Silent Messages o

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    An incredibly unfortunate man was the artist who created me. Disheveled and inconsolable with an ingenious mind. He never understood the greatness of his work, thus he discarded each masterpiece as if it were garbage. Tossing  pieces of work to the curb of our small town in France. I was the only piece of work my master created that he did not relinquish. This is only because I was left unfinished on his easel the night he killed himself.

      Paintings are given a name for the viewer to read, and build a story from. I was given no name, and I was left without the last few paint strokes that would complete the third green feather on my conical shaped spanish hat. Incomplete. When it came time for ouvriers de gouvernement to clear the space that the artist created me in, they brought me to a market. What a pity it was, to be in such a place when I was clearly worthy of The Louvre!

    I was sold for cheap to a war veteran. He was a man with goggling bloodshot eyes, mangy mustachios, and a broken nose. I remember feeling apprehensive as I watched the veteran walk through the crowded market towards me. I noticed his hands. They were the most grimy, grubby, and grungy hands I had ever seen. “This will do just fine,” his booze stained voice slithered.

      He carried me with his disgusting hands all the way to the Palais-Royal where he mounted the stairs of the most unruly house I had ever seen. My painter may have been mentally insane, but at least he lived elegantly. When we walked through the door, straight away I knew where I was going to be forced to spend the rest of my years. I was in a gambling house. A room of sad looking men with sunken faces and empty eyes stood before me. The nicotine and smell of poorly made wine already seeped into my canvas. The veteran handed me over to a thin, long-haired young croupier who was dealing cards of disappointment to the drunken blackguards.
“This painting is unfinished!” the croupier exclaimed to the veteran,
“Do you really think any occupant of that room will notice a few incomplete brush strokes? With the state of mind they will be in? This will do! Now bring it upstairs,” demanded the veteran.

“Good point sir,  right away.”

      The croupier took hold of me with his unsoiled hands and brought me along some passages and up a flight of stairs into the bedroom which I was to occupy. He hung me on the wall next to an unusually large window. He took a few steps back, put his hand to his face, and rubbed his chin thoughtfully. 
      “What are you looking at, fine sir?” said the croupier to my canvas. I then noticed I was looking up. I could not move my oil-painted eyes now, for the man would notice. This is the way I was doomed to stay.
“Hopefully you won’t give any hints to the drunken men who will be occupying this room. Don’t give them the urge to look where your eyes gander, or we will be in trouble.”
After he left, I observed my new home. From the wall I was mounted upon, I was faced directly towards the gargantuan canopy bed that nearly filled the roots, the top lined with chintz, and fringed silk drooping from each end. The bed looked unnaturally heavy, especially the top. It was the only thing I could see in the room.  Little did I know, that bed would soon represent eternal rest rather than solemn sleep.

      The terribly strange bed that I looked upon remained vacant for about a month.  Then a man, drunk in his wits and shouting with a heavy French slur “I’m lucky!  I am so lucky!  Another night like tonight and I will be the richest man alive!” was put to bed by the familiar young croupier. I watched as the inebriated man undressed and placed his clothes in a ball on the floor. He jumped contently on the bed, and threw handfuls of money around his resting body. He was in a state of pure exhilaration, which is why I was surprised when he fell asleep so quickly. The man slept soundlessly in his pile of winnings from a game of rouge et noir. When he was bound to be deep into his sleep, I noticed a slight change in the atmosphere. I could now see the two small chairs that were on the other side of the room. Thats when I noticed the ceiling of the canopy bed was sinking. Slowly - inch by inch - it was getting closer to the man sleeping on the bed; soon to suffocate him. More objects in the room became clear to me. There was a wooden chest next to the bed, and a hand washing station beside the door. Slowly, the man’s body  disappeared under the chiltz and all the silk fringes.  All that was left for me too see was his face. I wanted to yell to warn him, but I am only a painting. He was smiling when the bed began to crush him.  He squirmed but he could not lift the mechanism that was killing him. After minutes of shallow screams, the bed was fully lowered and it was silent again. The night was uneventful henceforth.
    The next morning, a woman I had not yet seen, the veteran and the croupier came into the room and stood at the foot of the bed as it was raised. It went back to its original spot, and once again resembled a normal bed, rather than a murder device. The man became visible to me. He was blue in the face and his eyes were open. In his hands, he clutched as many coins as he could, his dead fingers were grasped tightly around his unfortunate fortune. His body was stiff. The team of murderers that were standing at the foot of the terribly strange bed proceeded to collect the dead man’s money. The veteran sealed the body in plastic wrap and pulled out another oriental chest from under the bed. He unlocked it and placed the body in the chest, before sliding it back under the bed. Housekeeping came that afternoon and tidied the room. By the end of the day, it was as if the events of the night before had never happened. I could hear the muffled music and drunken banter from the bar below.  Nobody knew what had happened, except for  the women, the veteran, the croupier, and me; who was just a painting on the wall. This place was evil, and there was nothing I could do.

