Morning, evening, time no longer mattered to the Creative. Evening or morning, the Creative’s will to create, produce, and imagine their interior life into the exterior for themselves, people, the past, the present, the future - the world - no longer mattered. Their volition to create was gone. Inspiration, as it had arrived, had left them, lost somewhere on a seashore walk or that one bar in New York or at mass three Monday’s ago when the priest would not look at them.
Who could say? Who knew? Who cared? Had they ever even had it?
To be defined by what they did for the last fifty years, thus defining who they were during that long-fought battle was longer important to the Creative.
Except for their name, they would be keeping that, if for any other reason they had earned it.
“I’m keeping it because I’m keeping it,” they told themselves when they realized, after hours and days and weeks of trying to find their past in new work and old work and work that should never see the light of day, was truly gone.
Modern times had mutated into a medium of opinions over knowledge. People had thoughts instead of objective facts that had always been and would always be. One of the Creative’s favorite quotes from known agnostic atheist, Ricky Gervais, who said, “Science is constantly proved all of the time. You see, if we take something like any fiction, any holy book, and any other fiction and destroy it, in a thousand years time that wouldn’t come back just as it was. Whereas if we took every science book and every fact and destroyed them all, in a thousand years they’d all be back, because all the same tests would have the same result. I don’t need faith in science. I don’t need faith to know that probably if I jump out of a window, every other time people have jumped out of the window they have smashed to the ground because of this thing called gravity.” That, the Creative thought, is an opinion that is simultaneously a truth that cannot be refuted but is never pushed or forced upon people as the bluff was for the Creative every day on their morning walks.
“I will throw myself from here when the time is right even though time is never “right” because time is subjective, important and utilized by the one who recognizes it,” the Creative murmured underneath their breath as the sun began to rise or set. Again, the Creative’s experience and the transmutation they had mastered over their years to share it, no longer existed. So, in that sense, time - a vehicle of experience - didn’t either.
The Creative’s head was heavy as they stood arched over the kitchen sink, naked. The skin underneath their bare feet pressed into the cool cobblestone that lined their cabin at the foothills of Thorodin Mountain near Starr Peak and Casa Colorado, an hour or so out from downtown Denver. A pair of crows threw insults at each other in the pine, spruce, and firs, uninterested in the going ons down below, except for fallen cones or rodent corpses. The Creative brought their head up to look at the sparse grass and dry dirt of the path that led to the road that went into town, a route they took often to drop manuscripts or paintings, sculptures or themselves for readings, interviews, and the like. They had not taken it in a long time.
Now, the Creative was an existing body, twenty-two square feet of flesh, muscle, bones, blood and water, taking up the six or so feet he stood tall and barely twenty-one inches that made up his width. Their heart, for all they knew, was fine, before used as a metaphor for award winning poems or something they threatened to carve out and put on a pedestal for their final work. Turning from the window and to the front door, tall, wide and locked heavily from the inside, they could not ignore the pile of mail gathered at the foot of it.
“Communication by pen and paper has been dead for a long time,” the Creative murmured, their bare ass suddenly cold against the steel of the sink. “But that no longer concerns me.”
With a box of matches, the Creator walked over to the pile of papers, mail, and pamphlets, struck a match, and dropped it within, watching the fire fight for its place until the delicate edges of its new world bent to its own demands, soon sending with everything up in flames, smoke, and char.
“Do what you will with the time you were given - with permission or not - and then go,” the Creator murmured. “Why do they not see it? Why do they not take it? Why do they not see this chance will never come again?”
