Wednesday, November 14, 2012

"The Cursed Canvas" by David Barrera

How you have fallen from heaven, morning star, son of dawn!

You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations!

You said in your heart, “I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne

above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon.”

Isaiah, 14 12-13

Poland, September 1945

Autumnal Breezes signaled the end of summer as well as the most perfidious war in the human history, World War Two. Lt. Dittmar Snider was very nervous. Even the Nazi flag has dropped. After hearing the news of the last air raid on Berlin, however, all his attention was on a group of men who worked arduously in an excavation. At first there were more than five hundred, but for strange reasons the group shrank to be only twenty five. Snider wasn’t a soldier, nor belonged to the party to which he had sworn absolute loyalty. His true vocation was the art of painting. He was a true professional, a critical success, recognized as such among the highest spheres of German society.

Vienna, June 1943

One day, while reviewing old books in a library in Austria, he suddenly ran into a strange manuscript written in French indicating the whereabouts of a treasure hidden in a small town north of Poland. The manuscript described this treasure: a work of art, of uncanny beauty and magical power. Snider knew he must see it. It took almost a year to prepare for the exploration, because, not only were funds needed to finance the the trip, but the villagers would have to be evacuated so that Snider's team could work without interruption. Something amazing was buried at that town, so Snider always kept the same pace as his soldiers, and although he was aware that sooner or later they would find the enemy troops, his obsession with the project was in no way diminished.

Suddenly, someone shouted in the cave, and then the whole group of diggers emerged carrying a strange black box at least one square meter. Just as he saw his men leave the cavern, the Lieutenant rushed to open the mysterious package and then discovered something that astonished him.

With exception of Snider, the rest of soldiers didn’t share the joy of discovery, even threatened to burn the package, as they perceived very little worth in this so called treasure to have worked so hard, but he suggested they continue to dig until they found a gold casket, and the everything would be shared between them.

Pleased by the proposal of their officer, all the greedy men were admitted back to the cave to find the promised reward, and they were all inside. The lieutenant then lit a whole cartridge dynamite and threw it in the hold where they were, causing a terrible detonation that completely buried the cavern, along with those wretches who found the most desperate of deaths. He knew beforehand he didn’t have it in him to carry out such a horrendous act, however, he understood that he had no choice, it was the only way to escape to the continent of dreams, so he took his light luggage and began his journey into exile.

Montevideo, February 1977

It was barely midnight when a shadow crept down by a rope tied to the roof and crept inside the famous Gallery “El Parnaso”, while waiting for another figure covered up dark clothing that supplied the camouflage of the opacity of the night, and afforded an invisibility to the few people who still roamed the street.

It was not the first robbery by the small band of thieves, nor the first taste of stealing valuable property. Members of the team had on more than one occasion been wounded or arrested, therefore, Alberto, the leader of the band, produced a careful plan to carry out the theft, while henchman Sebastian infiltrated the group of trustees of the gallery, and ushered his fiancee Camila between observers of the latest exhibitions, with the intention of obtaining sufficient knowledge of the territory so that the thieves would have a detailed picture of the selective merchandise the gallery contained.

It took months to choose the perfect day. Sebastian was on duty with another security guard. However, it only took a little chloroform to send him to the shadow world, then, cleverly he disabled all the alarms, and allowed his accomplices to enter without any problems.

Flashlight in hand. They began to inspect the place, looking for new acquisitions including contemporary art: paintings or sculptures from Italy. El Parnaso even had lost relics of ancient civilizations such as Egyptian, Persians, and fragments the Greek Empire, not to mention a vast of collection of ancient books.

The catalog of the possessions of the gallery was a cherished dream for any thief. Alberto estimated that he'd get enough money to retire from this sordid business and focus on something else that didn’t involved risking life. He had even already contacted some smugglers to sell the loot. But, they ignored the main room and headed to a small room, where access had been denied the public. According to Sebastian, only the owner could to get into that secret place. No one else knew what was hidden in the mysterious vault.

Four locks secured the door like steel spiders, but that didn’t stop the ambition of those men. They had prepared for this kind of problem. One lit a torch and put the flame on the steel to make a reddish color, then the door opened slowly and the three bandits waited to lay hands on the hidden riches, but their expectations were dissolved at once. There was only a box inside lined with a kind of dark leather sheath. Alberto remarked that this was no time to think about trivialities, they had to leave as soon as possible with their loot. Every second posed a risk of being caught. Rapidly they collected a number of paintings and sculptures they considered valuable pieces for collectors of arts, which usually were the customers smugglers were familiar with.

