The Beauty in the Beast
The liquid amber rays of the afternoon sun bathed the small clearing, dancing lightly upon the surface of the ripples in the stream below and showered the fringes of the clouds above. A kaleidoscope of wildflowers swayed gently in response to the touch of the breeze’s beckoning. And behind, the sharp, stark faces of the mountains tore their way through the earth to try and touch the sky, the shock white of their tips branching rivulets downward to form an inverse crown marking their majesty.
A lone figure sat at the top of the hill looking out over the symphony of nature at play below, sketchbook on his knee and easel before him. He let rest the tip of his paintbrush to his lip, closed his eyes and slowly inhaled the scent of life and allowed it to fill his soul. Slowly, his eyes opened and his gaze returned just as the figure moved from behind the shadows of the crop of trees.
He watched as the figure moved over to the stream, let slip the cloak from about its shoulders and as the light fell upon the figure, he drew in his breath. The misshapen figure sat down on a boulder by the side of the stream, sunlight catching upon the small shocks of sparse hair upon its head, almost translucent with lack of color. Its body deformed and twisted in such an unnatural way that it evinced pain to just look upon. He could not imagine what it must feel like to be trapped in such a body.
Its gaze turned upward to a hawk crying out in joy as it played in the waves of the air currents, soaring gracefully among them and swooping down to survey the ground for movements proclaiming dinner. The light caught the side of its face and the artist got his first full look at the creature’s face. Creature, because he did not know how else to refer to it, so far removed from human countenance that he had ever seen. The head and skull misshapen, the skin scarred and marred by lesions and disease. The horror at the monstrosity before him was almost too much to bear, he who worshipped beauty, embraced it and drank it like ambrosia. And ill though it made him to look upon the monster before him, he could not take his eyes from it.
Dusk began to slowly settle in and the painting that was the sunset began to draw its brush across the sky in a swirling movement of colors and bath the clouds in their haunting iridescent glow. As the sun began to slip from view, the shadows began their descent upon the land, looming ever downward and casting a half light through the branches and whispering the first summons to the conjuring of the night. The brilliant orb of the full moon kissed the earth in her ascent, her swollen form overflowing and radiating soft light, bathing all it touched in its blue-gray shimmers.
The monster rose and raised its arms out toward the rising beacon, stretching out its fingers as if to touch the glowing orb. And the darkness that was night closed further in, filling in the light voids and spreading darkness like a storm sweeping the land. As the last of the golden rays vanished and the silver glow of night was all that was left, the creatures of the night began to awaken and emerge. As is the case, the ones that crawled were the first to come forth, ravenous and devouring in their very existence. Then began the calls and songs of the night as the creatures of the air and land awakened as well to prepare to begin the night hunt.
And still the monster stood, arms outstretched and bathed in moonlight. And still the artist watched, unable to tear his eyes from the scene.
Dark wings cut through the air before it as shadows swept across the ground below. Then it raised its head and opened its mouth in a song that rang out and pierced the blanket of the night. A song of such beauty, he thought his heart would burst from its touch and he would melt within the flow of its waves and his mind was swept to another place that was both no place and all. When the moment passed and he looked again, its clothing had been shed and discarded and it was taking gentle steps to the center of the clearing. When it reached it, it began to spin slowly, lowly and then began to dance.
He still could not tell whether the creature was male or female as he watched its lithe movements in the soft glow of the moon. Movements which grew in energy and intensity till they became a dervish swirl that held him mesmerized and feeling faint. The deformities lost in the swirling movements, the ugliness transformed to grace and beauty in the undulations of the movement. He watched with the creatures of the night as they danced with it and worshipped with it till the moon crossed beyond the place of light and he feel asleep on the ground before it.
When he awoke, the sun was bringing the first taste of day to the sky and the creature was picking up its cloak from the boulder. Just before it entered back into the forest, it looked up at him and their eyes met, then it melted into the trees and was gone.
No one understood the painting in the gallery or what might have inspired such a thing. It was unlike anything to ever emerge from his hand. The elegance of the scene so vivid, you could feel the textures of the land, smell the scents in the air. So stunning was the sheer beauty of it, so intoxicating, it took your breath away. And at the edge of the woods where the trees met the land, a creature. A creature so vile, so damnable in appearance that it pierced one’s heart with its horror, and yet so riveting, you could not tear your eyes from it. No explanation was ever given as to its inspiration, or what was meant by it no matter how many times he was asked. All that was given it was a name; The Beauty in the Beast.
copyright August 28, 2009