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If someone had looked through the window and into the lavish living room of the large house at the just right time, just as the lightning flashed, they would have been able to see him. In the cruel light, what at first was nothing more than the silhouette of a man slumped and sleeping in a chair was revealed to be much more than that. He was my art, my latest masterpiece. I sat back in the chair across from him, lit my cigarette and admired my craftsmanship.
The man’s head lolled to his left side. Eyes, now unencumbered by those troublesome lids, stared
blankly forward at me. His mouth was a red grin, a large curve cut up from each corner of the lips and ending just below the eye. With my scalpel I had drawn onto his cheeks and forehead great swirls of the red, a magnificent spectacle that changed itself gorgeously as the natural ink of his veins ran freely from them and through the wrinkles of his face down to his chin, where it dripped onto his bare chest and the portrait I had created there.
The portrait. That was the real eye-catcher of this piece. A different face each time, yes, and the first three could never live up to this one. No, no, no, those had been rough, merely practice for this one, this work of amazing beauty. On the chests of the others I had done mere caricatures, imitations of faces. This one though… this one was so… so life-like. It was a girl, a sweet face carved in the flesh. I had captured each feature perfectly; despite the only color being red, I could still see her soft brown eyes and the bounce of her curly black hair. Even though I had spotted her in the park a month ago, I could still hear the twinkling laugh that had graced her smile with its presence. That was the picture I had drawn, her laughter, now immortalized in flesh forevermore.
A tear welled up in my eye and dribbled slowly down my cheek. How truly wonderful it had turned out! Despite the darkness of the room (turning on the light would have allowed the neighbors of my canvas a chance to see my work before it was finished, and that was something so unthinkable the mere brush of the thought against my brain gave me visible shivers,) each stroke of my scalpel, my bladed brush, the true extension of my hand, had been perfect! If only the world could appreciate my art as I did! Oh, but they did not understand such things. The papers called them brutal, repulsive acts of surgery. They gave me nicknames that would never fit, like the Butcher or Doctor Death. The gall of them, insulting me this way! I am an artist, a creator, a Da Vinci of the flesh! Sure, the first few weren’t wonderful. I was just starting out after all; it was normal for them to criticize. I mean, what did they expect, a Warhol on the first go around? Ha! Yet, surely after they had seen this, they would appreciate my work. They must, unless their eyes were blind to the beauty of this world.
I leaned forward and, with my scalpel, gave my work my artist’s mark: a capital C, whose bottom curved up and over to enclose a small lowercase t inside of its body. My initials, they were, the initials the world would soon know belonged to the greatest artist of the twenty-first century. Sitting back in the chair once more, I finished my cigarette and flicked the butt away. I stared for a long time at my art, pride welling up inside of my chest like a geyser. I closed my eyes and listened to the pitter-patter of the rain on the windowpane, thoroughly enjoying the moment.
Then the lights flashed outside, Red-blue, red-blue, red-blue, over and over. I could see them through my eyelids, and when I opened my peepers to see their cause, my poor heart nearly stopped. Outside was a police cruiser, parked in front of the house. Two officers were getting out of it and heading to the door, flashlights at the ready. Curse those nosy neighbors! One must have seen me and mistaken me for a petty thief in the night. Curse my decision of a house with large windows! This could ruin all I had worked for! All because of the ingrates that neighbored my canvas! They were trying to cheat me out of everything! The nerve! The gall! The insult of it all!
There was a knock at the front door. I inched towards it fearfully. What to do about this? Surely I could not dispose of both officers without making noise enough to alert someone else. What chance did I have? If only I had more time to think about this!
No. Over thinking this would surely get me killed. I had to act, and quickly. Deepening my voice and allowing it to crack a bit in my best imitation of an older gent, I shouted through the door: “Yes? Yes, who is it now?’
“Mr. McClayton,” a voice replied, “we received a tip from one of your neighbors that it looked like you were being robbed. Is everything alright?”
Ah, so it had been a neighbor then. Well, I would put their fears of robbery to rest . “Yes, everything is fine!” I said. “No one is in here but I, sirs!”
There was a pause. Oh, what a grueling silence it was! Then at last, his voice.
“Would you open the door please, sir,” he asked in a very official way.
So they didn’t believe me then, eh? Well I would persuade them.
