Chapter 2

Silvia & the Starry Night

Chapter 2

Silvia stumbled backwards, rapidly assessing her new surroundings. She gaped at the crooked, pale violet walls of the room and slowly spun around. There was a small table, two wooden chairs, and a simple wooden bed, covered with a maroon bedspread. Two blue-grey doors were situated on opposite sides of the room. A dark green window was centered on the far wall, through which she could see the faint beginnings of a sunrise behind the mountains on the horizon. A faint feeling of familiarity with this room started to stir in her but rapidly dissipated when she looked down and became distracted by her own attire.

She marveled at her braided hair, shocked and amused by the rosy pink color. A fitted tweed waistcoat was buttoned tightly over a white blouse, with the shirtsleeves cuffed just above the elbow. A dark brown leather ammunition belt draped over her chest, while an intricately patterned utility belt with several pouches hung low on her waist. On closer inspection of her bandolier, she found that the loops carried not bullets, but small tubes of paint- all the colors of the rainbow, as well as black and white. Her olive green pants were thick but supple, feeling similar to her fencing knickers, and she sported a pair of buckled brown boots that rose to her knees. On opening each of her pockets and pouches, she discovered a variety of paintbrushes, a small wooden palette, several empty glass vials, and a single, right-handed leather glove.

Dumbfounded, Silvia looked around the room once more, trying to decide how to proceed. There was not much else within the cabin other than a water jug on the table and a few paintings on the walls. Peering through the window once more, she spotted several homes with lights on. Maybe I can find someone to help me, she thought hopefully. One of the doors did not appear to have a doorknob, so she headed towards the other one. After a moment’s hesitation and a deep breath, she exited the small room and headed outside.

A brisk early morning chill greeted her. The bright crescent moon and shining stars lit the street in front of her. Further up the street she saw a church, while a towering cypress tree stood in the distance, creating an ominous backdrop for the town. A sense of unease washed over her. The sun had barely begun rising and its rays were mostly still lost within the deep blues of the night. Looking up, she watched the faint sunbeams mix with the dark sky, creating swirls of color. Swirls of cobalt and ultramarine. She gasped. “No! This isn’t possible! No!” She yelled aloud. Feeling her panic rising, she looked around frantically for some clue, some sign, that she hadn’t actually been transported inside her own painting.

Out of the corner of her eye she saw a shadow move in a nearby alley. Fear met her panic, and froze her muscles right on the spot. The sound of footsteps reached her ears before her eyes could decipher what was coming. Suddenly, a large dog began charging at her. She held her breath and braced for an attack, but the dog instead ran a circle around her, and then excitedly began sniffing her. Gingerly petting the dog’s head, it began nuzzling her and licking her hand. Coming from the direction of the cypress tree, a howling roar rang out and echoed through the village. The dog whimpered at the noise, and then began trotting away from Silvia. After a few steps he turned back and looked at her impatiently with the expression of, “Hey! Follow me!” Thoroughly confused, but without any better plan, she followed her newfound companion up the street.

The dog ran straight into a home with an open front door. The perspective was utterly different as she was now looking at the home from the road, as opposed to painting it from above, but it was unmistakably the same building she had spotted earlier- the one with the smoke rising from the chimney. She yelled, “Hello” as she knocked on the open door but was greeted with only the pleasant crackle of a fireplace. She hastily entered and closed the door behind her as she once again heard the monstrous howling in the distance.

Silvia almost lost her balance as the dog began excitedly jumping at her, like a pet greeting its long lost owner. His black and brown fur was soft, and when he raised his head she noticed a diamond-shaped patch of white fur on his chest. A colorful collar hung from his neck, with the name ‘Argo’ written on his dog tag in familiar appearing, feminine script. “Whoa, whoa, chill out, Argo!” she laughed as she tried to scratch his ears. Argo immediately sat, continuing to wag his tail rapidly. He then lunged and grabbed one of the paintbrushes sticking out of a pouch on her belt, as if it were a stick. “Sorry pup, we can’t play fetch with my paintbrush.” She took the brush and placed it back into the holder. He made to grab it again but she blocked his attempt. Argo snorted and instead began nuzzling her. She thought he wanted to cuddle but she then realized he was actually nosing the paints on her bandolier. “You want me to paint?” she questioned aloud, half to Argo, half to herself. He licked her cheek and looked at her expectantly.

