The darkness of the room seemed strangely relieved by the woman’s eyes, in which I could see burning flower gardens—where fire was merely the most beautiful flower, blooming hot and bright against the blackest sky. Her hands took mine gently, bringing me into her embrace. Yet her physical presence seemed doubtful, like the clutch of shadows. She whispered my name. As it passed her lips, processed through the darkness of her body, it seemed almost biblical.
The room was entirely dark, and from somewhere nearby I could hear the strained breathing of my father, whose throat was still in the giant’s hand. The twins were nowhere in sight, but I could feel their smiles at my back, burning like fallen angels.
A single candle was lit, no doubt held by one of the twins. The woman’s hands drifted to my shoulders, slowly turning me to meet the bloodshot eyes of my father. The candlelight created a soft bridge between us, and I could see that my father’s gaze, while afflicted with no small amount of pain and hopelessness, retained its glint of lethality and poise. His eyes made me unsure of my saviors—even in the grip of such a monster, he was still a beast of many heads, each one possessed of skills sharper than stilettos.
My father was finally released, and he fell to the floor, gasping. I knew the sorest injury he’d suffered was to his pride. He carefully returned to his feet, even taking the time to straighten his collar, unfazed by the monster at his back. He looked beyond me, returning the heated glower of the strange woman. “You just took your doom by the hand, woman. I’ll die having at least that satisfaction.” My father’s words shot across the room like spears, but they were immediately deflected by the woman’s smile, which shone like the darkest night.
“What a shame,” she said. “Here stands your greatest work, and you’ve grown all but dumb to the fact. Luckily, I don’t share your foreshortened senses, artist. It seems to me you’ve been the one holding your doom by the hand, and for quite a few years, at that. It would only be in keeping with a sort of cosmic propriety that your son be your doom—here, in this gallery, tonight. There’s still art to be had in that, isn’t there, artist?”
My father’s eyes didn’t so much as twitch. “That would be an honor, of course. But don’t look so smug, woman. It’s not like you’ve tapped into the unseen world by seeing him for what he is. I’ve known this day would come. I’ve known since the first time I saw myself reflected in those coal-black eyes of his. And now you’ve looked into them, too. You know, now. Pray you last as long as I did.” I had no idea what my father was talking about, but something secret seemed to shift within me, somewhere deep in the pits of my stomach.
“Donald, tonight you will become an artist,” the woman said matter-of-factly, still locking eyes with my father. It didn’t seem as if I would be given a choice, so I simply smiled up at her, my new mother.
The giant reached out with a single hand and broke my father’s neck. Somehow it failed to kill him, which apparently was the monster’s intent. My father collapsed to the ground, never again to rise from it under his own power. The creature then bore my progenitor’s limp body to one of the work benches and laid him on his back.
My new mother turned me again, this time to face the wall of my father’s tools, all of them barely discernable from the twisted shadows they cast in the trembling light. “They all belong to you, now. You have the remainder of the night to make your father into that which he was always meant to be.” I knew almost immediately what I would do.
When I heard the last of my saviors exit by way of the door at the top of the stairs, I wasted no time drawing preliminary sketches for how I would transform my father. It took only a few hours for me to gather the materials I needed, and soon I began organizing my work space. Through all of this, the gaze of my father never left me. I could see pride welling in his eyes as I prepared my utensils with the grace and speed of a seasoned master.
After I pinned the last of my sketches to the wooden wallboards that lined my work area, I stripped my father of his clothing and thoroughly washed his body. The only question that remained was—how should I kill him? Death was no mercy here, merely a requisite work condition—any unwanted movements or mistimed rictuses could ruin the mood I was attempting to cultivate.
I had no idea how to feel about what I was about to do. My father was always a source of fear and wonder to me. But my affections always lived in his conjurations, never the conjurer.
I rose my father into a seated position, propping him up against my worktable, and looked him in the eyes. He winced for the first time—and the last. His breath was weak, yet I could see that he was trying to say something. I waited patiently for his rasping attempts at speech to cohere into intelligible words. Just before I could wait no longer, he spoke. “A graveyard with flowers . . . is far better . . . than one without.” I understood his meaning. My blade passed through his right eye.
The most difficult part of the undertaking that followed was the draining of all my father’s blood. I finally accomplished this through the painstaking process of positioning his body such that the building pressures I created forced it from his veins. Replacing his vital liquids with paint proved a much easier task to achieve, and I was careful to use every color, in every shade and intensity I could evoke. Next, I removed all of his major organs, delicately replacing them with artist’s tools. Each tool was placed in corresponding importance to the organ it substituted. I used my father’s skin to replace the hemp of my canvas (he was a traditionalist, of course), and then I re-skinned my father with the aforementioned hemp. Certainly, the eyes were essential to my piece. Natural eyes had a nasty habit of decomposing, so I procured a set of the most beautiful glass eyes I could find.
Finally, there was the staging of the piece. It took me some time to affect, but I arranged the entire gallery so that my father was the black sun around which his dark worlds wheeled. I situated all the disenable heads of his works such that they seemed to look upon him, perhaps thanking him for their transformation.
In the light of the few candles by which I worked, my father’s true self was dimly revealed. He was art incarnate. He was the hand that held the brush, the paint that fell to the canvas, and the very canvas that held his dream. I had inextricably fused my father with his craft.
In the darkness of the extinguished candles, I whispered my father’s new name, the name of my very first work of art. “Red Ouroboros.”
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