Carrying the gilt frame, clutching it to his side awkwardly so as not to scrape or blemish any of the contrived strokes, he padded across the maroon carpet that split the floor into threes, with the deep red dominating the composition of this extremely oblong room. Far be it from a simple layout, there were raised jetties that jutted out of the walls in what seemed to be arbitrary locations, but surely there must have been some intent for these architectural moldings as well.
He waddled down this corridor-like room and picked out the spot that was meant for the latest piece. In fact, the curator had repositioned the entire composition, interrupted the dialogic order, rearranged the cosmos for this installation. Something new to fancy the crowds he said.
And indeed it would cause fancy, for the air was all mixed and the vaporous batters stirred and all was inharmonious and charming and frightening for them all.
As he hung the piece in its rightful place, he stepped back a few steps.
What- what do you think you’re doing? Why are you looking at me like that?
Don’t worry about it, he’s trying to be like one of them.
He looked almost disgusted at this new piece, squeamishly eyeing the floating mass that dominated the skyline and hovered ominously over its empty landscape.
Who, who is saying that?
Oh-ho, I bet this lil’ oinker thinks he’s a real critic don’t you think Donna?
Yes, yes you’re right, but don’t be harsh now. Look at how young he is. He doesn’t know better. At least he’s not one of the “cultured” ones stripping us down.
The stretched stilts supporting the mass made him squint his eyes while the lumps that spilled over its supports made his gut tighten with slight disgust. The horizon was too high to forgive his eyes.
What’s there to strip you down to Donna!
His eyes strained.
Don’t struggle now, it’s not worth it.
The curator stepped in at that moment, to alleviate the silent torture that bathed his little one. “Do you not like my arrangement?”
“No, that’s not it…” said the apprentice, scrambling now to compensate or flatter.
“Do you not trust my judgment?”
“No, no! Of course I trust your judgment!”
A lascivious smirk spread across the curator’s face. He was always ready to transmit his knowledge to the uncultured. “Well, good. Because I didn’t even arrange this set-up. He did.”
He looked over his shoulder and squeamishly over his other. He felt eyes. But he took stabs at it anyways.
“I just don’t get it. Just look at Jesus on the Crucifix. The details, the juxtaposition, even the blue of the veins- all beautiful! Worthy to be here! Why can’t he just keep on making similarly beautiful things?”
I bet ya’ feel real smug over there don’t ya’ Jesus? Well get off yer’ god’ damn high horse- or perhaps, high cross would be more appropriate! Ahahaha!
The curator crumpled his brow and miffed his lip upwards ever so slightly, pushing greasy air through this odd gap in his face, and replied, “Yes, this one is a bit… well, it’s a bit difficult isn’t it?”
What’s difficult about me? What did I do, why aren’t I beautiful like this Jesus?
Ahyuck-hyuck, well that’s because yer’ a god damn- well, actually, I don’t know what the hell you are…
“Perhaps he intended-”
“no, no he couldn’t possibly have wanted something so…”
“what-ugly?” one could wonder whose words those were.
“Well… well yes, why would he want to put these pieces in such ugly conversation with each other? Why not exhibit the best, most beautiful pieces on their own instead of crowding them with such gross dialog?”
Replying now in earnest, for he was earnestly a bit riddled, “leave it to the art critics to muse about that kind of conversation. I’m sure they’ll come up with their own ways of framing these characters. At that point, do the original courses set for these pieces really matter?”
§ § § § § § § § § § §
And once they trailed off, once they were done musing and scrutinizing, and tearing and ripping to pieces, shredding and disdaining and almost killing, they were gone. And then, the cacophony began.
