Just a random guy with a passion for video games and music. If you want to contact me, I'm on Xfire and Steam often enough. If you want a custom header, background or avatar (or all three!) for personal use or for your group(s), let me know ;) Space and words of all sorts will fill this space, never to be seen again. On top of that I am going to update my profile so that you cannot see these words. Instead, a cool looking picture shall go on top with some html links for various sites of mine. I still have five hundred characters to go. Drat. Whilst writing that I lessened the character amount. I now have three hundred and sixty one. Wow, that actually worked. But it doesn't matter, because you will never see this again. Well, maybe if you're lucky you will, but I'm not so sure. Anyway, I'm going to attempt to. I need to max out the text. Horribly annoying at times, let me tell you. Still quite a few characters to go, but only in the double digits. Fortunately that ate a bit up. Single.
The long lane stretched it’s way through a voluminous forest, far from the bustle of normal, everyday life. Driving it had become routine, something I had done so consistently that I no longer paid attention to the road. Frankly, I daydreamed. Every Tuesday and Thursday I wondered the same thing, “Why did I bother?” I suppose there was some allure to the curious old man, some attraction that prompted me to visit him twice a week. Why I cleared my schedule to call on him bothered me a little bit. I certainly had better uses for my time, right?
And just like that, as if the same introspection that occurred with each visitation caused time to leap into the future, I was approaching the old man’s mansion. It truly was a grand affair, a long face with perpendicular wings on opposing ends. I suppose it looked like a squarish U from the sky, but I had never seen it from that perspective. The treeline had vanished as well, I could not remember when, bu t the mansion now appeared to be the only piece of civilization for miles around. He truly was a hermit.
Parking in the lackluster shade of some artistically cultured bushes, I strode up the chiseled steps to the front door. My mind returned to the memory of my first entrance, hesitantly knocking on the door and waiting for nearly thirty minutes before realizing it was unlocked. I laughed at my old nervous habits: had that really been two years ago now? Well oiled, the front door opened with nary a squeak and I closed it gently behind me. Perhaps the old man wouldn’t show this time. That was always a possibility and one I now anticipated every visit. Still, with the same consistency I had seen over those same two years, a bumbling fellow came parading from up ahead. He muttered to himself, “Fine, left or right? How about reft, or maybe we should go light this time? No,” here, a shake of the head, “we’d best go dark. Yes, yes, dark it is.”
He stopped walking within five paces of my position. I had no clue as to what was meant by dark. Usually he took me down the left or right hallway and thus into a branch or section of the house I had never seen before. Almost every square inch was covered in some work of art. I mused that perhaps part of the reason I kept returning was I knew that I had yet to see the entirety of the old man’s mansion or collection. “Dark, dark, dark.” Again, the mumbling did not ring a bell. Still, the only way I would find out was by following him yet again. As always, there was no direct acknowledgement of my presence, no cheery “Hello!” or salutation to my comparatively young self.
Stepping next to him, I looked down at the old man’s bent and balding head. “Dark into light, yes, that shall do nicely.” That sounded promising. Now with an objective, the old man turned in a complete circle before heading back the way he had come. I duly trailed behind. His quiet jabbering did not waver but listening closely there was now nothing of interest to hear. I instead looked around me. The center hallway hadn’t changed at all since my last visit, the busts, statues and paintings in exactly the same positions as before, but I did not expect it to. I knew by the width of the building that we were going to have to take a left or right turn eventually, but the old man kept going straight ahead.
I could see the end of the hall and wondered if perhaps this would be the first time he didn’t show me anything new. As soon as I thought that though, I noticed a door, one that I had ignored for months because the old man never brought me near enough to fully realize it’s existence. With a twist of the knob the door swung open, although not nearly as freely or quietly as the front entrance. I winced, I might try to drop a little oil in the hinges on my next visit if I remembered. I waited half a step behind the old man, peering over his shoulder at the steps that led to a downstairs. I didn’t know he had a downstairs.
The old man still wasn’t moving. With some concern I looked at my companion. He was shivering, despite the lack of a draft and for a moment I contemplated placing my arm around him. But the moment passed and he straightened a little, no longer shaking. He led the way down the stairs, taking each one with patience and a firm grasp on the handrail. I noticed immediately that the atmosphere was drastically different than the rest of the house. Electrical lights gave spotty coverage on the cold stone walls as we descended. Maybe it was his speed or maybe it actually was a long staircase, but eventually we reached the floor.
Tarps covered swathes of area and I could only vaguely tell what was beneath them. A statue here, a pole there. I sniffed and caught a whiff of musty dust. I coughed reflexively and pulled my shirt up over my nose. Heaven only knows what might be in the air. The old man seemed not to be bothered and continued on his meandering way. I took in the room. It was a wide open basement, pillars bracing the wooden beams that supported the ceiling. It wasn’t comforting to see them rotting.
