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A Painter's Story

“What luck. Tonight must be a blessed night.” The young man thought to himself as a shooting star raced across the heavens… And what luck indeed. In a moment that would have even left the gods breathless, his ordinary nightly walk turned into one that he would be remembering for the rest of his short life. The day where he became separated from everything he thought was normal and right. Separated from the ones he knew and loved. And the worst part is…


He never even got to say goodbye.


“Hey, why did Joseph’s brothers sell him? How could they do that to someone of their own blood? Aren’t they siblings?” The oldest son asked as he laid in bed with his sleeping younger twin, who was pleasantly curled up on his side, deep in his wonderland. The father of those two could only give a small smile. He knew in time, once he was older, he would understand the impurity of the world and how wicked people could be, but for now, it was best to let the boy dream on; to be in his own perfect world.


“Because they were jealous and didn’t want anyone to see he had talent.” Was all he could answer. “And as you know, Joseph became great and saved his family and country, but we’ll have to continue the story tomorrow night. For now, get some sleep.”


He tucked the oldest into bed and walked out of the room, gently closing the door behind him. As his usual routine, he met his lover in the hallway, exchanged kisses, promised he’d be back soon, and then stepped outside to go on his nightly walk. The heels of his shoes dragged lightly over the same road he has walked upon many times already, passing by the same trees that bent slightly at the top from the wind, hearing the same sound of the breeze rush past his head, his light colored hair fluttering about and bangs brushing against his long lashes. He looked up at the same, dark sky that twinkled with millions of stars with bright, ice blue eyes. A light seemed to flash across the heavens as a lone shooting star raced in the darkness, appearing for only a moment but long enough for the young man to catch glimpse.


A smile played on his lips as he thought silently to himself on this pleasant night, before a searing pain ran through his head in a way he has never felt before. One moment he was standing straight and looking up at the sky, and in the next he was flat against the ground with wide eyes, wondering just what had happened. Was this in his normal routine? Did this happen every night?


Of course not…


His cheek stung with the scratches he received from the pavement, and his hands ached and burned from when he put them out in effort to catch himself, only to land painfully on them and skid across the road. He was confused, his throbbing head not helping any. Without warning, he was lifted up by his arm, stumbling a bit, being led down the road that he thought he used to know so well, each step seemingly foreign to him now.


Nothing seemed the same anymore. The trees seemed to have a darker hue and the stars in the sky didn’t shine as brightly. Everything seemed dim and bland, almost monochrome. It confused him, and made him feel like he was in a different place entirely. He dared a glance around him, feeling his heart pound against his chest, taking in the sight of three others, including the one leading him quite forcefully.


The man could not tell how long they walked or where exactly they were going, but the night never got brighter, nor did his aching feet feel any lighter. He could only ponder why in the world he wasn’t struggling. Was it because he was tired? In pain? Or perhaps he was too scared to do anything at all. By the time they stopped, the only thing he could process correctly in his head was:


“This isn’t supposed to happen.”


The young man arrived at what seemed to be a small, square building. Nowhere near extravagant, and more on the verge of breaking down. There were no doors from what he could see, just one, large window that had cracks branching out from the panes and over the walls, making it seem old and ancient. It had a musty smell about it, reminding the man of the woods on an autumn night, when the leaves have already fallen and a sweet scent was in the air.


The three of the others stepped forward towards the falling building, dragging the man with him, and through the hazy window, he could see inside was all sorts of a mess. A lone chair sat in the middle of the room, surrounded by a mass of items. Books that seemed to have pages torn out, pens, charcoal in the corner of the room, even canvasses that ranged from large to small. The man could not fathom what kind of person could possibly be inside.


And there, fate played a cruel trick on the man’s life. The window was opened before him, and the man could see that no one was inside by the light of the moon. Instead, the third person that was leading him along shoved him in roughly through the window, slamming it shut before the young man could even touch the ground after flipping through the air when his feet caught against the pane.


He landed painfully onto his back, throwing his already abused body further into agony, when the sound of chains brought his senses back. He scrambled onto his knees and shot up, his hands slamming against the thick, glass window as he watched in horror.


A thick, heavy and rusted chain was being twined tightly against the window handles outside, looking like a black, coiled snake around the corroded gold bars. And to the man’s dismay, an equally heavy and rusted lock was shut tight on the chains to prevent anyone from getting in… or getting out.