It spoke first, in quite the frenzy and of course without warning: These heights, I can’t possibly handle these heights-
The others had already begun to stir, had already awoken, but they hadn’t had any new company in a very long time- perhaps a lapse in their master’s temperament (which had become quite a subject of recent debate)- but that did not matter for they were all jostled all the same. And their new positions, oh their new positions. Now the cat did not like being near Jesus because it made him feel downright unholy and dearest ‘Donna did not like being near such a naked, bare-all cavalier of a woman either. In fact, she thought the cat would rather take a jump at her had he been able to see what a dream she knew she was. Then there was the egg whose inhabitant hated everything that wasn’t, well actually, the yolky appendage really did not like anything that was. The clocks were always ticked off and the others just didn’t muster up the hate to complain.
And so, they were not quiet. Whether their master had intended this or not- now did that really matter?
Don’t worry, little one- the tiger yawned- it’s just, just a kind of illusion, it’s just to tickle the critic’s fancy. His purrs came out in gentle, viscous rumbles that wobbled through the shape of his throat and through the crevices of his fangs.
Yes dear, yes young one don’t fret. It looks from here that you’re really only about half a foot off of your dearest ground!
Now, now- I wouldn’t trust that gal’s vision lad, if anything she’s the mistress of these illusions
-mistress! Excuse you!
-and personally I would defer to the fact that she doesn’t have eyes…
What??? Don’t have eyes?? I was modeled after the most beautiful eyes ever seen by man, woman, child, and even tiger! Why you… why you pusillanimous pussy you! Her shrieks scraped against her holes.
Wait, I’m- I’m an illusion- I can’t be just an illusion
Well, you may not be an illusion, maybe a nightmare if you really are sleeping-
Don’t trust that pussy cat! You know what they say about felines and… oh what do they say about them…
A sleepy, distressful song came from below the tiger: Dreams…? Did I hear a bellowing about dreams, hm..? I’d like to see a dream more desperately designed, so dreadfully doomed for disaster than I…!
Don’t mind them, you’ve only just arrived… you’ve only just arrived –a crackling, gut born growl this time- …and, and you’re already grappling with the master’s vision. You can’t even imagine it now lad… can’t see it…see it now so-
But he was soon to be interrupted, for there would be no soothing to be done, not with the new composition, not with the new company and certainly not with the new pedestal.
He barked out of his eggshell- or at least he tried to. There was a layer of paint laid thick to make a smothering impasto- a very careful compilation of pinks and browns encased him. His words disdainfully leaked out of his shell indeed like bloodied yolk: You think you’re so fuckin’ special don’t you? Yeah I bet you do! Because you’ve got the curtains and the whole set-up, huh? Well we all had attention from Daddy, I’ll tell you, oh I’ll fuckin’ tell you about the attention we all got from Daddy, especially- especially me!
It noticed then that it was bathing in diffuse, warm light, a spotlight softer but more radiant than the ones that did not shine on its surrounding counterparts. It noticed its own green shadows and orangey highlights that made his lumps and protrusions stick to the apprentice’s eye. But the deception of the tension became almost all too convincing. Now it was becoming sick, it was ready to vomit up the yellows that formed its guts and it asked- to itself (but really not quite to itself only for not even a sigh could slip through the canvas without being inhaled by another): But why do I have this light on me? Why cat, why when she’s so beautiful over there…
Donna was not pleased. Practically bursting out of her scrambled, geometric cells- the colors must have, for at least that moment bled together and become brown and muddled and disgusting to all (especially Him), her voice came out in a polyphonic symphony, as if filtered several times through a rough gradient that cut her voice into several pieces with sharp edges that were then melted back together into an irregular shape: Oh love, we all had the lights on us once before. It came out in scratchy scores, she was scornful indeed- Yes, once upon a time, I sat under that same set-up, was in your very same place.
He snapped back, You think you know how it feels to be in my position?! Go ahead and try to describe how it is to be fuckin’ eternally stuck! The new one’ll figure it out soon enough. He’ll figure out Daddy’s love, he’ll figure out how he’s stained upon the canvas, and forever propped up on those stilts! He’ll see just how ugly you are!
Much as you’d like to egg on-
clever gal’s at it again!
