Velocities Of Night
W. B. Vogel
For some, there are certain fascinations that serve as their singular passion. It is to be their very life's blood, that one beautiful thing that makes them feel real. Such a love sharpens the edges of a dull existence, giving meaning to the chaos.
Debra Marceau's heart could only be steeled by the abstract visual obscurations that were created when a brush touched canvas. To her the uttermost truths of the universal were dimly reflected within the fragile perceptions represented within an artist's works. Like prophetic dreams they rose from the depths of the soul, as God's vision was fragilely illustrated through a human's narrow eyes. This was her weakness...this was her obsession.
On this day she was driven by an almost surreal urge to find a new work. The Freeborn Gallery had recently acquired the last, rare remnants of a little known artist named Aeran Black. He had been a man possessed, constantly painting the dark visions that skulked the shadowed corners of his soul. His last days had been spent in a psychotic fit, before he was taken to the Langston Sanitarium for evaluations. Mere hours later he disappeared and was never heard from again. Many a curious tale had spawned from this man's life. But there had always been local folklore surrounding him, and little had been mentioned of it since his escape a decade earlier. Like his work he had been a shadow, and as such faded away in the bright day of passing time. Even though, he was an infamous character whose creations were prized by a select few patrons.
The scheduled show of his paintings consisted of three recently uncovered works-a duet of self-portraits and an abstractionism. It was the latter that intrigued Debra, and as such had drawn her like a siren's call to the Freeborn Gallery. This one, titled "Oblique," had been vaguely described as a vision in black in the literatures promoting the sale. And it was those subtle words that had brought her there. She didn't even think about it, she reacted as if by the command of her uttermost buried instincts. These had been what guided her will.
The rain fell on this bleak day, pouring in vicious fits from a sullen sky. This atmosphere suited Debra's current state of mind perfectly, as she drove to the gallery on Newstead Street. Her soul was unusually quiet as she stared blankly through the little torrents of water that ran down her windshield with ceaseless stride. She was beyond somber now-she was automatic.
The tires of her car sloshed as they rolled through a puddle and into the parking lot of the Freeborn Gallery. She ran into the building holding the sale flyer over her head. Even so, she was drenched from head to toe as the downpour escalated momentarily. But that mattered little to her.
None are so blind as those who do not wish to see...
Debra was focused; every exacting step was but an action towards her desired end. She took a deep breath, dragging the air deeply into her lungs as her nerves electrified. Her awareness sharpened to a jagged edge. It was in these moments that she truly felt alive.
"Hello," a voice called to her. "My name is Brent Freeborn, and I am the owner of this modest facility. How may I help you on this less than jubilant day?"
"I am interested in viewing the Aeran Black displays, in particular the opus that was referred to as an abstractionistic piece," she said, her hair dripping tiny droplets of water. Debra looked like a drowned alley cat.
"Oh, you mean the Oblique. Right this way," his arms ushered her towards a back corner of the gallery. There, hidden behind packing material and assorted broken crates, waited her goal. Freeborn picked it up tenderly and said, "It is a truly unusual piece. Painted in different shades of black, it seems to reveal different visions under varied lighting conditions. Even from different perspectives it seems to take on nuances that were missed before. This is a truly unique work. Are you a collector?"
Those were the four words that Debra knew could cost her dearly. "No," she replied, trying to feign at least some disinterest. "I'm just attracted to the rare oddity. I have curious tastes. Your flyer mentioned this 'unusual' work, as you put it. But I'm not so sure now."
"I see," Freeborn said. He sat it down gently. This was all part of dance. Foreplay was part of the excitement, building both parties anticipation before the actual event.
"What are you asking for it?" Turning her body slightly, Debra angled herself towards the egress. She wanted him to believe in her hesitation. Great deeds are never raised on the foundations of doubt.
Freeborn folded his arms tightly. "Well, we were hoping to fetch a fair sum at auction. These are the only remaining pieces from a very limited collection. Black's..."
Debra's voice tore viciously through Freeborn's well-rehearsed diatribe. "Black was a little known artist who no one cares about these days, or cared about then. And other than his brief stint with madness he showed little evidence of even the dimmest creative instinct. He was made by a reputation that was propagated by self-proclaimed experts and greedy money whores. I will give you two for this painting."
"I can't for less than five," he muttered under his breath. Freeborn's body began to squirm beneath his skin. His nerves were clearly on edge. He wanted rid of it.
"You won't get that much. I'll give you three, and not a penny more," she said coldly. Debra seldom went this quickly for the jugular. But she could smell the blood...
"Sold," Freeborn whispered. "The thing gives me the creeps anyway. At least I won't have to look at it anymore."
Debra smiled. Her hand wrote the check with a victorious flourish. Never before had she been so proud of one of her prizes, and yet there was dread that the bloodbath was finished. She did so love the financial kill.
Within minutes her purchase was wrapped and packaged for the trip home. And soon after she was again on the rain battered road, driving and dreaming of her unique new bragging right. The drops of rain ran down the glass as the miles unwound on her journey. She soon was home, and could hardly wait to get into the door to her open her new treasure. It quickened her blood.