Thanks to the ingenious plan, they managed easily open the doors of the establishment, because they had all the keys to the locks while someone else was waiting outside in a truck.

They spent nearly half an hour with the coast clear, although the situation was starting to get tense, but by then, the list of items to steal was complete, and there was only one object left for stealing. Therefore, Alberto decided to return to the gallery, but the protest of his companions was swift and demanded he dismiss the idea, but his obsession overruled the pleas of his buddies, and he returned to the scene.

Sebastian decided to accompany him, because, he sensed that something bad was about to happen. Although he was well aware of the cunning of his friend, with whom he had worked for over fifteen years, he didn’t allow him to enter alone. After they entered, both men came to the small enclosure, and carefully, Alberto lifted slowly the painting, then, they headed outside, where a phosphorescent light gleamed in the dark. They could be perceived by the figure of a man holding a flashlight and also, unfortunately, a twelve-gauge shotgun.

“Stop right there” The man said.

Sebastian instantly recognized the voice of the owner of gallery, and seeing that he was armed, he attempted to step forward, pretending that he was just doing his routine rounds. However, the old man didn’t fell into the trap, he quickly raised his shotgun and held it pointed at his head.

“Move again and I promise I’ll blow your head” He threatened without lowering his weapon.

By the tone used by the elderly man, they knew that any movement could cause a certain death. There was nowhere to run. The man had cornered them without the remotest chance to escape. They were certain they would return to jail, when suddenly, Sebastian spotted a shadow coming up behind the old man, and he noticed that in her hands she held an object. But, nerves betrayed him, and he made a sign to the reckless Camila to back off. This only served to alert the elderly owner, who quickly turned and simultaneously pulled the trigger. The discharge of the weapon was so powerful that it threw the fragile girl’s body a few feet back, and her faint moan drowned in mute silence. She was dead.

Making a great effort, the old man tried to get up, but by then, Alberto’s hand had reached the long barrel of the gun. He wrenched the weapon away from the owner, and in a fury mercilessly beat his fiancee’s murderer with all his might, repeating the punishment over and over again until he felt gnashing his wrist. Then, the face of aggressor was bloodied. He was badly wounded, but although he was wounded, he still managed to articulate a few words.

“Please don’t take the painting.” the wounded man begged.

“You killed my wife and yet you dare to ask for favors” Replied Alberto angrily.

The enraged robber gave him another blow.

"Tell me, why you don’t want me to take this picture?" He inquired, ready for another round of punishment.

“The painting is damned.” The owner replied almost dying in a voice barely understood, because of the mixture of saliva and blood that flowed from his mouth.

The response of the gallery owner didn’t sit well with Alberto. Without hesitation, he shot the owner in the face.

For a moment there was a silence. Sebastian was shocked after seeing his friend in coldly murder the elderly man. Although he understood that the revenge was just, but he didn’t know how to react, it was the first time a colleague had snatched the life of another human being. At the moment, they heard sirens in the distance. This sound prompted an immediate escape. Alberto had no choice but to leave the corpse of Camila. However, he felt a pang of guilt for the tragedy, and all for the painting, but he shrugged off these feelings with Sebastian ran away holding the painting his arms.

They managed to leave before the police arrived, and at full speed ran to an old warehouse where they expected to meet the smugglers and make the transaction. But the wait became a torture, and Sebastian and Alberto began to fight with each other. Sebastian blamed Alberto for Camila's death, all because of his obsession for that painting. Alberto meanwhile tried to reassure him, but even though, he insisted he failed to placate his impatient companion. Angrily, Sebastian pulled a bottle of paint remover from a shelf. He opened it,and when he was about to pour it on the canvas, a knife struck his head. Then, he fell on his face, dead. Alberto found the knife in his hand, bloodied. He was appalled by what he had done, and in his anguish, he buried the same knife in his heart, instantly he fell over the corpse of his comrade.

Two hours later, smugglers arrived at the warehouse, and found the body of Alberto on the floor. However, despite the tragedy, the smugglers were glad, because since the buyer was dead, They no longer had to pay for the goods, and without looking back, they collected all the stolen items. Among those objects was the cause of tragedy of that day. The cursed painting again undertook a new journey.

