I started a group on Facebook called Flash Fiction Fridays.
This is for Authors to play around with their craft and readers and fans to see what words they devise. Prompts will be given out in the middle of the month, and the Flash Fiction stories (less than 1000 words) will be posted on the First Friday of the month on Facebook and then spotlighted here on my blog throughout the month.
These flash fiction prompts challenge you to create short and gripping narratives that are under 1000 words. All writing remains the intellectual property of the contributing author and should not be shared outside this group without permission.
The prompt for this month was: “While painting a portrait of a fictional subject, the image comes to life.”
Our first guest author is Gabriella Messina….
It was late… really late… and it was going to be later before I could call this painting done and call it a night. Honest to God, whose idea was it to paint an all-male version of Degas’ Bathers series for the exhibition?
Oh, that’s right… me.
I sighed, a heavy exhalation that blew the last remnants of cigarette smoke out. I’d been chain smoking like crazy as I painted… It relaxed me, relieved the stress that was building as the deadline loomed. The others had been simple enough, but this last one, that I had mentally dubbed “Francois”, was proving stubbornly difficult. The man just wouldn’t cooperate, and tomorrow the entire series was due to be picked up and carted off to the Albright-Knox for a special gallery event. I must have been out of my mind when I proposed re-interpreting the series with men bathing… The nudity was minimal, and it had been easy enough to find willing models for the sketches and color tests… Everything had clicked along perfectly… until Francois.
I sighed, looking at the nearly-finished painting. Just when I thought it was right… it was as if the body had shifted and the shadows and light were all wrong. Obviously that wasn’t possible… Francois still sat in his spot, ensconced in a chair beside a filled bathtub, left arm raised high above his head as he dried his side. His light brown hair was longer in front and fell forward, the tips brushing his eyebrows and cheek as they framed his face. It was another oddity about this painting, about Francois… None of the models had had hair like this… In fact, none of them had resembled Francois at all. I sighed again, quickly lighting another cigarette. I pulled over one of the kitchen chairs, swinging it around and straddling it, my chin resting on my hand as the other held my smoke. My gaze narrowed as I studied my creation, and I felt a pull in my stomach that I hadn’t felt for weeks, months even… I’d been way too busy to even think beyond the end of my paintbrush, had avoided my usually watering holes like the plague… But now sitting here, my body in what might be perceived by many as a very open and welcoming position for such carnal activities, I could feel myself wishing that my dear Francois here was a real boy. I chuckled, savoring the moment as I looked at my “Pinocchio”… it was a perfect painting, truly… But…
I groaned. Again, it looked different… the shadows along the side of the chair weren’t right, and the highlights on his strong, well-muscled shoulders were – I stopped myself, shaking my head and willing myself to get a grip. It was just a painting… just a painting… perhaps a bit more yellow ochre would do it…
I got up out of the chair, my legs stiff. I really needed some exercise, and fresh air, and… yellow ochre, that’s right… I grabbed the tube of paint, squeezing a small amount onto the pallet and dabbing my brush in white. I swizzled the colors together, creating a loose blend that would lay down as a dabbled sunlight sort of shade. Or at least that’s what I hoped. I turned back to the painting… and froze…
I heard the palette drop to the floor even as my vision blurred, the dark shade coming down quickly and then everything went black.
When I came to, it was dark. I tried to move and winced immediately, pain shooting through my shoulder. It wasn’t dislocated or anything, but I’d hit the floor hard enough to bruise for sure. I groaned, moving myself back up into a sitting position, my eyes blinking rapidly. Everything seemed to be in place until my eyes settled once more on the painting. The streetlight outside had cast a solid beam of light through the window and onto the canvas, illuminating it like a mini-spot… The bathtub… the chair… Francois… My eyes went wider than wide…
Francois was not there.
I felt my stomach fall like I’d just come over the top of a roller coaster’s primary hill and was beginning the rapid descent from the top. That was impossible! I closed my eyes and shook my head, hoping that it was just a residual bit of a dream or perhaps a very real eye problem that was causing me to see what I was seeing. I opened my eyes slowly… No such luck. Francois was completely gone out of the painting,
My hands started shaking… what could this possibly mean? Had I finally stepped over that threshold from simply tired and overstressed to psychotic? Was I having a nervous breakdown? I could feel myself starting to hyperventilate, and knew passing out again wouldn’t be long behind… when I felt a cool cloth being pressed to my head. My instinct was to fight, to flee, but something about the easy pressure made me relax to almost limpness. I leaned into the cool, relishing the shiver that ran down my spine as I did. I took several deep breaths and could feel the consciousness returning to me… the ability to see that the wondrous coolness was being held against my forehead… by a hand…
“There now, cherie… You are alright.” The smooth tones of his voice, slightly accented in French, wrapped around my spine and sent delicious chills running through my body. I turned my head slightly, finding myself face-to-face with his magnificent blue eyes… The shadowy growth of beard… the smirk at the corner of his full lips… “Better, cherie?”
I nodded, whispering, “Yes. Better.”
He leaned closer, his lips inches from mine. “Very good. And now… We need to finish your painting… But first…” He looked at her appraisingly. “First, you need to bathe.” He smiled a wolfish smile, and I knew that this particular bath would be more about getting dirty than getting clean…
Which was fine with me.