TODAY’S BREW: Fancy double chocolate stuff I ground myself. Not really, Tim did it.
All geniuses have a hint, or more than a hint of madness. And some of them have it bred into them. Enjoy.
by Julie Hutchings
There is no greater death than the inability to create.
The prodigy twitched. It was the only movement the boy had made in an hour, sitting on the floor. Sweat stuck to his naked legs and back, though the room was cold in its must and darkness.
It offered him nothing to make his mind work, nothing to make his heart full, and nothing to make his soul cry for creation. All he had was himself.
Paper was scattered about the dark wood floor, gleaming and Moby Dick death white. Blank. Towering shelves of loved books loomed over him in neat rows. Powerful words that took him apart bit by bit. Reminders of what ignited him, what drove him to utter decay.
Noises from the kitchen made him cringe, and brought him back. He stretched his fingers, the pen falling from their seeming rigor mortis. He had to get to work.
A half- naked human fly, he flitted through the mess of paper, scavenging for something to work with. His hand shook on the crumpled sheet, trying, always trying. He dropped the pen several times, eliciting a sob from inside. The boy had a job to do, a genius to nourish, even as his body withered and crumbled.
He couldn’t remember the last time he ate. He couldn’t remember if Mother had offered it, if he had refused. His weary mind faintly recalled being told starvation and anguish created hallucinations. And genius. She pushed him to find inspiration other than her.
Edgar shuddered, willing himself to fight the urge to put down his writing and find a shirt. The cold made him feel, made him desire. Comfort only makes an artist weak, his mother said. Edgar had an obligation, with the gift for words he had, to become as formidable an artist as possible. He was a genius, she said, his head a hornet’s nest of ideas, and she would not allow him to fail. She would help him learn to create.
He put the pen to paper, making every effort to feel the hard chill of the floor, the stagnant air of this room that was built when nothing was warm or happy. The stomach acid boiled inside him, a belly that long since stopped growling. He was weak, and so tired.
The real you comes out in your exhaustion, his mother told him
So he created.
He wrote, for hours on end but with no concept of that time. The sky grew darker, but there were no windows. He wrote on loose pages, fluttering around him haphazardly, torn butterfly wings, until his hands were too cramped to move.
And then he read. He pulled down volume after volume of classics and pop fiction, biographies and romances, absorbing all he could from random pages, watching every move those words made to draw him closer. These masters that could create and be known.
Could they possibly have tried as he did?
Self- pity disgusted him. This suffering was a means to an end. There was no room for envy, only learning. This was another step toward unleashing his own genius. His mother knew it was in there.
Edgar read until he fell into a painful, cold sweat sleep. He did not make it to the comfortless bed, only closed his eyes on the floor, amidst piles of torturously adored books. His dreams were fevered and haunted him with language he could never hope to emulate. Flies buzzed around his body, waiting.
He woke from the clatterings in the kitchen again, or still. He shuddered to life, slick with filth and wild with imaginings of things he could never be.
Dry eyes stung, fingernails dug into the floorboards, only partially the cause of his agony. It showed him without doubt that he suffered in sleep, as well. He couldn’t know what time it was, but had a vision of kids his age outside, just leaving school. Like he had done once. When that sort of thing mattered. Nothing mattered now but emerging from this cocoon his life had become.
His mother would make sure of it.
Wiping drool from his chin, sweat from his forehead that accompanied a fever he was unaware of, Edgar sat up with the creaking bones of an old man, grunting, reaching for the trails of paper that he knew were leading nowhere.
He had dreamed of the greats, of the geniuses trapped until released on paper. He was too weak to be one. He was not one of them. It knuckled his consciousness, tore his heart into pieces, what was left of it. He was a human insect preying on their words, and he could never be satisfied.
No fifteen year old had ever felt the depth of his disappointment, the rage of his fear. A swollen brain full of shortcomings. He could never know how singular he was.