New York, January 2012

A white sunrise had fallen over the huge skyscrapers. The climate showed less mercy than in previous winters. Down on the street, a man pressed the taxi driver to evade the congested traffic of the eight am, at which time the executives undertake the infernal race to get to work on time.

James was concerned. He felt like his head was spinning like a fairground carousel. He could hardly believe that his dead father left him an unknown masterpiece. His father had found the painting during an exploration of an Amazonian jungle. The director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, wrote in a note indicating that it was an unusual discovery that compared favorably with the The Mona Lisa or any other existing painting. James father died soon after the discovery from some unknown tropical disease.

James was very curious about this piece. He wanted to trace its source. He searched for help, and turned to one of his father’s old contacts in France, who was a distinguished art conservator. Currently, the expert worked at the majestic Louvre Museum. James kept pressure on the driver to step on the gas, and just as he came upon the building, he ordered the taxi driver to stop in front, then he quickly ran up the stairs, and headed toward the expert's laboratory, where work had already begun on a careful study of the pigments.

For more than seven hours, James watched the process. The expert said nothing. Even when James offered to help, he simply rejected him shaking his head. The procedures used and the artifacts were completely unknown. Certain liquids emitted unpleasant smells that made all observers leave the room. However, by almost sunset, the scientist took his gloves and mask, and instructed James to follow him to a more comfortable place. By the tone and expression, James understood that something was not right.

“I’m sorry Mr. James” He started to say “I don’t know what the hell that is.”

“I don’t understand” James responded.

The Frenchman explained to him with his mispronounced English, that the particles impregnated in the canvas, didn’t belong to any color made by man, or existing nature. He couldn’t help. even though, he had implemented a carbon dating test. It failed to specify an exact date of its manufacture. It could have been painted yesterday or it could have been made hundreds or thousands years ago. However, he confirmed with great certainty that the painting was real.

The fact that the painter was anonymous didn’t help the expert much, and thus further increased his restlessness. Now, he was required to submit in three days an anonymous painting, which turned out to be a real predicament. He is knowing that the press would devour him alive, if he doesn’t have a specific report about it. Even at the night, he was rummaging his thoughts in order to find an answer to the questions that gravitated around this mysterious work. His tension did not allow him to fall asleep. And at about six in the morning, he took his car and drove the museum, offering a slight bow to the guard, who seemed a little surprised to see him come so early. Then, he opened the box and stood staring at the female figure reflected in the painting.

“Please tell me who you are and reveal to me the name of Faust, who was fortunate to have painted you” James said, as he was speaking to the lady in the painting. “I’d give anything to have viewed the ocean color of your eyes.” He expressed himself thus, bewitched by the enigmatic woman’s look.

France, April 1615

The aurora bird sang away his evening secrets while a solar flare slowly dawned, ending the reign of the night. But despite the presence of the sun, the cold wind that ventilates the region didn’t diminish. Near the vineyards, up on the second floor of a small castle, there is an open window. Inside, a semi nude woman was posing on a chair.

Her skin was clear and fragile, but exposed overnight to low temperature. Her natural beauty was under strain. At times, she felt like jumping from the balcony because she had been imprisoned for the last two weeks. However, she didn’t make any movement, not the slightest wiggle. She even breathed carefully so as to avoid moving. In front of her, a man slid his subtle brush with precision on the canvas, throwing furtive glances towards her, to capture the most information possible, and then, recreate it with the skill of a master. While he was painting, he conjured up in his mind his years as a student of the Catholic Academic of Art. When he was a child, he learned to master the watercolors with much ease, and he developed a strong discipline even though he was often beaten.

He still remembered clearly, the times when his teacher destroyed his body with a whip, every time his brush slid on the canvas in error. Such severity was due to his father’s consent. His father was a wealthy Catholic bourgeois, owner of acres of vineyards and properties throughout the Loire Valley, but, despite his economic power, he wanted a flagship in the family. Consequently, under these hostile conditions, perfidious qualities were stamped on his personality, including a high degree of narcissism and despotism toward anyone who came near him. Nevertheless, his exquisite works delighted everyone. Rich and poor alike admired his art. Models across Europe scrambled to find glory in the study of the great Jean Pierre, but many of these naive aspirants were victims of a sadistic artist, who easily lost his temper and violently punished girls who committed errors. Although he was reported many times, he never set foot in jail due to the influence of his family. He was always cleared of any charges, and even many of those who complained ended up in jail unjustly.

