November 18, 2008
By Aubrianna Darling, Cedar Springs, MI

One line of foot prints trail across the dust-covered floor. It’s dark all around except for one beam of light shining through one window on one man who is sitting in one chair staring at one painting of one young girl. Thomas’s eyes are intensely fixed on the artwork. He sits there just peering at the painting, his eyes filled with an intense mixture of hatred and admiration. To the naked eye, the portrait is a masterpiece. Each brush stroke gracefully dances with the next. Every color softly blends with another to form a creative but simplistic painting. He appears finished, but still he sits.

Years ago this house was filled with life. Every corner had a story. The smell of freshly-cooked bread floated through the air, enticing the taste buds and calming the spirit. His wife Ashlyn was the one who brought those feelings into the house. Ashlyn was once a strong-willed beautiful woman. She was a tall brunette whose face was peaceful and inviting. With one look it was evident that she was a kind soul. Ashlyn cared deeply for everything that passed through the doors of her humble home.

The painter had a budding career, and he was talked about everywhere in art. His newest piece was greatly anticipated. It was expected to be magnificent. It seemed like the world was anticipating him. He knew this, but for months he did not even pick up a paint brush or even enter the small room in which he had masterfully produced many other paintings. He was lost with so much pressure. He had to make a piece of art that would be remembered for generations. At night when he laid his head down to rest, his thoughts consumed him. His mind raced. Hundreds of ideas flew through his brain at lightening speed. Still nothing seemed right.

Days, weeks, months went by but still nothing. No line on paper, just the thoughts buzzing around one man’s head.

“Dear, why don’t you just take a couple of days off, you know, to get your head straight? Maybe the ideas will come to you,” his wife said sweetly, trying to help her troubled love.

“No, if I take any more time off I will never get this project finished,” he said, snapping back at her sweet suggestion.

“Fine, at least go for a walk to clear your head, see if anything comes to you,” she replied with the hint of agitation in her voice.
“Ok,” he snarled as he walked out the door
He sulked his way through the woods, hitting every branch that crossed his path like each tree had done him some great injustice and had to be punished. He was swimming in self-pity.

“Why, when the world looks to me the most, I can produce nothing?”

There was a clearing about a half a mile ahead of him. It was strange, Thomas had walked these woods for years but to miss something like this was rather peculiar. It looked so calm and serine. He sat down in the grass, and it was soft. It felt like velvet, and it caressed his skin. He could feel each individual blade touch every inch of his legs. He ran his hand across the tips of the grass and felt calm for the first time in a long time. He turned and was entranced by the aroma of the flowers that were sitting beside him. They were fragrant and beautiful. Thomas laid his head against a log that was a few feet behind him. He shut his eyes and was lulled to sleep by the serene sounds of the nature surrounding him.

