Dali’s night before christmas (flash fic)

Twas the night before Christmas, and 7-year-old little Salvador was in his favourite place: deep in the psychic vastness of his unconscious mind. He swam through his dreams with prodigious ease, and his dreams were nothing like that of his young friends, whose tend to revolve around petty matters of toys and sibling squabbles and candy canes. Oh no – to compare little Salvador’s dreams with those of others his age was like comparing the collision of two ancient neutron stars with that of two glass marbles. His dreams were fuelled by such a combustion of imagination that he frequently woke up to find himself in a monochromatic world, an ashen world, a world through which he would stumble dazedly, searching for some portal which would take him back to the  cornucopia of his dreams, in which he could again soar freely.

In the heart of night, little Salvador woke suddenly, sitting upright in his bed like a cherubic Nosferatu, his eyes taking a moment to adjust to the pitch dark. There was nothing out of place, everything as expected. His school uniform still hung on the cupboard door, his father’s silver pocketwatch still lay on his bedside cabinet, his books on the artwork of DaVinci still splayed haphazardly across his desk. Dangling above the desk his cardboard solar system spun gently; the lunar rays casting planetary shadows which thrummed with a silent cosmic intensity. He rested his head back on his pillow and willed himself hungrily back to his other world, his surreality, and consciousness quickly dissolved like melting butter. But then, mere milliseconds before he tipped back  into the land of Freud, there came a gentle tap… tap… tap… at the window.

Little Salvador turned to face the window, where he could see the faint swaying outlines of the vines which clambered over the house. He reasoned that one of the tendrils must have been tapping his window as it wafted in the wind. He frowned impatiently, closed his eyes, and began to drift again… But seconds later… tap… tap… tap…  This time it was different; quicker, more urgent, less natural. His heart fluttered a little now, but little Salvador was not easily spooked, for the vibrant ferocity of his dreams was matched  by the horror of his nightmares. He untucked himself and crawled over to the window. The tapping had stopped, but he could still see the blurred shape of a thick vine, which moved with oddly jerky movements. He got hold of the corner of the curtain and pulled it open just a sliver…

“OH DIOS MIO!!!” he cried,

stumbling backwards and pulling the curtains off the rail. There, almost filling the entire frame of his window, was the face of a gigantic swan. Little Salvador crawled backwards over his bed frantically, falling face first onto the floor on the other side, the moon’s dazzling light tracking him like a prison spotlight. The great swan peered down at him curiously, as though observing a misshapen cygnet in an inexplicable fit of frenzy.

After a long minute, still breathing in rasps, he peeked over the top of his bed. The swan was no longer there. He stared at the window wide-eyed, until, when he became almost sure that the swan had gone, a slender hand appeared, reaching slowly from beneath the window ledge. It was normal-sized (which brought about some strange relief) and it was clearly a woman’s hand, but it seemed ghostly, unearthly: it radiated a faint golden glow, it seemed almost translucent.  Then, with no effort at all, the hand pushed on little Salvador’s locked window, and it swung open wide. He started, and before he even had a chance to react a flurry of snow swept into his room, coating his bed. Squinting into the blizzard, little Salvador saw the woman’s hand now beckoned him, the forefinger curling and uncurling, before disappearing below the sill.

Out of sheer wonder, or madness, he instinctively ran towards the open window to follow the woman. He looked out the window frantically, searching the shadows of his snow-covered garden below. There was no-one there. He leaned out the window further, trying to look beneath the jutting roof edge. Suddenly, he felt something grip his pajamas at the back, and like a lost pup in one quick motion he was hauled up and out of his window and dropped onto the back of the great swan who perched on his roof. Before he could even utter a yelp, the swan began hopping across the rooftops with its giant webbed feet, before spreading its wings like the almighty sails of the Argo and soaring off into the night sky. Soon the snow-caked rooftops of the sleeping city of Figueres were barely visible, so small they seemed almost Lilliputian, the street lamps nothing more than a swarm of distant fireflies.

