Sunday, November 14, 2010

"Down the Barren Years"

She limned strange shapes upon the canvas, and she did not wholly realize what she made until it was done; the picture diverged from her earlier studies for it even as it was being painted (as nearly all hers had done since the dreams began). The landscape seemed colder somehow, darker or perhaps merely more stark; what was intended as the homely smoke of chimneys became instead the smudge of a town burning as riot ravaged it. The hills were no longer soft green curves but mined-open sores; and their natural forms were replaced by buildings, which were abandoned and, encrusted by vegetation, then by the soil into which that vegetation rotted, became themselves hills... Helen snapped herself back to her work with a vigorous shake of her head.

The strange reveries of the dying world had grown more and more persistent, more and more intrusive upon her 'ordinary' life (as much as one like her could have an 'ordinary' life, that is); and in the last week or so the half-sensed feeling that the dreams and the reveries were pointing towards something - that there was an intent behind them and not merely the idle sight of her own mind's eye - had grown to be inescapable.

Perhaps she should ask the doctor if anything of the sort was known to occur in other cases of consumption? She had heard, and given little credence to, the superstition that consumption increased one's artistic, and even spiritual, powers; but perhaps something of the sort was occurring here. On the other hand, the man might think her mad; but she was an artist -- such things were acceptable, to a degree.