Artist2016.10.18Speculative Fiction

He sits on the floor by the fire with a flat stone full of red. His eyes gleaming with hope, he prepares to create another enchantment.

The group grows hungry and restless so it's now his duty to bring good fortune to the hunters. Isolated in the cave he sits to the howling of wolves, dipping his fingers into a mixture of crushed minerals that he prepared and blessed early this morning.

If he fails here today, the group won't be pleased with him. He tries to steer his thoughts into a direction that will bring bounty and fortune to the tribe.

The fire inside the shrine has died down, the cinders sparkle in the hazy glow of night's end. The sun has come just in time to shine a light upon his labor. The painting of the wild beast shines an earthy red on the wall of the cave. Truly a sign of good fortune for the coming hunt.

The hunters rise to the sound of the enchanter yelling out into the sky, informing them that time has come. A crowd gathers to look at the beast pained on the wall. They feel the vigor as joy fill their hearts and minds. Their target for this morning's hunt has been enchanted, their spirits rise over their hunger. The hunters carry the weight of their tribe upon their shoulders as they go to hunt the wild beast from the painting.

The enchanter, exhausted from the night's labor collapses on the floor after the hunters disappear over the ridge of the horizon. He drifts into sleep, hoping the spirits may guide the party toward their goal.

He was of the Brahman caste - a holy man. His ordeal was to collect and staple the pages of history. For this he collected works of art that he hoped one day would define the culture of India.

What he collected was not merely art but portraits of the Gods themselves as he liked to call it. He gained favor from the kings, warriors, and merchants of each country he passed. He received their permission to take from the artists of the land their most prized possessions.

This was no easy task, for artists were very much attached to their pieces. When it came to sharing their work with the world the artists didn't mind when someone came by to observe. However, once it meant relinquishing possession of their creations they became as wrathful and greedy as the Gods themselves.

As Brahman, he had the highest authority to strip the artists from their prized works - it was natural for him to become a collector. Even though they hated him and cursed him to their graves, he would bear this burden and collect their fantastic pieces of art. All for the future people of India and the world who would one day come to appreciate the culture and history of art.

As short sighted as the artists were, one day he was sure they would understand that he was doing them all a favor.

"I want one just like the one you made for the Pharaoh, only make mine taller!"

The high priest was robed in fine foreign silk, glittering with gold. He sat enthroned on a stone altar. Torches blazed against a wall carved with symbols that told the story of his greatness.

"Your holiness, I'm afraid I can't do that. The pharaoh instructed me..."

"You dare question my authority in my own temple?!"

The jackals extended their spears from behind, sharp metal flashing near his neck. The threat of death surged through the sculptor's spine. The echo of the high priest's voice, drowning out his explanation.

"You will build the statue as I command it!"

"I will do as you command your holiness."

"Good! Now then... I think it will look best outside by the gate. What do you think?"

"I think that's an excellent idea."

"Of course it is. Also don't forget to highlight my best features..."

The high priest chatted away as the nervous sculptor tried to memorize the details of his request. The list went on but the sculptor knew that the high priest wouldn't mind the slight differences in the design as long as the statue was bigger and better than the Pharaoh's. The only problem he faced was how he will face the Pharaoh when he finds out what he was forced to do.

"Do you understand? If so, you may go... I have some matters to attend to."

The jackals walked the sculptor out in silence. Only the sound of his coiled mind raged like like a storm over the problem of his word to the Pharaoh being broken.

To someone like the pharaoh, your word meant your life. The realization that this sculpture could very well be his last dawned on him. After the turmoil of anxiety faded, only one thing remained on his mind. This statue will be his greatest work yet.

On a hill surrounded by the calm air of spring, the young craftsman was occupied with thoughts of numbers and marble.

It was his late master that passed on his trade of crafting rock into works of art to him. Now it was his time to impress the next generation of craftsmen so that they too may have something they needed to surpass.

The image came to him from a dream, a pantheon of columns with perfect symmetry, something even the Gods may feel envy towards. It was his dream to see this architecture come to life.

He scribbled his plans on the dirt with a stick. Inhaling air and exhaling stress. His moment to surpass his master has finally come.

