The Painter

You are assaulted by the acrid smell of piss, puke and the stench of waste. Not the best way to wake up from deep slumber, you think. You wake up on hard ground, with your legs entangled in those of a complete stranger. Not even of the opposite gender.

Kalansh piece for the painter

(Artist: Kalansh Gala)

You curse and you spit at the man, secretly thankful that he is still passed out. You look around, only to find yourself surrounded by a melee of entangled bodies interwoven to blur any lines of gender, age and color. The darkness surrounding you is partially because your eyes are yet to focus and because you are in a giant dome that barely lets in any light through the massive stained glass windows near the ceiling.

You take tentative steps to escape this complex rhapsody of bodies, but soon your growing panic and claustrophobia propels you to step on to the barely breathing bodies, trip and run over them, as your breath threatens to die inside, just like you are

You know you have to get out. Something tells you, it is of utmost importance for you to escape this burial room of the barely dead. Or perhaps it is just a church. You don’t know, but you don’t care either.

You walk around skipping and tripping over the cadaverous living, trying to find an escape. You find not just one, but four; four doors. Each locked to keep you inside this burial dome.

You whimper, in terror and desperation. You whimper because you left your wife of five years and three year old son home alone, for a wild night out. You whimper, because your body feels weak enough to collapse on the heap of humans piled upon one another like dead cattle.

You suddenly feel niggling pain in your wrists and your jugular. You touch yourself there and realize that you have been poked and prodded while you were asleep.

Perhaps you now are slowly loosing hope, you slap your back against the last locked door, and collapse to the floor. Wishing you were asleep again, wishing you wouldn’t feel a thing, wishing you were back home with your wife and child, wishing this was only but a nightmare.

You know, it doesn’t feel like one. It doesn’t feel like a nightmare. It feels real. You feel real, the bodies you step on feel real, and the pain feels real.

You scan the room again; and you notice an altar. Maybe it is a church after all, you think. Or maybe it is a sacrificial altar.

Beneath the altar, when you squint your eyes hard enough, you notice something shiny, something that looks like a doorknob, hidden from plain sight. Hope rises again like a phoenix from its own ashes.

You run towards the altar, crunching, limbs, bellies, chest and faces. You hear pop pop pops in your pursuit to reach your escape. You are past caring, because you know you are the lucky one. You know you are the chosen one. You know that because you are the only one who has woken up from your slumber, in this melee of bodies.

You finally reach the shiny doorknob. You turn it, speaking a soft prayer in your head. The God you have mocked and derided from the time you were a teen; listens to you. The door opens. Perhaps, that God does exist, you think to yourself.

You step into a dark, dimly lit passage. You wonder if maybe instead of escape, you are moving closer to your annihilation. But again you realize, doing something is better than nothing. And perhaps this passage leads to an underground tunnel that would help you free yourself.

You move slowly, tentatively, deeper and deeper into this labyrinth of passages. The dread you have been feeling all this time increases exponentially.

You finally arrive at an open room, a smaller dome, lit brighter than the passage. You see a man sit in front of a large canvas, propped on an easel. You realize that the stench of rot and waste that had overpowered you until sometime back has almost dissipated. Instead you smell pleasant sandalwood incense.

You don’t dare breathe lest you break the concentration of the painter. You notice his painting and try to make sense out of it. There are two figures there, one on the ground all in shades of black and dark green and one on the extreme left hovering in the air, all in different shades of red. Your simple finance manager mind cannot comprehend this art. You realize that the painter is dipping his finger in a bowl of deep red paint. He is giving final touches to the figure in red, hovering in the air.

On the large canvas, this figure almost looks alive to you, like it has a soul. If only the painter would make eyes on it, it would step right out of the canvas.

“Do you like it?” the painter asks, without turning around.

You are shocked, because you haven’t realized that the painter knows you are there.

You clear your throat and say “yes”, meekly.

“I have to thank the lovely Vineeta for her assistance.” The painter says, pointing to the other side of the room with the flourish of an accomplished artist. You realize you have not yet bothered to scour the room. A rookie mistake, rookie that you are in escaping life-threatening situations.

You see a woman lie on a stretcher with numerous pipes connected to her body. Almost on the verge of passing out, whimpering for help from you. You follow the path of pipes that leads to a bowl with red paint, and drip drip drip you hear Vineeta’s blood make the bowl richer with red.
You now realize, finally, your purpose. The reason you are here, to give his paintings a life. You know soon it would be your blood giving another piece of art a soul. You turn around desperately, to run back to the melee of bodies, only to find the painter right behind you with a knife.

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