Friday, December 16, 2011

The Masterpiece #FridayFlash

Here is another piece that I put together for #Fridayflash. Please let me know what you think, and as always, feel free to be extra stabby with your critiques. It's the only way to help both of us grow.

Leonard slung a brown blazer over his shoulders and fumbled with his buttons. His warehouse studio with cold, tan bricks and a tall ceiling supported by iron rafters of a bygone era became chilly when the wind picked up; he shivered. Affixing his name badge to his lapel, his eye wandered towards the far wall, where the giant masterpiece he and his wife created nearly five years ago hung above the spot he created his own work.
The dark reds, whites, and brown leathery patches hung off the canvas she herself planned for many months. It was amazing how it slowly changed over the years; the colors fading and bringing themselves closer to the final black of decay. Still, the thought of that day put a subtle shake in Leonard's legs.
He put his hand on the door handle when a voice called out to him, “Don’t leave just yet, honey.”
Leonard stopped immediately and turned back towards the painting, taking a couple steps towards it. “Who is that?”
“Don’t you recognize the voice of your own wife?”
“Is that--” He took one more step forward. “Cathy?”
“I’ve been watching you these last five years, ever since you told the police I went missing.”
“But how?”
“When I planned this work, I told you that it was my attempt at immortality. You didn’t think I had gone crazy, did you?” Her laugh echoed off the solid walls and the browned blood stains on the canvas seemed to revert back to their original red, liquid state.
“It was your idea. All yours. You begged me.”
“I did.” The voice said. “And for that I thank you. You performed your work admirably, oh loyal husband.”
“What...what do you want then?”
“What I want, Leonard, is for you to join me.” From the kitchen, a knife slid across the floor, stopping at his feet. “Join me up here and reveal us to the world!”
Behind him, the deadbolt to his studio door suddenly locked itself. He tried to undo it, but the mechanism was stuck. “Where do you think you’re going?” the voice said.
“I’m going to be late for the opening.”
“Ah yes. I was surprised you finally came around to putting your work out there in public without me there to guide you.” Again, her laugh filled the studio. “Is that what you really want, Leonard? A couple curious college students and a single elderly couple taking a two minute stroll past your paintings?”
“It’s just a start. In a year or two I will have my career back--”
“Nonsense. You need me. You always have. Only I can make you great.”
He picked up the knife, tossing it back and forth between his hands. “Are you asking me to…”
“No, I want you to carve up a Thanksgiving turkey for me.” The window to the studio flung open and a gust of chilly wind burst through, knocking over a couple pieces of stretched canvas that leaned against the far wall. The only one to remain standing was the large seven by seven foot blank square of white. “I want you beside me.”
Leonard took a couple more steps towards the painting. “I’ll never do it. You were crazy back—”
“Shut up. You couldn’t comprehend my genius at the time; nobody could. But if you ascend with me, we could be famous the world over. People will speak our names for hundreds of years--”
“They’ll remember us as that crazy couple who killed themselves.”
“Enough!” she shouted. The power in the studio flickered and the girders ground against their masonry bases. “You were always such a loyal husband, don’t let me down now.” Small bits of mortar dropped onto Leonard’s head. “You will join me, one way or another. I just hope you make the right decision and become immortal as I have.”
He approached the base of his wife’s masterpiece with his knife in hand. “My loyalty ended the day your turned yourself into that.” Leonard stabbed the painting, tearing it down the middle. A river of warm blood gushed from the canvas, soaking his entire body. Ringing throughout the studio, his wife’s screams lasted longer than any mortal's, but they too faded until nothing but an echo remained.

13 comments:

FARfetched December 16, 2011 at 8:41 AM  

Fascinating story, just a few technical issues…

1) He shivered inside his warehouse studio with cold, tan bricks and a tall ceiling supported by iron rafters of a bygone era. This sentence seems to be two sentences mashed together… the result being that the bricks seem to shiver with him.

2) hung above the spot he did his own work. This seems to be missing a word, but I'm not sure what the word is. Maybe "where"?

3) his wife’s screams lasted longer than any mortals "Mortals" needs an apostrophe too.

OK, that's my take. Feel free to treat mine the same way today. ;-)

Michael A Tate December 16, 2011 at 9:11 AM  

Far: Thanks for catching those. I think I did some acrobatics to fix the first issues, and the second two were pretty easy. Final proofing when you get out of bed is probably not a good idea; I'm really embarrassed about the third one, but thanks!

ganymeder December 16, 2011 at 9:15 AM  

Wow. I like the way you started hinting with your word choices even before the reveal. *shiver* Gives new meaning to suffering for art!

ganymeder December 16, 2011 at 9:16 AM  

Wow. I like the way you started hinting with your word choices even before the reveal. *shiver* Gives new meaning to suffering for art!

John Wiswell December 16, 2011 at 9:44 AM  

Glad I reloaded! I had similar gripes to Larry, though I enjoyed imagining that the tan bricks were shivering - while that lasted.

Something about the two leading paragraphs of description dragged for me. It's when they asked about Cathy that the piece started clicking with interest, and that's still early enough that it isn't a true gripe. You know a gruesome fate is coming, so the dialogue has to carry intrigue, which is a worthwhile experiment.

Raven Corinn Carluk December 16, 2011 at 4:52 PM  

Brutal and cruel. Tortured artists and whatnot. Very well done.

Sonia Lal December 16, 2011 at 6:49 PM  

I would have remembered them as the crazy couple who killed themselves. ;) I am thinking he wanted her dead and that's why he went along with her the first time around.

Icy Sedgwick December 16, 2011 at 6:53 PM  

I like this, and I've read the comments, and I still think "became chilly when the wind picked up; he shivered." needs a little polish. "He shivered" could just be a separate sentence of two words, or connected to the previous sentence with an 'and'. The semi-colon makes it feel tacked on. But that could be my own preference.

Other than that, it's perfectly balances creepy with gruesome, so nicely done!

Helen December 16, 2011 at 10:52 PM  

That's what you call sacrificing yourself for your art!
Good Story!

Tim VanSant Writes December 16, 2011 at 11:55 PM  

Dorian Gray has nothing on this portrait. Nice work.

I don't care much for that second sentence either. I would probably reverse it so the action comes first:

He shivered; when the wind picked up his warehouse studio with its cold, tan bricks and tall ceiling supported by iron rafters of a bygone era became chilly.

Craig Smith December 17, 2011 at 12:08 PM  

Gruesome but good!

I felt there could have been a bit more urgency in the end. Maybe show his fear a bit more.

Tom Gillespie December 19, 2011 at 5:38 AM  

Woah! Scary stuff!
I'm fascinated with paintings, so this one gets right under my skin.. ha ha

Chuck Allen December 19, 2011 at 1:37 PM  

Very creepy, Michael. I also found it a bit funny that you ask for "stabby" love, given the stabbing at the end of the story.

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