- the world does not run on your aborted politics!
Why, why don’t you just try to get out then? There’s a crack large enough for you to move… I mean you’ve got your arm out-
Wails kept pummeling the air so that the spaces began to melt into a sweltering sewer.
That’s because Daddy fuckin’ lodged it there- so it can get cut on the rough edges probably! He just wanted to give me a taste!
But can’t you just… just try to go ahead and move-
They rang in with the most hellish bell-like chime- Ugly! Ugly, ugly, ugly! They cackled maliciously, and in inharmonious waves that kept battering the air, assaulting it one after another with the chorus of cloned chattering that piled up upon each other.
It looked as if there was something welling up behind their melted faces, but the sheer number of doppelgangers ensured that not one of them could break the mold, no matter how upset, their gold casings would not yield. It’s not right, you can’t just move out of position, it’ll change everything, everything, EVERYTHING I say!
And so began the circus act. In a symphony of scornful, scathing and scratching slurs they began their speeches. Every one of them, affronted by the question, unforgiving of the newbie, for never could he be forgiven- never, not a chance, for such a foolish, caustically burning assault on their being.
Move?? Are you mad?
Even the nude dream protested in sultry sighs: Oh darling, it’s best to keep your mouth shut, best to stop now, or they’ll tear you to shreds!
Oh now she feels like she has a place to talk, little miss bosoms and damsel and-
If I could move, I’d eat him whole, I’d break out of this chain and sink my canines into whatever it is you would call that thing!
Best apologize as soon as you can dear!
Oh don’t listen to that saucy harlot!
You’d be so ugly! Misplaced, misshapen, a mishap I say! An UGLY mishap!
-you’re not fucking better! You can’t move! You just can’t!
What would happen if the cat got hungry for some honey or suddenly craved a scrambled egg, he couldn’t just jump out of sequence and disobey Him! Just try to tell me, for it would delight me to get out of the gun’s range, but instead I’m forever stuck here and can’t even feign to wake up!
If I could move …
But then YOU’D violate His order, His Ordinance, His Obligation-
-show Him how much I hated His master plan, how much disgust I feel for Him!
Move, ahaha funny for you- you of all of us, to think you could move- where are your legs? Those stilts aren’t yours- they’re borrowed!
And then for the first time, he let something slither out from his bent lips, he let something drag out slowly. … But aren’t we all borrowed? …from our Father? His words were bent at the corners, some syllables slanted: What would you be without his paint to expand your chest, to lift it from this lifeless canvas and animate you? And with the intent that one day you may very well hate him for leaving you to drown in your layers and layers of silky, stifling oils?
The words seemed to slink down his ribcage like the cobalt wires that shot electric bolts underneath the inhuman white nude. The nails were determined to never relent a semblance of a familiar red. Yes, you’re right. He painted me with iron nails. And a crown that will always hurt me, a crown I’ll never be able to take off.
- or even look at! Oh poor dear, poor King-
I know of this crown because the weight of their thorns stab like the nails that pin me in place. And I know how fine He made the points of these nails- how delicate and thin his brush must have been to get such dastardly sharp points-because I once tried to move.
The air became choked with the series of gasps and exclamatory huffs and cries that everyone forgot close to everything for just a moment.
Never seen you move!
It’s not possible, not possible at all, no, no never plausible!
While the others gaped and bickered, and caused quite the humbug that rattled their frames- it was a surprise they didn’t just fall off out of place with such disturbing ruckus- it just became curious: why…why don’t you ask that woman to stop gaping at you and help you off?
His eyes almost seemed to bend, but then again maybe not. Perhaps they just seemed so weighted with something salty and welling that they appeared to drip. She does not know about movement. She cannot even talk. She has yet to discover she has a voice.
Oh poor dear…
He sighed out all of his words and continued with eyes perpetually closed: I don’t think He was a religious man, and perhaps that is why He placed a woman who must endure this scene. It was His intent that I stay pinned. But she, she has a choice. And yet she stays.
