Prompt: A prequel story for Blurry the sketched fat cat (a character from our Minesweeper Fiction activities).
The cathedral was empty, except for Mildred, her canvas, and her paints. She wanted it to be a conversation of sorts, but the painting wasn’t talking. She sat in the darkness for over an hour staring at it, hoping to unravel some of its secrets. The work was a classic; she had to train at the nearby school for five years just to gain access to it.
It was titled: Answers Swimming on the Sill. It was a watercolor depicting an open windowsill on a bright spring day. There was a cloth draped half in and half out, covered in paint stains. There was a pewter jug on the left side filled with paintbrushes, presumably soaking in water. The artist was considered the queen of watercolor itself. They gave her her own school, but that was long ago. She had passed more than a century before Mildred ever picked up a pencil.
It was Mildred’s research that convinced her to arrange a session alone with the painting. She’d taken it into the cathedral, giving her reason as privacy. She couldn’t make a copy of it with the other nosy students about. The reason was not a fabrication, but the motive was. She needed privacy not to copy, not to study, but to delve.
Long had she studied the mixing of magic into paint and charcoal. It blended just as well as any color. Theories were abound about the watercolor queen and where she kept her secrets to perfect art. Mildred theorized it was in the paintings themselves. She never told anyone why the one before the student had the word ‘answers’ in its title.
Thematically it made no sense. Spring was not a time of contemplation, but of action. In addition, answers came out of brushes and hit canvases, they did not bleed out into the rinsing water. That would be the worst place to keep them. Mildred needed to get inside the painting, to be in its world, and to look down into that pewter jug and see the hidden answers. She could be a queen as well, of her own art form, perhaps something not even invented yet.
She needed an agent, a piece of her own inspiration brought to life, a mixing not currently sanctioned by her school or any of the others that refused to paint by candle and star. She wasn’t powerful or wise enough to delve into a work herself. Only art could interact with art, could bring her that jug and its answers.
Her plan at first was to paint the agent, but all the staring gave her a different idea. The watercolors were soft. Other paints would be forced to move slowly through them. She couldn’t risk a piece of herself invading the canvas and then inching across the sill, across years, like a slug. She’d be kicked out long before then if they knew she interfered with such a treasure.
Black pencil it was then. A sketch would be sufficiently sharp to cut through the brightness. She drew a lithe shape with tall ears and nimble paws. It had to be a cat; what was better at navigating the windowsill? She moved the sketch, after adding the final stripes, over to the watercolor and pressed their edges together.
Strange. She’d practiced animating her sketches many times and they were never stubborn. It took her a few moments to figure out the problem. The black pencil was already in contrast to the friendly theme of the piece. She imagined the answers in the jug contradicted it as well, but they were not visible on the final work. Her cat, her agent, would be, and he couldn’t even get in the door if he didn’t match.
The spring day was warm and lazy. She could tell the air was heavy by the shade of yellow used. Fine then. She picked up the pencil once more and added a swell of fat around the cat’s body in a few strokes. He looked far less intimidating now with his fluffy double chin and his eyes that could never be as big as his stomach. The alteration was effective though, as the sketch sprang to life and jumped to the watercolor windowsill.
Mildred nearly gasped at her success. The cat looked to her for instructions and she whispered for him to hurry. He needed to look in the jug and then return so he could tell her exactly what he saw. Unfortunately, with the extra weight had come extra fears. The cat looked nervously back and forth. Humans never wanted cats to knock things over. What was different now?
Already the queen of watercolors proved her power. The soft greens, blues, and yellows leaked into the cat’s form, making him blurry. Mildred’s nails ran down her cheeks; this was a disaster. If the cat was completely overtaken, absorbed by the fatigue and warmth of a spring noon, he would simply settle into a nap and become a permanent fixture.
“Go!” she screamed at the cat. “Get those secrets!” His black pupils widened and he obeyed, stepping gingerly across the sill. Mildred couldn’t hear it; she was out there in the world of wind and bugs that could eat art. Blurry, as he already thought of himself, as the soft green invaded his jowls and the fluff of his long tail, heard it outside the window and looked over.
Art had no boundaries, so there was another work in a different style just outside the sill. It was pointillism, with men and women made up of hundreds of colorful dots walking about on a similar spring day. Children played by a pond. One dog, blonde as the sun, barked at Blurry. The cat leaned over the edge to observe its wagging tail and lolling tongue of a hundred pink points.
“Go!” Mildred shouted again, the command echoing across the cathedral but barely penetrating the watercolor. Blurry’s irises filled with the color of salmon as his pupils dilated. That’s right. He couldn’t stay and play with the dog; his creator needed answers, answers in that jug. Blurry went to the jug and rose onto his back paws, but the queen’s defenses could not be bested so easily.
The brushes in the jug swung at him, swirling around the rim, threatening to knock him off and trap him in pointillism. Blurry meowed. He didn’t know what to do. Mildred yelled. Her face was red. He couldn’t handle the anger, and it was her fault after all; she hadn’t used any red on him. She could’ve painted in her own blood if she wanted something with more fortitude.
The dog barked again and Blurry leaned once more. Any face was better than the wrath on Mildred’s. Blurry was more acclimated to that work than he was a moment ago, and his sharp pupils discerned a few things about the dog. Her name was Polly. She was friendly. All she wanted was a companion, for there were no other animals in her work.
As with both art and animals, they spoke with their eyes. Blurry was thankful, they were friends already, but nothing had changed. The jug! The jug was his only way back to a world he could live in! He sensed his trespass and eventual erasure. Blurry batted at the base of the jug, hoping to topple it, but it was solid, as if glued down. The brushes flailed even more, sending droplets of infecting paint onto the last gray streaks of Blurry’s coat.
Polly could help. She had been painted in a jump, and always felt its force. She could use it now, for her new friend. Polly backed up for a running start. The sun was bright and relaxing, but it could mean something else if she wanted it enough. It could mean motivation, extra energy. The new interpretation of her art fueled her stride as she crossed the green dots of her home and leapt…
Polly’s body broke against the jug, scattering into a thousand blonde points. The jug tipped over, spilling an aurora of paint into the real world, all over Mildred’s shoes. Blurry tumbled out as well. Mildred shouted, flailed, dropped to her knees… Was she happy? Was she being drowned by the truths of art, those from inside the canvas?
Blurry didn’t know, but he knew she was not a good owner or creator. One day she would paint that anger and it would turn on older creations. The cat saw a golden dot, a tiny piece of Polly, roll across the stones towards him. He snatched it in his mouth and ran off.
There had to be a friendlier canvas somewhere, a place where he was allowed to sleep on the windowsill. His favorite point would keep him company until then. Blurry squeezed his charcoal form under the door.
Author’s Note: This flash fiction story was written based on a prompt provided by secksigeeki during a livestream. I hereby transfer all story rights to them, with the caveat that it remain posted on this blog. If you would like your own story, stop by twitch.tv/blainearcade during one of my streams and I’ll write it for you live!