Pictures Of Emily
Pictures Of Emily
by L. Greqoh
I’ll never forget the day I met her, she whose face still haunts my dreams. It was a cool spring evening in New Port, Oregon. I labored behind my easel on the beach, trying to capture in oil the beauty of the coastline at sunset. My canvass was nearly finished, but it felt empty.
There comes a point in an artist’s life where his soul is no longer stirred by deep cerulean skies. When fiery altocumulus clouds no longer ascend like stairways into heaven, but are bereft of inspiration, mundane phantoms that pass on pointlessly. In time, we grow deaf to the roar of ancient tides, they cease to cause reflection in a time worn soul. Snow capped peaks no longer command awe, but mock at our insignificant stature.
A lonely life of academic aesthetic contemplation had proven pointless and to the hunger in my heart. The silence in my home was no longer an asset to my artistic drive, but an unbearable chill to my soul.
I let the brush slip from my fingers and fall to the ground. Unable to push back these feelings any longer, I prepared to pack my things and leave. It was then that I saw her.... She walked slowly to the water, spreading out a yellow blanket. I watched her sit in solemn contemplation of the roaring waves. A long modest white dress concealed her figure. Her petite form revealed itself underneath as the fabric rippled in the wind.
I found myself fascinated by her jet black hair, the way it fell down her back like strands of swarthy silk glistening before the dazzling sun, the way it danced in the winds revealing the flawless oval structure of her face, her high cheeks and strong noble brow.
At once, I retrieved my brush and began to paint her onto my canvass. For a while perhaps, she did not notice my intense fascination with her. This was well, for I desired to capture her as she was then at that moment.
I noticed the young woman began talking to herself. A look of hopelessness spread across her face. Then, like a startled deer, she turned and faced me. She saw the easel and the pallet in my hand. I suppose she was greatly flattered by my interest for she did not move for nearly an hour, merely smiling knowingly as if to give her consent to my artistic voyeurism. Her mood was much improved.
I could have painted her forever, but she appeared to grow ill. She held her hand over her lower stomach began talking to herself again. Her countenance grew sullen and she rose to leave.
I walked to her, announcing my presence while standing respectfully back. “Forgive my impulsiveness. My name is Victor, Victor Blackwood.”
She clutched the blanket and shrank back like a shy girl, her azure eyes wide and unsure.
I took a step back and continued, “I am an artist. I come here often to paint the coast. I believed an Oregon sunset was the most beautiful thing in the world.... until this evening....when I saw you.”
Despite herself, a warm smile arose across her flushed face as she looked to the ground and turned her head. “Mr. Blackwood....”
“You flatter me, Mr. Blackwood, but I really need to be going.”
“Please....one thing I ask,” I said as I began to walk back toward my easel. “Come and see....You have inspired me this morning Ms....”
She did not give her name, but after pausing for several seconds, she followed me to the canvass.
“All right, Victor.”
She examined the painting with a look of fascination. For several minutes she examined it without speaking, her wide, child like eyes drank in every detail.
“I thought that it was finished this morning, but something was lacking,” I explained as I pointed to the partially finished figure of a young girl on the golden sand. “Now I know what it was.”
She turned toward me, bridging the gap between us. “It is....beautiful, Victor. It is one of the most beautiful paintings I have ever seen,” she told me, her voice ringing with excitement.
“You are an art lover?”
A voice, an old man’s voice came from behind me. “Emily! Where have you been?”
The young woman tightened up, her hands down to her waist, her head looking to the ground as if waiting to be reprimanded.
“I am sorry, I just needed to get some air. I....”
The man was impeccably dressed, probably in his mid fifties with short, partially gray auburn hair neatly combed back. The formality of his dress was overshadowed by his rigid authoritarian stride. “What would your father say if I allowed you to wander about unescorted?”
“I am not alone. Victor....”
He gave me a disapproving glance with his sharp eyes. “Well, in any case, it is time that we return. You have a very important day tomorrow.”
With this, he offered his arm. She took it without another word.
Emily looked back, our eyes met, and in them I recognized a great sadness and longing, which I knew well.
They turned away. I watched her sculpted back as she slipped away from me like a beautiful dream upon waking. I stood for some time, alone with my painting, darkening skies and the hissing of the ceaseless waves.
For several days I remained vexed by this woman, staring at my unfinished painting. I pushed back the silence of my home with a filled glass merlot.
This was to be the most important time in my career. In three weeks, a collection of my work would be on display in a local gallery.
When I next visited, William the curator, grew concerned by my sudden lack of vitality. He inquired , “Are you well, Vincent? You aren’t overworking yourself are you?”
“No, I am just a little nervous about the show.”
“You will do fine, Victor. You are one of the most promising young artists that I know of,” he reassured me.