He had a great contempt for the poor, as well as religious believers. Generally, he hobnobbed with other artists of the same class, or members of high society. but even among his peers, he chose to behave with arrogance over them. They accepted him out of convenience, and that angered Jean Pierre. One particular morning, his irritation was higher than usual. He was bothered by a severe headache that burdened him.

He had been suffering with that pain for about a month. The pain was so debilitating that he had to stop working. Luckily, the painting was finished. He held out a bag of coins to the girl. Then, he sat back on the bed waiting to take a nap. But, he couldn’t sleep.

His discomfort became so intense, that he decided to visit a prestigious doctor, and see if he could find a cure.

The professional doctor did several tests, and despite the rudimentary technology of that time, he detected a tumor in the back of his skull, and from it’s size, he judged that the painter had only three years left to live.

The awful news collapsed all his aspirations, like a lead ball hitting a house of cards. He was frustrated. He didn’t understand why cruel death had chosen to make an exceptional case of him, taking one so young. As he walked back to his house, he couldn’t figure out why this was happening to him. Jean Pierre crossed an area of homeless shelters, and amidst this miserable environment he felt the fangs of hate digging his bowels.

“Cursed be the fate that ironically intends to tear me out of this world, when so many decadent people occupying a place that they don’t deserve.” He screamed with agony and no one paid attention to him.

During that month, he began to seek a second opinion from other doctors, but the sentence remained the same. Nowhere else to turn. The dying man resigned himself to his misfortune. However, he meditated on all he had achieved so far, and then, a feeling of a dissatisfaction hit him hard. In twenty years of career, he had painted more than thirty-five paintings of which according to the critics from across Europe, twenty-eight were among the best work of art of the Century. He was practically the most celebrated painter existing. But in his egocentric thinking, he didn’t consider any of his works immortal, as had happened to other celebrities. He needed to create a masterpiece that would lead to glory for all eternity. But there was one detail in which he would find a muse for his portrait. Since death was at his heels, It was necessary start a journey to find the woman that could meet his grand expectation.

For more than two years, he traveled the entire continent giving paid interviews to candidates of all ages and languages. But all was in vain, none of the girls inspired him to paint his desired picture, and to top it off, his finances didn’t show enough zeros to continue his search, and he had no choice but to return home to the his privacy of his castle. The artist fell defeated on his bed, suffering so much that he loudly called for death to take him right away..

He prayed for a miracle, and daily he attended a church, anticipating that the creator would send one his angels, but he ended up exhausted without any of the saints hearing his words.

It was then that he gave up. In tears, cursed his father for sending him to the master craftsmen, also cursed God, and finally cursed himself. He became a compulsive drinker and spent all his time in seedy taverns. Then, his personal appearance was unkempt, and he’d completely abandoned his talents. In short, He was delivered to death.

One afternoon, as he was drinking a jug of beer, one raggedly dressed elderly woman approached him. With her hand beckoned him for a coin. He reluctantly handed her the coin, but she didn’t move.

“Take this. I have no more money,” he replied with an atrocious voice.

The old woman just smiled.

“Silly boy, don’t waste your time. I know what you want.”

“Shut up old decrepit woman! and you’d better get out of here before I lose my temper.” He was thinking that maybe she was laughing at his misfortune.

“God didn’t hear you, true?” She asked biting her lip.

“How did you know that?” He responded very surprised.

“You know, when God doesn’t hear the prayers of the afflicted, there is someone who does, if you talk to him with faith, he will come personally.”

The unexpected news aroused his lost hopes, and desire to dig deeper, but at that moment, in front of his eyes, the old woman disappeared mysteriously.

He looked around and there was no sign of the woman. However, he got the message clearly, and quickly left the tavern. On his way home, the painter bought some candles and inquired until he found a secret group of spiritualists who for some coins sold him a book with a red ceramic cover painted with a ram in the front. Then, as directed by the old woman, he began to pray to the creator of evil, called by the Bible the fallen angel from heaven, and commonly known to humans as the devil.

According to the dark manual, he made all sort of diabolical ceremonies to be heard. But nothing happened so he laughed at himself for being so credulous. Then one night as he struggled with a strong torment caused by advanced disease, he heard someone knocking on his door. He looked at the clock and noticed that it was almost the two in the morning.

