I’ve been working on this painting for Fifteen years. Fifteen years of my life dedicated to getting it exactly right.
It’s to be the altar painting of the largest of our temples. The crowning glory of my career as a religious artist.
So it has to be right. Perfect.
Nothing short of that will do.
Yet every time I think I’m finished… Every time I have it perfect, exactly as it ought… Every time… There is always a schism occurs just then.
Something changes in the faith, in the teachings. And that change requires changes in the painting.
Always. Without fail.
So now I’m feeling hesitant.
The very next stroke of the brush will finish this work. It will be perfect.
And I don’t want to put it there. In case…
But that’s ridiculous.
I am being ridiculous. I know.
Me perfecting this painting is not what causes the religious strife.
It’s all coincidental. I know it is.
I am not controlling the thoughts and visions of thousands upon thousands of people with the completion of my work.
And most certainly not without them ever having seen it!
That would be impossible.
Yet I still hesitate. With brush in hand. With paint upon the brush. My hand lifted and pointed at the spot where the color should go. Poised. At the ready.
Pull back my hand.
Walk away from the painting.
Stand. And contemplate the thing. For hours without end.
It is impossible, I know.
For three weeks, all I do is prepare to paint that final stroke. And then I put it off. Delay.
On the morning of the first day of the fourth week, I finally get so angry with myself for being stupid, I go ahead and paint that damned thing! That tiny line that makes it all so perfect!
The beauty of the completed work makes me weep. Transported.
I stand before the painting. Transfixed.
And then I hear it.
The rumble of the wheels.
The slamming of the doors.
The hurried steps.
My tears of rapture turn to despair before they’ve even stepped inside the studio.
They stop at the doorway. Staring. Uncertain what to think of my uncontrolled display of emotion.
They wait a long time until I have calmed down. Still do not speak at once. Their turn to hesitate.
“Yes? What is it?” I finally ask. “Tell me!” I bark.
“Saint Alamaiika,” they blurt out. “Deposed of sainthood. Only this morning.”
I laugh, and laugh, and laugh.
“They are only the second most central figure in my work!” I laugh, and laugh, and laugh and laugh, and laugh.
They leave at some point. I do not notice when.
“Ah, yes,” I say out loud when my laughter has died. “Some changes will be made. All symbols of Alamaiikan thought must be removed. There’s one, two, three, four… So many! And the Saint themself!” I giggle, and threaten to laugh again. “Excuse me. Former Saint,” I apologize to no one in the room at all. “That affects the composition of absolutely everything once again. And I will start all over.”
This time… I will not finish my work.