On one particularly dark and frozen morning, I began to write about a Magic Painting that was a doorway, a portal. Anyone who looked into the Painting was miraculously transported to another world. And everyone returned from the world of the Painting miraculously healed of all wounds: physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual.
But before I could finish writing the story of the Painting, I was summonsed to my duties, which were many, unvarying, heavy and onerous. Much later, two hours after the sun had died in the arms of day, my body aching and bruised from strenuous labour, I crawled onto my thin and threadbare mattress in the corner of the dark and tiny stall assigned me by my keepers.
There, I opened my notebook and carefully turned from page to page to find the unfinished story of the Magic Painting that was a doorway to another world. But it was nowhere to be found, not in that notebook nor anywhere else. Nor were there any pages missing or torn from the notebook. In vain I scrabbled in the filthy straw, searched every inch of the tiny stall. The shock and disappointment spurred me to immediate, drastic action. I gathered my few poor belongings together and quietly crept away from that place where I had laboured thirteen years in pain and sorrow.
There were no guards or watchmen, no towers or fences, no dogs baying for my blood: none were needed, for escape was believed to be impossible. The household of my master was surrounded by miles of stinking marshland infested with deadly reptiles, venomous arachnids and other creatures of which the fear ran deep among the servants and overseers alike. Beyond the marshland was a dry and dusty plain, uninhabited but for roaming packs of wild dogs in constant starving search for the giant sand-rats on which they sustained themselves.
And yet, I succeeded in my escape. Death walked close beside me all the way, but the unfinished story of the Magic Painting burned within my broken mind, spurred me to superhuman efforts, enabled me to endure.
The privations of the marshland and the plains were but the start of a long and arduous search for the unfinished story of the Painting. For more than forty years I scoured the world, sometimes hopeful, more times despairing. I was certain I had begun writing the story in the battered old notebook during my long hard years of servitude. But it was just possible, I would tell myself, that I was mistaken. Perhaps there had been another notebook. Perhaps I’d intended to write the story down but never did. Perhaps one of the other servants had told me the story of the story of the Painting, and in my confusion I had mistakenly come to believe myself to be the author of that unfinished tale.
Unmindful of my health or safety I wandered from town to town, from library to bookstore, from great academies of learning to the desolate garrets of scholars driven mad by their investigations into dark, forbidden lore. All in the ultimately vain hope that a notebook with the unfinished story of the Magic Painting would somehow one day reveal itself to me, again.
My forlorn quest broke my body, mind and soul. The harder I looked, the more obsessed I became. The angrier I got, the sadder I got, the sicker I got, the more misery I burdened my sorry self with every passing day. The harder I looked.
Even now, at the end of my days, still I yearn to complete the story, to make it real, to write the ending of that fantastic tale. But the words are gone. All that remains is a fragment, a shadow, a shred of a memory, a shard, a slice, a chad if you will. And when my long-postponed rendezvous with death takes place, which I anticipate will be shortly, the knowledge of the Painting that heals all wounds will be lost forever, and so too will the story of the Painting, and also this: the story of the story of the Magic Painting.