“Why did you want me to try to paint Van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night’ on your back? No one will see it unless your shirt is off, and I told you, I can’t make a perfect duplicate of it anyway.” Nineteen-year-old Danny Cross was waiting for his most recent touches to the painting on Marta’s back to dry. The white glare from the snow-covered college quad streamed in through the window of his second-floor dorm room, as she casually lay upon an old down blanket on the floor between the two beds. His slender left hand, looking so much like a girl’s, poised over the waistband of her stretch pants, and he felt a persistent urge and swelling in his own, while wondering if his rail-thin frame was pressing down too hard on her.
“I told you, it didn’t have to be perfect. I just want you to capture the style. Inspiration will do the rest.”
To the sophomore, her voice sounded like a young Lauren Bacall from the old movie “To Have or Have Not,” which he’d just watched in his American film classics class. He watched his pianist thin fingers, slip slowly under her waist band, and felt a sexual thrill at the warmth of her skin and the roundness at the top of her ass.
“Hey, get your hand out of there.” In mid-sentence, Marta’s tone shifted from annoyed to playful, but he jerked his hand away suddenly. “Not that I don’t think you’re cute, but we don’t have time for that right now.”
He was encouraged by the “right now” part. Marta was the most beautiful girl he’d ever met. Taller than average, which worked for him since he was over six-foot, leaning toward a “full-bodied figure,” long hair of deep ombre brown, soft, utterly smooth tanned skin, which seemed a little odd since it was the beginning of December, and the late autumn sun was always dim this far north.
They’d only known each other for a month, and he remembered that he couldn’t stop staring at her the first day she walked into his second level painting class. Marta told him she was a transfer student, but never mentioned where from, or for that matter, how she’d managed to be admitted into a course that would break for holiday in just a few weeks.
“Am I almost dry?” She moved her hips provocatively under him, causing Danny to lift his weight and then resettle it on her at the lower edge of her full, curved rear.
“Just about. Why did I have to use the paints you brought over? I have plenty of supplies.” Grateful that his roommate was visiting his parents for the weekend, the art major glanced over to his right at the haphazard arrangement of tubes, bottles, palates, and brushes. Applying the paint didn’t feel exactly “right,” though maybe it was because he’d never used skin as a canvas before. Then again, the paints themselves, though supposedly oil-based, dried like acrylic but absorbed into the young woman’s skin almost becoming a part of her.
“You’ll find out. Be patient. You know I didn’t have much time to find you.” She still sounded playful, but there was an undertone of urgency.
“What are you talking about? For painting your back?” He’d been wanting to get her alone ever since they started talking in class, but this was the first time she’d agreed to visit him, and only because he consented to her weird request. But any reason was good enough to get her down onto the floor with her shirt and bra off.
“You’re the best art student in your class, and besides, I know you have the gift. We’re both going to need it soon.”
“Thanks, I think.” He wrinkled his brow wishing he could see her face. There was something in what she said that gave him a nervous feeling of anticipation.
Marta took a deep breath, expanding the muscles on her back and slightly exposing the sides of her breasts in an exercise of sensuality. The familiar feeling of arousal began to return, but was slightly inhibited by puzzlement.
Then he looked back down at Marta’s back and for the first time, saw that as the paint dried, it began to slightly shimmer. Danny thought it might be a trick of lighting. But he moved his face closer, and saw intricate bands of color shift subtly as the passionate oranges and yellows, swirling whirlpools of green, and night-like blues and blacks surrendered their moisture into the young woman’s supple, willing flesh.
Danny felt her arch her hips upward and then saw her press her palms down on the blanket on either side of her head.
“You can get up now,” she murmured quietly, solemnly.
The carelessly strewn art supplies shifted position as he rose above her lithe body, and as she stood, her back still to him, his eyes captivated by a painting he wasn’t sure he himself had created, Danny took a few steps backward, feeling his running shoes sink into the cushy fabric of the quilt.
She looked out the window ahead of her, and though the blinds were pulled up all the way, allowing anyone outside to look inward, she seemed unconcerned that her breasts were exposed to the few students crossing the quad.
“Come here. Put your arms around me. It’s time.” She hadn’t moved, and instead of sounding seductive or playful, she seemed utterly serious, as if they were about to begin some grim task together instead of making love as he’d hoped.