Forgotten cobwebs hung loosely between pieces of what I guessed to be furniture, although in it’s current state I really couldn’t say for sure. A layer of dust cloaked nearly everything in sight except for our current path: it seemed the old man didn’t care much for upkeep down here. Looking at him again, there was a frown gracing his face, or maybe it was worry. His eyes were focused straight, the lines of age creased around them. I hadn’t seen him in this state before and for once I grew worried. His unceasing mumble was gone and perhaps that was what scared me the most. For two years his muttering had been a sign of his vitality, that despite how odd and lost in his own mind he was, he had found a way to function.
We were reaching the far end of the basement and I could see a single easel standing upright, a dark canvas stretched over it. As we approached it I could see that it was actually a painting. Thus far I had assumed that any of the old man’s work had been done in his youth but this seemed new, fresh even. Stopping, he took a shuddering breath before saying the first words since descending. For once, he was unusually lucid. “I’ve been trapped here, in this broken place. There wasn’t much for me to do but to paint, sculpt, carve. It was a sort of release, and I tried to pile up my works, all of my attempts at art and use them to climb out of my hole.” His voice, wheezy in it’s age, choked up. “I couldn’t do it. I was faking it, faking the grandeur and the wonder of what I wanted my art to be and it hurt me, shook me.”
We were standing before it now, his silence prompting, begging even, me to ask that simple question. “Why?” I whispered. I could guess the answer, but somewhere deep down I knew he needed to answer it instead. “You see the art up above and you see the beauty that it captures. I tried to capture virtue that had been lost. It was imitation, nothing more. I lost that attraction, on my own in my youth and I tried to hide it in those paintings. I was famous, even, for my poor attempts at saving that. In the process of the world admiring what I knew to be a mockery I died inside, I lost my mind. Everything I was ended up shattered in reality as I tried to construct a place of refuge in my work. But it didn’t help. It didn’t help at all.”
“What did you lose?”
“Courage. Honesty. Truthfulness. Love.” The old man shuffled towards the near coal-black painting and reached out caressingly. Peering at it, I could barely make out shapes of some kind, some pattern that was intricately layered in the slight color pallette. “This came to me one day, as I stood alone. My mind was filled to the brim with this pattern, these neverending circles. I thought that if I tried to paint this one last piece, maybe I could get rid of my guilt. Truly I believed it to be the desperation of my mind, in it’s frailty, to assume such a thing possible. But I did. I poured my remorse, my despair into a piece that if finished would never see the light of day. Yesterday I put down the brush. It shant be placed upstairs amongst pictures of glory and of bravery, neither it nor they deserve that. Down here it will rest, alone, where it can be what it was meant to be. A representation of restoration.
“Every artist has something they cannot show, are in fact unwilling to show because it reveals their innermost being. And when they do reveal their work, it is at their end. I am there now, it won’t be long until I pass on.”
“Am I the only one?” My throat ached and I swallowed in haste to ease the pain.
“Aye, I have no other.”
Of all the things that he had said so far, this one sentence struck me. I felt as if my last two years had somehow been fulfilled, even though I knew that had not been my intention. Yet for the old man, it had been something.
“I don’t even know why I came,” I replied quietly.
“You responded instinctively to a cry for help and in so doing gave me a way to live until I reached this point. I would have wasted away long ago if not for you. These months have been a constant battle, but I have won at last, thanks in no small way to your presence. Do you see now, the light that illuminated the darkness?”
I nodded. The pattern became clear to me, the dark circles rotating around a central point of white light that illuminated the rest of the canvas. I reached out to touch it, but the old man held me back. “Another time, perhaps. Let it be a reminder to you. And so shall I remember you, my friend.”
I wanted to say something, anything really to the old man. It occurred to me that this was the first time I had actually spoken with him and in the same stroke, also the last. I turned to leave, nothing coming to my mind. I didn’t look back but ascended the staircase into the bright halls of the old man’s mansion.
The paintings that I had formerly looked at with awe no longer held the same captivating quality as before, now that I knew what they were hiding. I passed through interior quickly, stepping out of the house and making my way to my car, still resting by the bushes, although no longer in any shade.
For the first time in a long time, since I first started visiting really, I didn’t daydream while driving away from that mansion, I absorbed the beauty of the forest, with sunlight filtering through and trickling in between tree branches. I didn’t think I would be back here on Thursday, my compelling reason to show up was no longer residing in me. Something told me the old man wouldn’t be there anyway even if I did show up. And really, we both knew that was the way it was meant to be.
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