In the stillness of her studio, she studies the stranger so she can capture his essence. He has put forth a projection, the perfect portrait of the person plaguing her dreams, turning them into nightmares. He has come to her in the shadows of night, hauntingly summoning her in a dance of death.
The solitary skylight projects radiant beams of moonlight as it hits the mirror, magnified by a lone flickering candle illuminating the canvas. She is safe there, her sanctuary from the outside world. The sights and sounds do not penetrate the protective walls of her accomplice workspace.
She has selected the tools of her trade, the oil based paints that will bring forth life, where once there was nothingness, the abyss. Sky blue shimmers as cerulean saunters in, shifting the shadows with shades of light and life; a burst of fresh air sweeping across the canvas. His silhouette starts to take shape; gentle brush strokes of titanium white blend with brilliant yellow and a hint of cinnabar, slowly manifesting his being, captured on canvas.
Trees in all their magnificent colors with leaves of emerald, sap, deep viridian green, take shape; burnt umber, burnt sienna bark; the taproot giving them life. A solitary cardinal, terra rosa belly, venetian red wings with transparent maroon highlights; give depth, movement, honing in on a cherry tree. Done for the day, she will add more color and details in the morning.
Rising up from her slumber, sunlight hitting her face, she wakes up drenched in sweat with the sheets kicked back, the duvet strewn from the bed. Immediately she walks to her painting, ready to get back to work, lifting the muslin sheet draped over her work. She gasps, dropping her easel and the draping cloth.
Where once there were bright blue skies there is now a dark purplish blue-black atmosphere. The beautiful blazing bright orange sun has been transformed into a Payne’s gray moon with raw umber craters and a pock marked face. An ominous black hawk with piercing eyes swoops down, talons outstretched towards the lifeless gray brown tree with barren branches.
The radiant figure has been replaced with a hideously deformed blue gray representation with skeletal features; hollowed out sunken furrows with blood red crimson eyes, black slits piercing back at her, human heart dripping life’s fluid in his right hand, a sickle in his outstretched left hand, droplets of blood trickling down from the finely honed shimmering steel gray blade. With an evil smile, he looks right through her, not back at her, as she runs from the room.
With every few strides she stops frozen in place by the sheer terror. Her nightgown soaked with sweat, stained with paint, flowing down her arms with wet sleeves; her whole world, changing overnight into something totally unknown. For years she has seen angels in the faces of little children, sketched out the innocence of common sea gulls ledged on a hillside rock, rooted there by wind and sea then choreographed into flight by her own hand, yet today she is shielded by darkness, her thoughts half shadow half light.
It all started two days ago while on the subway along the elevated tracks. It was cool and the Hudson River seemed to gleam surrounded by a possessed mist that circled then dispensed in waves into the night air. The car sufficiently isolated or so she thought, except for a mother and child. The child had a relentless and uncompromising force in his eyes that captivated her very essence. He looked primitive, like an abstraction void of youthful freshness, and she felt as if she was viewing him through fixed glass.
He glared at her with piercing eyes, devoid of life, transfixed, as if in a trance, clutching a well-worn Ouija board. Through her peripheral vision she noticed him occasionally coughing up blood as the frequency of vibration on the train increased slowly sinking then rising with speed and forward momentum. It was as if a centrifugal energy was pulling her away from the center. At that moment she could think of nothing but colors, colors that projected intuitive sympathy.
When she regained composure, she could see a fully packed subway car filled with suits heading home from a hard day at work. This caused her no distress, in fact she was relieved. Sometimes her artistic visions took on the illusion of singularity; it helped her focus, concentrate on a particular object for creative representation although it was the first time she had spent what seemed like hours transfixed by the scenery of this particular mother and child.
Every now and then she rested her eyelids by closing them, taking in small glances, a still photograph of the images in front of her. That was when she saw him, the handsome man who looked directly into her eyes with a pleasantly exhausted demeanor. He had a symmetrical pattern to his face, an eagerness and yearning even through the jettison waves of brooding conformist that she found so alluring. She straightened her shoulders and smiled at him, dreaming him into a different background in her mind’s eye, one where light and life flourished beneath a lone cherry tree.
There was a gray invisibility abound the folded paper he carried tucked under his arm, and around his briefcase. She was in a somnambulist kind of state when she heard a voice say, “**** my job! **** everybody”, followed by a loud boom, which propelled her into the air spinning, pinning her against molten strap handles, bars and steel.
“No no no no no! She said, as rapid eye movements maneuvered through absolute darkness, the accoutrements of metal drowning out her cries.
In her nightgown at home she remembers in fragments, a tingling sensation surging through her chest upward into her throat. Startled, she walks back to the painting determined to understand what is going on with her body, with her brain. She is conscious, ALIVE, despite the overwhelming presence of death. The frame has been bent but she quickly shapes it back to normality. With frantic strokes of her paintbrush, she begins to restore the painting, but her left arm becomes weak, her lips turn blue, she tries to call out for help, silently screams, her lungs tighten, vocal chords paralyze, unable to speak.
She is in the painting with him! Bonded to him by one split second when the g-force maximized her into a bloody, dirty clump of teeth and gums.
The oil painting falls on top of her white linen gown, the painting outlining her body on the hardwood floor, her earthen body fading away, leaving a relief where her physical form once was, her pained mirror image now captured on canvas embraced by the dark ominous stranger. The panel dripping, dripping with…blood, blood...
“Whose blood is that?" the nurse asks the little boy in a frantic high pitched shriek, alarmed by the sight of deep, thick, sticky crimson spreading out across the floor."
Four months in a sanitarium had him recuperating from the events of that faithful day. Physically he was better, but mentally, emotionally he was silent, his speech taken from him in an instant, indelibly etched, forever present in his young mind. He has the ability to talk but refuses to do so. Instead he chooses to communicate a different way. He paints.
“Whose blood is that?” the nurse asks once again.
The little boy points to the Ouija board, as the lady and the stranger appear in lightening reflexes, harbored by an abstraction that steals your days, breaks your spirit, demands your soul yet he struggles with language, with the images raked and rounded on a portrait, as he stutters saying…
“I thought I was going to die, but I didn’t, and she, she did.”