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Eli was a creator. Eli would sometimes spend whole days in the Art Room at the University; whole days shaping worlds, carving valleys and crevasses, and molding mountains that towered higher that the eye could see. From within the deepest regions od his definitive, hyperconscious mind, Eli summoned life, channeling the entirety of his thought into creations that defied human comprehension.
Room 4040 had a strange power, a power intended for those gifted in the art of creation, such as Eli and countless others who had come before him. Though few in the outside world knew of the Art Room’s true power, the power was clearly sensed by all; For as the world changed, as buildings decayed, and as they were renovated or torn down, the Art Room never changed. It never decayed and was never renovated, it was perpetually pure white. It was eternal, even perfect. That was the power of the Art Room. It served artistic creators with the opportunity to design, construct, and bring their dreams to life
Throughout his life, Eli had spent much of his time in the Art Room. Even before he became the professor of the Art Department (like his father before him), he had known the room well. Upon the tragedy of his mother’s passing, Eli would regularly run straight to the University from his school at the end of the day. As a boy of eight or nine years, he would enter Room 4040 in excitement, marveling at the talent of his father’s students. Intensely, he’d observe as they shaped worlds, stars, and even living creatures that were perfect in their design. As they left, they’d open a large door in the back of the pure, white room. Eli never saw much behind the door, but only watched as the students would walk in with their creations and store them in that mysterious room, where the creations remained safe and preserved for future use.
More than once had Eli attempted to peek into the vast and mysterious room, if just once to gaze at the countless worlds within. But every time he tried to open that giant door, he found it locked, the vast space that intrigued him so just beyond his reach.
“Eli…” his father would say. “You’re still too young to see. Don’t worry. One day, your time will come.”
Disappointed, Eli would often reply, “But why, Dad? Why do I gotta wait?” At this, his father would simply sigh and return to his work, wishing only that he could grant his son’s innocent wish. But as he had told Eli, it was not yet time.
Finally, upon his twelfth birthday, it was Eli’s time. His father reached into his pocket and pulled out an old golden key. He placed it in Eli’s eager, outstretched hand.
“Son, I’m proud of you.” His father said. “Today, you will begin to learn the ancient art of creation, by which all things are made possible.”
Eli took the key and walked over to the door, hands trembling in anticipation. He slipped the key in the lock and turned it excitedly. As he heard the lock click, a smile beamed across his face. He pushed open the large, gleaming door. As he looked into the vast room, his jaw dropped in utter amazement.
As he walked slowly down the long aisle in the center of the room, Eli looked closely at the many worlds that creators had built. He was astounded by the perfection and the intricate detail that formed each world. He gazed in awe at the life of them; the oceans, the mountains, the trees, and the creatures, all given life by the celestial suns around which the planets revolved in eternal course.
Finally, Eli and his father reached the end of the aisle. To his surprise, Eli beheld nothing but a vast empty space. He saw nothing but nothing.
“What’s this?” Eli asked in confusion.
“This, Eli, is your canvas.” His father replied. He put his hand on Eli’s shoulder and, his other hand outstretched, reached out and showed his son the empty space. “What do you see here?”
“I see… nothing.” Eli said, his brow still wrinkled in puzzlement.
“Yes, exactly.” His father said. “Nothing, darkness, emptiness…” He moved in front of Eli, looked him in the eye and addressed him by name, saying: “Eli, I’ve seen your gifts. I’ve seen the things you create; your drawings, your paintings, your sculptures, the list goes on! You have talent well beyond your age. It’s time for you to apply it!”
“So… I can do whatever I want with this?” Eli asked. As he realized this, his eyes widened.
“This space was set aside for you, son. And only you can fill it. You must take this darkness, and you must give it light.”
“But I don’t know how.” Eli said.
“I will teach you everything you need to know.” His father said reassuringly. “Creation is an art, and must be learned and rehearsed as such. Do you want this, Eli? Do you want to create?”
Eli looked at the floor in bewilderment. A smile spread across his face. “Yes. Yes I do.”
So began Eli’s journey down the long road to becoming a creator. Throughout his teenage years, Eli worked around the clock. By day, he attended school. But by night, his father trained him strenuously, hour after hour, perfecting that ancient art in the unchanging Art Room. They practiced every single night, shaping lands, constructing rocky natural palaces, and turning the mighty tides of the seas in perfect unison. It was daunting, yet beautiful work, and even as it was infuriating at times, the light of true happiness shone brightly in Eli’s eyes as he learned his craft.
At 18 years of age, Eli graduated from the University with his degree in Creative Arts and Sciences, standing out as the brightest and best of his father’s students. As he stood and accepted his diploma, his father had never been more proud. It wasn’t long before Eli would not need him anymore.
Even after his graduation, Eli continued in the pursuit of his education in creation, in hopes of someday taking his father’s place as professor of the Art Department. His father was an old man, soon to retire, leaving him weary and slower to excel in his work. When Eli would inquire of him on the matters of creation, he would reply by saying something along the lines of:
“I’m sorry, son. I’m afraid my powers of creation are… well, not as precise as they used to be.”
So, upon that answer, Eli would ask for the key to the Art Room and disappear for the evening. On these evenings, Eli would further progress in his creative gifts. But instead of bringing to reality his design of the grand and majestic, he set his sights on small and simple things. One night, his father looked into the room to observe his son, hard at work, filling the room with trees, flowers, and all manner of brush that hung about the room or grew from the floor at his bidding.
