Just another day, sitting on a bench with a notebook on my lap and I’m scribbling out random dribbles and drabbles of thought. They’re melting together, but not making sense, and the sketches of nothing in the corners bordering it are starting to worry me. The pages get ripped out and thrown into the already-overflowing rubbish bin in a slapdash fashion.
If only I could stop trying so hard to think of something, then maybe I’d have a slight chance of coming up with anything productive today. Birds… a cloudy September sky… a couple of bored-looking kids kicking a football around aimlessly… Whoever ingeniously alleged the great outdoors was the best place for inspiration, beyond doubt needs to rethink.
I start to doodle in the blankness of my empty page to make it seem slightly less demoralizing. A little sketchy heart here, a couple of quick pentagrams there – I don’t know why I didn’t take A-Level art instead. Of course, I then draw the ever-dominating stick man who I happen to name Jimmy. This time he’s feeling a bit frustrated since he cannot seem to think of anything to write. I start to enhance the corner with hearts, worried about the likeliness of snapping my pen in two in all my enthusiasm of drawing Jimmy.
I don’t notice the first time she says ‘hey’, but the second time catches my attention. I almost thank her for it, but she would never have understood why.
“What are you drawing?” she says in a mystifying yet placid voice. I tell her I’m not, I’m writing. She laughs and raises her perfectly neat eyebrows, “What are you writing then?” I look down at the doodles. Turning back to the pages that I had written before giving up hope and scanning my previous attempts (which hadn’t already been disposed of), I realize that it’s not my style of writing. It’s not even my handwriting.
But my hand wrote it.
“I’m not sure, I was just writing out thoughts I guess… they rarely come out clearly.” She smiles again, tucking her sleek black hair behind her ears which had been partly obscuring her face before asking if she can join me. I say yes, and scoot over on the slightly decomposed bench.
She sits next to me and pulls a sketchbook out of her scruffy-looking messenger bag covered in badges of all sizes and colours. I know it might seem impolite, but I cannot help but gaze at her sheer flawlessness; pale skin that looks as smooth as polished marble, long, lush eyelashes which surround her ocean blue eyes so deep I was swimming in them, and utterly straight black hair like midnight which I couldn’t imagine could get any blacker.
Flipping through pages of drawings she sighs and hums before coming to a clean blank one. She sets her sharp pencil to the paper, her hand seeming to glide across the page with nothing to hinder its velocity, nothing to change what it is about to produce.
“So how long have you been writing?” I snap back and notice I’d been staring when she asks.
“Oh, a couple of hours,” I shrug.
“That wasn’t what I meant,” she replies with a knowing look. I tucked my own un-straightened blonde curls behind my ears now and respond quickly.
“Oh a couple of years… I just found a passion besides chasing around after guys all day, you know?” Oh god, I sound shallow. “What about you, how long have you been drawing?” I say hurriedly, hoping to brush away the topic of me being completely small-minded and obnoxious in my ‘past life’, as I now prefer to call it.
“A couple of years,” she says, contrary to my expectations. Most people blurt out something like ‘I would never have imagined you to be that sort of girl’ or ‘I could never picture YOU doing that’. I have to say, it is a slight shock to the system, no matter how much I preferred her simple answer.
“I’m Cassie, nice to meet you,” I reply. Attempting to hide the slight blush in my cheeks, I shake her ice-cold hand. She doesn’t reply with her own name, but I don’t ask it – it would make me seem interfering.
We sit in silence; her pencil scratching across the paper, and my pen suddenly whispering across my own page in my notebook with ease. It’s suddenly so clear and obvious, I can feel my thoughts rushing down into my hand and into my cheap pen, my mind immersed in the words in my head.
About forty-five minutes passes by before she finishes her drawing, and to my surprise offers it to me. Looking up from my now not-so-empty notebook I make out that I am in it, looking serious and chewing on my battered pen. It isn’t my best angle, but I’d be crazy to even think about thinking of complaining – the insane amount of detail she’s put into the sketch is mind-boggling; it looks so accurate it could easily have been photographed.
“This is amazing… how…” I try to finish my sentence but I’m too astounded for any other words to come out of my mouth; I just sit there engrossed in the artwork. She’s managed to capture the slightly breezy autumn air in the trees behind me perfectly, and even sketched in the miniscule couple of freckles on my neck. I feel as if I’m looking into a moment in time on this two dimensional page in my hands.
“Consider it a gift.”
I hand her my notebook, feeling embarrassed that I have nothing better to offer her. She flips through the pages, laughing at times; sighing in what I assume is sympathy at others.
I flip through hers. As I predicted, every page is immaculate and so remarkable I feel myself drowning in the picturesque backgrounds, ranging from mystical forests of strange magical creatures to sketches of beach scenes and countryside hilltops.
However, flicking through her thick and dense sketchbook in fascination, I begin to notice something. Something quite distinct, in fact. There are two styles here. Two very separate ways of putting pen to paper, mind to matter; one the style my picture is in – real life sketches and picturesque views.
But the other takes me aback at first. I see disturbing images, large clusters of gloom and darkness arranged all across the page, so hard and dark I can make out the indentations that the graphite pencil has made on the firm cartridge paper. The sketches are so violent and harsh it is like looking at one of my most bloodcurdling nightmares in front of me. I make out buildings, people, terrorized faces which I can hear screaming at me in my mind, all surrounded by the suffocating everlasting blackness of the marks on the pages. A shiver runs all the way from the very top of my neck and all through my spine until I realise I am trembling all over, my hands too numb to turn the pages any longer.
I recognize one building in the disturbing image in front of me. It’s an apartment building near mine. Yet like the other sketches, it is surrounded by dark and threatening smudges of smoke seeming to escape the page, which appear to look even darker beside the windows of the building that in sharp contrast – are left almost pure white. Swirling shapes are escaping them, so smooth and effortless yet so fierce. As I begin to comprehend the image, I feel my face heat up like I am suddenly there, like I am at the terrible scene in this vision. I feel my eyes burn as I gape at the vicious flames etched onto the paper. My chest tightens. I stop shaking. I can’t breathe.
She looks up at me, smiles, and offers me my notebook back, giving me the impression that she is completely unaware of what I have just seen. I don’t understand. Why would she draw such devastation and destruction? Such haunting scenes… such powerful, yet formidable images to put in peoples’ minds… why?
Taking her notebook back she scribbles something in the corner of another blank page. She rips it out and hands it to me – without even a simple word or gesture to enlighten me. She gets up and walks away, hair soaring in the sudden gust of wind which takes me by surprise subsequent to the uncanny stillness of the past few seconds. Or was it minutes?
Now I look at the paper, and at the number now scribbled in the corner. There’s a time, and the name of a place, and a date.
Maybe I’ll go; maybe I’ll see what she has to say.
Maybe a lot of things. I decide I will go.
I hide my notebook. No one needs to ever see it again.
Two days later, and the building in her notebook burns down. The funny thing is – I’m not surprised.