walls, my tan carpet, my wooden table, my infinite canvases, and my ever-devoted pencil.  My world was small, unimaginably small.  There was nothing else alive in my world but me, no humans or animals or insects or plants.  Nothing but me, I had been forever in my own company; here, in my own little world, with my little pencil.  

 

I had not always been so pitiably reclused.  There was a time when I was social, gregarious, and convivial.  My life was heaped with interactions, and I was no different from any of my fellow human beings.  I led a life of unblemished normalcy, no more dissonant amongst society than a blade of grass amid a green, spacious lawn.  

I was born into a small, prestigious family, in a forgettable house on a forgettable street in a forgettable neighborhood, in a forgettable city filled with mundane, forgettable people.  I was the single child to a pair of atypically elderly parents, and was poured upon by them their full admiration.  I was their sole treasure, the gem that gleamed in their prideful eyes.  I was introduced to a very warm, welcoming world.  As you can infer, I led an extremely sheltered life, one where I was coddled, smothered, and encased inside of a dreadfully limited perspective.  I attended an expensive private school from the day I was old enough to learn.  I associated with few children my own age, instead preferring the company of adults.  

I was regarded in my early years as a marvel; a prodigy; an artistic genius.  Every sketch and every doodle I produced was acclaimed and exalted as a wondrous masterpiece; and immediately following my graduation from high school I was whisked away into the country's grandest academy of art to foster my innate ability.  

At this period, in my attendance of the grandiose art academy, I was still \"normal\".  I was content to live amid humanity, complacent with the path my life was headed toward.  I had no set destination and no goal I strived toward; I simply lived with myself, and my art behind me as my constant companion.  The canvas, the erasers, the pencils were all my adjuvant instruments, and guided by my skillful hand they fashioned artwork of extraordinary beauty.  Every piece that flowed so musically from my mind's eye onto the canvas's surface was a shining testament to my gifted prowess.  All blank exteriors I so much as grazed my elbow against metamorphosized into breathtaking, astounding sights, and all who even glanced at them were instantly encapsulated by their staggeringly ravishing appearance.  My works were praised as truly glorious, divine, radiant, unearthly.  I was nothing more than a man who made monumental art, and I was  satisfied with this immensely.  Nothing could tear me away from my beloved art, and I cloistered myself in this loving obsession of mine.

I never once cared for the situations of the world outside of my art, for I had little true experiences with it, and in my concerns it did not exist.  This world was considerably outside my perceptions, as it had been kept secret from me since the day of my birth.  Inside my own little shell, locked away from reality's caustic, acidic air, I was more than happy.  But, there came a day when I was starved for inspiration, and resolving to seek it in the outskirts of my complacency; I decided to tune into this strange, alien plane known as \"reality\".

 

What I saw was nothing short of horrifying.