"Master! This can't be!"

The sculptor stood in assembly with his finest apprentices.

"I had no choice, it has already been decided by fate. We have to build the statue!"

"But the Pharaoh will bury us alive! Master you can't!"

"That will not be so... I will take the fall, not you. I'm sure the Pharaoh will be reasonable and pardon you all. Only I am to blame here so I will claim responsibility."

"It's the high priest that is to blame not you master!"

"Please don't speak so callously of the Pharaoh's justice, only he can make such a decision. The Pharaoh is wise let us wait for his decision when the time comes."

The students held back their anguish and disdain and spoke no more of the matter. The master clapped his dusty hands and began to calmly assign tools to each of his workers.

"Let's make this one better than the last. No need to hold back on anything."

He sensed that he was near death's doorstep but it no longer mattered. He has finally surpassed his master with the grand pantheon that was nearing it's completion. All he wanted now was for his students to carry the torch that is his craft, as it was passed down from his master and his master before him.

Despite the inner peace he felt, he still found the God's cruel in their display. They must be jealous of his work he realized. For here he was watching his creation unravel one piece at a time. Yet, at the same time, he was growing older and weaker day after day. At least his memory will live on through his masterful creation. He felt tremendous joy as the pantheon was being brought to life before his eyes.

All he had to hold on to now was hope. The hope that he'll see it when it's finished. His hope was only a whisper, for the Gods loved a tragic end. He was beyond caring about their games now.

He closed his eyes at dusk one more time and saw the beauty and perfection of his creation in his mind's eye. His eyes never opened again.

"Your majesty! Please forgive my insolence! I beg you for mercy!"

The High Priest prostrated himself on the floor, as if almost kissing the Pharaohs feet. He hoped the mercy of the young Pharaoh would be as swift as was his judgement of the High Priest for commissioning the grand statue.

"Silence! You dare to defy the Pharaoh's word again?"

The young Pharaoh's advisor was the one who whispered instructions to the demigod that all the people of Egypt looked up to as God Emperor. It was clear who was in control at this juncture. The master craftsman stayed silent hoping to get a more lenient punishment than what befell the High Priest, who was to be buried alive under his own statue after it's completion. The face of the statue to be changed to that of the Pharaoh.

The high priest screamed blasphemies into the air as his very own Jackal guards dragged him to the pits at the command of the Pharaoh. He was to spend his last days in the darkness of a solitary cell in preparation for his mummification once the statue was erected.

The advisor whispered into the boy's ear once more. It took a little longer to pass his advice on to the Pharaoh who sat quietly on the High Priests throne, waiting for the advisor to finish his whisperings.

"The master craftsman and his students. It will be a pity to let such talent go to waste."

The master craftsman and his students were kneeling on the floor in front of the throne, their ears perked up to listen to the Pharaoh's judgement to the steady beating of their hearts.

"The master craftsman and half of his students will enter the tomb along with the High Priest upon the completion of the statue."

Their heartbeats began to beat faster.

"I will leave it up to the master's judgement which of his students will perish and which ones will remain alive."

"Your majesty please! I beg you! My students are not at fault here, please forgive them, have mercy!"

The Pharaoh was silent still. The order has been carried out he had no choice but to leave the master and his students to their cruel fate.

"That will be all. Your work will resume tomorrow!"

"Remember to pass down your craft to your brightest students, I'm sure you'll know what to do."

With that they were escorted outside the temple. The master craftsman wallowed in his own sorrow. He had to make an impossible choice of who was going to enter the underworld and who will remain to carry on his craft. His students didn't seem all that pleased with the decision either. He felt remorse, even hatred coming from them where once there was only love and admiration.

This was the day the master realized how foolish and arrogant he has been. When he was to resume work tomorrow he would not have the drive or energy to make his final work his greatest masterpiece. Instead he wanted nothing more than to see his creation perish to the sands of time, remembered by no one and forgotten by everyone.

In the end, he couldn't allow himself even that. He still wanted to give his best shot at the statue even though it was to be his gravestone.

The painter mixed his own colors from minerals brought from the Silk Road. Money was no object to him since the Cardinal was covering all his expenses.

