‘I don’t think it’s the right colour.’
Elroy sighed, shook his head and glared at me, ‘You always have to interfere, don’t you? And you always disagree,’ he said. ‘No matter what I do you find fault. There are occasions when I think you must spend all your time in contemplation of the flaws you can find in my ideas.’
‘That’s all in your imagination,’ I said. ‘I only wish to help.’ I pointed to show where I meant. ‘Look at it, somehow that bit doesn’t match the rest.’
‘And yet, I am the artist.’
He turned back to his work and we both remained silent for a while.
There was no doubt that he was clever. For a long time I had watched, almost mesmerised, as he carefully moulded orbs and then, with almost impossibly light touch, sketched shades of various colours on them. He was imaginative and artistic; his creations so far had all been wondrous, even the ones he hated. However, no matter how he felt about my input, I felt sure I had to make the point - the new colour was all wrong.
I took a deep breath and said, ‘It looks out of place. The rest of it flows. The colours blend, with occasional bursts of brightness but that is simply too much; too big.
‘It’s contrast,’ he snapped.
It was his appearance that had attracted me when we first met. He was handsome, almost beautiful, and tall with long, thick hair and a body that rippled with muscle. Then there was his laugh; a huge booming guffaw that resounded and compelled all around him join in. Our attraction had been mutual and very quickly we became a pair. I cannot deny it, his power, not only the power of his looks but also that of his personality, made me feel good. I knew I was envied and wallowed in the appreciative glances, envious sneers and snide comments.
He showed potential, everyone said so. We all agreed that his talent would make him remembered for a long, long time, and I loved to be part of that. He and I agreed that many of the elders seemed tired and old to us as we shared our dreams. We planned the changes we would make, if only they would let us. I say us but it was by no means an equal partnership; I was always the follower, he always the leader. This is no complaint. It was fair; he was the talented one, I the one he loved.
The elders were strict, ‘Our rules are for your own sake,’ they would say. ‘You will thank us in the end, when you have full authority. Only then will you realise the import of regulation.’ Even they acknowledged that he would one day have that dominance. ‘Your time will come,’ was often repeated when Elroy challenged their restrictions.
Power is a strange subject. The strength of his presence gave him some influence and authority but, when it really counted, it frightened the others, even the elders. He could get angry, almost violent with rage, and would then throw whatever was in reach around, shout and scare us all. The air around us would become oppressive and make breath difficult. At times his rage would be icy; our shivers a reaction to both the temperature and the fear.
However, most of the time, he was gentle and his handsome face shone bright with ideas, plans and creations. Everyone - because of his talent to see with fresh eyes and his ability to create tangible pieces of art to demonstrate his ideas - accepted his moods.
Now, those elders were all gone. Their time was past and Elroy had supreme power, with my help I like to think.
‘This is the best one yet,’ I whispered. ‘I don’t want you to spoil it by making it garish.’
‘Garish? Garish? What do you know?’ His voice was fierce, his eyes blazed with fury. ‘I am the artist you’re only an…’ He shook his head and I raised an eyebrow.
‘Yes? Go on, complete what you were about to say. I am only an...?’
‘It doesn’t matter,’ he said. ‘Stop interfering in that of which you are ignorant.’
‘No,’ I said. ‘I insist. Tell me. What am I?’ I should have known better but we carried on like that for a few minutes. I could see the rise of his anger, could feel the cool air become warm as his face began to redden. I knew I should stop but I could not. It started with a tremor, then all became dark and the air became thick until I struggled to breathe. I knew I had provoked him too much, especially when he roared, ‘An appendage. That’s all you are. Know your place.’
I walked away. Hurt and angry, tears sprang to my eyes and I knew it would be best to leave. For both of us. I appreciated that later he would become calm and regret his words and loss of temper, much as I rued my dogged insistence that he complete his sentence. Of course, he would never really apologise but he would regain his calm and all would be well.
Yes, there was fear in my heart but not about his words, he had said worse, as had I in the past. No, my fear was for the work he had done so far. It was wonderful, a real work of art, a creation so brilliant, with so many ideas yet to come. I was afraid he would do what he often did when we argued, take it out on his art and toss it away, destroy all his hard work, and regret it afterwards.
I stood and watched as the orbs he had so carefully shaped and discarded in the past hung where he had lobbed them with little care, apart from a few, of where they stopped. Once he had pitched them into the void there was no way of retraction, they remained there, suspended and silent.
Later, I stood beside him and watched him work for a while. He made no sign that he was aware of my presence and so I remained silent. The smells from the materials he used wafted, almost tangibly around us. There was a salty, fresh tang, mingled with an earthy, fertile odour and I inhaled deeply, the scents calmed me.
‘Please don’t throw this one away,’ I said.
‘No. As you said earlier, this is the best one.’
‘I liked the light brown one too,’ I said. He shrugged and replied, ‘My brown period was a little dull I thought. The little gray one was a bit lacklustre too. The one that mixed yellow and brown was better. It was good though, to practise, try out different shades and sizes.’
His apology had come, in the form of normal conversation, and so I continued, ‘I loved the dark blue one, and the one after that, with the mixture of rich blues and greens.’
Elroy took a pace back, his face thoughtful as he admired his latest creation.
‘My favourite, until this, was the large red and white one. Majestic I think.’
‘Yes, your red period,’ I said. ‘The next one; the fiery red and orange let everyone know how angry you were at that time.’
‘I was an angry young cub. Full of ideas that the elders balked at. What did they know?’
I swear, for a moment it felt as if he would stamp his foot as he recalled the past difficulties he had encountered, and so I tried to soothe him, ‘The past had good in it too.’
He looked at me and I held my breath, unsure whether he was angry again or agreed with my words. Then he looked back at his work.
‘This one has elements of them all,’ he said, his voice husky with pride.
‘It is beautiful,’ I said.
‘And complete. For the first time, I think I have it right. The colours are how I imagined, the textures perfectly right.’ He smiled, his pride unhidden and I felt tenderness for him, the one I loved.
‘So, what now?’ I asked. ‘What will you do with it?’
‘Send it out with the rest, the ones I favoured but knew lacked vibrancy. This one will have more. Give it time but I shall start it slowly, let it evolve into an entity that can never be bettered.’
‘And how will we spend time? Do we need to find a new interest now you have achieved perfection?’ I asked.
‘We will watch and be proud. Me for my creation and you for being my muse. The model I shall use to inhabit this place.’
I was lost for words at first, but then smiled and said, ‘I thought I was only an appendage.’ A smile lingered at his lips and he replied, ‘No, you were always my muse.’
‘Thank you,’ I said. ‘I am honoured.’
‘We will have work to do with it, many of its inhabitants will need guidance to become flawless; it will take a long, long time.’
He took his handiwork and hurled it into the open, to join the others, the ones that he loved but that had not been quite right. There was precision in his aim; unlike the manner in which he had littered the skies with the millions of his creations that had disappointed him.
‘I’ll leave it close to that old moon,’ he said. His latest orb settled and then started to spin.
‘Perfect,’ he said with a grin. I returned the smile and decided I would say no more. He would never know that I still believed it to be the wrong colour.