We discussed the upcoming show and until something unexpected happened. As if my heart’s prayers had been answered, I saw her in the very gallery in which I was to display my work! From that sculpted back alone she was unmistakable. Again, she was accompanied by the arrogant older man who had brushed me aside like a vagrant.
I inquired to William, “Who is the young woman?”
“She arrived about a week ago, her name is Emily Lawson. I understand she comes from a wealthy family of bankers in Indiana.”
“And the man is....”
“Dr. Charles Farthington, one of the best surgeons in the country. He is an old friend of the Lawson family. They have sent the young lady to meet with the good doctor and his colleagues at the hospital.”
“Is she ill?”
“I don’t know. The doctor refuses to discuss her with anyone outside the hospital. He is very protective of her.....
She is beautiful isn’t she?” And dropping his voice to nearly a whisper he added, “It’s hard to believe that she is unspoken for, Victor.”
William told me that she was staying at one of the finer hotels in town and wished me well on my upcoming show, which I had forgotten all about.
I made a point of watching the Regency hotel throughout the early evening hours.
When Dr. Farthington’s black carriage arrived to drop Emily off, I saw that she was alone in the back of it. Taking my chance I quickly walked toward the entrance before her.
“Emily....” I called.
She looked up, her eyes wide with surprise, smiling at our chance meeting.
I held up the covered painting. ‘I’ve finished it, Emily. I couldn’t have done it without you.”
Despite her beauty, she seemed unaccustomed to flattery, looking away to hide her smile.
“You have quite a talent, Victor. I’ll bet that you can make....almost anything seem beautiful,” she said, the smile fading from her face.
“I want you to have this,” I insisted.
“But you must have spent so much time painting it, I can’t take it from you,” she argued.
“Before I saw you on the beach, this painting was nothing, Emily. It was only another pitiful attempt to capture a fleeting moment without meaning or purpose,” I said as I put the canvass into her small hands. “But now, it is truly finished. With you,” I said as I looked intently into her deep blue eyes, “It has meaning.”
“I don’t know what to say.”
“Tomorrow night, I shall ask for your company at dinner. Say yes....”
Days passed, we dined and walked the shore together.
Emily told me of her love of art, and poetry, which was her obsession. She was never without pen and paper should inspiration strike her.
It seemed that she had spent a lifetime absorbing the works of Keats. She was seduced by his vivid, romantic imagery, like paintings of thoughts. I wondered how such a young girl of nineteen could have honed such literary sensibilities, as if she had been shut in a room with nothing but classics her whole life.
We talked so easily, as if the two of us had always known one another. We behaved as children, living only in the moment. I felt a real appreciation for life once more in my soul.
She spoke very little of the reason for her coming to New Port, and would not discuss the particulars of her medical condition. She would only say that he would be the only one in the world who could help her, and no more would she tell.
Then came the last night the two of us were alone together. I’d like to remember her that way, the soft lunar light bathing her fair skin in mystical glow as she flawlessly recited from memory the major works of Keats.
The time had long passed ceased to be respectable, we parted with a soft touching of our lips and a long gaze as we walked silently to her hotel.
We promised to meet again the following day, and between us were promises unspoken, those of the most binding commitment.
If only that would have been how it ended, or if even fate had taken us away from one another, then I could have held onto that memory of her.
But the lord would not suffer to bless my heart with even that.
No, this dream was to end as a nightmare.
Last edited by Greqoh; 07-01-2006 at 08:57 PM.
The next night I arrived at the agreed upon time at her hotel. I sat in the lounge and waited for Emily. Instead of her, I saw an older man descend the marble stairs which I recognized to be Dr. Farthington.
I said nothing to him, but this time he had much he wanted to say to me. He sank down into the cushioned chair next to mine, and crossed his legs. His arrogance seemed to have subsided, replaced by a dire look of one bearing horrible news to a family member.
“Mr. Blackwood, Ms. Lawson will not be seeing you tonight.”
“Is she all right?”
“She is as she has always been.”
“I shall return tomorrow, then.”
“No, you will not.”
I paused, studying his stone like face. “Inform me when she is well enough, here is my address....”
“You will not be seeing Emily tomorrow, or any other night. For the sake of you both it is best that you never see her again.”
“I don’t understand....”
He put his cold hand on my shoulder. “And it is best that you never shall young man.”
“I do not know the nature of her condition, but whatever it is, I love Emily. I intend to ask for her hand in marriage. Now, Dr. Farthington, if you have something that you wish to say to dissuade me, then might I suggest that you do so now, sir?”
The doctor’s lip stiffened, and he shook his head in frustration.
“Then I believe we are finished here. Good night.”
And I left him without another word.
Emily never came down from her room the next night. My messages to her went unanswered. I learned that she made plans to return to Indiana. What misfortune could have befallen her to turn her aside from me so quickly?
