Eliot Rouger’s childhood had been tainted by the fulsome parenting of an alcoholic mother and a deadbeat father, whom Eliot never saw after he was seven years old. Despite this dysfunctional family structure and a less than hospitable inner city environment, Eliot had turned out to be a surprisingly well adjusted individual. He had had a few bouts with drugs and alcohol and had gotten into a fight here and there, but he had come through those difficulties alive and stronger from the experience.

Sitting now in a well furnished apartment in the suburbs of the hovel he grew up in, Eliot wondered how he had ever made it out of those slums. The question was not tough to answer. The thing that had kept him alive and sane for the last twenty-three years was his art. In any time of despair or hopelessness, he could always turn to his sketching pad and vent his anger and frustration. His self-taught artistic expression was drawn from all of the experiences of his youth, and therefore had a drab and sober appearance. However, his somber art did have a feeling that was somehow both encouraging and sorrowful, but nonetheless rang true. It was because his paintings were so personal and sincere that they had become an instant success when he started to sell them two years ago. His prosperity has continued ever since.

Perhaps because of his success, Eliot had begun to see a shocking decline in his normally prolific inclination. He felt as if his illustrations no longer held as much meaning as they used to. Painting became a chore when it used to be an escape. He was no longer breaking new ground and had become weary of his craft. His paintings had become pale and stagnant, and they lacked the optimism that had made his previous work so penetrating. In spite of how far he had come since his adolescence, Eliot began to revert back into the scared and despondent child he had been. If it had not been for two experiences one cloudy winter evening, Eliot may have never recovered from his newfound depression, but given the nature of those events, Eliot may have been better off depressed.

The first event occurred shortly after midnight, when Eliot had been returning from a bar in an inebriated haze. He had entered his apartment and, before any of the lights were turned on, was suddenly seized by an unfinished painting across the room. He immediately rushed across the room, picked up a brush and began to paint long, bold strokes across the canvas before him. The blinds were closed and there was nearly no light in the room, so that Eliot could not see a thing he was doing.

Eventually, the alcohol in his system got the better of him and he began to feel ill, so he retired to his bedroom for a good night’s rest. It was during his slumber that the second event apparently occurred. His sleep could be described as fitful, at best. He was startled awake several times and by morn he was covered in a film of dried sweat and dirt. He was not concerned about this when he woke, for he had been clutching a sketching pad he had kept in the nightstand in case of any nocturnal inspiration. Now, as he paged through the numerous drafts contained within, he came to the conclusion that he had sketched them in his sleep.

The subject matter of the monographic sketches was so captivating as to overcome the tremendous headache and general discomfort of his hangover. The first four sketches were exactly that, sketches, with no particularly interesting points, save that they were all sketches of the same featureless object. In the next few sketches, the object began to take on some humanoid characteristics. A few sketches later, a background appeared and the object was, by now, obviously a person. The ending sketches were frighteningly detailed and precise; their very geometry and physiology seemed to elicit feelings of wonderment and awe.

The first of these sketches consisted of a man, sitting at a desk in a cabin. On the desk was an ancient tome, which the man was feverishly perusing. The drawing was so explicit that the text of the apparently sacred missive was clear and decipherable. It appeared to be written in Latin, though Eliot did not recognize any of the words. Behind the man was a bookshelf, filled with books similar to the one on his desk. Also notable was a picture hanging on the wall behind the man. Though drawn in as much detail as the rest of the sketch, it was hard to make out. What he did see gave him chills, for it did not conform to any known art form.

In the next drawing, the strange man had looked up from his volume and was staring straight at Eliot (disturbingly, the man’s eyes would follow Eliot’s gaze, no matter which angle he looked at it). This drawing unnerved Eliot the most, for it made Eliot think that these sketches did not simply come from his imagination, but that somewhere a man is really sitting in a cabin, pondering great mysteries and that Eliot was intruding on the man’s meditative duties. The man’s face contained a set of features and expression that was almost too natural, almost like that of a photograph.

The last drawing had the man’s head bowed in a sort of reverent position. It was as if the man knew that something so terrible and grotesque was going to happen, but could do nothing to stop it. This too was extremely disconcerting, for it strengthened Eliot’s fear that the man actually existed outside of his imagination.

This last drawing also had a word scrawled underneath it. It seems Eliot had decided to name the drawing (or the man) “The Hierophant”. The word was familiar to Eliot, but he decided to get out his old dictionary and look it up anyway. The following definition was given:
hierophant, n. 1. (in ancient Greece, etc.) and official expounder of rites of worship or sacrifice. 2. any interpreter of sacred mysteries or esoteric principles. –hierophantic, adj.
Eliot was thrilled, for both definitions seemed to fit the drawing well, although he preferred the second definition to the first. In his excitement, he almost failed to notice that someone had written a note in the margin of the dictionary. The short message was faded and could barely be read. After a short examination of the note, Eliot figured that it said either “bringer of warnings” or “bearer of words”, both of which seemed somewhat fitting. As for who had written the message, Eliot figured it could only have been his mother, for she had given him the dictionary when he was still young. It was one of her few good acts of parenting, and Eliot momentarily felt a pang of guilt for not having kept in touch with her, despite her shortcomings.

That feeling passed and Eliot was once again agog with wonder and awe at what had happened the night before. His mind flowed with ideas and enlightenment. He considered what happened as the return of his old self. As he showered and cleaned himself up he thought about how his career would now soar. The penciled drawings were so explicit and clear that he need not even ink them. They would sell instantly.

