Fancy was first published in The Possibility Place and is part of my short story collection Fractured Hearts. It was written late one night while working alone at the design academy where I taught drawing and advanced drawing. It is completely inspired by the academy ghost…. whose acquaintance I met on one of these late nights.
I live in the shadows of the art academy. Come and go at my leisure. Like a gust of wind I enter the stuffy classrooms and shuffle through oversized books on the great masters. I rummage through stacks of unfinished student art, born in a momentary frenzy of creative thought and then tossed aside when falling short of the vision.
No one sees me enter or leave. Sometimes heads turn when I breeze past sweaty faces in the painfully warm classrooms, harboring half-decayed crickets in dusty corners. Day after weary day I watch youthful energy pour onto pages in spiral sketchpads. Charcoal swirls in the air and leaves a gray mist that settles on the desks.
In the dead of night when students have long gone home to sleep I contemplate the soft glow of their creative energy, still hovering over each chair. It always stuns me, as I watch, mystified. If I sit in one of the seats a warmth tingles through my being and these fingers, ghastly white as death, itch to hold drawing pencil or pen one more time… just once more.I must confess it is what keeps me rooted to this world, and equally prevents my leaving. That energy… that spark of creative musing flitting about and never landing, never burning out, not able to be snuffed like a spent candle.
I don’t hold the secret to life, but certainly, I can mold it. Just as I might mold clay or carve marble into breathtaking thought-provoking art. Since what feels like forever I have labored over this treasured piece of work or that in those silent hours where the forsaken play. Even knowing that every coveted line of perfection will fade with morning light. Vanish completely, leaving once again blank page.
This is when I become riled, like a suitor having caught his cherished lover with another. I begin to pace these high-ceilinged halls of my hallowed institute. Students still lurking about somewhere, driven to finish a piece or meet a deadline, have been known to flee witlessly at the hollow echo of my feet on the oak stairwell. All too often, I must confess, I run dizzily throughout the cathedral-sized structure, intensely distraught over the injustice of it all.
Yet every new day at just past midnight I begin my glorious physical expulsion onto pristine white paper or canvas with affectionate stroking of pencil or brush. I might choose sharp lines or rich hues, whatever my devilish delight. Such a release of emotion it allows, no, demands! My thoughts blur with anticipation while hands shake and eyes tear at the thought of caressing each and every inch of canvas. An explosion of all that I am and was, and can yet become.
The intimacy alarms me, shocks me even now, after all these years of painstakingly creating on canvas or sketchpad two dimensional realities, exposing every aspect of them in naked, three dimensional truth. New truth. Gut wrenching truth. Staring at me in the intoxicatingly rich oils, or dark dusty charcoals. Sometimes for a twist, I create in powerful pastels, so flirtatious and bold. Sharp wet ink, shaded pencil line. Whatever the medium, all seduce, consol and gently sooth my fired-up, frantic mental state as the picture or painting magically transforms into beautiful bright shapes or images. Well, sometimes they are a little on the dark side, but then, so am I.
No matter really, for by the time dawn arrives, my masterpieces have faded beyond redemption. This agony has often nearly defeated me, made me groan with eerie wails that rattle the heavy-framed paintings on the thickly-plastered walls. It is legend, my heartfelt frustrations crying out through the classrooms. Many refuse to enter the premises for fear they might meet the crazy spirit of this art institute. This is how they refer to me, as a crazy spirit. So unfair. For I have not assaulted them in any way, not touched a hair on their young thickly-maned heads.
Quite the contrary, I enhance their visual perception. You might say I AM their visual perception. For it is I who breathes life into their naïve thoughts, their nearly completed notions needing a push up and over the creative fence, so to speak. I woo them carefully, watch them mindfully, choose them discreetly. Only the best of course. The most determined, most obsessed, most like me for complete and utter betrayal of reasonable thinking will do. Yes I know reason is our guide, but fancy – fancy is what reason feasts upon when scrambling to a higher level.
Once I have carefully chosen my prey, I instill a vision. Of what you ask? Well, of my beloved vanished masterpieces of course! My slow steady gust of genius plays with the ends of their hair and widens their youthful pupils. Lustfully they stare at the blank page until attacking it with all the gusto never known prior. No, timid and precise were their lines before my spirit seized them, wreaking havoc on their orderly, exacting methods.
And then, perhaps as few as twelve hours later, their finished piece lies before them, glistening wet on the easel. Unless of course it is done in pastels or pen or graphite, charcoal or even clay. There are no boundaries to my mediums. Or my conscience. It merely amuses me to control their delicate youthful fingers and natural gift for expressing emotion in visible form. After all, they do ultimately become renowned for my influence in their work.
They are the vessel of my genius. I am the anointed one who opens their shaded eyes. You might say I gently bridge the gap, even occasionally shove them roughly into territory not yet chartered, where they fear to go, yet long to explore. The art of making art… breathing life into a piece of work that transcends it all. Elevate it from biological sex to seductive lovemaking. Cause emotion. Discover intimacy. Be drawn in, taken aback. They feel the tingle up and down their spines as they lavish their hearts onto the carefully plotted piece of work, raising the spirit of their creation above the restraints of mortality.
Those who are touched by my non- human hands might call me the angst that drives them. Others call me creative genius. What do I care? Invisible spirit or ghost if you will, intangible talent, guileless giftedness… no matter the title, for it isn’t explainable and isn’t their power to command or control. It just IS. I just AM. And whatever I am, I am fleeting. I come and go. Never stick around to be recognized. It’s a big world to color after all, even with broad strokes. And furthermore, as for pinning me down to extreme talent or lofty gift…. I say…pish-posh! Genius? Creative energy? Damn them all! I am nothing more than madness!
That over-the-line-of-rational thinking we all hesitate to approach, and stiffen at the mere thought of extending a toe beyond. But some always do. And always will. Thank God. For the day the last of you fails to try, I will no longer exist. And what a bane of existence this all would be without me. Can you imagine a world without creativity? Without art? Written, sung, played, acted, chiseled, drawn, painted, however envisioned… not created?
The horror of a world doomed to complete and total sanity. The brain of reason with no dare-to-try coiled around it, no heart-felt craving to disassemble orderliness, no temptation to abuse normality. Fear me if you wish, when I stomp around the empty rooms in the wee hours of early morning or scream through the rafters above the silent halls, or play wistfully with your locks of hair like a breeze through the window. But hear this, without my presence there would be no betwixt and between. There would be no turmoil of creativity fighting to form, no unresolved imagination, nothing to fancy… but facts! So be thankful for creaking walls and howling wind, fairy dust and ominous feelings, without which, canvas will lack for color. Paper will hunger for musical notes and whimsical fiction.
If you want to fear something, fear imagination dying a mundane boring death, squished beneath the beast of conformity and rationality. Dread an ending to the dance, the embrace of shared emotion through hearing a sonnet or viewing a Monet. Dread that I might ever be stilled, leave the halls, silence the moan, numb the tingle, put down the pen. Hang on to glorious madness, and never let it cease. I am what powers the wings of truth through artistic impression.
Like faith, what you can’t prove exists… makes all the difference!
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