The Painter: A Prologue

Like a drop of blood submersing and spreading itself through a dark, lifeless pool, the tall, crimsoned figure streamed on in silence.

It had been a cruel winter and the frost had lingered; small icy fingers clawed at the dead in large pits on the outskirts of the city, dug by grieving hands and filled with dread in the autumn.

The hands, and cheeks, and arms of slight bodies pushed up and supported the corpulent ones sagging from above. Strangers misaligned with strangers in a mass of decaying limbs that wrapped and rewrapped around each other finding unwanted, eternal intimacy.

Each year the illness came in waves beginning in spring; each year death awoke as life began.

He rested by a grave where winter’s incessant rain had disturbed the earth, and like pieces of black vegetation rising from diseased tubers, an odd decomposed toe jutted out to meet a bony finger that pointed skyward (as if indicating its last desired destination), or else a nose — suffocating beneath the earthy stench of death — peaked out to take in some spring air.

He crouched and grabbed clumps of hardened earth, breaking them with his slight fingers before letting the dirt fall and scatter over the exposed parts, shielding their shame from the fearful eyes of the living.

The anguish swelled like a dull ache at his side. It wasn’t the first time he found himself questioning the futility of life. A single death, he thought, had poignancy, a backstory; in their last dying sighs, it was possible to see and smell the hopes and dreams that had consumed them.

Dreams smelled like crushed cassis and lavender, hopes were sweet and spicy like cinnamon and was most potent in those who had lived their lives encased in the promise of both.

© 2016 Occasional Dreams
Image: “Wasteland” by Daniel Stark / CC BY

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4 Replies to “The Painter: A Prologue”

  1. A nice, macabre atmosphere you have here. Me likey. I could almost feel the desolate atmosphere crushing me as I read this. I will say, if I had a nitpick, it would be that one use of the parentheses, as I felt it took me out of the story. But the rest of your prose did a great job pulling me back in. I enjoyed myself!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for the constructive feedback! Nice spot about the parentheses, sometimes you get so close to your own writing you don’t notice these things, but you’re right it does distract. This was something I wrote a while back that was meant to be part of a larger piece. Alas the larger piece never transpired but I might pick it up again sometime. Thanks again for reading.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey, just saying, if you plan on picking up this project again, I’d gladly read the whole thing! I’ve been reading lighthearted books for a while now, but a taste of the macabre every now and then is good for the soul. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you very much. That’s very kind, encouraging, and humbling! I’ll let you know if anything more happens. It’s always best to balance out the light with some good old dark like you say. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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