The moment I had opened my eyes to this brutal, unforgiving world I fervently yearned to shut them; to shut them tightly and crawl back into my safe little shell, but I could not.  I was overwhelmed by terror and panic, and the more I stared at the unholy gore presented before me the further I was drawn into it; until the terror itself became slowly intoxicating.  My awareness was thrust into scenes of unimaginable repugnance; and I bore witness to some of the most bestial of sadistic deviltries.  I was appalled at the blatantly abhorrent behavior of my fellow humans, and I found it unthinkable to believe that such malice existed, so shamelessly, among my own species.  I was subject to the ultimate of horrendous, nightmarish visions: of men beating their wives bloodless, bruised, broken; of mothers beating their neglected, cheerless children; of children beating each other until they became exhausted, defeated, vanquished, humiliated, until they were made exiled, expatriated from each other.  I saw human beings barbarically slicing open the bodies of live, squirming, screaming animals; I saw them shower in the animal's blood, consuming their flesh and clothing themselves with their disembodied skin. I saw the carnal institution of war, of men too young to be men being shot in the head, blown up, and burned alive; of ruthless leaders brutishly conquering all in a blood-soaked path, of the overbearing stench of gore and mortality.  I saw women, pitilessly animalized, raped and beaten in their own homes by strangers; forever to dwell with humiliation and anguish for a predatorâs fiendish few hours of pleasure.  I saw mere tiny children, their bodies ravaged and shriveled by disease, devoured and consumed through no fault of their own by misery; weakened, disabled; in the very dawn of life.  I saw human cadavers dismembered and tossed unceremoniously into trash bags; I saw unborn infants being torn from their mother's womb.  In these manifestations I saw the true nature of hypocritical heathens; I saw the tremendous, unabashed atrocities committed against innocents in the name of God.  I saw the true depths of grief, the true abyss of depression, the true pangs of woe.  I felt the icy, artic, frigidness of the coldest of hearts; the frenzied ferocity of the angriest of souls.  My ears were under constant assault by excruciating screams of sorrow and agony; my eyes melted in the bearing of heinous mirth.  As I rapidly absorbed this rush of distressful sights and sounds, I found myself completely adverted by the calm attitudes of the people surrounding me.  Though I was utterly jolted by this small earth's rampant malevolence; they seemed to behold it as average, common, mundane.  This evil for them was the brink of normalcy, the very definition of \"commonplace\".  The fear that overcame me in the face of this immorality did not so much as agitate their little fingers; and they plodded through their lives with very little consideration of it.  It was there, it was present, and they accepted it as such; without any kind of loathing or disdain for the malignant or any concern or altruism for the victimized.  I was in awe of this, this brazen apathy that seemed inescapable in these apathetic, robotic people.  Everyone saw, and nobody cared.  I was alone in my vigorous anxiety, profoundly disturbed by the callousness I had seen with my own eyes, and felt with my own heart.  And so, I withdrew from them, ran away from this barbaric, primitive world, and back into my own little secure shell, though after this I was never the same.  My art suffered as I had suffered, the quality of my precious works downgraded considerably.  

I trembled, quivered and shook violently, fearfully, constantly.  I had been so grossly traumatized by the common man's \"normal\", experienced such grotesque iniquity, that I was left with disorganized thoughts of bottomless turbulence.  During this time, I hovered precariously on the bridge dividing lucidity from insanity.  It was one night during this time that I was finally brought my collapse, and crossed over the side of lunacy forever, never to return to the plane of sanity.  

I was witness to a crime of unspeakable amorality.  Although I believed myself to have seen the very worst of humanity's diabolical capabilities; I stood corrected on this fateful night, when I came face to face with an act of the most undeniably animalistic abhorrence.  The initial scene I came across is rather simple to describe, nothing more than a man, a plank, and a rope.  I curiously followed him to discern where he was headed with such a bizarre burden, and contemplated asking him if he desired help.  

I am glad I did not, for he was wrought with murderous intentions.  

I observed him with the utmost inquisitiveness, waiting in suspense for his next action.  There was an aura of guile that emanated from him, saturating the air surrounding with a foreboding unease.  I watched as he turned a key through the lock of a house and entered it, and briefly it fell silent.  I was ready to abandon my post, embarrassed at the foolishness of my interest, when a blood-curdling shriek escaped from the building's walls.  Startled,  I felt my heart leap; flopping around wildly inside my chest like a fish caught on a hook and being drug from its home to its impending death.  Dazed and disconcerted, I let my mind spiral sporadically out of control; I thought nothing of giving assistance, of aiding anyone; I was genuinely delirious.  Cautiously, I approached the window of the house, which was carelessly left gaping open and concealed nothing from my undiscerning eyes.  I saw nothing at first, just heard spots of babbling and dribbling, incoherent speech, and then I saw the man.  He drug behind him, by her hair, a woman.  A sobbing, pleading woman.  My mind was blank.  I thought nothing, wondered nothing; I just continued watching, as dumb and senseless as if it had been nothing more than a mere television sitcom.

The woman tried in vain to reclaim her hair from the man's grasp, pounding her tiny, balled fists against his muscular, burly arms in a futile effort to escape.  The man looked at her with a hateful, choleric glare and effortlessly pitched the woman clear across the room, as easily as if he had been flicking an ant from his arm. In the door way of the adjacent hall, three small children watched their father's savagery with wide eyes and dilated pupils, huddled together like newborn puppies.

I could feel my own pupils begin to dilate, and I watched the grotesque scene in a gritty, unsettled silence.  My teeth chattered, my lips quivered, and my entire body shuddered with an unspoken panic.

The man lifted the plank high above his head, his eyes blazing intensely with the sparks of malignant anger.  The woman sobbed ruefully on the floor, her body crumpled like a discarded piece of paper.  She began to whisper prayers under her breath; for her life, for her children's lives, for her husband.

