A loud, sickening splash disturbs the barren wind. Liquid colors spill out of the dark cave, into the dry sand of a scorched badlands. Something is emerging.
All the Color Is Twisted
He walked out of the cave, into bright, painful light. He tread upon solid, firm soil, of which he had not felt for years. His skin burned. Everything was on fire. He had escaped from a nightmare, but this new world was no better. His pale, runny skin was melting in this terrible sun. Liquid skin sizzled as it hit the baking dirt. He squinted into the light, his eyes beginning to drip down his face. He felt like he was dying, but no matter how of his body he lost, he would never die. That was his Misery.
Now the red paint started to ooze out from inside him. The Epitome growled, and took a sloshing step, sand and dirt sticking to his feet. He would trudge through this desert until he found something to destroy and taint. His deadly prerogative, only to destroy and melt. The Epitome of Misery set his eyes on a nearby town. He would not bear his misery alone, not anymore. He lurched towards the unsuspecting town.
They Are Bleeding Strange Colors
Before the guards could even arrive, he was already gone. All they found was sloppy piles of melting paint sporadically speckling the village, with no signs of people. Even the buildings seemed to be sagging unnaturally, and the ground was soft and spongy. The Epitome of Misery didn’t know the name of the village; he didn’t care. He was just obeying his God, Derelict Red.
He stopped at a river. He had a thought about resting, but remembered he could neither rest nor sleep. The Epitome of Misery pondered the fast moving water, and had a quick daydream about the river washing him along and dispersing his body. A glorious dilution. He stepped in. As he forded across, the water swirled around his body, writhing and contorting, changing colors rapidly. He could not even feel the cool, refreshing current of the river. The Miserable sneered, pushing ever thickening muck out of his way. The water lost it’s clear purity, turning slimy, trailing off his body and coursing down the river like resplendent eels. He ripped out of the fluid, onto the other side, and circled back to view what he had wrought. Rippling masses of sludge lazily bobbed down the waterway, and these patched continued to spread, spindly tentacles grasping out. The river would entirely succumb soon. A suitable taint, an appropriate defile. Would his God be pleased? The Epitome didn’t care.
Come With Me
He wandered through the dark door, standing just inside of it. One more step, and he would plummet into a black abyss. Nothing but darkness stretched before him. He stifled a sob. He could only wander forward, after he had walked into the painting on the hotel’s back hall. He had a bad feeling that he was not supposed to discover that area. But the painting was so beautiful, so alive. He had just wanted to touch it. Now he was here. In this world with only the color black, the little boy was stuck. He was considered brave back home, but this place was far outside the pathetic realm of boyish bravery. He started to tremble, terrified vibrations desperately trying to break free of his body. He tested the drop with his leg, dabbing his foot into the abyss. Nothing. The door frame he held onto is the only thing slightly visible here. The boy wanted to sit and cry. He had the sinking, mind-numbing thought that he would be here forever.
A slight ripple touched the inky dark high above him. A gurgle of sound pervaded the silence. His senses jumped into painful tautness. A finger of red, a small spike of color, gently broke out from the abyss wall. The color carefully flowed through, fluid and gracefully, winding this way and that, inquisitively and curiously. A sliver of dark purple followed, calmly intertwining around the red. More colors entered the darkness, trailing behind the red in the same manner. Each one of the colors shed a soft luminescent light, and the empty darkness settled into the void. They were beautiful, the colors. Hundreds of different hues and tones now swirled around the atmosphere, wrapping and looping around each other in tranquil affection. The boy dared to smile, and finally a tear dropped down. A tear of relief. He gasped. The tendril of red, now suddenly a just foot away, hovered in front of his face. It beckoned him; he could feel the red inviting him forward, extending itself as a symbol of safety and guidance. He slowly put his hand, and carefully touched the creature. It quivered, warm and welcoming. The boy wrapped his fingers around the tip of the red, and the color engulfed his hand. It sapped away the tension and fear, and he laughed.