His t-shirt covered chest pressed against her back and the painting, and while he felt the expected warmth of her body, something else was clinging to him, binding Danny to Marta.
“Put your arms around me. Here.” She guided his hands and forearms so they crisscrossed, and embraced her just below her breasts, their heavy globes resting upon him. “It won’t be long now, Danny. Don’t be afraid.”
Vainly, in spite of the strangeness of the situation, he tried to reach upward to fondle her, then turn her around to face him for their first kiss. Instead, she became as still as stone, warm, unyielding stone, alive yet infinitely strong. Then the lights began to go out.
“What’s happening?” He felt himself trembling and heard his usually steady voice break with tension.
“It’s the painting, Danny. The paints were special, but this still wouldn’t have worked if you didn’t have the gift.”
“Gift?” He sounded like he’d been huffing helium.
It was the painting. The hues, colors, textures, were expanding, first over the remainder of her body, and then across him, and then across the room, as if they were both being enveloped in an infinitely large sheet made of twilight and stars.
Danny tried to say something, but found he couldn’t breathe. In a panic, he held onto Marta in desperation, or was it something else? He was blind, deaf, and dumb, and there wasn’t even the scent of the paint to guide him, only a feeling that he was clutching onto his anchor.
After a few moments or infinity passed, his lungs expanded again, breathing in fresh air, colder than his room, but warmer than the winter, slightly smelling of moss and a hint of sweet nectar.
Danny felt himself on his knees, and when he opened his eyes, he could see her. It was Marta, facing him, her body, face, and hair were identical as before, but now she was draped in a long, flowing gown of gossamer lavender, a thin screen of white underneath hugging her body. When had he let her go?
“What happened?” In disbelief, he beheld the world behind her, the world around them both, realizing it was the painting, though not exactly. Instead of mountains, clouds, stars, and sky represented by static acrylic, pigment, and chroma, everything was alive, with height, depth, all the dimensions he knew and a few he could only guess at.
Marta held our her right hand. “Stand up. There’s a lot to explain, but we’ll have to cover all that as we walk.”
He put her hand in his, feeling the same warmth, and pushed with his legs against verdant loam covering the ground beneath him. Then he was facing her, only a dim, unfocused light revealing features etched in a new nobility she didn’t display as a student.
“Something terrible has happened to my world and I was summoned back. I needed help, both to make the transition, and to complete the quest.” Her eyes were the exact shade of brown as her hair, and reflecting the light of the stars, still seemed to shine by a light of their own.
Like electricity, he felt something like shock and awe as he looked around the universe he had painted. She called it inspiration. It was really the paint and something inside him she called the gift.
“Did you hear me? We have to go.” Her voice was stern and she took his hand again, this time to lead him toward a path. “The dragons have been gone too long, and if we cannot aid in the war to return them to this world, the imbalance will reach a tipping point and there’ll be no going back.”
Danny let himself be led by her, walking at a brisk pace toward what could be the base of a tall, dark peak. “Going back?”
“I know this is a lot to absorb, but after the demons murdered most of the dragon clans and exiled the few survivors, their influence, maintaining the balance of the universe, started to shift. Over the centuries it has gotten worse. I thought the dragons would have returned by now, won the battle in valor and blood, in time to prevent this, but something went wrong. If we can’t take possession of the Nexus stone long enough to summon them, everything everywhere will irreparably fall to chaos and ruin, including your world and mine.”
She stopped and turned back to face him, putting her hands on his shoulders. “Please help me, Danny. You’re all I’ve got left. I’m only one exiled witch of Direhaven, and I can’t do this alone. Our only hope are the latent gifts of a lost descendant of Pandallia Kings. Yes, Danny, that’s you.”
Yes, I’m back. I’m pretty much at the end of the month-long creative writing class I’ve been taking online, and between that, my day job, and my personal life, I haven’t had much time to devote to this blog. It’s also really slowed down my rate of submitting short stories to available publications, and I’m looking forward to applying what I learned during November to editing my existing stories and crafting new ones.
This particular story (hopefully) is the beneficiary of some of the new skills and techniques I learned, and the goal is to make both the characters and situation seem more real, and inspire the reader to want to keep going to find out what happens next.
I’m good at beginning stories, but now I need to improve my follow through.
Believe it or not, this story actually can be applied to my Davidson children novel, although from a very different direction, and could be part of the second or third novel (if I ever get that far).
It’s been fun.