God remained silent, deafened.

Swinging the plank like an irate, brutish caveman, he pounded it with breathtaking strength repeatedly into her skull with a sickening thud, thud.  She cried out in a horrific tone of unadulterated anguish; the seismic wave of her misery struck me violently, I was taken aback by the overpowering impact of her emotion.  Slowly, excruciatingly, her body reached its agonizing cessation, and I watched her periodic twitches go fewer and farther apart, until they halted altogether.  The children lay hunched and crouched in the hall's doorway, their faces and bodies frozen with the jolt of witnessing their father's actions, their eyes growing wider and wider with increasing fearfulness.

My toes curled in agonizing apprehension, my eyebrows wrinkled in qualm.  The remainder of my body was paralyzed and cold, like the body of a cadaver.  I was a helpless bystander, and yet, I felt as if I had bludgeoned the woman to death myself.

He approached the children slowly, with his eyes pouring out his bulk of his diabolical intentions.  They trembled and shook and huddled closer together but they did not speak; they dared not speak.

I too, dared not speak.  Could my voice have saved them, halted their demise?

He rested his hand which held the plank, and with his opposite hand clutched the rope, a thick, dense, grisly rope.  He used it to bind the children together by their fragile wrists, preventing their escape.  They sat with each other in a thicket of silence, no sound broke from their firmly sealed lips. He clutched the wrist of the first child sharply, and drug him to a small room that was most certainly a bathroom with the two other children trailing behind, all three squirming and wriggling.  The deathly muteness that had gripped them held them no further, and they began to scream, to kick, to cry.  He shut the door.  

My heart wrenched.

I heard the children begging in their squeaky little voices, beseeching him to release them, to stop hurting them.  I heard the man's gruff voice shouting raging profanities, I heard the bathwater turn on.  I heard pounding on the door.  I heard the children struggle and writhe, and I heard them sob viciously as they were each submerged in the bathtub.

I listened passively as this man drowned his children, one by one.

I persisted in this area no further and bolted from the scene, never once looking back at the grisly wickedness I had encountered. I told no one of what I had seen, I was too utterly shaken by it to speak of it.  My emotions were catalyzed, I could not cry or hate or sympathize; I could only stare blankly into timeless space.  I was incapable of crawling back into my shell for I too had become a shell, a mere husk of the renowned artistic mastermind I had once been.  For the evil I had seen in this man was beyond my contemplation, I was unable to fathom it.  Was it possible for a human to cause pain and death to one who once was loved?  Was it possible for someone to stare into the innocent, angelic faces of their very own flesh-and-blood children and end their lives breathlessly, shamelessly, callously?  Was it possible to bathe in the blood of one who you'd lived with, treasured, adored?  Was it possible to beat someone, drown someone; barreling straight through their crying, their squeaks of suffering, their pleading, their prayers?

From what nefarious abyss is begat such evil?  From what gruesome affliction does humanity suffer from, then, if these things are, indeed, possible?  From what depth of callousness does this \"loving\", \"just\" God that resides in the heavens cogitate upon, then, if He can watch His creations destroy each other with calm antipathy?  There was no evil in the pits of hell greater or more monstrous than the evil of humanity.  I became disgusted, fearful.  The brunt of my specie's depravity overtook my cognitions; was this hideousness normality?  Was this what others had accepted as conventional, orthodox, standard?  So wrong was I,  insane was I, not to perceive it as such?  I was left stripped and bare, no sheltered capsule for me to return to, and so, I spontaneously fled the country.  Packing nothing but my art supplies; I boarded a plane to a foreign land, intent upon finding a human being, just one single human being, who truly embodied the notion of perfection.  I desired fervently to meet one who was inherently good, kind, and altruistic, one who was not plagued with the evil I had so spurned; watching it rot in every living person's core.  Someone who was not oozing with malice, wickedness, diabolism.  I yearned for a miracle of a mortal being; a Christ-like, flawless figure of virtue.  A person who would settle my fearfulness of our human world, one who would lavish me with hope.  Hope that evil was not truly the predominate norm.  

