When Soul returned to the dorm, he drew, for the first time, a portrait. It wasn’t very realistic. It was a profile. Soul hadn’t meant to draw it. It was a picture of Scott, it was a picture of Scott sitting in the window Soul had been sitting in. After he finished it Soul looked at it for a long time. He thought of the project we were supposed to be doing. If what Scott said was the truth, Soul had to start working on a series of flowers. Soul didn’t think he could do something like what he had drawn in class today and get anything near a passing grade. That left him two choices. Either not follow the assignment and do a series of something not related, or figure out a way to turn daisies into something more my style. Soul smiled to himself, and began to draw.
Somehow seeing Scott was cleansing. Soul still didn’t like him. He felt vaguely dirty that Scott was drawing him, but it was nice that Scott needed him to do his project. It gave Soul power. If Soul really wanted to he could simply never sit still enough for Scott to draw him. Then he would fail the project and Soul would be ahead. Soul didn’t know when he had made a competition, but he felt like that was the only way to deal with someone like Scott. And now, by any rules Soul was winning.
Soul brushed his hair out of his eyes, it was getting a bit long now, and began to draw. He started out a bit ambitiously. He had a two by three piece of watercolor paper laid out on the floor and was sketching furiously when Jon came back. Jon had been out rehearsing and was quite surprised when he found Soul working. He tried to hide it, but his bright eyebrows were threatening his hairline when he carefully stepped over Soul's sketch to his bed.
Soul hadn’t been drawing much, but now the block seemed to have disappeared. It seemed all the frustration and Scott's appearance, and the new found competition was just what Soul needed for inspiration. He drew furiously. He had charcoal all the way up his arm and some on his face, and if his hair wasn't so dark, it would be in his hair. He incorporated flowers into the theme of the forest, it wasn’t anything like the original picture he had drawn years before, or even like the picture he had drawn on his first day at the art institute. It was a wholly new picture. The flowers were recognizable as daisies, but there was something wrong about them. When Jon looked at them he couldn’t help but shiver. He didn’t know what it was about Soul's pictures but they made his heart itch. He didn’t like to look at the for long.
The daisies were growing up a trellis made of something that Soul wouldn’t recognize until later as human bones, the petals of the flowers at the top of the trellis faded into the background that Soul was carefully shading. He made the sky into intricate braids. It looked like the sky was a photograph of someones hair.
By the time Soul was ready to be done drawing for the day, the light was definitely gone from the room. The floor he drew on was lit by his Ikea reading light. Jon had tried to go to sleep hours ago, but couldn’t knowing that picture was there. He didn’t think he could sleep without knowing what it looked like completely, but he knew once he knew what it was he wouldn’t be able to close his eyes without imagining it. He climbed down from his loft when Soul finally sat back from the paper and sat next to him on the ground.
“So what's the inspiration for this one.” He spoke quietly. Even though he knew the building was filled with other freshmen not unlike them, the quiet and the lighting made it seem like they were the only people in the world.
“I don’t know.” Soul looked down at what he drew with new eyes. He didn’t know where anything he drew came from. He never really thought about it too hard. He didn’t really want to know that much about himself. “I never really think about it, and I don’t really look back at what I draw once it's done.”
Jon nodded. I found the more time he spent around Soul the more time he spent thinking about what he said. Especially after he spent time in the theatre. He loved his new friends. But in class and in rehearsal he was finding there was more to playing a character than grand gestures and memorizing lines. There was more to being a person. He wanted to know more about everyone.
“Are the petals fingernails?” Jon gasped. First forests made of hands, now flowers of fingernails. He couldn’t believe the detail Soul had put into his sketch, a few of the petals had chips in the nail polish, lines form impact, a few looked like they might have hangnails. Soul looked again at the picture. He felt numb. Now that he was finished he felt disconnected from the image. He didn’t want to think about it, or look at it. He reconsidered doing a whole series based on this image. It didn’t draw him like the forest.
“I suppose they are. I didn’t think of that.” Soul leaned forward and quickly rolled the picture not bothering with fixative.
“Won't that smear?” Jon asked. Soul shrugged. He put a rubber band around the tube and threw it into a corner.
“It's past three, we should probably go to bed.” He then crawled into his bed and turned his back on Jon, who was still looking at the rolled up picture in the corner. It was over an hour before Jon could get the image of fingernails as petals to fade enough to fall asleep. And even then he dreamt of a world made of hands, hands that were always grasping, pinching and plucking. When his alarm went off in the morning Jon was relieved. In the daylight the dreams of the night retreated and he felt he could face his roommate without questioning how he could have come up with such an image.
