The Gray Sludge

Each paint stroke is death.

One more moment, lost to the abyss, never to be seen again.

Miniscule fragments claw themselves forward, trying to outrun their inevitable fate: the gray sludge.

Our painter, immortal, with infinite patience and skill, slops on another layer. Capable of creating any form, with unlimited time and paint, weeps after every stroke.

Between the borders of the 24” x 36” canvas, our artist is omnipotent. Another blade of grass – sure, why not. A winding river, emptying into a lake, with an old dock in the distance. A snow tipped mountain range.

Beautiful and perfect.

But our artist cannot stop.

A cabin… a raspberry bush… a tilted fence. A trail, a meadow, a few rocks on the shore.

No no no… a bear, in fantastic detail, each hair painted with machine precision. The sun beaming off its fur as it hunts for fish in the river.


A man, naked, with a bow.

Just stop!

Mud. Another meadow – sure, why not. Cover it up. The bear, gone. The man, gone.

But our artist, compelled to create, cannot drop the brush. The images flow freely onto the canvas, unconstrained.

A city near an oasis. Each buiding meticulously crafted – cubicles filled with miniture pictures of families; plumbing, electricity, heating, cooling; steel beams, arranged to be structurally sound, with every rivet and joint.

The artist, without a moment of hesitation, covers every subtle detail; completely erasing the building contents with the broad strokes of the blue-gray exterior.

This process, repeated hundreds of times on the canvas, until a sprawling metropolis emerges.

A stunning creation, with unparalleled attention to detial. Beautiful and perfect.

A flicker of inspiration…


The muse must be satisfied.

A van, filled with explosives.


Sand. Another desert – sure, why not. Cover it up, cover it up.

The cubicles, the windows, the reflections of vehicles on the road, gone.

It won’t stop here though… it can’t. The grand vision must be perpetually expressed.

A perfect circle, centered exactly, with a black backdrop. Yes, that’s it, here we go.

A burning white center, fading in intensity, becoming yellow and orange towards the edges. A thin blue layer on the circumference. Broad blue strokes now, filling the circle, covering the layers.

Green. Land. Moving around. Each chunk, copied and moved, one hair-thickness at a time.

The artist, with infinite percision, draws every detail. Each fabric in the canvas a universe to itself. The 24” x 36” dimensions, at first feeling limited, have expanded inwardly, allowing a new level of planning and accuracy. When viewed at arms length, the canvas looks more like a window to another world.

Water, light, clouds, dirt. The muse strikes… small little organisms, so small only the artist can appreciate the creation, are etched into the atoms of the canvas.

Fish, now the size of a few atoms across, designed and drawn perfectly. Gills, scales, blood, sperm, eggs… nothing glossed over, no shortcuts taken.

Forests, rocks, mushrooms… insects, reptiles, mice… Life, death, species thriving, then never to be seen again…

Bears, apes, humans, buffalo… Yes, the bear dies, but the human lives.

Farming, towns, government, business… every detail, designed and placed by the artist, inside the fibers of the canvas.

Cities, skyscrappers, monuments, and a Great Wall. Each suffering minor deaths, but the artist’s vision must be manifested. Yes, some buildings are destroyed, and creations lost, but the collective lives.

A missle.


The muse never sleeps.

More missles, with trailing smoke, circling the creation.


Blackness. Every atom, every quark – sure, why not. Paint it black, paint it black.

The water, the fish, the bears… the humans, the towns, the skysrappers… gone.

Every plan, every design, every structure, every system… gone. Covered in blackness, mixed into the gray sludge, beneath the surface.

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posted 20 Dec 2014 by Sean
tags: short story

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