“Who could it be at this hour?” he wondered.

He came out of his bedroom, and down to the stairs to the hallway, and when he was about to reach the door, he heard again that knocking on the door, but he realized it didn’t sound like a hand, but the stroke of a horse’s hoof, and an every step he took, a loud whinny of a horse arrived with perfect clarity to his ears.

Although the man was a skeptic, in those moments, he experienced a terrible sense of fear of what awaited behind that door. He was undecided whether or not to open the door. But amid conflicting doubts, he recalled his two years in the Calvary and the bleak fate which would have happened to him, if he hadn’t done something.

So, he finally resolved to open the door and face whoever it was.

The door open slowly, and he could see that a little girl with dark hair was standing outside of his door. Her face was angelic and innocent with a look that showed a febrile child sweetness. She wore a white silk dress, which extended to a stylish shoes of the same color.

Jean Pierre guessed that the girl was about five or six years old. He was surprised that a child of that age was walking on the streets so late. While he was contemplating this fact, the strange visitor came through the door without permission,.

“Tell me little girl, what are you doing here?” he asked her with soft, gentle voice.

The girl looked up.

“You called me, and I’ve come to grant your wish,” she replied meekly.

The painter felt a cold jolt throughout his spine, after he learned that he was talking to Satan himself. He almost felt faint, and before uttering a word, the tiny girl stepped forward.

“Don’t worry. I’m here to help you,” she said.

“But you look like a girl,” he replied stuttering.

“If I showed you my true appearance, surely you would die instantly. That’s why I took this infantile form. But even so, this conversation will last only ten minutes. So. I want you to listen carefully.

Then, the evil entity began to say.

“The lady that you are looking for is buried in a cemetery. Her name was Dorianne Mercier, the only daughter of the Mayor who for over fifty years governed this city. But when she was scarcely 18 years old, she was the victim of a cholera outbreak, so you must find her grave and water it with the moisture of your feeling in order to resurrect her.”

With her frail hand, she held him a bottle with a red fluid. Then she continued.

“Certainly. you will get what you want, but you’ll have to stick to three conditions.”

“Which are?” he asked with fear.

“For a month, the muse will pose for you, and it will be just at night. So, you’ll have to get used to painting with low visibility.

He only nodded his head.

“You will keep our covenant with stony silence, and for no reason shall you reveal it to anyone”

She paused.

“And finally and the most important requirement,” she managed a slight but infamous smile. “You must abstain from physical contact with the deceased, as it is prohibited for the living to touch the resurrected dead, so you’re limited to just seeing her. You understand?”

“And what happens if I break the rules?” he asked her.

“ You will disappear completely from this world, and your name will be removed from any existing memory or record. No one will remember you,” she said with a threatening gesture.

The thought of what could happen to him, if he disobeyed the regulations, made him shiver. He even felt an urge to cancel the deal, now that there was still time, but on the other hand, the painter imagined the eternal greatness achieved if he performed his masterpiece, and the recognition that it would accompany for the rest of history. Immediately, he approved the conditions.

The evil being stretched out his hand, as if to seal the deal with a handshake. When Jean Pierre took the devil’s hand, he felt a sharp pain in his heart, as if a thorn pierced his chest. However, after a few seconds it dissipated.

“Illustrious painter, see your dreams come true, and see that I am right. I will give you one year with good health, and you will enjoy the fruits of your masterful painting.” she affirmed,

“And you will get your return.” The painter asked very thoughtfully about the proposal. “My soul?”

“Actually, I’ve owned it for a long time. So, take this as a simple favor from someone who admires your talent. Besides, I left a black mark on your hand that over time will spread, as a reminder of our covenant .”

When she finished speaking, the door opened by itself, and the little girl walked to the outer darkness, and by supernatural magic, the doors were closed again. Jean Pierre heard its departure as if a herd of wild horses had run out of his house, until all was silence.

The next morning, the painter woke up in his bed, and immediately noticed that the headache had disappeared. He even felt in an excellent mood, as if he were reborn. However. a set of fuzzy images addressed his mind and pieces of a puzzle were coming together to bring back that fateful encounter.

He imagined for a moment that he had had a nightmare caused by a headache. But then, he remembered the last words of the girl. Quickly, he set out to check, and he noticed that there was a peculiar dark spot, that he hadn’t seen before.

