Card Challenge: Day 19
Card Day 19: A cat stands before an easel, painting a scene of fish swimming. As the cat looks away, one of the fish swims off the canvas.
Carter’s eyes were beginning to blur with the mix of colors swimming between his palette and canvas. He was uncertain how long he had spent standing in front of the easel, his brush flying with inspired fervor across the once white space, filling it with his vision. Only, now, the vision had dried up, leaving him with a half-finished piece and no idea how to continue.
His weary eyes searched for the clock on the far wall. It was nearing two a.m., and his body suddenly groaned with the ache of standing for the past five hours with little to now movement outside of his wrist and elbow. It was like a trance of a sort, so enraptured had he been with this idea. It flowed out of his hands and onto the canvas as if creating itself. Carter felt weary and empty, but unfortunately the final product did not fill him with the same manic elation that the idea had. It sat in a half-finished state. All of the gross outlines were there, and he had splashed the color into the appropriate spots, but it lacked a life and vitality that he had hoped to infuse.
Now his eyes stung and watered, his lids dropping low. He mentally scanned the room, seeing the multitude of brushes and open tubes of paint. He needed to clean up unless he wanted all of this to go to waste. After subsisting on ramen for longer than he cared to imagine, he was not about to throw away his investment. He sighed, glancing at the canvas. When he entered the room that night, he had felt certain this was to be his masterpiece. He had felt that through every magical stroke, even as his arm grew weary. It was not until the spell mysteriously broke that he could see the abject mediocrity staring back at him. His first year art school projects had been more convincing.
Just a slump, he thought, consoling himself. And I made something at least tonight. The thought was less than reassuring. Turning from the canvas, Carter felt his shoulders slump. This one had felt real. It had felt necessary and important. Only, now…
He gathered the brushes up, trying to tidy up his space. He was so tired, though, and his feet ached after all that standing. In a concession to his exhausted body, he slumped into the wooden, straight-backed chair for a brief respite. Combatting the allure of sleep, he studied the failed canvas staring back at him. No, not failed, he softened, unfinished. He felt a new confidence that something would come along and show him how to complete this picture. The winds of inspiration would whip up again. For now, he simply studied it.
The background was foggy, a mist of trees and clouds that melded into a surreal landscape. He was very fond and proud of the way the limbs of the trees jutted out of the fog, mixing their solidity with the ephemeral fog. It was a beautiful juxtaposition, he granted. The foreground, however, was where he lost that delicate touch and realistic edge.
He had wanted to show the werewolf in mid-transformation, blending human and animal in fluid brushstrokes. It had come to him in a moment looking at the face of his dog, seeing his own human face reflected in the canine eyes. He would make the eyes the central piece, turn the body into a mirage of human and animal so that no one part was clearly either one. But the eyes would be wonderfully human and ferociously lupine. Unfortunately, it was the eyes that now gazed at him with drying paint, dull and lifeless under the yellow lights.
Carter walked to the painting, intending to set aside the reminder of his wasted evening, but a sudden sharp, barking noise gave him pause. In the newly minted silence, a new sound filled his workshop, echoing off the bare walls and concrete floor. It was a growl, deep and rumbling. Carter looked around, expecting to see Jonesy with his hackles raised at some imagined villain, but the loyal dog was nowhere to be seen. He followed the sound, and it led his eyes back to the canvas, where the creature’s mouth-snout was rippling with sudden energy. Now, the eyes were alive.
From the impossible blend on the canvas, the creature began to take shape. It merged out of the paint just as the animal features had flowed seamlessly from their human. One moment it was flat shapes on a canvas, and the next it was jutting into the world as if it had been molded. His mind reeled with what was happening as the growl grew louder. There was now a glistening line of saliva on the lip-jowls. The arm and paw now existed in three dimensions, reaching out from the canvas. Carter stumbled back away from the frame, his eyes affixed to it in horror.
He watched all the imperfections of his artistry fade away into the perfection of reality as the creature emerged, struggling against the fabric of reality and sanity. The paint seemed to stretch and grown as it took on flesh, and Carter was captivated with equal parts amazement and terror. It was not until the head broke through and the jaws began to snap that he found his feet and ripped out of the workroom.
Carter slammed the door behind him, hearing snarls and howls echo off the enclosed space. He gazed distrustfully at the cheap wooden door. Jonesy was barking, a sound which barely registered in his mind over the suspiciously human and utterly inconceivable growl.
He grabbed Jonesy’s collar and rushed towards the door. All thoughts but escape had fled, and Carter was left scrambling across the linoleum floor towards the exit. Jonesy leapt and growled, barked and whimpered, twining about his feet. In an instant, Carter felt his feet fly from the floor, his body hurtling towards the metal door separating him from freedom. And then, there was darkness.
The dull glow of morning brought him back to consciousness, along with a throbbing ache in his forehead. There was a sticky splotch of blood on the floor, corresponding to the odd stiffness of his face. He stretched, looking around and trying to remember what had led him to such flight. Jonesy sat beside him, carefully licking his hand as he saw his master awake.
The impossible events filtered back, and Carter felt foolish. Fumes, he reasoned, I shouldn’t have spent hours enclosed in that room. He gingerly lifted himself off the floor and walked towards the firmly closed door to his workshop. There was a slight hint of trepidation as he reached for the doorknob, but the light of day and the power of reason chased away his doubts. With sudden courage, he yanked the door open.
Inside was his canvas depicting a scene of fog and trees, a strange void existing prominently in the foreground. Outside, glass lay scattered about his window, leading off into the city streets with paint-stained footsteps, not quite animal and not quite human.
I went a bit more literal with today’s, but I think it worked out. Hope you enjoyed it!
This work by Katherine C is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.