The young man slammed his hands against the window once again, his fingers quickly turning cold from the glass. “Wait! What are you doing!?” He yelled out at the top of his voice, hoping the other three would hear him and answer his plea.


The three of them stopped and paused, and in the back of the man’s mind, he was hoping they would change their minds and undo the lock and set him free. But he had his doubts. One stepped forward and pointed rudely at the young man before saying in a cold and emotionless voice,


“Stay there and repent for the sins you’ve committed.”


The man could only gawk. What sins? Surely, he is not perfect and may have made a few wrong choices here and there, but nothing so drastic that it would throw him into isolation. He banged against the window with all his might, secretly wishing the glass would break before his strength, but not even a small dent would appear.


“What sins!? What have I done!?” He shouted, but the three people that led him to his cruel fate only turned and walked away, soon disappearing into the night. He slumped down into a hunched crouch, almost tempted to hug his knees and rock back and forth in attempt to tell himself this was all just a dream. But he didn’t. Instead he turned and rested his back against the wall just under the window, staring at the empty room, eyeing the dark shadows in the corners, the mess before him only making his discomfort grow.


By some unforeseen childish emotion, he wished he was back at home. He wished with his entire being that he was at home, climbing into bed, falling asleep with his lover encased safely in his arms, or even better, to go back in time. To be a kid once again, and get tucked safely into bed by his mother, kissing him goodnight, with a promise that no monsters will come that night either.


But tonight, he was nowhere near feeling safe, and there was no mother to promise him monsters will not come from the shadows. They already did in fact. They dragged him here, took him from his loved ones, locked him away, and now he must stay, until they decide to let him out.


Slowly lying down onto his side, his aching body resting against the cold, hard, stone floor, he closed his eyes and told himself this was all a dream. That he will soon wake up to the sound of his alarm going off, or even better, the sound of his sons up and about, running around the house and letting out cheery laughs.


And when the young man opened his eyes again, he was greeted with a cracked and grey ceiling, lit up by the sun’s morning rays.


He laid there for the longest moment, unmoving. He questioned whether or not he was still sleeping when he moved his hand slowly across the cold, stone ground, his hands stinging from the scrapes he received last night, wincing at the pain. It was there he was brought back to reality. His head throbbed, his knees, hands, and cheek were scraped up with scratches, the blood dried and scabs forming, and every other part of his body ached with sorrow.


He slowly sat up, staring at the chaos before him. Now that he could see clearly, it seemed worse than the night before. He stood and walked over the sodden, wooden chair, sitting down on it. Its legs creaked from his weight, but stood its ground, keeping upright instead of crumbling to pieces right then. He examined around him before looking out the window once again, a hint of longing in his eyes. It has only been one night, but it already felt like forever. Oh how he missed his family so very much.


“Soon… very soon they’ll come and let me out. Soon, I’ll be able to see my family once again.”


And so the man waited.


And he waited…


And he waited some more…


Days go by.


The man was becoming tired…


He was hungry, and thirsty, but no one came to aid.


The ache in his heart became heavier with each passing hour, and finally, he could stand no more. He explored the clutter around his chair and came up with three pieces of papers, and a pen. One by one, he wrote again and again in each, pouring his feelings out into words, trying to express things no letter could tell. His pain, his sorrow, his great need to see them once again…


His soul mate and his sons.


He explained everything that happened, apologizing, saying “I love you” many times, before sealing each in a separate envelope, worn yellow with age, sealing along with it his love, hoping and praying that the letters will be delivered. He waited by the window, not moving an inch, when someone finally passed by.


He banged on the window, holding up the letters, pleading.


“Please! Take these to my family, I beg you,” He said desperately. Surely, his image was not the most pleasing to see at the moment, wide eyes full of grief, expression sunken with sorrow, but was it really necessary to show such disgust?


The woman he had pleaded to scrunched up her nose and walked almost cautiously towards the window, standing a good few feet away from it, shouting loud and clear to make sure the man heard every word.


“You cannot be forgiven for the sins you’ve committed.”


And with that, she strutted away; completely ignoring the man’s lost expression. Silently, he stood by the window, before shaking away his confusion and trying once again. Three more times he tried, but each person he begged to replied with the same answer.