      Months turned into years, and it became rare for the bed to be vacant. I had seen hundreds of men, and even some women crushed under the canopy. Every time was the exact same. Everything always went off without a hitch. The bar was never under suspicion by the police. Drunken gamblers would stagger in after being escorted to the room,under the false pretence that  the veteran was doing them a favour by letting them stay here. They were, after all, too drunk to walk home - especially with all that money on them. They would lay on the bed and fall asleep almost instantly.

      I now understood the croupiers remark on the day of my arrival. He did not want any of his victims to look in the direction of my gaze, and discover what was on top of them. Whenever someone would enter the room of their  inevitable doom, I would widen my eyes as much as I could and blaze them into the ceiling. It never helped, nobody ever even noticed me. I became dusty, as I was the only thing never to be cleaned, and I became frustrated. I wanted to help these unfortunate gamblers, but it was out of my reach.

      On a night brightly lit by the moon, was the night everything changed. The bar was louder than ever, and I heard a British man roaring about his victory. Outside the door of my room, I heard the women, the croupier, and the veteran scheming. The veteran said this man had won all their money, and was the luckiest gambler he had ever seen. He instructed to double the amount of drugs in the coffee meant for English man, for they would need him to be completely absent of his mind. Two hours later, the veteran appeared in the doorway with a bright and attractive looking English man on his arm. I had never seen any of the victims as inebriated as he was, yet somehow he still seemed to be in control of his body. The veteran left him to sleep, but instead he began walking back and forth and boarding up the doors and windows of the room. He stood before me and examined my paint. He looked nervous. I had a string of hope that he would be the first man to look into my eyes and take my hint. He laid in the bed, but did not fall to sleep. He looked as if he were trying to force himself to stay awake. He was completely silent. The bed started to lower.  The murderous process was so silent that I worried this man who appeared completely in control and had the best of luck, would meet the same demise as the gamblers before him. I felt the Englishman’s gaze upon me from the bed, so I looked at him. Our eyes locked, and for the first time I felt as though my wordless message was being heard. My message was simple “Run! Run for your life!”

      Our eyes remained connected for a few seconds, until his gaze was no longer in sight. He wasn’t moving. I became anxious at the thought that he couldn't move because the overdose of drugs. Or even worse, that I had imaged his moment of clarity. My anxiety turned to panic when the canopy was only centimeters away from his head. Would the veteran and his evil accomplices win again?

      I closed my painted eyes and began to anticipated the sound of muffled screams. But there were none. All I heard was silence. I opened my eyes, and what I saw was not what I had expected. I saw the man’s back. He was kneeling before the bed. He looked as though he was praying, but I suspected that  he was in shock. After what felt like hours of the man's stillness, he turned around and faced me. I saw resolution in his eyes.  I gave him my silent message again. “Run for your life!.”

      Although my creator did not paint me a heart, I felt one full on excitement as the Englishman quietly lept through the window. I knew it was only a matter of time now before justice would be served. But wait. Why was he stopping? Was he foolish enough to seek justice on his own?  

     The man tiptoed back to the terribly strange bed and his motive became clear to me.  He reached his hand under the pillow and began gathering his winnings from the night.  I felt a moment of disapproval towards the Englishman as he slithered back to the window. Greed is a trait I had grown to despise.

      The Englishman was gone, and I waited.  A short time passed and the canopy  raised. After this, complete silence descended.  The post-murder silence of twilight had never before been so enveloping. I listened carefully for clues. Hours passed until the early morning sun began to seep through the open window to my right.   

      It was then that I heard the authoritative footsteps of a small army beneath the window. I knew immediately that justice was on hand.  I heard a tremendous battery of knocks against a door below me and the cry“Open in the name of the Law!”  

I felt a breeze move through the house and out the open window to my right. This signalled to me that a door had opened. My canvas shuttered causing a few flakes of oil paint fall to the floor.  

Heavy footsteps approached the passage to my room, and the Englishman reappeared.  He no longer seemed intoxicated.  His skin glistened with sweat and excitement.  Behind the Englishman entered a Subprefect and five soldiers.  The small posse filled the entire room.  The Englishman pointed to the bed and the posse murmured investigative questions to one another.

The investigation continued and the men hustled to the floor above my head.  I heard banging,  and the sound of floor boards being removed. Promptly the canopy began to descend, this time much more quickly and noisily than ever before. I was joyful. The terribly strange bed was no longer my terrible secret.

Because I am a painting I cannot read a newspaper or ask a neighbour for the local gossip.  As such, it has taken me many years to gather information about the events that followed the raid. I am happy to report that the veteran and his two head-myrmidons were punished with the full extent of the law. The gambling house was shut down and its contents were moved to various parts of Paris.  I however, the unfinished painting, was moved to England where I was adopted by a dapper, smart and somewhat greedy Englishman.  I am now complete.  


Created: Mar 07, 2015

Tags: theme, prespectives, story, short story, fiction

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