He laughed, like a fool. Now the red color does not stop spreading. It lazily loops up his arm. He panics and tries to pull away. His effort is futile. The red color feels like sap, freezing and burning the same time. A blue tendril slaps him hard in the face, and he hits the ground crying. He struggles back up, whipping his arms around and splattering color over his body. The boy looks up for one second, and he blanches in terror. Eyes in the paint. Two massive, distorted eyes are squirming through the colors. They drip and squirm, and the drops cascade into the abyss. The eyes are squeezing closer, through frantically thrashing tentacles of paint, and he screams at the eyes, shrieks at them to go away. Tears burst out of his eyes, and spittle flies from his mouth. The eyes stop. Blink once, twice. They peer inquisitively at him.
“Come with me”, they say, splitting into mouths. The boy lunges back in horror, but the red tendril drags him to the ground. It yanks him painfully towards the mouths. He clings onto the door frame, but tentacles lash onto his legs and pull. His torso stretches and nearly rips, and his arms break off the door frame. He flies backwards towards the mouths. The boy shuts his eyes, and hugs his legs to his chest. He is about die. Suddenly he is falling. He opens his eyes as he hurdles into the abyss, and sees a swirling whirlpool of sickly colors rapidly approaching. Slamming into the sticky vortex, his eyes are the last to submerge. He watches the darkness disappear forever.
If only to be stuck in darkness forever, rather than this terrifying craze of colors.
To Paint his Likeness
The Epitome of Misery revives from his stupor. He gazes at the flickering fire. It sends soft bursts of sparks into the dark night. A memory perhaps? He grinds his hands together. Useless. The past is gone, and it is fixed. Besides, it is not pleasant to revisit. He has been sitting here for hours. The Epitome stands up restlessly. What was he even doing here? Something about the fire distracted him. It is so lovely. He angrily jumps on the flames, stomping them until they begin to struggle and wither. Sneering, he stalks away into the night, leaving behind five bodies he had killed around the fire earlier.
He reaches the outskirts of Herowin late the next morning. He stares bitterly at its imposing walls. Despite all of his rage and power, he was only given a short window for wanton destruction. Destroying his first three villages had called down hordes of heros and their gods to halt his threat. They were more powerful than he expected, and too many. The Epitome was able to escape, but now he had to keep moving. He tried to attack one of the major settlements, Monsterdam, and it was a complete route. They were ready for him, and now he was known.
They could overpower him, yet they could never kill him. He escaped again. But his Misery was growing every day, and also his God’s influence. The Blank Slate had been painted, and it was squirming, waiting to be unleashed.
The Epitome of Misery glares at the surrounding farms and houses around the city. Stray civilians like these offered no resistance, but they were protected. Even now, it was becoming harder to terraform, as those paltry heros swarmed the land like ants. They were pathetic by themselves. The Epitome of Misery could trap them by the thousands if not for their gods. Just like their heros, the gods roamed the heavens like filthy cockroaches. He knew he would not succeed just by himself.
He changed form just as a rowdy group of hero bumbled past. How he hated them. They could stop his body, but Epitome could survive and hide indefinitely among them if he wanted to. If he wanted to. His body could be defeated, but the rampant creation was already in effect. Impossible to eradicate, the paint had found it’s medium.
He strode through the farms, ignoring the protests when he tread on sprouting vegetables. Soon, he stood before the Herowin gatekeepers. Blankly, he stared at them. His eyes swirled red and purple. Uncomfortable and concerned, they let him past without a bribe. Herowin was bustling, filled with people. Epitome’s instincts rippled under his skin, and his blood and colors threatened to burst out and stab them. The solid matter of the buildings and ground, their soft, but firm flesh, called out to him. He suppressed his instincts. Any one of these dismal humans might have a god attached to them. Some heros were easily recognized: loud, arrogant, and boasting fools endowed by ridiculous plumage and gilded trinkets. Epitome growled as they passed. He longed to melt them, along with this town. Now, he was reduced to subtler tactics.
Walking into an unassuming alley, he glanced around. No one except for a dead looking boy sprawled over the trash. He began painting a picture on the crude brick wall, tracing his fingers back and forth. A strange likeness emerged. A woven tapestry of winding, bright colors and two distorted eyes. Beautiful, but disgusting. Epitome smiled in satisfaction. He moved on to the next alley. His day was set.
Father, You Are Not Enough
The man looked at the boy tenderly, and from behind his back, drew out a blank canvas. He held it proudly before the boy, his calloused, sooty hands barely gripping the pure white material.
“I found this in the market! It only cost a fraction of my day’s wages.”
