This story has gone through a few revisions and is one of the very few longer pieces I've tried. I'm really nervous posting it for a few reasons, but I'd appreciate the review.
I discovered the headpiece in 1995 following another disappointingly blase art exhibition at Rosemont, hidden within a cache of my grandfather’s ancient memorabilia. These memoirs are the culmination of my life’s work...or at least what is left of it. I cannot go back now, not after what I did, but there may be a salvation in that metal device. My career as a painter ends but also begins again.
I only ask that you, whoever may find this, understands the depths of knowledge which I am willing to dive into for the greater good of humanity.
For the greater good of art.
December 15th, 1995
The make, history and model of the item are decidedly unknown. Like something out of a Lovecraft story, the objects design and aesthetic seem both human-inspired and alien at the same time. The primary features of the item are classified as follows:
Shaft or column of about six(6) inches, with diameter of two(2) inches
Spade-shaped tip resembling a pen nib at the top
Large, ornate, concave circular disc or base at the bottom of the column
Incredibly sharp blade jutting from bottom of base
When I first picked up the item, I was unaware of the blade described above and rightly bled like a stuck pig; the cut was incredibly fine and almost surgical so that I barely felt the wound even after dousing it in alcohol. That said, there is no clear indication what mechanical function it serves other than perhaps a compulsion to inflict malignancy upon whoever holds the item.
The shaft, which balances lightly in the palm of my hand, is adorned with various shallow spouts. From what I have gleaned the inside is hollow, and the metal composition appears (admittedly on a superficial level) to be steel of sorts.
Overall, the design is fairly phallic in nature. Freud would have a field day with such a thing if he were alive. I’ve decided to name this thing Fountain, for that is the closest analogous thing I can relate it to.
Continuing from the topic of aesthetic and function which the name implies, I’ve still yet to discover the true origin of such design. From the Renaissance to the Medieval, Prehistory Mesoamerica to Ancient Egypt, there are no records of such an artifact existing anywhere in the world. The added puzzle of finding the thing within my grandfather’s old affects only increases my apprehension about its validity as a valuable work. He was not a shameful man, perhaps having the same stoicism I hold, and as such his interest in dimestore baubles and phony art were not a major offense in the house I grew up in. Yet the design is unlike anything I ever saw propped up in his decrepit estate.
While not necessarily a pioneer in structure, there is something vaguely imperious or demanding of the form and style. The ornate base, hefty with black and purple painted swirls, emphasizes that sacred geometry found often in Biblical paintings: the circular shape is near perfect. I cannot help but feel that the spouts along the shaft once held or spewed a substance, maybe blood? Some form of sacrificial liquid or spiritual hallucinogen? I don’t know.
My dedication to researching the Fountain has worn thin to the point of tedium. Really, it's the fault of Jones and the other parasite critics who regularly attend my exhibitions. Their insistence on dissecting and shaming my work at every chance has only worsened the black thoughts, and presently my only desire is to absolutely stun them all with a work that both retains my original style and touches upon the ineffable. Why am I the subject of their ridicule when all I’ve ever done was try to brighten and expand the world with my work?
Maybe I should use the artifact to stab them at my next show?
Christmas is today. My only wish is that I can find my muse once more, for this shallow apartment is as lonely as the untouched brushes in my work room.
The dream I just woke from is...something I hesitate to call a divination. Its as if some unknown entity reached down and granted a boon to these tired hands and eyes.
In it, I was a floating invisible eye. I was in a vast courtyard edging about a massive Victorian mansion. In the twilight of the day as I floated down the marble stairs, unknown figures dressed in the finest white raiment danced about the lush blue hedges in a dreamlike-mania. At the center in front of a great sculpture spewing water, a beautiful woman with hair as black as ink stood with shining pale hands. As she smiled through me, her slender hands turned over and revealed the Fountain which may as well have been the same one in the waking world.
I watched in torpor as she raised the glistening metal into the air and plunged the blade into her scalp, the tip digging in deeply to the whorl of hair at the top. Yet she did not scream or cry in pain, and neither did blood come. Instead the lady’s large, beautiful eyes rolled back in ecstasy as black gouts of shapeless fluid discharged from the tip of the tool. A twisted mockery and simultaneous exaltation of the Crucifixion. Beautiful, ephemeral ink, swirling and twisting in dramatic spirals over the courtyard, sometimes glimmering in the dying light. The aristocrats laughed and danced maniacally, the lady subtly vibrated and hovered into the night air and blackness began to cover all save for the tiny white pinpricks of the stars above.
I woke not too long after in a cold sweat, simultaneously aroused and terrified that the same ink was trickling down my face. Above me, the leaky roof plip plopped hesitantly on my forehead.
I need to paint it. Something drives me to believe that this lady is the herald of a new age for me.
My muse, my Lady Aniloss.
I spent the last 48 hours painting in a mad frenzy with a special concoction of ink and paints. In all, I finished five distinct pieces with Aniloss as the central crowning work.