Examining her bandolier, she removed the tubes of black and white paint. “I must be crazy,” she muttered to herself, as she located her palette and began mixing up some grey paint. Silvia loaded her paintbrush as the howling once again rang out. “Well, it would be nice to have a weapon against whatever is out there,” she informed Argo, speaking to him as if he could actually understand her. Looking around for a canvas, she found an inviting sheet of blank paper on a nearby desk.

The first stroke was a simple, thick, straight grey line that was pointed at one end. On the other end she added a darker grey hilt, replete with a cross guard, sweeping side loop, slender grip, and pommel. As a final touch, she painted a fleur-de-lis onto the base of the blade and added her initials onto the pommel. She stared skeptically at the painted weapon, unsure what to do next.

While contemplating her next move, the sword began to shimmer, almost like a hologram. Her hand hesitantly reached for the painted sword. Instead of her fingers smudging into wet paint, they felt cold steel. “Oh no way,” she squealed delightedly. She wrapped her hand around the painted hilt and began lifting it from the paper, the weight of the sword increasing as it materialized in her hand. She admired the weapon for a moment, a cross between a rapier and a broadsword, temporarily forgetting all that was going on.

Now holding the sword, the canvas was once again blank. Silvia set about rolling it up so that she could take it with her. Underneath the canvas she discovered a sealed enveloped, inscribed with her name. She immediately recognized the flowing script from having received many prior letters from that sender. Quickly reexamining Argo’s collar, she realized that the same hand had written his name. The lettering unmistakably belonged to her long-dead Grammy Zita. She settled near Argo in front of the fireplace and carefully opened the envelope.

Silvia read the letter multiple times, straining her mind to comprehend all that her grandmother revealed. If what she wrote were true, defeating the monster in this painting would only be the beginning of a long and arduous journey. As the howling outside continued to roar, she pet Argo’s head and calmed her racing thoughts. Rereading the letter once again, she now focused on the most important part: Grammy Zita was still alive. “Argo, we have to find and rescue Grammy Z,” Silvia declared. Argo barked in agreement. The wheels in her head turned as she formulated a plan. She then stood up and donned the fencing glove that she’d found earlier in her utility bag. Gripping her sword tightly, Silvia threw open the front door and bravely headed out into the starry night.

End of Chapter 2

Chapter 1

Silvia & the Starry Night

Chapter 1

The heavy New Orleans rain falling against her office window only slightly muffled the dull, repetitive, clicking of her keyboard. As she finished preparing her class’s next lecture, Silvia perused the Post-Impressionism paintings one last time before saving the file and shutting down her computer. Glancing outside, she sighed at the rain and pulled on her raincoat before heading out of the old University building. She began walking towards her home but then abruptly turned around, as if remembering something. Rushing along the rain splashed sidewalks of Royal Street, she ducked into her favorite art supply shop, a small business tucked among all the old antique stores.

“Ah, hello Silvia,” greeted the old, white mustached man behind the cluttered counter. He was leaning over a small mortar and pestle, grinding up a brilliant blue paste. An antique jeweler’s loupe was clipped on over his thick eyeglasses, given him the appearance of a steampunk Einstein. “I believe I have what you’ve come for,” he added, in a mischievous voice. “Hi, Mr. Finlay. Let’s see what you’ve got for me.” Silvia replied. She brushed her red hair out of her green eyes, which widened as she admired the cobalt he was now carefully funneling into a small white tube.