His whispers dribbled down and pooled somewhere near her skirted feet. She did not return his incredible effort. She did not move, she did not speak. She stayed fixed to the landscape that was not actually melted to her feet at all.
Oh darling, she’s of trifle importance!
Yes, but a mere decoration to your lovely composition! Imagine if this rifle went without its mark? Or perhaps if that bee were not just a second from me..
Pity? His composition makes me want to-
Come now, he’s-
Not another judgment from you pussy cat! Leave this to the humans!
-he’d be ugly without her! Without her to gape, gawk, garrulously gander!
-well, perhaps it’s good that she stays then…
Why…why ever would you think it were good that she stayed! And leave him there to suffer! He’s tortured for every moment of his existence-
-I’ll fuckin’ tell you about torture!
Oh lord, here he goes again…
And perhaps that is what immobilizes her. Or perhaps He decided never to animate her fully, to subdue her into something secondary. He has forever pinned me here, and in doing so, I have faith that He has pinned a part of Himself here. To display for as long as these oils shine, and we in turn keep Him. Look at the wondrous hues and shades that form and set you apart from those colors that lay flat. He breathed something of Himself into you and filled your cavities with something human. Try to imagine- if He had left you flat.
Speak for yourself!
Shut it humpty-dumpty!
-you are ugly and wondrous and fantastic because you, my brother, embody Him. For one instant in the universe He has created for us, in this composition He has set-up for us and of us, he cared only for you, and put his attention only into you.
It was outrageous for him, him of all His creations- the lamb to be eaten up and to be slaughtered for its alluring vermillion splatter, limbs immobilized for God only knows what reason, hung to show how blue veins can become when the blood is drained to the feet. Yet he was praising their sacrilegious master.
Yeah, yeah we were once daddy’s but what are we now, huh? Just figments?
Is- is that true? His eye skitted about to the other figments but the flesh that sagged over it obscured his plight. Are, are we just fleeting b-bits that just happened out of a momentary- out of a momentary urge?? They could only respond to his voice, as usual.
Yes, he vomited us up onto the canvas, he did! Especially you! The laugh cut through many different frames.
And then the nude girl spoke out, in a precocious sigh that tingled: But what would become of me if I were to move, hm? The cat, the bee, the steel barrel would rust and fall away without targets! It is me they are after and me that they come from!
Come from you? Get over yourself little lovely!
Yeah, you heard the martyr, we came from Him you stubborn bitch!
We were all the adored child once! By Him, by them, by ourselves even!
Oh but that day’s long past now!
But- when he fills us and inflates- was this just something that he did out of some kind of fleeting mood? Those thousands of careful strokes, the bedtime story he must have dreamt up for the bees and tigers and lovely girls, and the millions of splatters that make Donna so illustrious-
-are we just fleeting figments that represent a time that has past?
Hush, child. Remember that you were begotten out of the electricity that shoots through his fingers. He could have left you-
-He did leave me, I am not even a fledged thing, I am amorphous
-ah, but you are not amorphous to him, look at your brothers, look carefully at your sister. They were not-
- or, or perhaps I was never meant to move if I was placed on these stilts for a reason. Perhaps, he just forgot to paint me with legs.
§ § § § § § § § § § §
And so they filed in, all dressed and powdered and done up for their debut. It was their time to shine under the spotlight that was surely pointed at them. They could perform as the people who most certainly mattered.
But it was stuffy. And soon it was to get sticky. And try as they may, they awkwardly shifted, trying to maneuver between each other. But their skirts were much too large. And their canes kept clacking each other’s shins (they would have ran into the fresh installments had it not been for the moldings). They stepped upon and turned abashedly into each other, and elbowing each other’s guts and behinds, all of which these bourgeoisie were unaccustom. With fuming disdain they tried to navigate His palace.
“You are still young.” He said as he looked around the room and began to sweat in the incubator that swelled with conceits.