“The mark of the devil!” exclaimed the painter while contemplating the strange mark on his skin.

There was no other explanation. The evidence of his harsh reality was strong. He had sold his soul to the devil.

While he was experiencing a bit of grief, Jean Pierre saw on the table a set of brushes. On one side was an empty framed canvas and he noticed that there was also a bottle of red liquid, and then he recalled the gift he had acquired.

With great resignation, he took all objects and awaited for night to fall. Under a splendid moon, he headed for the cemetery, looking for the grave the demon described in which the muse that he had sought was buried.

New York, February 2012.

It was in winter when a crowd of people was leaving the museum. Shortly after the painting’s discovery, the unknown artist had attracted scholars and enthusiasts worldwide. In spite of it’s not being the best time to visit Manhattan, they ventured to come in order to see the mysterious artistic phenomenon, recently acquired by the museum. The show brought huge profits for each exhibition, and a colossal fame that exceeded existing standards of any museum. However, not all were beneficiaries of the black muse. James Coleman was going through a terrible situation, because in the last six exhibits, the harassment of journalists had managed to discredit his career. They accused him of being ignorant and illiterate because he had not provided them any information regarding the enigmatic work. As a consequence, the museum administration gave him an ultimatum. He must explain the work in a way that would please the demands of the media. Otherwise. they would remove him from his position as CEO of the museum.

There was no escape. The judgment was impossible to evade. His work for which he had fought was going down the drain. He was devastated by the way they treated him. He was the one who brought them the painting, and now, because of it, his future was turning black. Nor, did he find peace in his home. After telling her of the possible bankruptcy of the family, she stopped talking to him and threatened to take their children to her parent’s house. His life was in ruins.

“Why did it happen to me?” he wondered in tears, without being able to explain the misfortune of his destiny.

Poland, May 1617.

The city of the dead wore a creepy face. As in all cemeteries, the atmosphere was heavy and dark. The trees looked stuffed with dried branches that stretched like tentacles to his head, creating shadows that seemed to be right out of hellish graves. Nevertheless, in its burial passages, a silhouette moved moves slowly. With patience, and the dim light of a candle, the painter was examining one by one all the inscriptions on the tombstones. Beside him, his horse was carrying around a bag of painting materials. He reviewed almost half of the cemetery until finally, in the shade of an old Haya tree, he found a neglected grave surrounded by weeds and fungi over the entire surface. He thought it odd that this grave was so removed from the rest of the cemetery. Curiously he approached with the candle to verify the name of the owner of the tomb, and although some letters were blurred, he could still read the inscription:

Dorianne Mercier


There was no doubt that he had found the tomb was seeking.

Immediately, he opened the jar and poured the red liquid on the grave. He noticed that it smelled like fresh blood. Suddenly, a terrible wind huffed around, followed by the howls of night birds who fled in terror of the place.Even his horse burst out of his harness and ran wildly, leaving all things scattered on the ground. Jean Pierre saw the tomb was opened in two parts, and then, the silhouette of a girl came out of the jaws of the earth.

As the Devil told him, the golden-hair lady was a real venus, as taken from the famous epic poem. Because her beauty could only be compared with the divinity of a heavenly angel. Her eyes cast a seductive gleam that conjured a man’s desire to dream, love, and sin.

The egocentric painter fell to his knees, a prisoner of the charm of the young resurrected, who kept him in focus with sublime attention. The breeze died down and everything returned to normal.

The girl walked to him, and offered her hand to be helped up. Then, she sat on the grave, and pointed with her finger to his painting utensils. Instantly, The painter understood that the lady was ready to be captured on canvas. Therefore, he collected all his instruments and installed a small studio there.

After lighting 3 candles, he began to address the greatest challenge of his career as a painter.

He approached the canvas with the skill of a surgeon. But at times, his thoughts were lost in the spell of the model. Although she didn’t belong to this world, she raised a set of unknown feelings that he had never felt before.

By the time the night almost ended, the paint was already showing a feminine image. But, before the sun begun to appear, she had to return reluctantly to the bowels of the tomb, and again, the painter was left alone in the middle of the necropolis.

He returned home very abstracted, because in his mind he harbored only a the image of the young girl. Even in his dreams, her enigmatic gaze was present, as if he had been infected by her beauty. But he also noticed something different about when discovered that the black spot on his hand had enlarged to the size of a grape. However, he ignored it with disdain, and just waited awake for the evening anxiously, to see again the muse.

