Chapter the seventh: On the Nature of Evil, or Lack Thereof
Trent was his strange dream incarnation again, and this time it felt more natural. He felt less panicked, and fought his own actions less. This time, the tavern had given way to a country road of dirt. He was treading alongside the man that could be his brother, or father, or doppelganger. The artist.
“If I may know,” said Trent, “What is your name exactly?”
The artist staggered, partially due to being drunk, and partially due to being surprised. “You don’t know yet? Strange what parts of the rumors make their way to people‘s ears.”
“My friend had scarcely told me of your presence before I came over.”
“Very well, my young protégé. But you must deny it strictly if someone asks you…”
The artist wrapped his arm around Trent’s neck, leaned in, and whispered his name. “But... you may call me by my first name. No one can seem to remember that one. So please, call me Michelangelo.”
“Very well,” replied Trent. “That shall be my name from now on as well.”
“You’re a laugh… pardon me lad, my rental of that cheap wine is up…”
Trent stood politely to the side and averted his eyes as the artist did what all humans do against the wall. “Will you teach me your trade?” Trent asked.
Michelangelo did not reply for a while. A taxi drove past, and suddenly Trent was disconcerted with the anachronism; this place was simply too old, isolated, and or primitive for such a thing. He had almost forgotten this was a dream.
Michelangelo was tightening up his belt. “Do you have talent?”
“Uh, I don’t honestly know…”
“Perhaps it’s best you be merely a model then. You need talent to be an artist.”
“I could learn!” Trent turned to face the older man.
“Hmmm… to learn to paint like me… would take two, maybe three lifetimes. But you are free to try, as long as you make your own supplies. I won’t teach you though. You’ll have to learn by observation. Imitation. That’s appropriate, eh? You are my double after all.”
Michelangelo turned and started walking again. “Where are we going?” asked Trent.
“I’ve secured a place at the edge of the villa. It will suffice for my needs for now. But I don’t intend to stay here! As soon as I get a pardon from the pope, I will wipe the dust of this place from my feet. We’re better than them, you know.”
“Artists are better than the banal masses that infest the world. We are the real humans. We know what life is truly about. Stick with me boy, and I will teach how to be a true human. Take that man for instance. Pathetic.” Michelangelo pointed to a passed-out vagrant in an alley they were passing.
Trent forced his dream self to stop as Michelangelo walked and ranted on heedless of his young acolytes pause. That bum, Trent thought, something not right about him… Slowly Trent realized that this bum was an anachronism just as the taxi had been. The clothes were modern, and something about the guy’s face seemed familiar. It was obstructed by wild hair and at an angle that made it hard to see clearly…
Suddenly Trent’s dream self took control again, and he was forced to catch up with Michelangelo, who was rambling on about being an angel on earth.
Sheri blinked her way to consciousness, which took surprising effort. Rarely had she felt so tired after sleeping. She realized she was in someone else’s bed. Of coarse, you dolt, she thought to herself. After all, she had gone back to Tall dark and handsome’s house. She sat up and looked about herself. It was a four post bed, with flowing sheets like out of a fairytale. Bright light beamed through a latticed window and gave everything a celestial illumination. Definitely like a fairytale… but where were her clothes? Did she sleep with tall dark and handsome? She didn’t have any recollection of something like that, but, come to think of it, she couldn’t remember anything beyond the point when, shortly after they’d agreed to her modeling, he had embraced her. Kissed her. Work his way down her neck… After that, just… darkness. All consuming. All encompassing. And oddly enough, very addictive.
But where was her Romeo? “Michelangelo?” She called out. The door to the room was open, but she heard no reply. After some time, you got up and found a very fancy set of dresses in the room’s armoire. She slipped one on and prayed that she would not encounter any hard breezes today, or at least would have an opportunity to find her underwear somewhere.
Afterwards, Sheri ventured out into the spacious foyer. In the workspace, now well lit by daylight, she found Michelangelo standing in front of the painting from last night, a pensive look on his face. It appeared he had changed clothes, and he now sported a dark suit and a long roquelair. “Oh, there you are!”