“I’ve got a new supplier. He brought me cobalt powder from deep within the Chinese mines, and Indian Yellow from secretive Mirzapur, and oh, oh, oh! Wait til you see this one!” He reached into an ornate metal lockbox underneath his workbench and handed her a small glass vial. The striking blue powder inside, reminiscent of the ocean, was unmistakably the semi precious stone lapis lazuli. Silvia gaped at the powder, typically found in Afghanistan mines, and used to make the rare color ultramarine. “But who is he? Where did he come from?” she queried suspiciously while holding the possibly illicit Afghan powder. Pausing for a moment, he elusively answered, “Oh, don’t make me reveal my sources! I’ll supply the goods, and you keep making your paintings.” She glanced again at the pigments, too excited about the new colors to further worry about their origin.

Protecting her new purchases from the rain, she practically ran home to her shotgun apartment on Dauphine Street. She found her ornate key and entered through the blue-grey front door, using the original 19th century cast iron doorknob, embellished with a fleur-de-lis pattern. As she removed her raincoat she admired a painting of a young couple dancing, a present from her beloved late Grammy Zita. Her face momentarily revealed sadness at the thought of her grandmother, who had died unexpectedly while on vacation several years back. Shaking her head away from that thought, she refocused on her current task. Walking past her diplomas in Art History and Studio Art, past the paintings hanging on her walls, past her fencing gear, and past her overflowing bookshelves, she approached her workbench.

The area was scattered with various tubes and containers, all bursting with bright pigments. She carefully set down the glass vials of cobalt and lapis lazuli powder, as well as a tube of Indian Yellow. Propped up on her easel was a half-completed replica of Van Gogh’s painting, Starry Night. Taking out her brushes, she settled herself in to spend the evening painting. Using a tiny spatula, she spooned a small amount of the crushed lapis lazuli onto a hand mirror, creating a mound of pigment with a well in the middle. She carefully mixed linseed oil into the well, slowly combining the ingredients. The powder came to life, creating a mesmerizing ultramarine blue, so deep it was almost purple; unlike anything she could have possible found in a tube of mass-produced paint. There is nothing like using real pigments, thought Silvia, hypnotized by the color she created. A crash of thunder broke her spell and made her jump, rattling the windows of her home and making the lights shudder on and off for a moment. Calming herself, she turned her attention to her canvas and began applying swirling strokes around the stars in the sky.

The storm continued to rage but Silvia was entrenched in her work, wholly unaware of the outside world. While waiting for the first layer of ultramarine to dry, she took out the Indian Yellow. Silvia deftly applied the bright yellow onto the stars and into the windows of the homes that sat in the peaceful village under the shadow of a giant cypress tree. The addition of those two colors alone made the painting start to burst with life. The stars are practically twinkling now, she mused. Her absorption in her work became so complete that soon she no longer heard the storm or felt the passing of time. She even failed to notice the eyes peering in on her from the sodden street outside as she painted layers of depth into her canvas.

After several hours she sat back, stretching her aching back and rubbing her tired eyes as she inspected her progress. Another bolt of lightning lit up her home, and the subsequent thunderous boom made her lights flicker once again. A subtle glimmer on the painting caught her attention and made her do a double take. She eyed the painting suspiciously, mentally willing herself to believe that she had not just seen the lights in the painted houses spark on and off in time with her own lights. Nervously glancing around, Silvia did not spot anything else out of place. Another crack of lightning made her jump. “I’m imaging things, I really need to get to bed,” she stated aloud to her empty apartment.

Examining her painting one more time, she leaned in close to the windows, as if she could actually peer through the glass and into the houses. The windows were still, but she screamed and jumped back as she spotted smoke rising from one of the chimneys. Not a moment after this realization another crash of thunder roared, this time succeeding in knocking out the power in her house.

Panicking in the sudden darkness, she blindly turned towards her kitchen in search of a flashlight. Upon walking into a wall, she cursed herself for not knowing her house better. Out of frustration and habit, she ran her hands over her hair. Silvia paused in surprise when she found that instead of a messy bun, her hair had been arranged in twin braids. “What the hell…” but before she could finish her sentence, the lights came back on and the real shock hit her- she was no longer in her apartment.

End chapter 1