Sunday October 22nd 2017

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Angels & demons

Aldo, I was thinking of painting that dog for Mrs. Oshea, one of those with large mouth and sharp teeth. Wait, I was just thinking:  we both know how to paint a dog, right? I mean the bones, posture, the outlook…

Yes, of course, teeth, a fluffy tail, four legs and a slobbering tongue, right?

It ‘exactly what I mean.  A demon on the other hand, nobody knows how it is done, so … So what? So…I can paint it as I have imagined it, nobody knows what the real thing is.

The two artists left the orange buses at the bus station early in the morning, and took a road to get straight to the museum for their trip schedule.

They took a direct flight from London Heathrow. That morning was broken only by a sheepish sunshine and the warmth of the asphalt was crackling the hard and matured rubber soles that John was used to carry with himself for travelling.

Come here, said the clerk of the museum, while closing the door glass behind him, you are just the first, now. John, I am a bit preoccupied, said Aldo drumming nervously with his hands over his portable sunshade, are we all alone here? He was holding that thing as a dog on a leash, as usual, given the unpredictable weather of the sky of London.

That’s it, its two tickets for you, gentlemen, are you ready for the trip?

Which trip? John said, somewhat surprised. We came here for those rare paintings by Canova.

Yes, of course, follow me, this is the entrance.

We walked along one side of a corridor with a polished checkerboard floor, coloured in alabaster and pumice. So many chess, I thought. I’m losing my sight, looks like a work of Escher.

Finally the door. Was a mahogany door, black. As the sun from the windows of the hall warms it, I could hear the ‘bitter smell of the hard wood. The attendant left us alone closing the door behind him. He made a terrible noise, a dull silence. We could hear his feet crackling on his way back to the main gate we came in.

Proceeding along that small corridor, this time in the shadow. On the one hand Theseus and the Minotaur, Love and Psyche.  On the opposite side, a copy of Hercules and Lica and two sketched busts, perhaps a courageous first test of the young artist in Venice.

The air was thinner and thinner, interrupted only by the ticking of a grandfather clock that stood on the front door, behind us, 9.33 am. I looked up toward the wall in front of us, where the corridor seemed to have an end. But anywhere I looked, there was no exit door. On that wall, a black cloth, edged or white flowers and green leaves at the top. And a large crack that centrally travelled down the entire wall. For a moment I thought it was a joke, then maybe the florid imagination of some Italian designer. Then I thought about an antechamber of a secret room, like what I saw in Sabbioneta few months earlier. That crack in the wall was so mysterious. I stuck a finger, than my whole hand. Behind that crack, suddenly a cold shiver through my entire back, as if the wall was catching my arm that froze instantly, in total darkness.

I approached pulling my left eye, than my right ear, just about to hear a strange crackling sound, like a torch. No light was passing through that wall. When Aldo also laid his hand, the wall swung open and we were suddenly trapped on the other side. After we recovered from the crash and the fear, we were terrified again by that of a crackling fire without light, which now surrounded us. No other noise. Aldo got up with a sore arm and tripped again on a step ahead of him. With this fall the little umbrella he was carrying was shattered. We looked for it to right and to the left, crawling downs the floor, but we couldn’t find it. Only fragments and bits of dust on the floor. It seemed as if it were exploded. We ventured up the stairs, in the same pitch. I was slipping straight below the tip of the sandals, using them as a prop on the base of each step, to see if there was ever an end. I counted more than thirty, in the direction of that crackling, going off at every step, when we both decided to stop and take each other hands. Aldo’s firm handshake was so strong he was blocking the blood in my frozen veins. The fear was unbearable. I’m afraid, he said, his voice breaking, but I feel that someone is upon us. A step further and finally my leg found a trembling breath. Still, it’s all dark. With one hand forward, blindly, then I touched a wall of a smooth marble and warm as alabaster. While my eyes become accustomed to the darkness, I saw that smoky gray shape approaching. And driven by fear, I took Aldo’s arm, still sore. This way, he said. All of the sudden Aldo was no longer there, with me, I felt his arm stiff and cold, and I let go. I heard that crackling noise running away. He took Aldo with him behind that wall. A step back and I tumbled down the stairs. One step forward, just darkness. The decision was quick, and I let myself fall backwards. At that very moment the Gray Shadow grabbed my left arm, and brought with him the wedding ring I had, and the faith with it. That little platinum circle lipped away from me as I watched the Shadow fade behind the wall. It was too late to turn back, and the head follows the body tumbling down the steps.

When I woke up one tooth was beside me, close to the floor. I soon realized that Aldo was gone, and when I managed to open my eyes even though blinded by the pale sunlight slanting through the windows, I looked to my left hand. My wedding ring was vanished. So the groove on my finger. I turned belly-up, dazed and shivering by trauma. I took slowly a handkerchief from my pants pocket for cleaning the blood on my face. Aldo has been kidnapped by a demon, I thought by impulse. Getting up, standing with my eyes upward, toward the ceiling, a fresco by an unknown artist, Aldo would have said definitely ‘600 opera. It was a white dog that slipped right under the table of a young Venetian gentleman. He was wearing gorgeous clothes and a mask of Harlequin, brandishing a glass of wine and a chicken leg still smoking in his hands. And then I realized…

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