But Eli didn’t stop at that. No, once his creations sprang into existence, Eli would lean in and closely observe every single leaf. Then, upon careful scrutiny, he would adjust, rearrange, and replace even the most minute, miniscule details, making each creation individual and unique. Some flowers glowed in various colors, some swayed back and forth. In the center of the room, there was a grassy knoll, with a pool of shimmering water at the top. But among all of the vibrant colors, there lay abundant imperfections. After all that he had taught Eli about symmetry and uniformity, his father could not understand Eli permitting imperfection, let alone intentionally designing it.
“Eli, why do you allow imperfection in your creation?” he asked. At this, Eli put his hand on his father’s shoulder and held out his other hand, pointing all around the misty grove to which he had given life.
“Father, let me ask you something.” Eli said in reply. “What do you see here?” his father observed the foliage surrounding them.
“I see… massive creativity clouded by blemish and imperfection.” Said his father.
“Why is that all you see?” Eli asked. “Why can you only see what is wrong with this? Here, let me show you something.” Eli led his father over to a bush of blossoming peace lilies. He picked one of the flowers and cradled it in his hand. The flower’s snow-white petals curved upward to form an uneven bell shape, all the while emanating a natural blue glow. Eli placed the flower in his father’s hand.
“Tell me one thing, Father…” Eli said. “Look at that lily and tell me: is it beautiful?”
His father hesitated, then began to speak. “Eli, you’re not hearing…”
“No, father, you’re not hearing! Just tell me… do you see beauty? Forget uniformity, forget perfection, just think: Is…it…beautiful?”
Eli’s father cradled the lily in his rough, wrinkled hand. He couldn’t help but admire the smooth, curving bell, or the light blue glow that the flower emitted. He started to see his son’s idea.
“You have a gift, son.” His father said. “Yes. It is beautiful.”
“What does that say, then?” Eli asked excitedly. “If something as simple as a flower can be beautiful in spite of perfection, can’t that apply to anything in this Art Room?”
He snapped his fingers and, in a matter of seconds, the entire grove shifted around. Leaves on the trees, flowers in bushes, even trees and bushes themselves all became symmetrical, uniform, identical. The glowing flowers no longer mixed in with each other. The flowers that glowed blue were moved to one end of the art room, the ones that glowed purple moved to the other. The cool, blue spring was now perfectly circular and right in the center of the hill.
“NOW look!” Eli said. “Look at it, its perfect! What do you see now? Do you see beauty, discovery, variety? No! what I see here is an existence that dwindles in perfection! I see living things that lack the spark of true life! Don’t you see? In its own perfection, this creation is dull!” he snapped his fingers again and the grove reverted to its former state. The colors mixed, the leaves differed from one another, and the pool became just as it was.
“What I’m saying, Father…” Eli continued. “Is that the students who work and create in this Art Room are so focused on perfection and uniformity, because that’s all they’ve been taught! And because of this, they design spectacular, yet empty creation! Creation that is simply alive instead of truly living! But when they put their planets and their stars in storage, none of them seem to realize that they have collectively created a whole universe, filled with galaxies, suns, and whole worlds. The universe that they see as ‘just a bunch of stuff in storage’ is an unsymmetrical, freeform design that represents the apex of artistry! The beauty is in the imperfection! When our creations have flaws, when many of the same kind is unique and individual due to their blemishes and imperfections, the true beauty in the bigger picture begins to show!”
When he finished speaking, he put his hand out. All of the foliage, all of the rocks, water, and flowers, all that he had just created grew smaller and smaller, until the entire grove rested in his palm. He twirled the fingers of his other hand around the miniscule grove and encased it within a small crystal globe. He set the grove in his father’s hand. His father held it near his eyes and gazed into it in thoughtful wonder.
After a brief moment of observant silence, his father looked him in the eye and said, “Beauty through blemish… it’s radical, it’s fresh, it’s controversial… but I must admit the idea is intriguing, one that the Art Department has never considered. My son, you have made life itself into the greatest of all the arts.”
It was not long after that that Eli’s father felt that his end was nigh. Soon after the eve of Eli’s 22nd birthday, his father passed away. He was buried holding that beautiful crystal globe that his son had given him, the grove within the globe to remain eternally undisturbed.
In the event of his father’s death, the school board had discussed asking Eli to replace his father as professor of the Art Department. Now, after all those years of education and practice of his artistry, Eli had finally earned his place.
Eli, now the 35-year old professor of the Art Department, locked the door to the Art Room after a long day of classes. For Eli, every day nowadays was a spectacle. His students showed incredible talent in creation, as they shaped mountains, carved valleys, and brought life to their boundless creativity. But even among his best and brightest, there was one student in particular who worried him, a student who used his gifts to attract the attention of his peers, or to try and rise above them. Occasionally, Eli thought that this student may even try to better him someday. But Eli paid this no thought, it wasn’t important right now.
Right now, all Eli could think on was the reason that he hadn’t created for about three months. In those months, after his students left the classroom each day, he would sit at his desk and he would draw, write, and create miniature models with finite detail. Over these months of intense thought, he had constructed a plan. This plan was nothing short of his finest, most brilliant work, filled with the potential for life, beauty, exploration, and discovery. But the nature of the project limited him to only one possible workspace: The Art Room. Only the Art Room allowed Eli to bring his boundless ingenuity to life. So, in order to keep this project private, he would have to close the Art Room, an act which required permission from the School Board.
As Eli locked up the Art Room, put that old golden key in his pocket, and strode down the hall, he went over in his mind, again and again, how he would present his request. He had to be precise, for this was no ordinary request. To bring to life his glorious plan, Eli needed undisturbed, private control of the Art Room for seven days…