Short Fiction

The Cleric – A short story from college

It was a November evening, darkness overtook the sun in a battle lost ever earlier as the weeks passed. Cold air crept after Terence Julien, biting at his heels moving the young man to walk more briskly, as he pressed onwards toward the cleric’s house. The issue at hand was of utmost importance, an earnest enquiry that demanded immediate attention. An artistic dilemma which had been growing in his psyche for months, years maybe… This in turn had begun to tear apart his entire livelihood. Julien had upset the painters guild, who in turn had informed the philosophers and they, of course, had intervened and contacted the local religious authority.

In the year of our lord, saviour, and ultimate church of ultra-gospel creed, 2109, he experienced what his peers described as a “full mental collapse”, but which Julien himself regarded as the turning point. He painted a “nude” figure. Provided that the painting was realistic, and genitalia was masked with cloth, this was relatively acceptable. The human form was seen as god’s greatest achievement, his masterpiece which the human race could learn from by attempting weakly to mimic it on paper. It was the particular positioning of the model which drew offense. The guild had deemed it pornography, and when Julien suggested that the bible was filled with the profane, without logical or allegorical explanation, he was sternly warned that his actions were not appreciated.

Henceforth Julien had very publicly broken taboo after taboo, each of which had been firmly in place for as long as anyone alive could remember, certainly since the incident. Wave after wave, building up in him like a crescendo. He screamed to anyone who could hear that the skies above were not the home of god, but the resting place of empty space. Needless to say his opinions were hostile, and much of his work was soon banned. However he had not yet been refused the right to continue to practice. A slap on the wrist is all the authorities had intended for him, until he finally went too far.

The dank and mouldy walls of the rooms in the cleric’s house had for some time been sinking into a state of disrepair. Since the incident not much headway had been made on any affair that involved the aesthetic. Taking pride in ones home was considered heinously sinful, and the more disheveled a person’s home, the greater their esteem among peers and neighbours. In truth however since the incident, very little by way of home supplies could be obtained, and what could be salvaged from the warehouses had long since been used. This was the world Julien had been born into, though he knew as everyone knew, that it had not always been this way.

The cleric was an old, white haired and rosy cheeked man. He had a generally kindly exterior, which masked an enquiring nature, but his advice was sought by all, as it was seen as sage and sound.
“Father,” Julien paused and regarded the old man, “I need you to show me the way forward.” He reached for the wooden tube he had crafted from ash to hold his portfolio and unfurled his latest work on the Cleric’s old oak table. The scene he had crafted from oils portrayed an old man looking into a mirror, the reflected image showed the image of his younger self. Julien had called the work “reflection” and it was his first imaginative work, and this was the root of his current predicament. It was considered a mortal sin to paint the imaginary.

“My boy,” The cleric was nearly whispering now, “by painting the imaginary, you illustrate your personal, sinful worldview and your own twisted thoughts. You equate our lord God and saviour Jesus Holy Christ, whose image you are privileged to paint for us, with the inner workings of your mind. But he is beyond your mind! You may paint his earth, the gifts of his bounty he has delivered to us through his brilliance and sympathy for our plight, but no more.”

Julien waited and when the Cleric remained silent, he gingerly spoke, his throat tight with worry, hoarse and wavering with fear. “I painted from my mind, from my perspective, is my perspective not by proxy gods perspective? Are we not his children?”

“You paint from your own perspective,” The cleric’s tone was harsh now, “but your worldview is nothing, it only leads to individuality, which we all know leads in turn to hate for your common man. There is only the correct perspective, do you not see? This is the only perspective you need to portray in your paintings, all else will lead to bitterness” He rubbed his fingers against his nose, they were bony, skeletal, and sharp looking, “I want to tell you about the last painters who did what you are doing now. It was long ago, before the incident, and the world had changed for the worst. Evil was everywhere, and the evil was rooted in a land that also gave birth to our own church. One man had the audacity to sign his name on his paintings! His name was Giotto Di Bondone, and he would inspire Leonardo, a madman whose plotting would bring about the incident and the end of God’s love for the world. A family who called themselves ‘De Medici’, they commissioned painters like you, and they commissioned Leonardos evil works”, he shook his head, “That menace called himself Da Vinci, and he called himself an ‘artist’. A blamed con artist he was. His inventions were used to bring terror to the world. The designs he drew forward from his mind, the ideas, they brought about the horror you and I live through every day.”

The names meant nothing to young Mr. Julien. The past was not part of his future, and his future hungered for change. Anger swelled up in his heart, and he lashed out, driving his masterpiece across the room with one strong lash. The fire inside was still present, as his eyes settled on the old man in front of him. He had never known such an intense emotion. This was hate, unbridled and new.

”Emotions fall in resonance,” Terence Julien gasped for breath, “the world was never destroyed by paintings, only dogma and hate. Art never made men hate each other, I won’t ever believe you! I can’t!” He raised himself, fists clenched, anger and adrenaline coursing through his veins. In a blur of violence, red and black, he was gone, out the door away from the cleric’s house. Running now, hoping beyond hope that his memories were lying to him, hoping the man on the floor of the cleric’s house was not dead.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s