Jon had always been a morning person, but he jumped out of bed and carefully checked that the roll of paper was still where it was supposed to be before getting dressed and fetching coffee for himself and Soul.
Soul almost woke when he heard Jon's alarm go off, but he had gotten used to it in the past few weeks. He had gotten used to his bubbly almost friend nudging him awake with coffee in hand. The next week passed in a haze. Soul went to class, or hung out with Jon, or went to some club meeting that sounded interesting during the day. Then he came home and finished any homework that needed to be done, then he began to draw. He drew, almost in a trance until the daylight was gone and the only light was from the book light. Jon had learned to ignore the pictures after the second night. The theme of flowers and hands had remained. Though each picture featured them differently. Each picture had a nightmarish theme, and Soul had no idea where the inspiration for each one came from. The pile of rolled up tubes in the corner grew until Tuesday morning when it was time for class.
Monday when Soul finished his writing class he found Scott waiting outside the door for him.
“I have tried to give you space, but I really need to do my project.” Scott smiled, blindingly as usual. But this time Soul smiled back. Comfortable with the upper hand he shrugged and pushed past.
“Sorry, I’m really busy, I have to finish my essay.” Soul didn’t even turn to address Scott, he figured it was his turn to be mean. His turn to be the one with all the power. It was something that he had never really had. Even with Michelle and David, his best friends, he had always been outvoted. With that thought Soul paused. He hadn’t thought of Michelle and David in over a week. And from what he could tell they hadn't thought of him either.
“Can't I draw you while you write, I didn’t bother you before did I?” Scott's voice was right behind Soul. Soul sighed. He didn’t think he would have much success getting rid of Scott, and he had planned on working outside, and he had finished his essay except for editing. There was no reason he shouldn’t let Scott draw him. Other than the fact he was a douche.
“How do I know you aren’t doing this to make fun of me?” Soul was remembering the first time he had seen Scott, the remarks he had made so easily, things that would have made that poor girl cry. Scott said things without thinking, destroyed people for amusement, if what Jon said could be trusted.
Scott looked stunned.
“Why would I do this as a joke. It's a pretty big project. I wouldn’t ruin that for a stupid joke.” Soul ran his hand through his hair. He thought about it. He would sit for one sketch. Then he would finish in the dorm. That was fair enough.
When Scott flipped the page in his sketchbook Soul stood.
“Wait!” Scott sounded panicked.
“What?” Soul tried not to smile. He really liked this feeling of power. Scott was slow, Soul had been sitting for nearly three hours. “That should have been long enough. I’m not some professional model, and you aren’t paying me. You should have asked if you wanted me to sit still for that long. You should have taken some pictures if you need a still to draw from.” Soul couldn’t keep the smile from his face. He gathered his laptop and notes and headed inside. He couldn’t wait until class tomorrow. It would be quite interesting.
Jon was relieved when he came into the dorm to find Soul watching videos on his laptop.
“Done with the nightmare pictures?” The words slipped out before Jon thought. He didn’t think Soul would be a good person to be in an argument with. Luckily Soul didn’t take it badly, he was still flying high from his perceived upper hand in his competition with Scott.
“Yup all done. I hope that Professor White likes them. They are more like my portfolio. They definitely aren’t worse than what I drew in class.” Soul laughed. It wasn’t like what Jon remembered Soul's laugh being like before. It seemed more like something like the pictures. Something devoid of light and color. Jon shivered.
“So, did you know that Scott draws?” Soul asked suddenly. He sat up. The lights were off in the dorm, even the reading light. The blue glow on Soul's skin was disconcerting. It made his emphasized the darkness of his eyes and hair. Jon had to swallow twice before he could speak.
“I knew he liked to, but I didn’t know he was any good. Is he in one of your classes?” Soul smiled again. Jon curled under his covers. He really didn’t like this new side of Soul.
“He decided to draw me as his project. But he takes forever to draw. I think he has only two drawings. We need at least five.”
“Why do you hate him? He is kind of a jerk, but I don’t think he means it.” Jon sat up in bed. Even without the pictures he didn’t think he would be getting much sleep.
“He is terrible!” Soul's eyes flashed in the blue glow of the computer screen. “He made me look stupid, he thinks peoples faults, even those that aren’t their fault, are funny. He drew me without asking. He isn’t just a jerk.” Soul closed his computer, and the sudden darkness was worse than the blue glow. Jon wasn’t afraid of the dark. But this dark, the confined space, and the silence were certainly discomforting.
“Soul?” There was no answer.
Any feedback is very welcome! Happy Easter!