This is the my first post in a roleplay I’m participating in. Whee!
Through London flows the sludgy brown river well known around the world as the Thames. It is lined on both banks with cobblestones and high walls, constantly decorated with layers of glittering trash. Empty cans, old canvas bags, shoes, you name it. More than enough pieces of evidence for a dozen crimes have been lost to the Thames’ depths, but no one would be willing to dredge its murky depths to find them. It is a disturbingly urban river, unsettlingly organic, completely unnatural, and infinitely old. On hot days it smells terrible. On cold days it shifts and crackles with ice.
Milla uses it for inspiration. She gazes into its depths on days where the world is hard, when lady luck turns her back on her children. She walks its banks and toes through the trash in search of treasure, she talks to the waves as they foam beneath bridges. She smiles at the beachcombers as they walk back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, patiently seeking their fortune in the discard of the city above.
The river sings of time, and honesty, and gurgles that the world is not how it should be. Milla understands it. It is her friend.
Today she does not visit it to have a silent conversation about their existence. Instead she leans against the stone high above it, squinting at its surface as the spring sun glints painfully from the tops of waves. She exhales a long plume of blue-grey smoke that is whisked from her lipstick-painted mouth like a secret, and then she purses her lips, her gaze hard and distant.
She fights with the memory. She fights hard. It can’t be true. She remembers…
… Milla is fresh out of highschool. It’s the hottest summer in her memory and she sweats in the studio, staring at the empty canvas with that hunger, that intense knkowledge of the image buried in the weave. She’s more than a little drunk and gods her thighs are still weak- quick glance through the door, yes, she’s still asleep, that sex goddess, but oh dear, can’t remember her name- but this painting needs to be painted. She dreamt of them again. White faces, black eyes, outsiders like her. Another swig of wine and she’s gone, lost to the paint, to turpentine and medium, to canvas and oils and colour and–
She wakes up. The girl in the bed is gone, no note on the nightstand. A pair of Milla’s favourite beaded earrings is missing from the mesh on her dressing table, but she doesn’t care. Whatever gets them, the mundane, her night-long fix, out of her house and away from her. What’s important is the painting. Wispy, otherworldy, dream like, there stand her little family. People like her. She couldn’t catch the details of their faces but she feels she knows them, each of them. She painted them standing together, emotionless, honest.
The painting pleases her at first, but the longer she looks at it, the more unsettled she feels. Some of them have a cruelty to their gaze. Others have a kind of disturbing innocence. Most have the mark of the lost and the damaged. All of them move very slightly in the canvas, not restless like her other paintings. Instead they just stand there and look at her, attentive, like vultures waiting for the prey to drop.
She covers it with a square of soft linen. It takes five bottles of wine and a trip to the hospital emergency room to clear her head.
Milla flicks the cigarette with her thumb and watches the ash roll along the stone, driven by the wind. Her hands shake. Her long, thin fingers are tinted blue with the cold that the springtime sun can’t quite cure, and they shake too. Her whole body shakes.
This morning she tugged the linen from the painting, having forgotten what lay beneath it. It had changed. Her paintings moved, they could be used, but they never changed. What she found before her was not a family image, as it had been, but a group of young adults. Some of them remained as sweet-looking as before. Some had changed only minutely, aging, changing posture, the cut of their blurry clothing sitting differently than before. A few had become outright menacing and frightened her terribly.
What upset her so badly was not that the painting had changed. What upset her was that one of them- one of the figures- had lost its colour. Its eyes were flat, its mouth slightly agape, its shoulders sagging. Rose madder had spread through its otherwise white robes.
It was dead. One of them was now a corpse. A corpse that stood as they did, that stared out from the canvas as they did, a corpse that did not fall and rot and be buried as it should.
She hadn’t even thrown the linen over the painting again. Milla had pulled on a coat, a pair of jeans and the first pair of boots she could find, and then she was gone, striding through the streets of London like hell trailed on her heels.
Running away hadn’t helped. She still felt sick to her stomach. Flicking her jet-coloured hair out of her face, she pulls out her cell phone with her spare hand and scrolls through names until she comes across Bambi, and presses the call button.
Three- Milla hangs up. She stares at the phone and something crosses her face- longing, fear, heartbreak- before angrily shoving it deep into her coat pocket again.
“Fuck.” She sighs.