The sun began to set, slipping behind stormy clouds as it raced across the heavens towards the underworld. Debra placed the painting on the floor, letting the infrequent rays of shattered daylight illuminate the image. Even now it seemed different, but she could not put her finger on it quite yet. In that light it had such a dreadful beauty-beyond any words that a mortal would blaspheme against it in utterance trying to describe even a mere essence. Only God's Eyes could truly do it justice.
The rain fell much harder now. Clouds changed from placid, depressing grey to a raging black. The winds began to build and escalate as the drizzle took a protean turn towards storm. Lightning flashed in the distance, and the echo of thunder made the large, glass windows in Debra's house vibrate in reverence. She did love a good storm.
Night fell solemnly, and the maelstrom continued to draw closer. In a sudden flash and crackle the lights went out. Debra had lost the power when that bolt had hit. Debra tapped her fingers on her hot cup of coffee, and thought for a bit. The steam from it rose slowly, and even though she could not see it she could feel it warmly caress her hands in the darkness.
She ran to the kitchen, blindly searching the drawers for a candle to light the now blackened interior of her farmhouse. The lightning flashed...her irises as big as saucers trying gather fragments of light. She screamed, "DAMN!" Her fingers had fearlessly stroked too firmly the edge of a waiting kitchen knife. Her fingers dripped opprobrium for her mistake.
The cut was not deep, but still she bled. "Great, now I'll have a mess to clean up later too." This pain was her omen, and she returned to the living room unsuccessful in her search. She could not see all of the blood that she had spilled.
Debra sat in the dark, pondering things that being busy kept her from thinking about. The lightning again flashed, as her eyes caught the distinct vision of the Black painting. In that fleeting instant it was clear and vivid to see, it was the outline of a house. "What the--?"
She stood up. Again the lightning burst, as it briefly lit the night. In the Oblique she now saw something, amorphous and horrific, crawling through the darkness towards the pictured dwelling. "Why did I not see this before?" ran silently through the back of her mind.
Still the image exploded into her sight, in those minute flashes, was so sharp that detail was almost an overload. Debra could neither understand nor fully see all that was presented to her in these barrages.
It was as if she was trying to calculate the velocity of night... vainly grasping at the intangible and limitless darkness between her clenching, desperate fingers. Mentally clawing at these flashes of insight as a beast brutalizes prey, her mind raced almost incoherently. She was amazed.
"The man was a genius," she said in awe. It was then that she felt the utter depths of his creativity rush forth like a tidal wave. Only in the heart of chaos is true creation born.
She touched the painting, smearing some of her blood across the canvas. "How?" she wondered aloud. "How did he do it?"
There came another bolt of bright realization. The dark thing seemed closer to the house now. When the light had changed, the image seemed to comply. Yet the very aspect was different somehow, almost changed. "You're crazy, girl," Debra told herself. "The weather is getting to you, you're imagining things."
Life is all just a matter of angles and light.
Another energetic burst of atmospheric rage came, and it was then that all of the pieces came together. She could even hear it, like the oratory of a jigsaw, as the thunder echoed in the heavens. The house in the image, the formless dread now against the window, and the darkness that enshrined them...
...This was her house.
Debra screamed, spinning around to see the darkness outside the glass. The windows shattered, glass flying like raven daggers into the room cutting her wickedly. Her blood splattered as it sloshed against the canvas, the walls, and the floor. At last the vision had color-the crimson red of Debra's blood moiling upon the sepia shades of black. She was in that sudden, grim instant a part of what she so loved.
The monstrosity's eyes glowed red in the Oblique as they did in life. Those aberrant eyes reflected Debra's broken body primed in crimson as the sketching of her existence abstracted into art reflecting life. Reality had been blurred, as her belief lifted the utter dreams from a Hell of imaginations into prophetic visions.
The lines had all been drawn, and now all that was left was the darkness within the shades.
Debra's fingers twitched as what remained slowly poured away. The red blood stirred, reflecting shadows and light, as it crept across the hardwood floor that cradled her. From now the cradle to the grave she went as she briefly flickered in panic, and then burned away. Her blood smudged against the skin...
Soon her eyes glazed, becoming a hazy shade of grey. Reflected there was her demise, as it had been formed upon the Oblique. And now she was no more. Her torn flesh spilled the colors of dreams yet unborn. All she had seen now was as clear as the night.
Author W.B. Vogel writes about what he loves...the darkness and all of God's creations cast from it. Born early on a dark and dismal day in November of 1972, his love of the storm and the night has been a major influence and inspiration. "The Dark Days are the best..."
Influences range from writers such as H.P. Lovecraft, Bram Stoker, and Edgar Allan Poe to directors such as John Carpenter and bands such as Carcass, Slipknot, Acid Bath, the Vandals, Misfits, Entombed, Konkhra, Transport League, and Fishbone.
"It is not a matter of survival of the fittest, but of the fiercest."
Visit Mr. Vogel's web site
Visit W. B. Vogel's web site.
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Published by permission of the author.