(Submitted by Lo Duhamel on March 15, 2017)
I don’t remember much about the day preceding that evening. I remember a lot of walking and a lot of warm wind. But when I got back to my cabin on the hill, I wasn’t tired, I wasn’t hungry: I needed to paint. No. Needed is not strong enough of a word. I had an urge to create an image of something so clear in my mind it was as if my forehead burned.
I went inside, put two logs in the fireplace and went about setting up a canvas at my usual working spot. My breathing was urgent, my hands were twitching, my heart racing. I felt like fighting. I felt like loving. I wanted to cry. I wanted to laugh.
I set about my work in a frenzy, the colors dancing from my palette to my brushes and from my brushes to the canvas. Reds and yellows, oranges and browns. Countries I had never seen revealed themselves to me. It could have been a morning, an afternoon maybe at first. But then I saw the sun at dusk in the distance, deep into the space created on the surface.
At the front, in the center, a woman. I had never met her. Yet her features were so clearly defined, those eyes, that skin, her golden hair flowing freely around her shoulders. A smile, both happy and sad, filled with both contentment and melancholy. She was beautiful, strong, defiant and yet caring. I was madly in love with her. I had painted women that had moved me before, as an artist… but very rarely as a man.
And then it hit me. I don’t know how I knew, I know now why knew, but in that moment, I was filled with a pain and a rage that I had never experienced in all my years. The painting was finished and to this day is my masterpiece, but at that precise moment, as the pale and cold winter sun caressed the mountains to the west in what seemed to be a saluting twilight, I resisted the urge to destroy what I had created.
For I knew with utmost certainty, against all logic, defiant of all senses, that even though that woman might not even exist, that there was a madness inside of my that made me love her… that the truth was much, much more painful.
For this woman was dead.
I had fallen in love with her the moment she had emerged fully from my mind and in the same instant she was taken from me.
I threw my palette away with a hiss, crushed the shafts of my brushes with a roar. I yelled, bit my own fist as I felt the world spin around me, leaning on the stone of the fireplace. Tears came down my face as my eyes seemed to burn. I yelled, I sobbed, I screamed. I fell to my knees and hit the wooden boards of the floor, again and again, until my knuckles bled.
Then She Who Knows Ten Thousand Things was there. Her arms around my shoulders, her cheek against mine. “Her name was Mnemon Summer Blaze, she said, she died protecting the chosen of the Unconquered Sun”.
I never knew why I came to know and love a woman I had never met and never will meet. Ten Thousand later told me the painting was exact in every little detail she could think of. I kept the painting. It sits on top of the fireplace. I’ll admit, I talk to it sometimes, when I work.
And I swear, sometimes, I can see a smile.
For all I have gained from being chosen, for all I have attained in exaltation, this was one of the few moments where I knew why the Unconquered Sun had entrusted me with his power.
And as I write this, I still cannot say if I love him or hate him for it.