As they flew higher and further away from all traces of humanity, the world he had known just moments before seemed a distant memory, and little Salvador realised that his initial state of panic had now completely subsided, lost in a crashing tide of wonder and awe. The real world with all its logical and coherent decrees, its linearities and geometries slowly began to melt away…

High above them, where the moon once lay, there was now a perfectly formed egg which floated horizontally. It had a slender crack running through its centre, from which there dribbled a thick molten yolk. Far below him there was a great checkerboard lake, the surface covered in thick ice which was checkered black and white. Here and there he saw soldiers scampering across the ice, slipping and sliding, as well as knights outfitted in icy armour, and horses which galloped with a speed and grace which eclipsed that of all the others he had ever seen. A few miles on they came upon a vast plain littered with windmills, only in place of their rotor blades were gigantic spinning butterflies; the dust from their luminescent wings billowed up as they spun wildly, sending a shimmering mist into the sky. There were groves of snow-capped trees shaped like craniums, and great crystallised monoliths alongside building-sized baguettes which were buried deep into the earth. There were mechanical statues with clockwork hearts; and strange giant rubber faces which hobbled around on wooden crutches; and ghostly nomads who were somehow only perceivable in his peripheral vision. Everywhere he looked there were new wonders to behold, but the swan drove on.

As they passed over the next alpine peak little Salvador was met with a sight which filled him with such wonder that he found tears streaming from his eyes. A formation of reindeer towered high above the snowy fields, lolloping on spindly, elongated legs. Their enormous antlers groped for the stars like fuzzy cacti, and seemed to converge above their collective heads into some chestnut coral reef. Occasionally elfin sprites danced in and out of the ossiferous weave of antlers like the baby-faced soldiers of a celestial anthill. At the rear of the reindeer squadron came a gigantic moose of the purest white with great crimson antlers. Cradled above its enormous head, resting in the antlers which were like godly open hands, there rested a golden throne of such splendour and opulence that the night faltered in its aura. And there, seated in his bejeweled throne, sat Papa Noel. His colossal white beard swirled like a nimbus, but this was at odds with his mustache, which was jet black, and swept out and upwards like two royal scimitars, swishing loudly as he turned his great head. Papa Noel glanced down at his watch, which drooled from his arm like an oven-baked brie: time was running out…

As little Salvador gazed upon this seated figure, he suddenly felt the world begin to shift on its axis. The great troupe of reindeer began to stumble on their frail legs, dragging the arctic moose and the great throne with them. As they plummeted towards the ground, so too did the great swan upon which Salvador sat, and he raised his arms, bracing himself for the cold white impact of the snow below.

Then he was back in his bed.

He was holding out his bedcovers like great wings.

It was a dream. Nothing more.

He put his face in his covers and began to sob quietly. He could feel the covers dampening as he clutched them to his face.

But then he heard it.

Tap… tap… tap…

He lifted up his head and through the glaze of his tear-filled eyes he saw the golden woman standing at the end of his bed. She was smiling gently, glowing softly, aura serene.

The woman reached into her pocket, though the motion was unusual, more like opening a chest of drawers. And she took out what looked like a simple thin piece of wood, the end of which was covered in fine hair. It was a paintbrush. She placed it into his hands and he looked down at it. When he looked back up she was gone. He walked to the window and looked down on his garden, the he looked up in the hope he might see the great swan. But there was nothing.

He looked around at his dreary room, and his grey walls, and then again out of the window over the bleached landscape, and then he did something quite unexpected; something completely unconscious. He lifted the paintbrush, and he began to paint over all that he saw. He used no oils, no watercolours, he used only his imagination…

‘Thank you, my muse’ murmured little Salvador, and he painted until he fell into a deep and harmonious sleep.

leda-atomica

***

NB: The final image is Dali’s ‘Leda Atomica’ (1949). Also… MERRY XMAS!!! xxx

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