He did not say the price of what he drew out next, paint and brushes, which had consumed more than half of his day’s work. The boy smiled in wonder, gazing at the blank slate, his mind already racing with what he could create. His eyes flitted up to his father’s eyes, and he grinned happily.
“Thank you Papa!” he cried, hugging the sturdy man around the waist. Father beamed lovingly, and set the canvas aside, gazing down at his son and patting his head. At his age, the boy could have been working out in the mines and farms, in the mills and tradeshops. But he was so pale and fragile, and the father spoiled him. Other men and their sons, treated him with contempt because of this, treating his boy so tenderly. It made him weak, they said, that was what made a weakling. The hardworking man, however, could not subject his son to his work. He could not allow his son down into the dangerous, dark mine.
“You’re welcome son.” He gripped the boy by his shoulders, and smiled down at him. “I have to return to under the ground. I will leave you alone, to create something wonderful. Okay?”
The boy nodded, and hugged his father again. Parting ways, the man left the small room, and the boy immediately set up the canvas. He had learned all he could from the town muralist about painting, and now here he was. With a spare, flimsy palette gifted to him by the artist, the boy began mixing paint. He held a brush reverently in his hand, then carefully touched it to the blank white of the canvas.
He laughed, and continued painting. Soon all sorts of colors sprouted across the canvas. Blue, red, green, yellow, purple, all wreathing around the board. First, he tried to paint a picture of his father emerging safely from the mine, with a smile on his face. No matter how hard he tried though, the colors in the cave kept mixing with the figure of his father. The boy frowned. The paint did not seem to be just runny, but rather, moving. He tried again and again, but the cave kept closing around his father’s form before he could come out. He frowned again, growing steadily uneasy. The boy endeavored one last time to paint in his father walking out of the cave mouth. The cave closed again, over the bristles of his brush. Slowly, the brush began to sink into the canvas. He pulled it back frantically, but the bristles were straining against a force from within.
Your Father is not enough.
The voice burgeoned in his head, and the boy shrieked.
I see it in your heart. You are afraid you are not enough for your father. That you are useless, frail, and weak. You are afraid that his love is not enough for how pathetic you will always be.
The boy pales, shaking his head as if the voice could be dispelled. He blinks once, and when his eyes open, he screams again. Multiple lines of stringy paint are hanging between his face and the canvas. He yells and bats at the strings, which look thin and breakable. Yet on contact, his arms stick, and the strings spiderweb around limbs. They pull him towards the canvas.
I see your mind! I know the future of the fruitless Artist. When the inspiration and strength dries up, you become useless. They will cast you away. Their love is false. It does not cover your failure!
The boy resists the tugging of the sinewy ropes, and he twists away and struggles. In his foolish maneuver, the strings clinging to his entire head and shoulders now, yank the boy off his feet, and his back crashes into the canvas. The canvas, on it’s flimsy stand, does not even buckle, and he feels himself sinking back into the paint. His arms are fully constrained by the paint, and his white face bulges as his head sinks farther.
But now, his fear is only taken further. A giant head, composed of pure, viscous paint, emerges right besides his, and slowly turns to him. An inch away from his face. Six, large, twitching eyes, covering the whole face, stare at him headily.
“You’re father is not enough for you. He will fail you. But I, I will not. I will take you child. I know what your mind will turn into. I am the lord of beauty, and I know the passion of which resides in your head. But when there is nothing beautiful to be found, you will despair.”
The paint attached to the boy’s face form into a three clawed hand, and pulls his visage closer to the six-eyed creature. As the boy feels his nose touching into the face, sinking into, he whimpers one last time and tries to shut his eyelids. Only for them to drip down his vision. He watches in horror as all six of the eyes focus on his. The claws holding his face are soft, the paint moving around on his skin. The creature tenderly strokes his face.
“You belong to me now, boy. Only I will be there with you in your disillusion when it comes. On the day that it strikes you, when you realize your futility, I will open a door to my realm for you. You will take that door, and I will take you. I will share my Misery with you, and I will shape you. You are mine now, ever since your mind was created. Only I understand you.”
The paint rapidly recedes, and the boy drops onto the floor. Up on the canvas, all of the paint has disappeared, leaving it pure white.
He curls up in a ball and sobs, as he sees a sliver of paint crawl into his flesh and vanish into his body.