It was through a bribe to a worker at the hotel I managed to send her a letter, slipped under her plate of dinner. I wrote it in a way that I thought she might best understand:
Rolling waves dash sand castles
Built on love’s shore
By shadowed hearts
And faithless hands
They crumble, rise no more.
Naught remains of lover’s dreams
But gray sorrow
That dulls the risen
and blackens the coming ‘morrow
But ‘midst the blasted ruins laying
What we have built
Endures the tide’s
coming without despair.
To face another bright new morn
Under a new sun
From two hearts
That through trial, are one.
My letter was soon answered by her. She told me that she loved me with all her heart, and would do whatever necessary to be with me. I was to meet her in two days, and nothing would keep us apart again.
And it was thus, that my world shattered....
The following day I left the gallery, and while traveling past the hotel, I saw Dr. Farthington leap from his carriage and bolt inside. I immediately told the driver to stop, and followed him.
As I ran up the stairs to her room, I could hear the wild screaming of two people.
Emily braced the door from inside with a chair. A group of workers battered it with their shoulders and kicks trying to get inside. The heavy door gave way, tearing loose from its hinges, splintering the door frame with a loud cracking. I pushed passed the startled men, who stood back aghast with mouths barely wider than their eyes.
No sooner had I caught sight of her, than I froze as if running into a wall. She stood naked, her sculptured marble body leaning against the corner of her dimly lit room. Blood ran down her ivory legs, and just over the position of her womb, something was moving.... I began screaming “No! God in heaven, no!”
Emily had a long kitchen knife. Its mirror like blade caught the nearby candlelight as she held it in her trembling tiny hands. She stuck it again and again, into the twisted shape that stretched across her lower abdomen.
From this grotesque mass came horrible shrieks, like those of a tortured animal. They mixed with her own cries of insane laughter as the vermillion stained blade gouged the screaming face. It contorted in pain on her fair body.
Its hideous mouth stretched wide displaying malformed rows of tiny white teeth as it shrieked. Around its upper lip light fuzzy facial hair had sprouted. Sickly oversized blue eyes rolled around in agony. I screamed. Then.... those horrible eyes met my own. We stared at one another in mutual horror.
Dr. Farthington exclaimed, “Dear Lord, stop child!” He pushed past me, grabbing her small forearm and wrestling her to the ground.
She began to laugh wildly again, as the face continued screaming. The deep bloody gouges marring its already nightmarish appearance, as they began draining.
She looked up at me, her voice was that of a frightened child. “I did it for you, Victor! For you! Now we can be together!”
I shrank back, falling against the wall as tremors overcame my body.
Madness, deep, dark madness overcame me, it poured over me like a cold thick oil, anointing me with its merciful release.
As something in my mind gave way, I laughed at the comical face and the screaming girl. I laughed until I could no longer breath. I was still laughing when they drug me outside of the room where I lost consciousness.
The Lawson family had kept Emily a prisoner in her home, hiding their embarrassment away from the world. Dr. Farthington and his colleagues believed that she may be able to undergo surgery to remove her unwanted sibling. The doctors had never seen such a case. After examinations and much debate, they concluded that any surgery performed on Emily would probably end her life. She would live out the rest of her days a mockery of beauty, a freak, her hellish curse hidden below her dress, its mouth sealed shut to stifle its tortured animal like cries.
I understand that Emily bled to death from her wounds. Maybe they let the two tormented souls slip away into death were alone they could be free from one another?
My experience changed me inside. My hands now shook horribly. I found them unable to hold a brush steady. I no longer saw anything beautiful in the world, only perverse forms that beckoned and allured, only to rot or fade away to nothing. I realized that no one could ever really know beauty in such a world.
I have been making plans for my upcoming show at the gallery, very special plans. Secretly... I will alter all of my paintings to reflect my new understanding of aesthetics. A razor will bare true testimony to the merits of my previous work. All of them will be unveiled before the crowd, slashed to ribbons like my dreams....all but one....my newest work.
Emily’s body disappeared before it could be shipped back to the Lawsons. It was found in an alley. Both her angelic face, and her poor brother’s had been neatly cut and peeled off.
It was necessary, of course. My newest vision demanded them both. I have stitched them both to the blank canvass where they shall be in the center of my gallery, my newest vision of beauty. I have a small pistol which I will pull from my pocket as the crowd admires my masterpiece. No doubt it will make quite an impression on them as I unveil it. And then....I shall complete the new work by putting the pistol to my head and adding my brains to the canvass.
I really liked this story. The twin thing was pretty creepy.
I'll kill you and your dreams tonight
Begin new life
Bleed your death upon me
Let your bloodline feed my youth
Ssshhh....did you hear that?
I will get to reading this in the next few days. It's a holiday weekend and I'm having auto trouble. So, I'm very busy.
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