“You cannot be forgiven for the sins you’ve committed…”


The young man’s breath caught in his throat, tears stinging his eyes, clouding up his vision. The three letters fell silently from his limp hands onto the stone floor, landing with the faintest of sounds.


“Why has this happened? What have I done wrong?”


The man sat back in his chair, ignoring whatever objects he steped on as he walked over to his seat. His eyes no longer held the bright, icy blue hue to it, but more of a dull, grey-blue color. He buried his face into his hands and wept that night. He thought of his family, most likely wondering where he could be; thought of his friends… perhaps they have turned their backs on him as well. When the young man finally stopped crying and fell into a dreamless sleep, the sun was just beginning to peek over the hills, dying the sky in a foreboding, orange glow.


Time went by and slowly but surely, the young man was driven into insanity. He could not stand another minute in that damned room. He threw the objects around the enclosed area, in which he finally understood why the place was in such a mess when he first arrived, and clawed the walls with his hands, desperately wanting a way out. His mouth felt dry and his stomach empty. His bones were beginning to show from his thin body and he felt weak. Even if he wanted to, he could not cry. There was nothing left.


He screamed and cursed at fate, at the gods, at the room, at the empty air around him. He slammed his hands again and again against the walls and windows, until his fingers and knuckles were bloody, yet he continued to vent. Blood streaked across the cracked stone and smeared against the glass, stained his already dirty clothes, matted his skin. He was a complete mess.


Few people would sometimes stop by and watch through the window, giggling and laughing at him.


“He really is insane. Poor man, he was born a lunatic.”



“Hah, maybe if we give him some money, he can buy his way out.”


The men laughed and made a joke out of it, slipping in some green bills through the cracks of the window panes and walls, making bets at how much money it will take for him to finally be set free. Of course, everyone knew, there was no price.


After all, the man had been sentenced to death.


But the young man paid no mind to them. He stopped his frenzy and stared at the green paper that no longer held meaning to him, then around the room. At the grey walls, grey ceiling, grey floor, when suddenly, his vision exploded into vivid, bright colors. He saw shades of red and pink decorating the walls, a blue sheen sliding across the ceiling, a gold vine encasing around the window, the floor beneath him turning a wild green. He saw textures, designs, landscapes, and suddenly, it came to him.


His key to set him free… from both insanity and hopefully from this cursed room.


He ran around the clutter on the floor, searching through the items and objects he had so carelessly thrown around, gathering up the canvasses, finding brushes, and even in the corner of the room by the charcoal, find the one necessity for all colors:


Paint.



The paint was simple, but he knew that with a few mixtures here and there, he could create a vast world of endless colors. He dragged the paint and canvasses along with him and propped one of the boards up against a stand, looking at the blank paper with a long stare before picking up the brush, dipping it into blue, letting a glob drip onto a piece of wood, before dipping it into white, mixing the colors and creating a bright, baby blue hue, finally lifting it to the canvass and slowly beginning to paint.


He used blue, white, yellow, green, and recreated the scene of him and his lover meeting once again, in the tall sunflower field, under the bright blue sky and sun, where they had first met at childhood. It was shockingly realistic, and the colors complimented each other, and when he finished the last touch on his soul mate’s face, he felt his tears once again drip from his eyes. And here he thought he had no more to shed.


His thin lips trembled as he continued painting, staring at his piece in complete love and sorrow. His heart throbbed in agony and longing, wondering just where they were now…


He wiped away a stray tear, remembering the hardships he had been through, the hallucinations he had seen during the night in this very room, the frightening dreams he saw on rare occasions. Nothing was peaceful… until now. He knew what was right, and that he was in no wrong. There must have been a misunderstanding somewhere. Soon they will see that after all, he is a normal person.


He painted piece after piece, sketched with charcoal and pen, colored each one vividly and wonderfully, each one containing a piece of his love and a piece of his soul.


“For them I shall smile… My life I won’t take. Surely from this nightmare, I’ll soon awake,” The painter said to himself as the image of his family reappeared in his mind. He glanced down at the three letters that remained on the ground, and silently swore that someday, he will get those letters to them, and even better, return to them and get his old life back.


