IN THE NAME OF ART
“We are, once again, talking about precisely how far a man can go, and how many women he can hurt, in the name of art.” -S. Doyle, ELLE.
Muse stood outside Hell. Clouded eyes stared up at the rotten bricks, barely held together by eroded cement, infested by ugly black insects that ate away at expanding mould. It had changed over the years, for the worse; it now loomed over the street, casting a heinous shadow over the innocent buildings that surrounded it.
Dark clouds plagued the sky above, clinging onto menacing thunder that threatened to slip through the gaps. Wind whistled over the rooftops, rustling through trees’ leaves, blowing Muse’s fine hair in weird directions all over. Muse’s dull clothes clung to their lanky body, standing out from the colourful clothes of the civilians that scurried passed.
Muse’s shoes gripped the rotten cement of the pavement. Vehicles flew by on the road behind them in slow motion. Muse’s limbs froze over. Time paused; nature stopped in its tracks. Muse held their breath, and blinked. Their mind was cast back ten years prior, when they had stood in the very same place, on that very same pavement, which had been much cleaner back then.
The sky had been clear, void of clouds. Sunlight had beamed down on them, and birds were busy singing sweet melodies in the trees above. Muse had stared up at the very same building, recently built, fresh paint gleaming in the sun’s heat. Their stomach had been filled to the brim with butterflies and their heart had been racing with anticipation.
Muse blinked again, and the sun disappeared behind the clouds. Mould tore through the paint. The butterflies died, fell to the bottom of their stomach, turned to dust. The birds lost their voices. There was nothing there now.
They took a step forward, stood directly in front of the studio’s door. An invisible force wrapped itself around their limbs, forcing them to move. Flames flicked against the window; smoke poured through the letterbox. Muse lifted the key, unlocked the door. The doorknob blistered their hand as they grasped it, turned it. They stared at the open doorway.
Muse saw their past self step over the threshold, stepping blindly into Heaven disguised as Hell. They had run into cold arms, disguised as warm. As the memory came to mind, a shiver scraped up their spine. Shadows curled around their bones, yanking Muse back into Hell. The door slammed shut behind them.
Silence. That’s all that was left. Silence. Nothing but empty space—and yet, the walls were overflowing with memories, bending and creaking under the pressure. Silence.
Shadows danced across the paint-stained floorboards that creaked underneath Muse’s feet. Dust swirled around in the stale air. Voices echoed through the vents. Muse closed their eyes and inhaled; the stench of oil paint still lingered on every surface, stained forever. With oil paint came the scratching of tough bristles being dragged across tightly woven linen.
Muse’s eyes opened and the room had filled with furniture. A majestic chandelier hung from the ceiling, its light illuminating the sketches pinned to the walls. The fireplace provided warmth, blocking out the unforgiving chill. In the middle of the room stood the easel, tall and proud. Cowering behind it was the stool.
Muse watched a silhouette gladly sit upon that stool.
The canvas perched itself against the easel. The disgusting odour of oil paint grew stronger.
A demon emerged from underneath the floorboards. Its gangly fingers wound around the paintbrush’s handle.
Muse’s skin began to blister. Paint touched the canvas.
Muse’s insides twisted. Bristles raked against the rough surface. The silhouette let out a shrilling scream.
Muse fell to the ground and held their hands over their ears. Eyes squeezed shut. Body curled in on itself. The walls began to move; like magnets, they attracted one another, fighting to join. Muse shrunk into the floor. The scream continued, vibrating the walls.
It soon became too much. Muse’s mouth opened to release a shriek that had clung onto the back of their throat for too many years, merging into the scream.
Muse’s lungs were in shreds. Their shoulders shook with every breath they fought for.
The demon snickered and set the silhouette on fire.
Muse’s blood bled through the canvas. The demon used it as paint.
Its claws dug into Muse’s skin, sinking in deep enough to scrape against bone.
The chandelier flickered. The fireplace let out a roar, spitting fire out, setting the room on fire. The walls began to speak. Their words circled around Muse, taunting. They cut deep, deeper than the claws.
“Not a victim,” they hissed, “a muse.”
Flames engulfed every inch of the room. Muse fought against the weight that rested on their back, holding them down. They pressed their hands into the scolding hot wood and pushed, as hard as they physically could.
It was only when the words were repeated, though, that Muse was able to turn fury into strength. They forced their body up from the ground. Through the fire, they could see the easel’s outline, standing unphased by the scorching blaze.
Muse’s fists clenched. Their eyes narrowed. They walked through the inferno.
The walls engraved their words into Muse’s soul.
‘Not a victim,’ they wrote, ‘a muse.’
The room expanded.
The easel grew further away with every step Muse took.
The flames almost reached the ceiling.
Muse broke into a sprint. The demon chased after, stepping on their heels.
Floorboards cracked in half, allowing lava to seep through the gaps. Smoke clogged the air. The walls began to crumble.
Muse reached out. Their bloodied fingers curled around the easel.
The Demon towered over Muse, draping a dense shadow over them. Muse could barely see in the dark. The fire faded into the background, taking away the only source of light.
Muse inhaled deeply and gripped the paintbrush. Their hand trembled as they dipped the bristles in thick paint and lifted it to the canvas.
‘Not art,’ they wrote, ‘abuse.’
The Demon swung a ghastly claw down to tear the canvas away. Muse swiftly grabbed the canvas and stepped out of the Demon’s shadow.
Muse closed their eyes, inhaled.
The walls silenced.
Sunlight peaked through the clouds.
Birds in the trees above sung their sweet melodies.