To avoid disruptions, Jean Pierre paid the undertaker a number of coins, so as to afford private space, since that was one of the conditions of the covenant. And so he continued painting the majestic lady who night after night posed exclusively for him.

He often tried to talk her. But, she never answered him. In fact, she showed disgust every time he spoke to her. Therefore, always in each session there was a deadly silence that became toxic for Jean Pierre. But he wasn’t aware of it, only his obsessive admiration for her. From time to time, he even brought her expensive gifts like jewelry, fine fragrances and elegant clothes. But, his attempt to please her didn’t get the expected result. It wasn’t until one night, when he showed her his work, and although the painting was unfinished, she gave him the most beautiful smile that he had ever seen. Consequently, his adoration of her increased even more.

It was the 25th of the month, and the task of Jean Pierre still could not be completed. Beforehand, he was aware that time was running out, and that sooner or later, the muse would leave him forever. That haunted him so much, and that made him so sad, that he began to spend all his time in the cemetery, becoming a resident over the city of the dead. However, his strange behavior attracted the curiosity of the old gravedigger. One night the gravedigger slipped quietly into the bushes, and watched the arrival of the dead girl. He didn’t know what to do so he just ran away in fear.

The next day, at the office of the cathedral, the old man cried for an audience with the bishop, and for over an hour. His Grace listened to the old man’s stuttering story. Besides the bishop, was one of his assistants, who waited in silence listening carefully to the story. But at times, this assistant expressed disbelief of the undertaker’s story. But the abbot corrected him. Because as the ultimate authority of the local church, he had a duty to carefully examine every kind of heresy. Therefore, he found it necessary to investigate the practices of that eccentric painter. And if it was true, the painter would certainly go to trial before the inquisition tribunal to answer for the crime of necromancy. According to the laws of the Holy Inquisition, such a crime would be punishable by death. Unaware of the coming investigation, Jean Pierre continued to paint, without imagining the danger stalking him. Also, his hand had completely taken a dark color. However, that was not exactly what took away the excitement of his endeavor, rather, it was the sheer anguish of knowing that his beloved would eventually return to the underworld. Therefore, he didn’t realize that a group of men had made inquiries in every house around the cemetery. Some soldiers were accompanying them, and without exception whatsoever, they went door to door asking very probing questions regarding the activities of the painter. With fear, most of the respondents gave them similar testimonies, in which they swore to have seen a mysterious figure lurking in the vicinity of the cemetery. But given the circumstances, none of them had dared to investigate the painter’s activities, so they didn’t contribute much to the investigation. However, it was sufficient to satisfy the curiosity of angry bishop, who by then was already planning to make the arrest. To avoid suspicion, the Bishop decided to miss the week. Then, he began to make his move. For that task, he chose to be accompanied by only his personal assistant and three more soldiers. Therefore, the small group would not startle the grave defiler, so he could not escape, because at night, it would be feasible to catch him by surprise. So, they waited until the last night of the month when the moon was absent. Jean Pierre meanwhile was quietly sobbing on the grave of his beloved, aching with a yearning to see her again. But this time he looked tired. His face was the picture of distress, and while the paint was missing just a few alterations. The painter was drowning in a sea of sadness. He knew this was the night of the farewell, and nothing would change that fact.

An hour later. The muse appeared. As usual she looked as magnificent as ever, almost like she had been molded by God in person. But, Jean Pierre felt sorry to see anything different in her, as if she didn’t care if she left him. Even sunk in that gray world, and with tears in his eyes, he finally finished the painting, and when he was just clearing the brush from the canvas. The bishop and the soldiers advancing briskly toward. Their footsteps were heard nearby, while the France man could have perceived them. Then, in an impromptu action, Jean Pierre turned the painting and showed it to the muse, who after seeing the work just smiled. Then, she headed back to her burial chamber. At that moment, the armed men appeared, and without thinking twice, Jean Pierre ran and grabbed the girl’s hand. All at once, a strong wind begun to shake the trees, and suddenly the youthful beauty faded into a gruesome corpse.

An onslaught of terror attacked the painter, who desperately tried to break free. But, he couldn’t be loosened from the bony hand, and with an enormous force the cadaverous woman dragged him to the depths of the grave. Then the two stones rejoined again, sealing the painter obsessed life.