“I will not,” I said through the door, mimicking anger, “I know my right, good sirs, and I will not give them up to you on this night! It is storming and cold, and I am of an age where I may well catch my death because of it!”
Silence on the other end. Oh, yes, that had shut them up. What righteous soul would want to hassle a poor old man, and late in the night at that? Finally, after a minute or so, the voice came again.
“Yes sir,” the officer said, “have a goodnight sir.”
I heard their steps fading down the walk and sighed with sweet relief. Satisfied, I walked back to the living room and sat across from my artwork once more, drinking in its gorgeousness, holding it in my sight like a rare jewel. The lightning flashed and lit up the room, and I smiled. I looked to the window, wanting to see the world in the brilliant lighting. What I saw there made my heart beat helter skelter with excitement.
One of the officers was there at the window, looking with what was sure to be horrid fascination at my masterpiece. He was so transfixed by my work that he seemed oblivious to me, wishing only to gaze upon the splendor of the art before him. I knew the feeling well.
After a moment more of his standing there, he backed away. As he did, his head turned slightly, and though I couldn’t make out his features in the rain-drenched darkness of the outside world, I was able to see his figure stiffen as he saw me. He turned and ran to the car. Upon reaching it, he seemed to say something to his partner, who immediately opened the driver’s side door and got onto the radio, more than likely to get back-up. More critics to judge my latest work. I smiled in delight. This had not been part of the plan, I had not intended for it to be seen so soon, but now that I could not avoid it, I might as well play along. Oh, what a treat they were in for. Not only would they be here for the unveiling, they would meet me, the artist himself!
I sat for awhile in my chair and waited for the policeman’s back-up to arrive, waited for my audience to appear and take their seats for the show. At last, after what seemed to be eternity, two other police cars pulled in behind the first, lights flashing. Two men exited each car. One held a megaphone in his hands, and in the flashes, I saw him hold it up to his mouth. He began to speak through it.
“Sir,” he stated officially. “We know you are in there. Do not try to exit through the back. There are three men there waiting for you if you try to. We have you surrounded on all sides. Come out with your hands up.”
So, these were not the only ones that had been sent then. There were officers all around me apparently. Hm. Well, all the better an audience then. I walked to the front door and opened it, then walked into the rain and addressed my fans.
“Good evening sirs and possible madams,” I said to them, “and may I say it is a pleasure to meet the lovers of my work. Inside you shall find the latest creation of my intelligent mind.” I lifted my hands to the heavens palms open, catching the tears of the very God that had blown the breath of artistic creation into my being. “It is the crowning achievement of my career!” I yelled as I began to walk forward.
“Sir,” said the megaphone officer, “Please stay back. We will shoot if you do not comply.”
I stopped, but only for a moment. Then I continued forward.
“Sir,” said the megaphone officer again, “Stay where you are, or we will be forced shoot. I repeat, if you do not stop, we will shoot you.”
I did not care however. I kept moving forward towards my fans. Soon they would rush inside and see my artwork for themselves, and then they would praise me. They would treat me like the genius I truly was. I would be known world-wide! Not even the likes of Van Gogh or Michelangelo could compare to my work, my masterpieces! I would be the greatest artist the world had ever known!
There was a loud crack as something hit my shoulder forcefully. I was so wrapped up in the thoughts of my genius , however, that I barely felt it. I closed my eyes and put my face to the sky, enjoying the droplets of rain on my skin as I walked towards the officers. There was another crack and something hit me in the gut, then another as something whizzed past my head. I stopped walking and looked back at my audience.
“I am Cormick Torrinston,” I screamed it so loud that the roll of thunder was like the coo of a dove in comparison to the volume of my voice. “I am the greatest artist this world has ever known in its short lifetime! Look inside now, and see my genius!”
I started walking forward again, forcefully and with purpose. Then, there was a crack, and my left leg no longer held feeling. I collapsed to one knee, but kept moving forward at an inchworm’s pace. Crack! I was face down as my other leg lost feeling. I crept forward, dragging my body with my hands. Crack! Bye, Bye hand. Ah, but it was not my dominant hand, so that was fine. I could still create. I still tried to go forward. I even got back on one knee. “I am Cormick Torrinston,” I screamed to the rain and thunder and lightning, my voice echoing in the wrath of mother nature. My natural red ink flowed freely from the points of impact, yet I felt nothing at all except pride. Oh what a wonderful feeling it was! “I am the greatest artist the wo--”