“Um, my clothes…”
He looked up from the composition. “I had them incinerated. I’d prefer you only wear what I give you from this point forward.” This said, he turned his attention back to the painting.
“I… what designer is this? Is this who I think it is?”
“Of course. Only the best for you, my dear.”
“Okay, but… no underwear--”
“No need for them.”
“That’s crazy. You can’t just--”
“Tell me something.” He turned towards her, gazed into her fiercely, making her lap up those piercing eyes. “You are an artist are you not?”
“Uh, yeah, did I tell you about that? I don’t recall saying--”
“I felt in your soul when I drank you essence last night.” Heedless of her confusion at this statement he continued. “I could help you. Let you exceed yourself as well as your craft. What I’m offering you is the possibility to become more than human. I‘ve been contemplating taking another protégé on for some time now. One with talent. I have seen your works, Sheri Rehnquist, and I am impressed. This is rare. Combined with you looks, it makes you one in a billion. So, what would you say to becoming one in seven billion?”
Sheri cocked her head to the side. “You’re odd. No… that’s not it…” she considered, one finger to her chin, and then her face brightened. “You’re eccentric. You’re some kind of genius, aren’t you?”
“I am more than a mere genius. As the days go by, you may be able to glimpse what I am. What I am… becoming.” He extended a hand. “Do not be afraid. Let me enlighten you.”
Sheri felt her eyes directed by some unknown force to the canvass. It had changed since she had seen it last. “Is… that me?”
“Yes. I could not resist. You were so radiant last night.”
“I look beautiful.”
“Join me, my dear. I will make you beautiful forever.”
He extended his hand. With an impulsiveness that would madden her if she thought too much about it later (and so she would not), she took his hand. “Very well, Michelangelo, take me. Mold me as you see fit.”
“Excellent. Let us hope you last longer than the last girl.” Before she could inquire about this “last girl,” he started to pull her towards the lift. “There are some things I am curious about, and business I have to attend to. Let us go at once. Many would think someone in my position has all the time in the world. But that is not true. Often I have learned to regret not acting when it was fortuitous. Let that be lesson one. Everything changes, and you have to adapt or risk becoming a garish anachronism.”
The lift arrived, and they entered. Then he said, “Well, not everything changes. People for instance, always the same. Governments, religions, philosophies come and go, but humans remain as stupid as ever. As I stated, I will help you to overcome that.”
Shari could not contain the next question to escape her lips, weird as it seemed to ask, “What are you, Michelangelo?”
He smiled that seductive smile of his and leaned close. “Don’t you know?” She slowly shook her head, never breaking contact with his entrancing eyes. Then he leaned close to her ear and whispered, “I am an angel.”
As they walked out of the down-stairs gallery and onto the street, Sheri reflected that she had met her fair share of handsome men that turned out to be crazy in the past. Many were the numbers of men that seemed normal at the onset of a relationship who somehow hid their severe neuroses for weeks or months. This statement of divinity had come before she had known the guy even twenty-four hours. This statement was also the single-most crazy thing she had ever heard. And yet, how could she deny it? Was he not the most intriguing man she had ever met in her life? Was he not immaculate to behold? Was he not perfect?
“I find,” remarked Michelangelo, “that there are two kinds of people in the world. Those that are able to grasp what I tell them; that open their hearts to me and would give anything for me. Then there are those that disappoint me with their logic, and selfishness. Which kind are you?”
“I would die for you.” She said without hesitation.
“Good. I can see that this will be an amicable relationship.” He paused then, and stopped moving. His gaze was fixed upon something in the alley to their right.
“What is it?” Sheri looked in the alley. There, she noticed a bum, curled up and sleeping. “Darling? What troubles you?”
For a long time he did not move. Then at last he spoke, “I’m sorry, my dear. Oddly, I feel like I have seen that vagrant before. But then, I’ve seen a lot of people, too many to remember.” He started to walk again. “It’s a marvelous day, is it not? See, men like that one cannot fully grasp beauty. Men living as mere humans do. Stay with me my dear, and I shall show you such wonders. My, but I’m getting the oddest sensations of déjà vu lately…