After the terrifying incident. the soldiers ran away leaving only the bishop with his assistant. A girl appeared in the dark, and with delicate step is directed towards painting.

The mysterious appearance of the child-like creature, foul the environment. Making it heavy and hard to breath. All these strange changes Bishop made up suspecting that something evil was about to happen, and although he didn’t have the escort of soldiers. he decided to confront evil being. For it, he pulled a wooden crucifix and pointed it at the little girl, who immediately stop walking. The religious man quickly took advantage and grabbed the painting. Then, he turned to the girl and noticed that she looked at him with a menacing gesture.

“Who are you?” Bishop asked with authority.

“You know very well who I am, geezer” she replied with a child-like voice.

The bishop felt a scourge of terror, however, he continued.

“Tell me, why there’s so much interest in this painting if you’ve already possessed the soul of that wretched painter.” He continued.

“He and I had a pact, so he gave me that painting” Claim the devil.

“Never” He cried, raising the crucifix. Even if my soul should perish, you will never get this painting.

The Devil didn’t reply, but she turned her head to where the bishop’s assistant was, and just smiled.. Then, floating on the air, she disappeared into the darkness.

The bishop and his assistant perceived that they had had an encounter with the Devil, and that this work was an evil abomination, and that at all costs it must be destroyed. First, they threw it to the boiler to be burned. But after the fire was extinguished, they noticed that the paint was intact. So they tried dipping it in acid, but their attempt was unsuccessful again. After their failure, the Bishop implemented all kinds of methods to destroy it, even breaking with his own hands, but nothing they did seem affect the canvas or color of the image. Finally, he decided it was best to bury it as deep as he could, so that diabolical possession would remain away from men. So, he traveled to Northern Poland, and there, with the local archdiocese, they began digging a deep tunnel, which took nearly three years to complete. Then, they lined the painting with cowhide, and sealed the entrance, so that nobody could access it. However, the Bishop’s assistant wrote a secret map to remember the whereabouts of this work of art, and hid it in a book of prescriptions. His plan was to sell it for a good price, but a sudden illness snatched his life, before he could carry out his ambitions. And so the work of Jean Pierre remained buried for more than three centuries.

New York, April 2012,

It was seven in the evening, when the news crew were preparing for the exhibition. There was commotion among them. Three days ago, the museum board had announced the nomination of a new director, who unlike his predecessor, was open to speaking with the media. He shared the information of the mysterious painting. Giving the importance of the news, the press gathering was immense, without imagining that was all a farce. In fact, the new manager had no information about the origin this strange work. He was simply chosen to be a tool of political forces. A plan was developed in order to calm the harassment of the press. He just had to pretend and answer in front of cameras with lies to the interviewers. These Ideas weren’t new, and before it had been proposed to James. But for professional ethics, he refused to collaborate in the lie and so he was dismissed. So for fear of retaliation from him, all the guards had been ordered to block his way, as a preventative measure if he dared to appear. They would not allow anyone ruin the night.

Security was tight. It was impossible to cross without having to show an I.D. However, a strange man sneaks between service staff. His face is unidentifiable, because he uses some dark glasses and a dark beard. He wears a black coat that falls to the knees, so no one perceives that beneath his clothes brings death. Thanks to the busy night, he goes unnoticed and reaches the main hall, where he had lived so many days of glory. But at that time, he held his tongue and without word, he began his evil revenge. The deafening roar of a shrapnel invaded the room, and within seconds, several journalist fell to the ground. Then, a second burst appeared, and this time, the victims were members of the board who were hit by bullets while trying to flee. Although James wasn’t an expert with weapons, the thirst for revenge dominated him, and without mercy he shot right and left, venting his fury on anyone who was around, until a bullet hit him in the back. He then fell flat on the floor, and there, swimming in a pool of blood, James saw the officer who shot him, while the people were still running in terror.

Almost dying, he looked to his left and saw a beautiful girl wearing white who was dancing among the corpses. The ground that she walked was completely dyed red. But to his amazement, he noticed that she smiled as if amused by the bloody massacre. However, in his last breath, he recognized the face of the devil himself, and understood the art of the devil, for the world is tragedy.

After this sinister event, a federal decree ordered the canvas’s exile in a hidden corner in the basement of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Even It was detained without registration and only placed it with other classified objects. Thus, the tool of the devil didn’t follow doing more damage, and actually the muse peacefully slept without witnessing more tragedies.


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