“What does that have to do with anything? I understand.” She grabbed at his attention again.
“Does the pretty rose charm you, young girl? The tiger does not frighten a blossom such as yourself?” He looked her up and down, with a sardonic eyebrow raised.
She shied inwardly and peered into the white of his eyes that were now facing her; his pupils expressed dull interest in a direction opposite hers. “No, but the pomegranate reminds me of the apple he would force upon me. Do you think these women are helpless, ready to be taken by the marksman and the pussy, one after the other? You call this the product of your dreams? There’s something leaking in, and it’s not as lovely as your fine brushstrokes.” Her lips gleaned with something angry, even pulsating. “And I know you could care less about the rose. I could care less about the rose.”
“That sequence was what sprang forth from the frightening crags. You would know nothing about the unconscious! You might as well melt into the formless goo that these critics keep on spewing and spilling into their space!”
“You see, you don’t understand, you aren’t even listening! You’ve been rubbed and scoured clean by your-” his lip wobbled upon bared fangs, “-peers. You’ll ignore what isn’t clear, what whips the air into a colorful batter-”
“Do you mean the rainbows that stretch between your misshapen paintings?”
At that, his eyes drooped ever so slightly, almost as if they were softening, but the master was unyielding for the benefit-one might say- of his creations. “What would you know about things that are misshapen, hm? How many masterpieces have you created, how many times have you poured your being into something flat and inhuman? You’re just a girl!”
“And you’re just the all-powerful master, aren’t you? I can see through these layers. I can see them overrunning you. You’ve misshapen that unconscious gift you think you have delivered to them, and you’ve permanently misshapen them to idolize that ego that you have chosen to place upon so many pedestals.” She pointed to the jutting moldings that each painting hovered above. “That one there”, her shoulder ran an accusatory angle towards the stilted, drooping creature, “it probably couldn’t bear the weight of your conscious expectations. That’s why you fixed it with stilts didn’t you?”
He scoffed. “And what would you know about floating and falling- about understanding any of this, little girl?”
“I’m not a little girl.”
He twiddled with his mustache and then nonchalantly glanced into her doe eyes. She tried to penetrate him, but there was no way she could invade him that far. No one could. That was his charm, his mystique. What made the talk ever flowing.
“I know you. I know what lies behind these contrived layers.”
He scoffed lasciviously, arrogantly, and then turned his head and waved his hand as if trying to waft away her smoky comment. “What would you even know about real art? About layering? You think these things are accidental, perhaps at one point I thought they were too. But they sprang forth from somewhere fixed and clean from everything else but myself. They are inwardly polluted and disgusting.”
“They are disgusting because you aren’t exploring new territory.” She had ripped through a seam. Even in the swelter of the high-literature conversation and the muffling of the lace, and the frames that were most certainly rattling quietly amongst themselves, her tear was almost audible.
He opened his eye wide-unintentionally- but corrected with doubled disinterest. “You’re just a stupid girl. You’re like all those other critics, like my competitors. You’re stuck in your snobbish depiction of life how it is. And I’ll tell you, there is nothing there that is beautiful. The surreal is beautiful. What you cannot comprehend, now that is beautiful.”
It was a wonder how the air didn’t become a sickly greenish vomit.
Stung, but resilient, she spat back, “Don’t say I don’t understand surrealism. Don’t say I don’t know anything about violating something normal with unusual normalcy. You think you are creating something beautiful. But I know you’re spilling out your little evils.” And then something dirty began to leak out of the corners of her cupid bow lips.
“These little evils?”
“How can they not be, they’re so fantastically forced it’s almost disgusting.”
“Just look at the arrangement. I know you orchestrated this.”
“Orchestrated for what? Tell me little girl, since you seem to have figured out the master!”
“I don’t know, but that kind of conscious manipulation is something that belongs to the real. It belongs to our world much too well. These are almost slipping out of view of your beloved surreal.”