Over the following years I traversed the world's every crevice and corner; searching urgently for my human phenomenon, my perfection.  I came upon many small villages, living primitively on the outskirts of conventional society; I walked the fabulously-paved streets of many an extravagant metropolis.  I was acquainted with the most affluent of people, existing in grandiose prosperity; I befriended the most destitute of nomads, surviving scantly in impoverished mendicancy.  I learned a great many things, my knowledge expanded to widths I had never even thought to think of.  The world unfolded gloriously before me; I saw regal, stunning architectures; wooded forests with golden leaves; cascading waterfalls; expansive, grassy tundras.  The earth stunned me with its immensity; the magnificence of its imposing natural beauty; its absolute inconceivability.  It seemed that no matter how many miles I carried my expedition, I was never to become enlightened of the whole of this earth, never to become acquainted with the entirety of this humanity.  But through all my copious travels and all the multitudes of personalities I had socialized with, one enduring quality remained certain: every single one of them had peccancy dwelling in the dark recesses of their human hearts; no matter how charitable or hospitable, each one was evil from their very base.  Beneath their surfaces lay extreme vice, wickedness exuded from their cores.  I had now seen the magnitude of the human earth, and I had concluded the complete mass to be petty, purposeless.  I sank slowly into an incurable despair, an inescapable depression.  I abandoned my search and relinquished my ambition; spiraling into a dark, abysmal void.  I desired no longer to play a part in this gruesome world, to be a faction of this mangled society.  Many nights I spent longing passionately for the peacefulness of death, the silence and the solitude and the blackness, the isolation.  My resolve terminated, I gave up my body and soul absolutely to death, to nothingness.  As I prepared to slither into indefinite expiration; I met her, and she was like a brilliantly gleaming light in my dim, murky dejection.  

 

Lenore.

 

She clutched my bleeding heart with her slender, elegant hands; Lenore, this woman of exceptional beauty and unfounded grace.  Her hair was a lengthy expanse of copper brown, which shone of glorious multicolor when touched by the sun; her eyes were a bewitching shade of green, greener than any leaf of any tree, and sparkled with such commanding zest that she could abruptly arrest the most aloof of persons with nothing more than a brief glance, and leave them awestruck; her skin was smooth, supple, tan, flawless in its surface.  Her voice rose and fell in an angelic pitch; and every word she spoke rolled off her tongue like the sweetest of nectars.  Whenever I was in her presence I felt delightfully elevated, far above the paltry problems of the mortal world; far above my caliginous depression.  All things horrendous and malignant were melted away like mere ice with nothing more than a brush of her delicate fingertips; and the deeper I became affiliated with her, the greater my visions of the despicable and loathsome dissipated from my consciousness.  I became immersed in her fully; captivated by her very breath.  I was fascinated by her, amazed by her, seized by her.  I belonged to her; my every strand of hair, my every square inch of skin, my every thought and motion and feeling.  My attachment to her progressed to such intensity that I could no longer bear to even imagine a life apart from her; I could not fathom the thought of separation from my beloved Lenore.  Oh, how deeply I did love her, my beautiful Lenore!  She was gorgeous, she was exquisite, she was divine; she was my miracle, the answer to my myriad prayers.  However, perfect she was not; but I came to see her as such.  She fully illuminated me, animated me, enlivened me; my sweet Lenore.

But my love was doomed to be forever unrequited, for no matter how much adoration I poured upon my Lenore she returned none back to me.  For my affairs she cared not, for the happenings of my life she was unconcerned.  Although she had been the one to alleviate the pangs of my broken heart and my shattered mind; she had also been the one accountable for their eternal demolition.  Without the slightest blink of her splendid eyes she told me breathlessly: \"I never loved you\", her cherubic voice becoming cold, indifferent, nonchalant, \"I never loved you then and I do not love you now, and no matter how far the future advances and how wrinkled and aged I become, I still shall not love you.\"  She faced me with her back and airily walked away, her lithe frame seemingly floating fluidly, suspended above the ground.  

My sanity fell apart.  She was the thread that bound me together, my Lenore; and in her absence I no longer found simple functioning to be a possible reality.  She had come upon me as a dismal, melancholy, husk of a man, and it was to this piteous state I returned following her self-omission.  My most magnificent pain hailed from the way I had forgiven her for her human flaws; how I had cultivated the perception of seeing one as good, guileless, overlooking their malicious imperfections.  She had healed me, my Lenore, and then she had ailed me once again.  She had demonstrated the spiteful side of her I despised in all others, she had hacked fiercely through my blissful fantasies.  I had surrendered my all to her, only to meet the glacial somberness of rejection; to see her toss me to the ground and step upon me with the heels of her little, feminine feet and discard me like I was no more than waste.  I was empty, hollow, lost and embittered; for what was I to do without Lenore?  I became sick, incurably sick, awfully, dreadfully, severely sick; and in my sickness, I began to draw.  