At today’s exhibition, old Jonesy and his cronies were flabbergasted at the sheer level of detail I was able to impart using the most delicate and simple strokes.
I was never a unique individual to these people. More of a pariah. In my experiences, I had learned to convey gesture and idea within my work in more abstract formats the general public just did not bother to understand. What then, is the point of a painter if his actions are negligible, nay, non-existent? This gallery proved to show otherwise, that I indeed exist.
After the show, Jones took me aside. He was a miniscule yet somehow pudgy man with a bald spot and silver-rimmed glasses, and a shit-eating smile to match his repulsive personality.
“How’d ya do it, man? You take an extra dose of heroin to shit these out?” I simply smiled in return and stated “The lady doesn’t let her secrets go so easily, man.” He sneered. “Good work making up fake royalty for your ‘painting’, he muttered just out of earshot of the dispersing crowd. “I’m sure it makes you feel like a real Mannerist master, don’t it?” I could smell the whiskey on his breathe, but resisted the urge to vomit all over him and just walked away.
I still feel like taking the Fountain and reenacting my dream with him.
Trepanation apparently has been a practice dating as far back as prehistory. The notion of medical science based on drilling holes into your brain is utterly ridiculous at worst and dubiously unscientific at best, yet after the euphoria of today and the satisfaction of shutting up old Jonesy...I admit there is some interesting ideology behind it. A sense of emotional release many of us lack on the daily.
Maybe in the Fountain, I can find some further sense of solace.
The details of the past few days are unlike the reality I’ve known for these 38 years, and yet I swear they are as real the the trembling tool I use to write this.
Tipsy from a night of debauchery and merriment my last exhibition brought, I ushered everyone out the front door and staggered into the work room. On the table lay the lovely and dark Fountain I was inspired by. Then the thoughts came back one by one, imagining those bullies tearing me down after finding some arbitrary errors in my work, making me once again a pariah in the art world. The people I worked for, the eyes I slaved for, they never loved me or my paintings. It was just another ruse to let them close so they could hurt me more.
I took the Fountain in hand, mesmerized by the cool metal and pleasing symmetry. It promised me comfort and safety. Lady Aniloss whispered to me from a dark corner, promising me wonders and a life of wealth. I raised the bladed bottom to my head, feeling it lightly brush the tip of my dishevelled dark hair. I cannot say what drove me to do this: I should admit if the rot of my brain was not apparent to those who already knew me, they’d certainly think me loony after all.
In the fraction of a second it took for sobriety to grasp my mind, my hand slipped and I yelped as the tip quickly - silently - slipped down into my skull, guided by unseen force. I felt nothing but a queer pressure in the scalp, and some warmness. For a moment I panicked and thought it would be mere moments before unconsciousness and then death took me. A stupid, utterly trifling death at my own sick, depressed hands.
Then that same ecstasy from my dream exploded from head to foot, not unlike the intimacy of a lover’s first touch. As I looked upward, fractals of infinite depth and geometry formed above my head in a corona, somehow visible from every side. The terror I felt was subdued by another sense: passion. Here in these twisting inky spheres, I saw inspiration. In the depths of my mind I somehow knew that these designs were my own, waiting to be unlocked by the Fountain.
Perhaps it was really more like a key?
For the next few days, I dedicated time to mastery of these spirals and fractals. Creating patterns and imagery so wonderfully eldritch and aesthetically pleasing, I stood in amazement for hours. I discovered two things, that happiness is indeed real and it is entirely possible to create something utterly novel that it defies all traditional and abstract conventions.
And in my manic state, I had an idea that gave me the biggest smile I have not felt in years.
Tomorrow, I’m having Frank Jones the critic stop by for a personal exhibition.
I woke from another dream just now, but this seemed not to be a continuation of the previous one. In it, all I can see is blackness, and the troubled figure of Lady Aniloss as I know her in my own mind. Her hands are frantically flying about her skull, as streams of ink wash down and coat her hair, face and dress. In the uncomfortable black I can hear muffled screaming and gurgling, but only the Lady is visible. As I look back towards her, she suddenly flickers within inches of my own face. Her eyes, visible between the rivlets, are red with stinging pain and frantically searching mine for help. Or perhaps they see right through my spectral form. The Fountain remains wedged into her head. Her mouth is open, but the ink just continually flows in. She does not drown, she does not remove the tool.
She is being punished for a transgression. This punishment is ancient, timeless and self-righteous. Within her waxy gaze, she knows this and more.
Then I woke up.
As I write this, I realize Jones is on his way now. I feel no fear, only a sense of some important decision looking overhead, neither evil nor good. There isn’t time to disseminate the dream’s contents. I only have thoughts of artistic revenge on my mind.