“They are no longer even part of our plane you stupid little girl. I had thought their dialog would create a symphony of echoes of myself now expired and dying. They have found something new in the process.”
Immediately, he felt the words float out of his mouth, tug itself out of somewhere unknown from beneath his tongue or behind his uvula. At the time, he was just lost in the new installation, wondering whether he could still hear its groans from way up high. The words felt like stringy pollution, but she tried to sincerely consider his comment.
“Was it torture to arrange such disharmony? Or was it liberation, for all of you?”
He swallowed the pthalo that leaked out from her lips. It was dark and unfamiliar, and he was not quite sure what to do with it.
As his eyes shifted, her lower lip curved slightly upwards, and she replied, “I’ve been stuck on that plane for a while. Well, I had been, I rotted on that plane for a while, on the plane that my parents had tread when they tried to stuff a lady into me, the plane that these silly art critics tread when they exclaim the marvels of your art when they can’t even hear them. You aren’t exploring new territory because I’ve been there before too. I’m not afraid of whatever the hell convention tells me about women.”
“You are not a woman” he interrupted.
And yet her remarkable persistence was admirable. She was ready to tread through the condensing wetness that was blocking sleek air to be exchanged. “I revel in the blood that leaks from me, that the “Christians” disdain my kind for.”
He hadn’t noticed that he had almost become entirely fixated on her gaze; He became enamored by something unidentifiable, some infinitely deep well that belied the blackness of her pupils. It was a wonder how her eyes still glistened with such harsh sentiment, when there was clearly something yellow and viscous eating acidic holes through the dew that shimmered and danced quite gracefully upon the eyes of most young girls. He was, for the first time in a long time, for the first time with a human and not painting, and for the first time on this plane of realism with something that suddenly careened out of his mastery- intrigued.
It was almost certainly beginning to intrude upon him. But he was afraid of the potentiality of this inhabitant and so he searched the room-in vain of course- for he did not know what he was looking for. He saw the art critics, the high-class, he saw the audience he had never intended to cultivate. He wondered: had he sown these seeds? Had that conscious she-wolf sprung upon the last of his completely selfless, completely God-like gift of soft strokes? Had it drooled and emulsified the last of their stray colors? He wondered whether the character of his art had changed through its coming of recognition. He wondered if they had been speaking from the she-wolf or from somewhere of their own whim, of their own musing and of their own will.
All the while that he was looking about the room, he had been thinking about meeting her gaze again, he was curious but almost terrified to engage with her again.
When she finally lifted her eyes again, gathered them from the ground, she said with deliberation and intent brimming in her iron tone. “Let me have your abortion.”
This time, the tear resounded through the individual frames and danced metallic clings against the gilded frames. Between just them, all was quiet. Perhaps they were, in unison, attempting to listen to the way her words cut through the nasty, humid room. He thought he could see her rusty sacrilege hang in the air, float and cut through the rest of the sky’s garbage.
And yet she had, at this moment and perhaps for many more moments that she would fix in her memory with sharpened pins, certainly thought of this prospect quite fondly. She thought of His creation developing inside her. Perhaps it would have dimples, how lovely that would be to have a little flesh ball have imprints of his father’s being, to laugh just like his Father always wanted to. But before it resembled anything of a human, she would terminate it in some especially ill way and discard any hopes for knitting him a small hat. She thought of cradling this half-developed fleshling to one of His floating masses. It could float in her; she could have one of His tumorous creations if just for a moment.
The prospect sent a shiver down his spine. The shiver seated itself in his belly and he was thoroughly thrilled. The abundance filled him, but with something unrecognizable, something that perhaps was not his own.
And as they shared this moment of abundance and decadence and wishes of abortion and fulfillment, she thought she saw one of His sagging creations quiver and slink about over its stilts, until it almost fell right off of its placement on the canvas and onto its asphyxiating landscape. She thought it would want to die in her too before it could sprout little legs. But this, this was not something she had understood.