February Femmes Fatales 2012 has been superb. Please give a huge virtual round of applause to the talented contributors, for they all deserve it. Should you wish to revisit, or if you've missed out due to having been abducted by aliens, or some such disaster you can find all the entries for this, and 2011's FFF on the permanent February Femmes Fatales page here on The Feardom.
The writer closing the celebration has been prolific this season. Thank you for enjoying her work - it has been deliciously dark to the extreme. Dorothy Davies's fiction finale is the perfect closure.
I give you...
DEATH FOR ART'S SAKE
And finally he gave way to my persistence. I rang the doorbell with anticipation and excitement coursing through me.
Laurent opened the door wearing faded blue jeans and ragged tee-shirt splashed with some of the reds and browns he uses. He had a big smile and what seemed like a genuine invitation to go in, not just the polite one most artists use when their sacred inner sanctum – their studio - is invaded by us hacks. Quite why I expected a floppy hat, large silly bow and elaborate clothes I have no idea, he was after all a modern painter. Perceptions linger, however, in the most cynical of minds. Yet I should have known better, I’d interviewed a lot of artists over the years.
“Come in!” He was full of bonhomie and welcome. “Come straight through to the studio; you’re just in time. A new painting is in progress!”
How, I thought, you’ve opened the door, you’re guiding me down endless corridors, or so it seems, and here I am in –
A huge white space splattered in red and brown and black. An odd smell met me, one I could not quite place. Incense burners set around the room were masking it to some degree. Then I saw what Laurent was referring to.
A large canvas was lying on the floor under a tarpaulin which he had suspended from the rafters. There were holes slashed in the tarp, from which came splashes of the red/brown colour, Laurent’s trademark. The whole thing was shivering, that was the only way to describe it, and as it shivered more paint fell on the canvas. As I stood watching a masterpiece being created, the shivering stopped and the tarpaulin became still. A final drop fell in the very centre of the canvas, a full stop almost.
Laurent reached down for it and stood it up against the wall, staring at his work. We were silent for a moment. The wild splashes, for that is what they were, seemed to beckon you into the maelstrom of paint, marked with anguish and suffering. Why I felt that I had no idea. I didn’t normally see anything worth commenting on in abstracts but this one drew me strongly and I could see why he had become such a sensation.
“Here we go,” he said eventually. I wondered if he had been turning over the title in his mind, for he suddenly breathed: “This is called Death For Art’s Sake.” He smiled and tugged my arm. “Come, it’s going to be your turn to create a masterpiece.”
“I – I don’t…”
I was spun round and my hands secured behind me with plastic ties. I spluttered and tried to fight but it was impossible without hands. All I did was unbalance myself and end up on the floor which made it easier for him to secure my ankles as well.
From my position, flat on my back, I could look up at the tarpaulin. Something was bothering me a good deal more than the ties, which might have been some kind of surreal S&M game he was playing, for all I knew. But being thrown into the corner of the room was surely not part of a game.
My head slammed against the wall and almost knocked me out, but I had to try and get through to him.
“Laurent…” I wanted to protest, I wanted to argue; I wanted to know what the hell all this was about.
He turned to me with a smile that chilled me to my backbone.
“None of you understand, do you? True art demands sacrifice! My time, my genius, your sacrifice!”
As he spoke he tugged the corner of the tarpaulin. It tipped and a body fell out, a naked body, its wrists and ankles secured with plastic ties and a huge amount of duct tape over its mouth. The body of a young fit man. With slash marks all over it.
And then, in a moment of stunning clarity, I knew what the smell was.
Laurent smiled again, that same chilling smile.
“You see how genius is created? I bind them, I slash them; I let them toss and turn in the tarpaulin, trying to escape. Their blood pours out, it cascades here and there, it splashes, it marks. No two canvasses are ever the same. They are young, they are fit, they fight the dying. As they fight the blood pours. As they die, the blood stops dripping and the painting is done. Oh, for your article, not that you will live to write it, of course, I never do more than one canvas a week. That means you have seven days in which to contemplate your major contribution to the art world. That gives me time to dispose of this useless lump of flesh out in the marshes and clean the place up before you become the star turn. For you, there will be a special canvas, for you are older than my other subjects and will not toss and turn so much. It will be – interesting to see what result I get.”
He was utterly cold, utterly heartless. He was killing for the sake of a canvas and a reputation. It occurred to me that those two things might, for him, be enough justification. I could not argue. I was in no fit state to argue.
He left me in the corner, almost seeing stars, my head aching from the bump, my mind aching from what I had just seen, what I had just been told. What I had been condemned to.
Death for Art’s Sake.
It would have made a good title for an article.
But as he said, I would not live to write it.
I wondered what he would call the masterpiece that is me.
I had to do something to occupy the next seven days.
_________ The End _________
She is an editor for Static Movement and Red Skies Publishing, as well as working at being an editor in her ‘day’ job.
She also writes extensively and is a full member of the Fictioneers.