Human perfection was a compelling phantasm to me; I saturated myself in the notion that if I could not locate such a perfect person, then I would draw one.  If life truly imitated art, then I would find the shard of hope I had been searching for, longing for.  I imprisoned myself inside my studio, leaving only briefly for food and similar necessities; I made no cognitive connections with the extraneous world, for I wished to transcend its boundaries.  I formulated and I sketched and I erased; constantly, steadfastly, and continued for the next 40 years, growing old alone in my wooden chair.

My eyelids twitched and my fingers spasmed; I picked up my pencil, sat at my table, and immediately resumed my perpetual cycle of sketching and erasing, as if nothing out of the ordinary had ever taken place.  The daftly demonic personification of my pencil evaporated, and it became nothing more than a wooden pencil once again.  I concentrated my total experience on this one canvas; I was determined to meet my destination, to taste the sweet honey of success.  As I scribbled I thought of my past artistic prowess; if anybody could accomplish such an insane goal, it was me.  I thought of my awakening to reality, of the man drowning his children, of Lenore.  My memories were as clear to me as the light of day, and I submerged myself into them, scratching blindly on my fresh canvas.

When my eyes re-opened I was unable to believe the magnificence that manifested before me.  For there, directly upon the canvas, was it.  A perfect person.  Elation pulsed through my veins as thick as blood; my spine tingled in euphoric exhilaration. It stunned me with its excellence, its faultlessness; my eyes welled with jubilant tears as I gazed upon it lovingly.   It was neither tall nor short, neither thin nor fat, neither white nor black, neither male nor female.  Like a Roman statue of a god it stood regally, its construction radiating with the nobilities of history; crumbling me in the presence of its overwhelming beauty.  It was nonemotional, blank, brilliant.  It far surpassed the glamour of any earthly being.  

To me, it was as grandiose a vision as seeing God Himself.  

Swiftly, I brushed off the stray eraser shavings and soaked in its full, striking exquisiteness.  Its symmetry, its shape, held not the slightest flaw. I admired it for a lengthy period, reveling in its marvel and relishing the fact that it had been mine, all my years of painstaking toil had not amounted to nothing.  I grab it, kissed it, danced with it; I fell madly in love with it.  My art had taken life, breath, existence; it had leapt from my mind and into the world of sight and consciousness. I set the Perfection down lovingly, for it was now sacred, hallowed, inviolable.  Finding my heart suddenly swelling with a surge of confidence, I left my dingy, white-walled studio; I left my pencil and my hundreds of crumpled canvases and my wooden chair that I had grown old in, and I walked out of the door, breathing the glorious air.  

There was a clear, white blanket of snow on the ground, I had seen it before.  I had seen the streets, the houses, the people and the dogs behind fences and the cats in the alleyways and the horses pulling carriages; but this moment was the first moment when I truly noticed them.  The sound of voices and the bustle of life; I was now truly perceiving it, appreciating it, engrossed in its every isolate detail.  I felt each snowflake individually as they hovered lazily through the air and stopped upon my skin; I saw every strand of every hair on every human head. I felt the energy of human vivacity; I basked in the glow of every living face. There were people, people everywhere, and this was the first time in a long, arduous 40 years that I had found myself able to gaze them in their eyes without being stricken by forebode and apprehension; each and every one were my fellows, my brethren. I no longer felt as the extraneous wistfully staring inside a tight box of interaction; I felt a marvelous connection by an unspoken bond, a cohesion with other human beings that I had never, ever, felt before. Was this the sensation of belongingness, affiliation? Such an alien thrill it was; I relished it. I was no longer like a scientist studying them like a species of animal; I was them, I was part of them, a faction. I could speak to them and be heard by them; I could look at them and be seen by them. I was no longer living; we were living. Synchronously, we moved through life in a convergence, linked through an unexpressed yet understood nexus. I was instantly lifted of a lifetime burden, and my spirit filled with a sense of splendid felicity. I spent the entire night in this state of utmost gratification, a surreal, weightless feeling oscillating through my heart, my veins, my skin. I had been altered, rescued. I returned to my studio, my home, at the narrow break of dawn. I harkened upon a scene of strange catastrophe: my small, dingy studio was engulfed in flames, and a league of firemen surrounded the area with their blinding, flashing trucks, along with a cluster of on-lookers who stood by, watching curiously.