"I want them to feel the fear of God again."

The Cardinal was very specific about what he wanted to see come alive from his paintings. The Cardinal wanted them to see the demons that haunted him inside his dreams.

It was not a difficult thing to do considering that demons walked among us even now. The painter saw them all the time. The demons were in the busy streets of Venice, they swam in the canals. The demons were perched on top of cathedrals, watching from their stone cold eyes.

He mixed the darkest of browns and reds to bring their shapes to life. The demons were lurking in the shadows and that is what he wanted to portray. He put shadows behind men, shadows that lurked and stalked them from dark corners. The Cardinal will surely be pleased with his newest creation.

"This will put the fear of God back into the minds of the peasants."

The demon stared back at him from the painting. He added stroke after stroke until he was ready to retire for the night. Another sleepless night might bring more inspiration to him. And another dark painting will be born.

He muttered prayers as he tossed and turned, trying to fall asleep.

She splashed paint on a white canvas with furious tremors. The colors washed, mixed, and spread along with her random motions. The trance engulfed her deeper until she thought she was suffering from Parkinson's disease. This was the point where she stopped.

She looked at the canvas, it wasn't anything revolutionary, it has already been done by Jackson Pollock. Her painting although different had some similarity to Pollock's intuitive masterpieces. That didn't matter. What mattered was the emotion behind the painting, not the actual painting itself.

This was something she was ready to discuss and argue until the exhibit closed.

She took the painting and moved it to a section of the studio where many similar paintings were drying. She knew that only a small handful of these paintings will have the privilege of being on display. She wasn't attached to any of them, her value of the paintings did not matter either. She only chased the feelings behind their creation and the ability to share those emotions with others while they pondered their meaning.

She took a blank canvas and prepared herself once more. She struck a curious pose wile dipping her brushes into the paint buckets at random. She held several brushes in her hands. Then she began to dive into her trance once more. This one will be Schizophrenic she thought as she danced in random motions.

Her hands began to move on their own as colors splashed on the canvas.

He had his Wacom tablet ready, it was the really expensive one, the kind that was also a monitor.

A monitor that you can draw on, the future is now he thought. The pen moved on the glass of the tablet. His canvas was only limited by the RAM on his computer and the space on his hard drive. This meant the possibilities of his creation were practically limitless.

The painting on his tablet wasn't the only piece of art he was working on. On the side he was also making a website that will serve as his exhibit to showcase his art.

There was no more need for physical museums. With digital art, the museums were now all online. He created an open site where anyone can share their artwork. It was a free and open space for people to post art, nothing more, nothing less.

All he cared about was creating new work, it didn't matter to him who saw it or not.

The goggles fit snugly over her head. The four cameras in the room tracked all of her movements. The room lit up in colors yet unimagined. She felt the taste of the room on her lips. She smelled the texture of the paint as it washed over her. She felt the coming of shapes in the air around her.

She began to move her hands, changing shapes into forms out of the air like it was clay. Her creation was taking shape inside the room. She started crafting impossible shapes and colors with her fingers as they flowed infinitely into the air around her.

The smell of her art reminded her of her childhood. She saw herself being happy. She was a child again, riding on her bike with her friends. Trees came out of the earth and exploded into a multitude of forms out into space.

The planets collided and melted together until again she was brought back to her room. The walls flowing with colors, she tasted them on the tip of her tongue.

She waved her hands again and another creation erupted from the motion. She heard applause and cheers from her peers as they watched her work her magic. They were eating her work with their eyes. She danced a sort of ballet as everything merged together, spinning furiously with hypnotic spirals.

A galactic waltz, everyone witnessing the collision of countless stars. She can take each moment of space-time and display it in a snapshot if she wanted to. But she didn't because her art, just like the universe, was not static but ever changing.

She preferred it this way.

The hunters returned with a successful catch. The beast has been slain and now the women were preparing the meat for tonights supper.

The hunters all entered the shrine and each hunter placed their bloody palms against the wall, marking their passage into history as conquerers of nature.

The enchanter mumbled his prayers into the wind and beyond.


Reading Time12 min