His mind was clear and focused. In his head he saw the clearing, but there was a young girl sitting on the very same log that his head was resting on at that same moment.
The child slowly turned to him and blessed him with the glimpse of what he believed to be an angel’s face. She was a young girl with a small frame; her hair was dark like the deep-brown sand at the bottom of the river. It was pulled back into a bun. Her lips were a different shade of pink. They were different but stunning nonetheless. Her skin was pale, like the face of the moon glowing in all its glory. All of that was stunning, but the only feature that caught his attention were those eyes: piercing grey like the storm clouds bringing in a big storm. Her eyes seemed to look right through him, but still he knew she saw him. These were the kind of eyes you daydream about but only see in your nightmares
She moved towards him, and his eyes struck open like lightning. He awoke in a small field of dead grass, every withered blade assaulting his skin. Thomas moved his head and saw a log infested with insects crawling everywhere. His brain was scattered. He was confused but entranced by the eyes that he knew would be stuck in his mind. He could still feel the eyes on him, burning a hole in his skin, tantalizing him with their beauty.
That night when he returned home, he was quiet. Not one word left the tight and pinched crevice that was his mouth. He looked possessed. He never went to bed that night. He sat up all alone with a candle and some paper. Thomas made hundreds of sketches, trying to get every detail of the angelic face perfect. Thomas did not stop until every part of her face was exactly like he remembered. His main concern for the night was those eyes. The eyes that saw right through him, the eyes that he desperately wanted to see again. He was drawn to them like a moth to a flame.
The next morning when Ashlyn awoke, he was filled with new life. For once in the longest time, he was optimistic and cheerful about their future.
“What has gotten into you?’ she asked.
“Yesterday, I saw the face of an angel.”
“Did you now?” she said in obvious disbelief.
He realized that she was mocking him, but he let it go. His heart was full and happy for the first time in months, but that happiness was short lived. Over the next few weeks his high spirit began to change. Ashlyn was getting concerned but convinced herself that it was all part of the artistic process of which she knew nothing about. She made herself believe that this was a phase that he was going through that would surely be over soon. After all, he was a good man with a smart head on his shoulders.
Once the actual work began on the painting, Thomas changed. He became angry and restless. For weeks on end he would spend hours working on the painting. Then he stopped working on it and began just sitting and staring at the painting. Looking deep into her eyes and expecting for her to see him back. He was looking for some tiny response in the oil painting that was perched on an easel. He would gaze into her eyes and over and over again repeat the phrase: I will never leave you.
At this point Ashlyn was scared for her life. When ever she would mention the painting’s upcoming finishing date, he would violently lash out at both of them. She wanted her husband back. At brief times the painting was left unguarded. It had to be extreme measures for him to leave it for more than a few minutes. If Ashlyn were to do anything to sever the sick relationship her husband had with this painting, she would have to be brave and strike quickly. When Thomas went to sleep that night, Ashlyn was still awake. She said that she couldn’t sleep and was going to sit up and read for a bit. Thomas did not care. For the past few months he had no real conversations with anyone. He was an empty shell of a man, someone who was once filled with life but is now a hallow husk. She waited until she felt comfortable enough that he would not wake. Then she walked to the door, and her hand quivered as she slowly turned the nob. The door creaked and every sound it made seemed to get louder and louder, but still she went on. She knew that this was a window of opportunity that she must take. One stream of light fell onto the paint-splattered floor. A small foot entered the room followed by another. Before she knew it, she was in the room. Her fear was increasing by every second. Adrenalin was flowing through her veins. At that second she saw it for the first time ever. Her eyes searched the picture over and over again, trying to find why her husband was so entranced by this woman. Her uncertainty of the task ahead was growing stronger and stronger, but still she knew this must be done. She reached out her small hand and almost had it on the dust-covered canvas when a shadow fell over her.
“What are you doing?” a voice boomed from behind her.
“Nothing,” she quivered, “I just wanted to see how you were doing. See how things were going with the painting.”

“You know I told you not to come in here.” He was irate. His eyes were sharp and every movement was quick and angry.
Ashlyn sensed that this was a dangerous situation. She turned to run to the door, but he was too quick and too big. The once-loved wife knew her upcoming fate but thought she could fight it. Ashlyn’s eyes darted across the room over and over again searching for something that might be able to save her life. And then she spotted an old broken-down easel that had long since been disassembled. She grabbed it and swung; he backed up and smiled like he knew her every move. She swung a second time, but no movement came from Thomas. He just smiled again. Ashlyn blinked, and when she reopened her eyes, he was right there. He grabbed the piece of wood from her petite hands. Ashlyn knew her fate. She collapsed on the ground and started weeping. She looked into his eyes with tears running down her face and said, “I loved you.” With no response his arm swung down like a hammer over and over again. The noise of the wood connecting with her skull rang out through the house. Her screams could have been heard a mile away. Minutes later, Thomas stood there covered in blood with Ashlyn lying lifeless on the ground. Her face looked so calm.

He took a deep breathe and then looked into the eyes of the painting and said, “I
will never leave you.”
He grabbed the hands of his lifeless love and drug her stiff body to the woods. He drug her a half a mile out to a spot where the grass was dead and he began to shovel. Each time the cold metal of the shovel entered the ground another tear ran down his face. He laid her body in the deep hole. Thomas was distraught and wept for hours, just staring at her. He climbed out of the hole and walked home.
Now all across the floor is dust with one line of footprints. It is dark all around except for one beam of light shinning through one window on one man who is perched on one stool still staring into the eyes of one girl. Never to leave her.

The author's comments:
I really liked writting this story becouse it was a perrfect example of raw human emotion and one mans obsession with becoming emortaal through his work.

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