37, day eighteen.
This is a story I just wrote. I love this kind of imagery, but it’s only recently that I can take an image in my head and make it into a story. It’s kind of a big deal for me. Anyway, here it is.
Avelia once killed a man in the dead of winter to watch the way his blood cascaded onto the snow. She stood over the body for over an hour, as her fingers numbed and her tears froze to her face. As she regarded the stark play of crimson on white, she knew that she was an artist. She went back to her apartment, and turned off every source of heat. She turned the thermostats all the way down, turned off all of the lights, and opened the windows. There was something inside of her. A feeling. She could not let it melt. It was like a small creature made of ice and edges nestled in her chest. It cut her organs and chilled her blood. She cursed the feeling. She treasured it.
The whiteness from the snow through the windows was blinding. Avelia did not want to see too clearly. To see clearly is to be deceived. She pulled out a blank canvas, and placed it near the window. She retrieved the expensive professional-quality acrylics her grandfather bought her for her birthday. She gathered everything but the red, the white, and the black. She squeezed them into the toilet until they were empty, then flushed them away. Then she covered the canvas in black, and waited for it to dry. Avelia removed all of her clothing, and stared.
She stared at the black canvas for a long time. Wind whipped in from outside and sliced into her exposed flesh. Her head began to ache from the cold, and her extremities started to burn. Tears streamed from her eyes and turned to ice. The creature inside of her stretched and wriggled.
When it was too much, she grabbed her brushes, and began to paint. Ten minutes later, it was done. It was perfect. It was battle laid out on the canvas, between the violence of white and the desperate serenity of crimson. The white wished to smother the world. The crimson wished only to escape from its cage of flesh, and mingle with the earth beneath. Somewhere, not so far away, a body cooled, and the crimson that once flowed within it was free.
It was December. The day before Christmas.
Two weeks later, Avelia brought her painting to show the other students. She called it “The Rage of Crimson and White.” The other students were stunned. The teacher said barely a word. After class, he pulled Avelia aside and told her he had never seen such work from a student. He asked if he could show her painting to an art critic friend who was visiting from New York. Avelia smiled, and agreed.
The next day, the art critic invited Avelia to dinner, to discuss her work. The critic ordered a bottle of vintage Bordeaux, and told Avelia that she could spot talent when she saw it. She saw it now. Avelia ordered a dry-aged steak, seared on the outside and bloody on the inside, and listened. The critic said she wanted to bring the Rage of Crimson and White back with her, to be displayed in an opening of student art from around the world. Avelia grinned widely, and agreed.
In the next two weeks, Avelia painted twice more. Two more masterpieces. Avelia was careful. Her working materials were never found. Her teacher stopped giving her assignments, and told her to keep painting. He was astounded at what could be done with only red and white.
A prominent art magazine wrote a review of the world student art exhibit. It spoke of each of the artists in the show. Mostly it spoke of a single piece. The reviewer said it was perhaps the most important painting he had seen in years. It captured something raw and real he thought artists could no longer tap into. Avelia received a phone call the next day from the critic who had her piece. She wanted to run a show of Avelia’s art. How many pieces did she have? Just three, said Avelia.
She could make more.
Avelia’s show opened as winter melted into spring. It made the school paper, but only the second page. The front page story had been the same for several issues. No one knew where so many students had gone. Many of them were scared. Avelia was not there to read it.
The art critic flew her out to her opening, and bought her a white dress with a designer label. Avelia’s grandfather wrote to her to say he was busy and could not attend, but he sent a sapphire necklace for her to wear with her dress. She sold it immediately. She wanted nothing from him. With the money, she bought a different necklace. A different stone, of a different color, against the white.
The opening was a success, as she knew it would be. Her paintings were flawless. By the end of the first night half of the paintings had sold. Two weeks later, the rest had sold as well. All except one. The Rage of Crimson and white could belong to no one but Avelia.
Avelia did not go back to school. There was nothing more for her there. It was too small. Not enough people. Eventually, she would be noticed. She rented an apartment outside of New York City, and spent her days commuting in and wandering through the art galleries and museums. She called her grandfather and told him she would not need his money anymore. He laughed at her. She told him how much she had made selling her paintings. In the silence that followed, Avelia told him he would not be contacted again, and hung up the phone.
She did interview after interview. They wanted to know what drove her, what inspired her. She quoted Picasso. She quoted Duchamp. She told them something straight from her introduction to painting textbook. They seemed satisfied. One writer was amazed at how quickly she had produced such amazing work. She told him she could always find inspiration, if she went looking for it. They always ended with the same question. What is next for Avelia? She told them she woulds start painting again, next year. They were amazed. Was she taking a break? Was she not painting now? She gave them all the same answer, always in the same words.
“I am only an artist in the snow.”