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|An ordinary person is drawn to strange paintings||
There is a wonderful little art studio nestled off a side street near the downtown area. It has some fancy name I can't remember, but all of the regulars know it as 'Maria's Gallery'. Maria, the owner, teaches art lessons there, to both children and adults. She is a good artist and a great teacher; she has a way of seeing beauty in everything and helping you see that beauty and put it on the canvas.
Maria uses part of the studio to sell her paintings and some of the paintings of her best students. The gallery attracts a lot of rich people who want to add some nice art to their homes. It is always a funny to see these fancy, trendy rich folk rubbing elbows with the funky, alternative local artists. You see all kinds of people at Maria's Gallery.
So, there was no good reason for me to pay so much attention to the slender black lady in the prim old-fashioned dress. But I did. She was looking very intently at the artwork on display. She looked like a rich art patron; she had that attitude you expect of powerful upper-class people who know that their money will buy attention and obedience. But then again, she didn't look like the normal rich person. Maybe that was the thing. She was young, perhaps in her mid twenties, and she had a strange sense of energy and purpose.
I figured that she must be some kind of professor or art critic. When Maria tried to talk to her and help her choose some art, she just waved Maria away and kept staring at the pictures. Some artists would get offended by this, but Maria accepted it with her usual even-tempered grace.
We were both surprised when the black woman bought something. After about ten minutes of looking around, she grabbed a painting off the wall. She handed Maria a credit card, finished the purchase with no conversation, and walked out of the gallery with her painting and no apparent sense of pleasure.
I went over to Maria to talk to her. Maria seemed worried, which was unusual. I asked her why.
Maria laughed nervously. "You see, that lady obviously knew about art... She knew what she was doing and what she was looking for and then she bought my worst painting in the entire gallery."
I protested, "Maria, your worst is still really good. And I always liked that painting. It had this wonderful way of drawing me in to the scene."
"Well the thing is I was feeling really light-headed when I drew that and it didn't turn out that good... The colors are wrong and it seems fuzzy. I only put it out because people seem to stare at it a lot... and now some smart lady chooses it out of all my paintings. I am worried that she will display it somewhere and embarrass me."
Maria's fears never came to pass. As far as we could tell, the technically inferior but wonderfully hypnotic painting disappeared into the hands of the enigmatic private collector.
A couple months later, Maria put up another painting similar to the one that the black lady had purchased. The subject was different, but the qualities were the same. If you looked at it with the unfeeling eye of a critic, you might see that it was a little blurry, and had an odd color balance. But if you just looked at it, if you took it in and let it fill your soul, you would be held spellbound by its beauty and wonder.
After less than a week, the painting was sold. Maria later told me that the same black lady as before had come in and bought it, just like she bought the first painting.
Several weeks after that, Maria produced the most captivating painting yet. It featured a beautiful Egyptian princess in a garden on the Nile. The scene was framed by palm trees, and you could see the sphinx in the background. In a delightful bit of whimsy, there were pretty little dark-skinned fairies all over the garden. They were flying around, or hiding in the flowers and palm trees. Most of them were looking at the princess.
I stared into the painting. It was so beautiful. I could feel myself leaning in toward the canvas. Then, I started to hear the gentle rustling of the wind through the palm trees, and the soft sound of the river. I could smell the water and flowers and palm trees, and just a hint of perfume.
Then, I was standing inside the garden. The flowers and trees surrounded me, as did the delightful twittering of the fairies. One of them flew by me, her silken dress glittering in the light. All of the smells and sounds became more real, more vivid, each second. I could feel the cool afternoon air on my face.
I started to feel faint and light-headed. But I didn't care. I was surrounded by the most incredible beauty imaginable. The princess looked over her shoulder at me and smiled. I stepped toward her.
Then I saw the black lady, the art collector, standing beside me. She had a very stern and grim expression on her face, like an elementary school teacher who has caught a child doing something naughty. "You have to leave now."
I protested feebly. The lady ignored me, and then grabbed my arm and started to pull me away from the garden. I was filled with a sudden burst of anger, and lashed out at her with my other fist.
She used some kind of judo or kung fu on me, grabbing my fist right out of the air and then twisting my arm around behind my back. My elbow and shoulder were almost, but not quite, in pain. The lady marched me out of the garden, into the harsh sunlight and dry heat of the desert. I tried to resist, but I could not.
Then I was lying on my back on the floor of Maria's Gallery. My forehead hurt, and I felt horribly dizzy and light-headed. I started gasping for breath, as if I had been underwater for minutes.
The lady was kneeling over me, with her fingertips touching my forehead. After she saw that I was moving, she withdrew her hand and grabbed a small flashlight from her pocket. She turned it on and aimed a strange green light into my eye. Then she helped me up with a gentle but surprisingly strong grip, and sat me down in a chair.
The lady went to the painting, pulled it off the wall, and stuffed it into a large cloth sack. I thought I saw strange letters and symbols on the sack. Then she went to Maria and said, "We need to talk, privately."
The other patrons told me what they had seen happen. They said that I had been staring into the painting, and that I simply collapsed forward, hitting my head against the floor. They said that I simply lay there, motionless, not breathing at all, until the art collector had rushed in and given me CPR.
After about a half hour, the black lady left the shop with the painting. Maria refused to say what they had talked about, and she seemed very concerned about my health. She took me to the doctor, who said I had suffered from some kind of stress-related seizure. I didn't believe it, and neither did Maria.
Maria never posted another painting like the three that the lady had bought. But every so often, I would see the art collector come in, take a package from Maria, pay her, and leave.
Maria said that she was under contract to produce paintings for some company called 'FarRealm Games' and that nobody else was allowed to see the paintings. I know that was technically true, because Maria would not lie, but I know there is something she is not telling me. I don't know what FarRealm Games is doing with the paintings, but I have bought some of their stuff and found no evidence of Maria's work.
A critic once said that Maria's paintings were like windows for the soul. I think that, in the right situation, that window can become a door. I don't know what the strange lady told Maria, but I think that her goal is to take away these kinds of paintings so nobody can step inside of them. She seemed to think that I was in danger, but I cannot believe that. How could I be hurt by something so wonderful? I want to go back; I need to go back.
I think that Maria has one of those paintings in her private studio. I don't just think it, I know it. I am not sure how I know but I do. I am going to let myself into the gallery tonight so I can look at it. If anything bad happens, I will be able to take care of myself. I went in and came out before, and I can do it again. I will be fine.
The fairies are calling to me, and I must answer them.
|Erin of Calway in the Elit Etherweb||Erin of Calway 2: Unexpected Savior|
Summoner's Last Words
|Lucky When I Want To Be|
|Angle: Chemistry||Angle: Summons|