You can’t paint. Everything you do will fail.
Voices screaming in my head. Pounding over and over like the drumbeat of an unfinished song. A low rumbling, a hidden roar in the throat of lion. It thickens. It washes over me. The constant chatter drives me out of the room, off the seat of the wooden chair, and down the staircase that sounds like ancient bones cracking.
Outside, darkness engulfs the field. The trees are a mountain of black against the sky. Distant moans of the wind drift to my open ears but they are soft whispers against the voices. In and out. Overrunning. Like bugs buzzing in the midsummer night air.
Your paintings are no good. Ugly. Failures.
I walk down the porch steps and set my bare feet in the grass. Cold. Wet. Covered in the beginning frosts of autumn into winter. The air pricks my cheeks. Goosebumps, telling me I am alive.
But maybe I don’t want to be alive.
I start across the field. My back hunches over so I can watch the grass curl around my feet. Like a ship breaking through the crashing waves of a storm. Overwhelmed by the darkness but still moving forward. Tears hit my eyes as the image forms and demands to be sketched. The calluses on my hands thrum from where I hold the brush.
I can’t draw. I can’t paint.
You will fail.
I stop, blurred eyes closed, burning. Voices from all around echo echo echo. A cocoon of darkness surrounds me. A shroud of cold, death-like. But the voices are there. Within the darkness. Within my soul.
Screaming back doesn’t help. It leaves a raw feeling in my throat and a loud echo in the air. Maybe this is how Vincent Van Gogh felt when he pointed the revolver at his chest and pulled the trigger. Overwhelmed. Tired but unable to sleep. Worthless. Failure.
You are a monster. A beast. An abomination.
You’re not an artist. You’re just a mess. A disaster waiting to happen.
I hope you are devoured by a wild lion.
But there are no lions out here. Wolves? Maybe. Possibly a bear. They leave me alone. As do people.
The field and grass and small house filled with half-finished sketches and canvases smeared with paint are mine and mine alone. Alone. Solitude. Isolation. It is what I crave and fear.
The tears come faster as the voices ricochet. I can’t make them stop. I can’t do anything but give into their lies. I am a failure.
Will the sadness last forever?
I lift my head toward the night sky and scream my throat raw. Through blurred eyes, I see glimpses of dreams. Blinking, I gasp.
Then a multitude of stars explodes across my retinas. Blazing, bursting, glazing with light. The frantic battering of my heart softens. The voices fade into whispers, soon swallowed up by the stars.
Silence and stars. All at once. Consuming me. Tugging me into the vortex of space.
Galaxies wobbling in and out. Rainbow colors gushing. Stars swirling and whirling. Together and apart, creating a display far greater than anything else.
The sight of the stars makes me dream.
A strangled cry rises to my lips. The hidden roar of a lion bursts forth. It does not come from the voices. They have left. It comes from my lungs, from the deepest part of my soul where the stars ignite within the void. Immense joy. Tears soak my eyes as I howl to the sky. The view clenches my gut. Breathless. It refills every fiber of my dreams.
I stare at the stars for a long time. Hours. Days even. I think to myself of all the possibilities shining down on me. Lights. Beauty. Majesty.
In time, I take those steps back to the house, up the porch steps, across the threshold of the outside and the emptiness of the house. Up the bone-creaking steps to the small room that holds only a chair, a desk, and an easel. A window, the curtains always drawn, peers out into the world. The stars sing above the dark mountain of trees and the sea of grass below.
I pick up a paintbrush and begin to draw.
Jaime Gross is a library reference specialist by day and a writer by night. When she’s not reading or eating waffles, she can be found daydreaming about dragons, searching for a portal to Middle-earth, or working on one of her many novel ideas.
We believe that good fiction doesn’t have to have an unhappy ending.