I thought of my masterpiece, my life and love, my Perfection; sitting haplessly amongst the ravenous flames. Hysterical, I began to scream sonorously.

I barreled my way past the by standing crowd, rammed through the army of firemen, and pressed myself to my window, where I saw it, lying unprotected on my wooden art table. My heart pounding and my skin becoming saturated in cold, clammy sweat; I stared at it, and I stared at the fire.

Why had I not armored it, safeguarded it, shielded it? Why had I failed to anticipate this kind of disaster, why did I take the chance? Why did I ever leave my studio, my safe, secluded studio, so foolishly, for the cutthroat world on the outside? Why could I not make my way into the room and save it? Why were these firemen, these despicable, vulgar firemen, barricading me from the one thing I had spent my lifeâs majority achieving?

I yelled, flailing wildly and pounding my window in desperation, tears streaming down my stricken countenance. The flames reared up vengefully, smothering my tan carpet in their fiendish furnace. They crept slowly towards where my Perfection lay, as if mocking me, jeering me. I prayed that they would spontaneously succumb before they reached my precious masterpiece; I cared not for the welfare of the studio or the carpet or the walls or my pencil, my chair, or my little wooden desk, or my many discarded canvases, but for the Perfection, I cared deeply; I bled.

My prayers, like the prayers of all who had prayed before me, went unanswered. Suddenly, violently, the fire erupted into a searing inferno, and viciously laid waste to the chair, the art table, the many canvases, and my pencil. All of my instruments were consumed by the insatiable conflagration. Then, it gently singed the corner of the cherished canvas, the one that held the Perfection.

Upon seeing this, my vision as well as my mind collapsed into a dingy blur, and I lost sanity, lost consciousness. The window grew clouded with smoke and I watched helplessly, tactlessly, through a multitude of tears, as the Perfection was instantly gobbled up by the hellish inferno.

And just like that, in a matter of scant seconds, it was gone. Forty years of battles, drudgery, and strife; of toil, pain, and perpetuity; of sadness, of strain, of insanity; gone.

I crumpled; I collapsed. My eyes wide open and staring directionless, my thin lips sealed tightly. For what devious being had given this accidental fire the power to reduce forty years of my life to mere ashes? I laid motionless upon the frozen ground, with not so much as a twitch, my eyes unblinking. I saw nothing, heard nothing. I lay as a husk, a corpse, a cadaver, for my soul had exited.

My eyelids fluttered. I unsealed them, and investigated my surroundings. My fingernails scraped the ground, and where I expected to feel frozen dirt I instead felt a wonderful, familiar softness; my very own carpet. I lifted my head to be greeted by my white walls, my wooden art table, my chair, my canvases. Forcing my body forward, I sat up, and attempted to absorb the genuine situation. I walked ceremoniously to my art table, to the canvas covered in incoherent scribbles. I turned to see where my pencil lay recumbent, in the precise vicinity which it had been before I had fallen asleep. Looking around, I discerned that nothing had been moved, nothing had been changed, and the Perfection; my precious, precious Perfection, was nowhere to be seen. There was no ash, no smoke, no stray embers.

For it had never been created, and it had never been destroyed. I had returned to reality in the same position I had left it; I had achieved nothing, demolished nothing. Although I had no reason to anguish, I also was devoid of a reason for joy. For I had not fulfilled the destination I had strived for. I had gained nothing, I had lost nothing. I was propelled into my mundane mediocrity once again.

Sighing, I picked up my pencil, sat in my little chair, chose a fresh canvas, and began to sketch, as I had been doing for the last forty years. I had a small, weary sensation of hope glowing like a cinder inside of me, for although I could not depict it, I had seen it, in all its inexplicable perfection, its unblemished flawlessness. It did exist, and if it had existed in my dreams then I could bring it to life.

I sat, hypnotized, and I drew.

Devoured.


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