This is my first attempt at Flash Fiction. It’s based on one of Chuck Wendig’s flash fiction challenges. In this challenge the title of the piece was picked for you using a random number generator and two columns with 20 words in each column.
My job was to make the story fit the random title. I randomly got Cerulean Rider … and here’s my story.
(Note: I didn’t even know what Cerulean meant … I had to Google it!)
1877. Gare Saint-Lazare, Paris.
Awash in steam, steel, and sweat, there were people everywhere, rushing from platform to platform. One Traveller stood still watching the trains, noticing everything. And no matter how rushed or boisterous other travelers became, none of it phased him.
His mind stayed on mission. And nothing would distract him from his day’s purpose. A single goal, undeterred.
Any other traveller would have lost focus a long time ago. There was too much going on in the terminal.
But not this Traveller. He’d been in this situation before, and his purpose was set.
Handsomely dressed, with a pleasant smile and positive air, it was easy to see he was different. Bright colors accented a meticulously tailored suit. And with a proper hat and cane, one could assume he was man of means.
And even if you couldn’t put your finger on what was different about him, it was obvious the Traveller was like no other. Turning his gaze from the arriving and departing trains, he walked toward the man with an easel, stopping slightly behind him and to the left.
“Bonjour” said the Painter.
“A picture of the station?”
“Yes. My impression of it anyway.”
“I see.” said the Traveller. “Why so dark? There’s a beautiful sky today. The sun is absolutely radiant.”
“Yes, but from here it’s hard to see. The sky and sun are at the other end of the platform where the trains enter and leave the station.”
“Ah … so the light is too far away.”
The Painter was polite. He wasn’t accustomed to talking about his work before it was complete. Especially today.
“I don’t mean to be too forward, but may I ask you a personal question? It’s related to your painting?”
Highly unusual thought the Painter. But not wanting to be rude, and hoping a short answer would send the Traveller on his way, the Painter reluctantly agreed.
I have spent my life honing a specific skill, making it my ambition to notice things most people miss. The dark tone of your painting has nothing to do with the fact the sun and sky are too far down the platform. There is a much bigger reason. Am I right?
Unsure if he should be offended or if he should break down in tears, the Painter didn’t move. This stranger. This Traveller. In his well-heeled attire and a confident air, who was he to burst into the Painter’s head and heart with a pointed question.
Seconds turned to eternity as the Painter tried to speak but couldn’t. He wanted to scream out loud. But the fear of security taking him away gave him pause.
Eternity turned to seconds as the Painter finally found his words.
“That’s an interesting observation. And a question not to be answered lightly. If you must know the truth. This is still a work in progress.”
“Indeed. Take your time. I am in no hurry.”
“In no hurry?”
“That’s right. I’m in no hurry, I am here because of you.”
“Because of me?”
“I don’t even know you. How could you be here because of me?”
“Today, you are my purpose. May I …?” The traveller motioned toward the painting as he spoke, inviting himself closer to the Painter and his work. “I travel all over this city from Montmarte to Montparnasse and from Pigalle to the Champs-Élysées, with one purpose, to find people like you.”
“Like me? A painter?”
“Yes. But not every painter. Only painters who are in need of a new perspective. A new view on something they’ve seen a thousand times.”
“You mean those in need of inspiration?”
“No. Painters like you already have inspiration. But when life happens, inspiration can dim. It fades. It loses its color. And I can tell that something has happened to you that has made your color fade.”
“Am I right?” The Traveller asked the question again. And it hung in the air with an unbearable weight.
The Painter’s eyes welled with tears as he fought them with everything he had. Today was a dark day. In fact, it had been a dark week and a dark month. But only now did the Painter see how the darkness had leaked all over his canvas.
Turning to the Traveller, a tear in the corner of his eye, he groaned. “My benefactor has gone bankrupt, and left the country in shame. All of the art he commissioned has been auctioned off to pay his debts. I have not only lost a dear friend, but all the children I created. My art was family. My impressions, my emotions, my experience. And now they’ve been sold to the highest bidder. Yes, you are right. Life happens and inspiration fades. My colors are gone. They’ve been consumed by a darkness I cannot shake.”
“That’s precisely why I am here.” The Traveller said with a wide, warm smile. “I am here to help the darkness fade.”
“How do you propose to do this?”
The Traveller lifted his leather case with one hand, and lay it flat across his other arm. It was an expensive case, well used, with nicks, cuts, and smudges everywhere. Even the gold trim on the edge didn’t stand a chance from the years of use.
Slowly, he opened the top of the case . And to the Painter’s surprise it was filled with vials of color pigment and countless tubes of paint.
The Painter couldn’t help but smile—a salesman. My heart and head have been touched by nothing more than a paint salesman, he thought. He wanted to be angry. He wanted to be offended. But the question the Traveller had asked was too insightful … and his timing to perfect to ignore.
The Traveller knew exactly which color the Painter needed, and within in seconds he was handing it to him.
“This is what you need … Cerulean Blue.”
“Cerulean … Blue?”
“Yes, it comes from the latin word ‘caelum’ meaning ‘heaven sky.’ This is what you need. You need a touch of heaven once again. Your life is real, and the darkness is real. But as you paint with heaven’s light, the darkness will fade and the colors will come alive.”
The Painter was stunned as he thought again … a salesman. I’m being counseled by a salesman.
He took the paint and spread a small portion on his palette. The blue glistened, even under the dull light of the station. Dabbing his brush in the blue, the Painter looked up as the sun burst through the other end of the station. Instantly, the Painter saw the blue sky. And it was the same color as the blue on his palette.
A smile on his face, he turned to the Traveller. But the Traveller was gone.
The Painter looked at his palette. And seeing the brilliant blue, the darkness vanished as he smiled with new eyes and a full heart.