He had slept when he should be writing.
Emaciated spider limbs barely carried him to the paper all over the floor, amidst books that tortured him for the very admiration he possessed. Bile spattered his hand as he retched with dehydration. He tried to write, he tried to write, but his blurry eyes could not focus on anything but the heaps of books, his mind flitting with fly wings to his own inability.
He read and read, but could never get close enough to their power. Their words bled with feeling he no longer knew. He needed to absorb their ink, feel it inside. The only way to know the pain of the greats and emulate it properly. Weary eyes looked at his pen with new light.
With more energy than he should rightfully possess, Edgar stabbed his bony thigh with the pen, thin blood spurting in a stream toward the flies that always surrounded him. Edgar did not make a noise.
Not good enough.
He stabbed a second time, the skin ragged on either side, and dragged the pen upwards, lengthening the wound by a few inches. He pushed his bony finger inside, but felt nothing besides tendons, muscle, nothing that felt. So he stabbed again in the other thigh, this time his blood soaked hand slipping, the cut not deep enough to do much but bleed onto the white paper under it, barely feeling at all. He was not in the kind of pain that inspired great words.
Edgar looked about the room for a better tool, head swimming.
Climbing to his feet, falling once, he made it to the antique desk, the same color wood as the floor, the same wood grain as the endless bookshelves, no other color but the garnet blood that flowed from him to activate his mind.
Mother said color was born in the brain.
He fell to the floor by the desk, hitting his head on the leg of the chair he had aimed for. More bile spilled from his dry lips. His burning throat pained him more than the wounds in his legs.
Edgar slowly pierced the flesh of his thigh again, needling the point of the scissors in. He pulled them out again and opened them, putting the thin flesh between the blades like cutting paper. With poor precision, his bloody hand cut until the blades touched, weak skin in between making bloody pools. He cried now, not from the agony, but from the lack of feeling it provided. No flickers of life in his mind to put to paper.
He cut more, first one arm, then the other, with the wrong hand, making a mess of sinewy muscle. The flies feasted on him, and he felt nothing. The words of the novels around him mocked him from their pages, his own words laughing at him from the floor. With a bite of fury, he grabbed his favorite copy of Moby Dick, loving it and how it hated him, and ripped the pages out in a rush.
He devoured books, and they devoured him. He needed to be closer.
With trembling fingers caked in blood, he slowly pulled back the ragged skin of his thigh, and shoved the page in. Close. Close.
Scarlet pages of The Invisible Man followed. The Poe. Until each wound festered with blossoming pages from his skin, and he began to cut again. So close to them now. So close.
Footsteps. The smell of food that turned his stomach with its unfamiliarity.
His mother was coming.
Resting his head on the side of the desk, he watched and waited for the door to open. He became aware of the puddle of blood he sat in. Or was it piss?
More cold air entered the room with her. All in gray, towering, austere, brimming with nothingness. She held a plate in her hands, the steam shrouding the determination in her gaze. But it could not veil the surprise when she dropped it on the floor, crashing in a china spiderweb.
“Edgar.” Bone crunching voice. Her power was undeniable. More than his written words, in that one word she spoke.
Calmly, with measured steps she crossed the room to him, fragile broken things smashing under her heels, unnoticed. She gazed down expressionless at her boy. She did not bend to cradle him, did not cry or scream at the torture he was surviving, inside and out. She noticed the books, destroyed all around him. She smiled.
“We must first destroy to create,” she told him.
Edgar closed his eyes. His mother took a glass of stagnant water from the desk and put it to his lips, making him splutter and cough.
“Thank you, Mother.” The words scissored at his throat.
She ran a hand lovingly over his death red leg, fingers tickling the pages that burst from his wounds. She ran her hand through his matted hair, flicking away a fly. Geniuses suffered.
“I won’t take your pain away,” she said into his ear.
The tarantula of darkness closed in as she shut the door behind her.