As he painted well into the day, people began stopping to see what the mad-man was up to today, only to be shocked. Their mouths dropped open as they stared in awe, watching each brush stroke as the man delicately painted in the wing of a black and red butterfly. Soon, more and more people began coming to see the wonderful art being laid out before them, very few leaving. Once in a while, the man would glance out, hoping his family would be one of the many people in the crowd, but no familiar face ever showed.


Even so, he continued to paint, unmoving from his seat unless it is to put up a finished piece or just leave it on the ground somewhere. No one seemed to notice how dangerously thin the young man was, or how every once in a while, he would let out a raspy cough, hinting at just how close to the end he was… or even how the lock was still firmly in place on the window. The only thing on their mind was how wonderful the art was, how wrong they were to think the man was insane, and how beautiful it all seemed to look.


The sun set later that evening and everyone left for the night. This continued on for three straight days when finally, one night, the painter dropped his brush. He had yet to finish his painting, but he didn’t have the strength to hold anything anymore. He fell forward, toppling over the art, landing on top of it and soaking his shirt with wet paint. His breath came out in short rasps, almost as if he wasn’t getting enough air. With what little strength he had, he slowly flipped himself over onto his back, staring up at the ceiling, his dull eyes almost lifeless now.


His family appeared before him, smiling, arms open and waiting, ready to bring him back and hold him tight. To never let go again. They were waiting... and they were only an arm's length away, a distance he can reach no more. And as quickly as they came, the hallucination his mind created to give the young painter peace disappeared.


For them, I shall smile… My life I won’t take.


And the painter did smile. A small one crept onto his lips, for his sake, for his family. And as quickly as life is given into the world, his body fell limp and his eyes lost their light forever.


The next morning, all the people found inside was an unmoving body. The people wept, and ironically cursed at the gods, wondering why the heavens could do this to the poor painter. They unlocked the window and examined the body, when something peculiar caught someone’s eye.


They held up a piece of paper, worn at the edges, which held a poem. The strange thing is, though the body died late last night, the ink on the paper was still wet and would smudge if touched, as if it had just been written that morning. No one could figure it out. The young man was the only one in the room, and no one could get in.


But in respect for the man, they gave the poem to his family, which in turn, they reprinted the writing and spread it all over the world, so the whole Earth would know of the town’s wrong doings, and the hell that their loved one had to go through.


In the words of that poem, held the sad story of the Painter:

[Locked in a room with no way out
He sits in his chair without moving about
The only exit is a heavily chained window
Concealed inside so tight there’s hardly an echo
Condemned from humanity
For false accused insanity
This isn’t a game
Now he is in pain
He looks out the window, towards the free sky
And wonders when it will be his time to die
Using a paper and taking a pen
He begins to write again and again
Letters to his most beloved ones
One for his soul mate, two for his sons
But alas, they said no
For thrice they’ve been told
“He cannot be forgiven for the sins he committed”
And therefore the letters shall not be permitted
Accused and scarred deep
He tried not to weep
“Why has this happened? What have I done wrong?”
Maybe society felt he didn’t belong…
Angry and hurt, but time went by
Soon he had no tears left to cry
Slowly but surely he was driven insane
With no cure possible to help lift the pain
“Told you he’s weird, told you he’s nuts”
Laughing, through the cracks of the walls, they slid in some bucks
But money was not what was in his great need
What was is how colorless the room seemed to be
Finally seeing what could be done
He picked up a brush, knowing this was the one
This was the cure that could set him free
His mind trapped by the depths of his insanity
Stroke by stroke, he began to paint
Coloring the blank canvass without a restraint
He poured his emotions out in hundreds of ways
Each piece was flawless, and captured your gaze
Finally his tears slowly dripped from his face
As he thought of the hardships he wished could erase
But he paid no mind to the already gone time
He knew in his heart he committed no crime
He sketched and painted and poured out his soul
Pieces he wished his love could behold
“For them I shall smile… my life I won’t take”
“Surely from this nightmare, I’ll soon awake”
He painted some more and soon the people could see
How wrong they were to overlook such beauty
They applauded and praised, many would gawk
But no one remembered to undo the lock
And what of the letters he wished he could send?
Well this I will tell you, come closer my friend
Before the people could fix and amend
...The poor painter’s life had come to an end.]





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