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Isn't it pitiful for an artist to admire his own work? That wretched "Sightless Goddess of Love" kept attracting visitors. I stood there among the mesmerized crowd, looking at the unfinished painting by the supposedly anonymous author. Little did they know he was standing next to them, as they ecstatically commented on the well-painted yet undone piece of art. The origin of the name was rather obvious - her eyes had never been finished.
Even as a young student in art school I have always been interested in Greek mythology. I find the contrast between mortal and godlike fascinating. But I've always been fond of one figure in particular - The Goddess of love, Aphrodite. She was described as a beauty unknown to mankind, so humble and caring, yet I wasn't able to find even one painting that revealed her true divine charm. For many years I've tried again and again, throwing away canvas after canvas, to recreate the image that was stuck in my head. It was trial and error. Two years had passed since my last attempt. As I started noticing great improvement in my art, I decided to try one last time.
One rainy Spring day I picked up the dusty old brush, sat on the little oak-wood stool and prepared my canvas. I stared at the blank piece of paper for more than half an hour, not knowing how to start, so I gently guided the brush through the surface. I started with a light beige color which later mixed with the darker shades. So the very first thing I drew was a straight nose with a slightly pointed tip. Using a beautiful ruby red I formed the Goddess's perfect, full, red lips, which were curved in an alluring smile.
Pleased with my work I moved along to the face, painting the basic shape of it, focusing on its feminine features. Suddenly my hands froze. For some reason I was unable to continue with my work. I figured that I was just tired and left the canvas to dry with the thought of finishing it some other day
While in its presence I felt a slight unease with the painting. Realism was, after all, what I was aiming for. However, I had never expected for her cherry lips to actually move. Was it the lack of sleep, maybe I wasn't eating right? Or maybe it was just stress in general; whatever the reason,I blame this unusual phenomenon on my restless imagination. At this point rest was the only option I had.
The next morning I was woken up by the grim caw of a crow. The previous evening's events seemed like a vague dream, and I was once again ready to face the painting. I was anxious to continue my work, rushing in the drawing room, without even getting the usual cup of morning coffee. Soon the basic outlines came into place - the shape of the face was long, finishing with a nicely rounded chin and a fresh-faced complexion. The shadowing itself was easy but as the different shades of brown and pale yellow made their way into the paper, the painting came frighteningly close to reality. Yet I was quite proud of my work at that time. Pausing, I dully looked at the canvas half expecting the illustration to reach out to me.
I was beginning to crudely sketch the neck, when my phone rang. I had absolutely forgotten about an organized meeting with the manager of the local gallery, which I had to attend at all cost. It appeared that I had to postpone my more pleasant activity.
As I reached for the door knob, I heard a muted voice. Figuring it was my old radio acting up again, I walked out the door in a hurry. Midnight had arrived when I finally got home. My friends helped me get my mind off things for a while, but I couldn't fully forget about my unfinished masterpiece, waiting for me at home. As I walked in and hanged my coat, I was greeted by a rather eerie silence.
An hour after my returning, I was eager to crawl in my bed and just doze off to the sound of thunder, which for some reason, I found extremely calming. Just as I was about to give in to slumber, I heard a voice echo from the drawing room. A soft, honeyed female voice called out to me. Alarmed, I grabbed the first thing I could, which happened to be my night lamp, and slowly made my way towards the source of the noise. I was like a sailor drawn in by a siren's song. I entered the dark room with great caution, but no one was there.
It was practically impossible, but I still felt as if the voice was originating from the painting. I knew it was a silly thing to assume but there was literally nothing else in the room.
For weeks that event kept recurring. Some nights I would hear the voice again, leaving me with the choice of either ignoring it or tracing it once more. And every time I would end up in the drawing room, staring at the unfinished image of the Goddess. I was, and still am, a single man. There was no possible way that a woman was just hiding in my home and playing with my sanity. Nor did I ever believe in ghosts, so the thought that I was haunted never crossed my mind.
Whatever the case, it was becoming unbearable. I couldn't help but feel like all of this had some sinister connection to the painting. I felt the unexplainable urge to finish it, regardless of the fact that I couldn't stand to look at it anymore. For what I hoped to be the last time, I sat on the same chair, in the same little dusty room. The last rays of the fading sun were rushing through my window, illuminating my creation. I rapidly grabbed the brush, almost knocking down the palette. I carried on from where I had stopped.
With every stroke of the brush the painting became more alive. I wasn't sure if I was drawing the Goddess anymore, as the woman on that canvas was vastly different compared to what I had envisioned. Rather than golden locks, obsidian strands of hair fell down both sides of her slender face. Instead of the warm smile I associated the mythical figure with, her red lips were shaped in a devilish grin. I knew destroying it and starting over again would only bring me more torture, so I continued.
The painting was not quite what I had imagined. The consideration of actually quitting only dawned on me for a few seconds but then I realized that I had physically lost control of my hands. Internally I started to panic, trying to look away from the woman's lustful smile. On the outside she was pure as an angel but inside the Goddess of love was mischievous and ready to play tricks on any man. Maybe that was the actual image I was trying to recreate all that time.
After what felt as an eternity I had succeeded but yet the result wasn't as fulfilling as I had hoped. Before I always used to start with the eyes, but each time something was off. I felt as if her judgmental gaze would pierce into my soul, as if I was the most horrid person that ever walked the Earth. As the shape of her eyes were finally taking place, a primal fear was triggered in my system. For a moment it seemed as if I had control over my body once again, which the Goddess didn't appreciate, as her smile turned into a disappointed frown.
As I saw that, I abruptly pulled my hand away. Doing that, I felt great resistance from an unseen force. One of her thin eyebrows arched up questioning my sudden protest.
Was it day? Or was it night? I had honestly lost track. There she was - beautiful, stunning, out-of-this-world even, but her perfection was frightening. Her divine beauty felt unnatural and fake. As if it was hiding something below the surface - an ugly, evil, subversive creature, that wanted to take the last drop of sanity away from me. It was the only thing I had left and wasn't about to let it go. If before I felt unease with the masterpiece now I felt pure resentment toward it. I saw the lips move and heard false, pretended kindness come out of her mouth. She besought me to finish her heavenly, hazel eyes, so she could lay them on me. But I wasn't ready; I would never be.
I smiled, as her fate was in my hands. The puppet had become the puppeteer. The Goddess of love was once unfair to me, it was only fitting that I returned the favor. I leaned forward and began working on the final details, only leaving two blank spaces where her eyes should have been. For whatever reason I knew that if I had finished them that would mean giving up my sanity to this ambidextrous, inpatient young lady.
As everything was done I stood back admiring my work. It was perfect. Love is blind, just like Aphrodite - "The sightless Goddess of love". That night was extraordinary - no word was heard from the drawing room and no sleepless midnight roaming through the house.
Soon the masterpiece was safe behind a glass frame in the biggest gallery in the city. Safe as the artist that sacrificed his time to leave it unfinished. The gallery owner agreed to keep my anonymity, even though he couldn't understand why, judging by all the attention the panting was getting.
I never really forgot her - my little mischievous Goddess. Sometimes I give her a visit. The illustration looked like a normal, well-painted portrait, made by a talented artist. To this day relatives ask me why would I spare myself the fruits of my labor. My answer is simple, she just wasn't my type.
Written by Franchescadawnkills