When he had finished washing up and getting dressed, he saw that the sun was already beginning to set. He was somewhat surprised that he had spent all day staring at the drawings. The initial excitement at what had happened was beginning to wear off, and he was feeling quite hungry, so he decided to get something to eat before he collapsed of exhaustion.

When he had returned to his apartment and night had subsequently fallen, he saw the unfinished painting he had seen the night before and he was again seized, but this time not by the urge to paint. This now finished painting had stirred in him the same captivating feelings that the sketches had earlier this morning. The painting was exactly how he had envisioned it when he had started it a few months ago, and he had finished it last night without even seeing what he was doing or even which painting he was doing it to.

He sat now, staring at the painting, which depicted a dreamy and boisterous landscape; a dark stormy vista, permeated by the dark blues, greens and grays of gothic architecture set deep within a forest. One particular structure caught Eliot’s eye. It was a tall medieval pylon that rose out of the forest like a phoenix out of ashes. He envisioned it as being the Hierophant’s dwelling; the place where he interprets sacred mysteries.

He wondered for a moment what the Hierophant would think of the strange events that have been happening in this apartment. How had he been able to do these things, especially after his unexpected loss of inspiration? He could conceivably have never actually lost his inspiration, but maybe it had just transformed into something different, something that was stimulated by what had happened last night. He considered last night’s events and quickly came to the conclusion that the darkness had been the catalyst that had inspired him so intensely.

When he came home last night, he had been quite intoxicated, so that he was not very inhibited by his artistic cravings. His art had always been dark and moody, and it would make sense for his artistry to come alive when in the presence of darkness. His creative forces did not relent, even in his sleep. Unfortunately for Eliot, his intoxication from the night before, while uninhibiting him, also did not allow much in the way of memory. He could not quite grasp last night’s exact happenings so well, and only vague segments remained.

Determined to excite this catalyst of darkness again, Eliot set out a blank canvas, then began to turn out all of the lights. He sat before the easel and prepared to paint, but was at once struck with a stifling restraint. Soon his eyes had grown accustomed to the darkness and he could see around the room. This was no good so he got himself a small towel and wrapped it around his head, as a blindfold.

Once again, he found himself restrained and hesitant. So he began to just randomly move his arm around and began to paint. At first he felt the work was purely chaotic and would end up a failure, but he soon began to feel the incongruity take shape. It was no longer a labor of disorder, but rather, a work of inexplicable organization.

It was at this point that things began to go awry, and when he should have ceased painting, but he continued on, not quite knowing what he was getting himself into. His strokes had become more and more harsh against the canvas and he began to feel ill. He had a burning impression that what he was painting was not natural. He perceived a blasphemous evil being unleashed on his canvas. A roiling sensation in his abdomen began to incapacitate him to the point where he stopped painting and rushed to the bathroom. He reeled over and began to vomit into the sink. A few confused moments later he began to feel much better. He cleaned up the sink and returned to his studio.

He stood, somewhat flummoxed at what he saw, studying the painting that had driven him to illness. His first few awkward strokes stood out from the rest, which were indescribably awful and yet, at the same time, familiar. The very texture of the paint and the paper was quite beyond the capacity of words to describe, let alone the structure of the thing. It reminded him of the image of a serpent feeding on its own tale, but incredibly more loathsome.

At this point, any normal man would have stopped immediately, but Eliot was determined to go on. Perhaps at this point, Eliot really didn’t have a choice but to go on. Whatever the case, he set up another easel, turned out the lights and blindfolded himself again.

This time there was no hesitation; no faltering. He immediately began to compose, in that same most corrupt of styles, the mural that would prove to be the most profoundly disturbing work he had ever produced. In a short time he seemed to revert to an untamed, feral state. He slashed at the canvas with reckless abandon, as if whipping the paper with his brush. This savage technique departed as quickly as it had arrived and was replaced with softer elegiac strokes that were almost more disquieting than the previous technique.

He had absolutely no control over what he was now doing and it was now that he began to realize that he had meddled with forces not meant to be meddled with. He began to regret much of what he had done and tried to make peace with himself, but it was too late. He could feel the finishing touches being applied. The blindfold came off, the lights came on and he was confronted with his final portrait.

He should not have been surprised, for the events of the last day had been blatantly ominous in their warnings. The Hierophant had warned him two times, though only one was readily apparent. The note in the dictionary should have tipped him off. “The bearer of warnings”. If Eliot had taken the time to get the Latin in the Hierophant’s sacred tome translated, he would have found a warning so eloquent as to not be denied. The other warning was Eliot’s first attempt to reproduce the previous night’s artistry. That horrible painting had appeared in the background of the Hierophant’s sketches.

Nonetheless, Eliot had not recognized these warnings and had foolishly proceeded. Now he sat gazing at the painting. What the painting depicted was mostly familiar to Eliot, for the setting was his very own apartment. He was there, sitting exactly as he was now sitting. Behind Eliot stood a creature of such grotesque and morbid features that once again words couldn’t accurately portray its blasphemy.

For years to come, people would contemplate Eliot Rouger’s paintings, especially those of his last days: “The Hierophant Drafts”, “The Hierophant’s garden”, and especially his last untitled work.

Now you know why I write factuals
But I felt obliged to post it... and I really don't think its all that bad. I wrote this story several years ago as an homage to H.P. Lovecraft (specifically, the story Pickman's Model, which also dealt with a strange artist...) I cringed a couple of times while reading it, because I am certainly no H.P. Lovecraft, but it held up better than I thought it would, so I'm posting it in its original form. I may find the time to revise it, because, as Hemmingway (I believe) once said, the first draft of anything is shit. To that end, any feedback or suggestions are welcome.