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Spadina Literary Review  —  edition 23 page 15

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“Why do you tell me about this? Why have you chosen to contact me?”

“You have dreamt of becoming an artist, haven’t you?”

“Yes, that’s true. I tried to draw in my childhood and later, but I failed. What I drew was ridiculed by people. They said my drawings were like a chicken scratch. I was very upset. I even cried. But I could not draw any better than that. Yes, I dreamt of becoming an artist, but I did not have a gift for it! To be an artist, you need a gift, an inborn gift. Am I right?”

“You are right. However, you are going to have such a gift.”

“Me? How?”

“There are cases when the gift can be transferred to another person by the one who owns it and not only during his lifetime but even after his death. The one who possesses the gift can transfer his abilities to someone who is willing and ready to acquire them!”

“Really? Is this possible?”

“Yes, if there is desire. The main thing is a desire to accept this gift. That's why I got in touch with you. You have been dreaming of being an artist, even now despite all the failures in the past. And you also have a desire to accept my gift.”

“How are you going to transfer your gift?”

“You'll see. Tomorrow I won’t be alive any more. My head will be chopped off. But later, I will come into contact with you again.”

Saying that, my interlocutor seemed to smile at me kindly.

Another vision comes to me the next day. I see a Palace. I see a man brought to that Palace, a man with neither hands nor feet. He is completely blind. I recognize him. It's the Artist! Yes, it's him! A large crowd has gathered in front of the Palace. They are grumbling and shouting indignantly, but the authorities ignore them. I hear an imperious, iron-like voice from the rostrum in front of the Palace declaring that today there will be the public execution of the most dangerous criminal of the century. Then I see how the Artist is placed with his face down on some stump and an executioner chops off his head with an ax!

I'm shocked. I feel alarmed and restless. I cannot fall asleep at night. But then fatigue overcomes me at last, and I sleep.

In the morning, I wake up and feel fresh as if nothing had happened on the previous day. I feel an irresistible desire to paint! I buy some canvas in the shop, take it back home and start painting. I feel that something strange is going on. As I paint, I cannot understand who is doing the painting — is it me or somebody else? It is as if someone is moving my hand. I finish my picture quickly and easily. It turns out to be beautiful! A masterpiece! And it has taken me only one night! I peer at the picture and see familiar faces. The faces of people whose vices and atrocities are well known.

On the next public holiday I take my picture in my hands, bring it to the Palace and present it to public view.

The emotions of the crowd that has gathered near the Palace are beyond description. The crowd applauds, the crowd rejoices, the crowd roars.

“Our Artist has returned to us!” people shout. “His picture is immortal! Long live the Artist!”

These shouts are both joyful and angry at the same time. They demand vengeance. The people know that the Artist is dead because they saw him executed. They understand that I am not him, but they see that the picture is his. His picture still exists despite the fact that it has been destroyed so many times. The very thought that the Artist, perhaps, is still alive too, inspires the crowd. They want to believe in this idea. It gives the crowd special energy. The crowd sweeps past the fences and past the guards and charges toward the Palace. The masters are running away, scattering all over, or else trying to barricade themselves in the Palace, behind the fragile glass doors.