The description of the events that just transpired are forever etched into my brain. Jones the art critic is still here, yet it was never my intention to keep him here to begin with. Even stranger still, I can’t help but stifle giggles of perversion as I write this confession of sorts. I feel liberated
He arrived in the afternoon, sniffing in distaste the moment he entered the doorway.
“I private showcase for me. You’re a real darlin, Jacob.” I could already feel my aversion for his very existence rising up in my throat. I swallowed it and invited him into the parlor, where many new works - now bolstered by my newfound ink abilities -lay bare. I watched with a sense of both triumphant revery and anxiety as the critic scrutinized each work, mostly glossing over it brusquely and turning to me with water in hand to offer some malign remark about how the old masters used to paint and how the Contemporary era was filled with abstract wannabes. Jones came from a semi-decorated academic background, and it was no surprise that even in the sanctity of my home he would be just as pernicious and haughty. My patience was treading thin ice by the time he reached a still life I painted a month before, casually pointing out how cliche and old it was.
I cannot say for certain when Jones began to suspect something was wrong. But at some point during his mindless prattling he recognized the Sigils which I cleverly hid within each innocent little work and stammered. “I mean. What the hell is that, seriously, what-” he began, but fell short as the Sigils made their desired effect. Two dimensions began to bleed outward, becoming three dimensional yet retaining a planar effect. He gasped and stumbled back onto the couch near the table where my precious Fountain lay, as the Sigil autonomously expanded into yet another dimension. And another. And another. All laid out before poor Jonesy in an infinite tunnel of black and white and purple and gold.
He shrieked, “Jesus Christ, did you spike my drink you crazy fucker?!” Above, the Sigil continued to spin. With a laugh of derision I leapt across the room and scooped up the Fountain. “See this, Jonesy-boy? This here is my secret - with this I can create any idea I want. Perfectly replicated in pen and paper.” He looked up at me as I held the tool above my head, giving a look halfway between a glare and the look of someone witnessing a madman escaping a hospital. “So you’re dabbling in the occult? What is this?? I’ll have your ass on a platter before the Curator’s Association, you fuckin' psycho! ” I was sweating. I couldn’t wait to show him the further extent of my Fountain and all its uses.
But as I slipped that cold blade deep into my skull, with Jones looking on in abject horror, I felt a different sensation from the one I felt days before when I first trepanned myself. The ink came forth, same as usual, but in greater gouts. As a more solid, concrete mass. Without verbal or subconscious instruction it circled the art critic. He began to scream even harder as strings of infinite thinness poked inward from the Sigil vortex, piercing his skin many, many times. Ink spilled out from the cracks in his skin.
Then it was my turn to watch in horror as his body was torn apart, nay, atomized into billions of red and black colored dots. Somehow the screaming did not stop. The Sigil spun madly like an otherworldly kaleidoscope mixing up the pieces and eventually slowed down into a single spinning plane of ink. Above my crown, the Fountain waved and pulsed with unholy fervor, still sending out gouts of ink. In my mind’s eye, I remembered the dream from earlier, and a cold realization flashed down my spine.
As the Sigil slowed into a steady spin, I walked to its face and peered inward. Before me, an infinite tunnel of black and purple laid open, the walls impressed with the fractals I had illustrated in a haze earlier. And in the center, what was left of Jones was spread into a long trail down the tunnel, punctuated by a ruptured mask of his face at the very opening of the portal. In my mind, I heard him screaming, an echo from beyond the horizon. He was not dead. His body and consciousness had been torn into so many atoms and spread into this trap of mine, and now he would suffer and spin for eternity.
Mouth agape, I listened to his words beat against my skull pleading for release, then touched the Sigil and closed it. With it, his ghostly cries ceased.
I created art from a living being. And eliminated my greatest enemy. All in one go.
So I started to laugh.
january(?) something or other
I have been running for some time now.
The police definitely have not been able to find Jones’ body by now - not that there necessarily is one to find, or a way to find it. The critic's scrupulous disciples immediately aimed suspicion at me when the two of us did not show in the public eye for a week or two.
Almost all of my belongings have been left behind in favor of a few select tools, some canvas, and a few funds to get me to and from where I need to go.
I’ve fled under the guise of a homeless man, someone this city most likely will never scrutinize or question. Where I will go, I don’t know, but there is work to be done. My hands constantly shake with sweat and excitement, thinking about the many deserving people who will earn the privilege of becoming my next greatest pieces. How many willing souls will be out there to sustain my magnum opus? I do not know.
The secret of the Fountain, which remains lodged in my head and obscured by my ushanka, is ever expanding and opening new black horizons of insight to tap into. The stinging of my eyes is a terrible pain and the stench of the ink is horrid, but I accept my punishment. I sinned against the universe by using this tool of transcendental beauty and utmost spatial horror, as a weapon.
But its all fine. I will continue to suffer for as long as I create. Creation is pain, art is pain, and the world is not lacking for it.
Like a bloody scalpel embedded in the skin, like white figures dancing in thick, ancient oils. The ink will flow forever.