After a career providing work in the arts, literature, letters, social change, anti-war and politics, the environment, national and international affairs, the psychedelic movement, the turbulent youth, and diving into human-shattering histories of every avenue, nothing had changed for the better in the grand scheme of fifty years. In fact, things had gotten worse: surveillance of every degree was part of everyday life, wholly accepted by the population stating, that’s just the way things were now. Inflation was at an all-time high and on its way to be even more manipulated with the introduction of a global-wide CBDC. Communities were growing increasingly disconnected and desperate than ever because the 40 hour work week was now the 60-hour work week. The atomic family, reliant on marketing images of white picket fences, two cars, two dogs, and a clean cut lawn, turned out to be a scam concocted by the big banks to keep people in debt and working, thus unable to leave the country. College had become irrelevant, naturally spawning “alternative high learning centers” that were unaudited, unregulated, and ultimately breeding grounds for feelings and opinions first and critical thinking and humility second. The Creative, like every published piece of literature they wrote, sonnet they scribed, or play they staged, realized the effort they put into showing the world a transformation was necessary to fulfill the arch of every life, didn’t see that people, at least now, had become so obsessed with the intoxicating stance of individualism, that it led to AI avatars automated to be just like you so “you” could do five times the work for the good of the global economy.
They didn’t realize that humanities narcissism would bring them more inward than ever, locking themselves inside their homes, having relationships with people over the internet they would never meet physically, and destroying what was left of nature because that space was longer top of mind or part of their day to day conversation or existence. Everything was six inches in front of their face.
“If my life's work was to show humanity every angle and degree of their instrument, their body, their mind, and their soul - its depths - I have failed,” the Creator said aloud to themselves, the kettle on their stove finally starting to hiss and squeal. They went to it and poured themselves a cup of black tea, the steam floating up into the air as their brush strokes of the past did across canvas after canvas that brought even the most sure-minded people they knew to their knees.
“I have discovered God in your paintings, Creator,” his fans often said.
Which they replied, “You have simply discovered the mirror.”
Even though the Creator’s will was gone, they could not help but fall victim to nostalgia. Hidden underneath their favorite chair, they hid small efforts within small stories shared from a world that only wanted more of the Creative. One of his favorites read, You made me see the complexity of the clouds in the way you painted their lightness and their shadows while others wrote your sculptures inspired me to pose, allowing me to reach layers of vulnerability I never thought possible as one said your stories revealed to me there is no separation between literature and existence and that I create these barriers to sully my intellect.
When the Creative began, this is what they wanted: to affect change in the world and its inhabitants for the better, using their art and their skill to show the beauty of everything around them hidden or skewed by the pressures of the industrial world. Some did, as made obvious in the letters they received, but what the Creative didn’t expect was for humanity to always gravitate towards the darkness, the hate, the divisiveness with every new generation. Rather than embrace the beauty of the Creative’s art for good, it was only a temporary healing. Some days, they saw their work as another form of poison. Humanity, throughout their time, always returned to their problems or vice, if only in a different form.
What is it that leads us to self sabotage and dilution?
What is it that pushes us to the stubborn edges of tribalism?
What is it in man to leave someone in the dark and remain a mystery than see yourself in them, beside them, at a table with no shortage of seats?
The Creative dressed, kicked away at the ash at the door, and ventured out of their cabin to the lake and threw tiny pebbles into the vast body of water, observing the ripples flow and undulate, barely catching the light of the dawn, their wake always meeting its end at the shore - an inevitable end without change. And they tried to seek gratitude, they strived to accept that there were moments in time of flourishment and moments in time demise, so maybe they were the later? Maybe they were in an age of humanity that did not want or need or desire their art to better themselves. Maybe they knew they were damned and wanted nothing to do with changing at all and the Creator, for a time but not all time, got to see some of their creation work.
“Nothing lasts forever,” they whispered, throwing another stone.
The Creator thought their art of creation could evolve into more of a means of existential survival for themselves and their time left on Earth than being what it was before - a product for an audience. It pained themselves to think that this is where their road ended, as a creative hobbyist now, someone that created for the sake of creating. To be frank, that designation was for artists that never made it said.
“I haven’t found my audience yet,” the Creator often heard lesser creatives say, ones that held no conviction or point of view. “I haven’t found my voice yet, my stride.” It made the Creator sick inside whenever they heard these kinds of laments but ironically, here they were, telling themselves the same thing, only for a different reason.
The Creative heard a snap of twigs and crunch of leaves behind them. Instinctively, they unsheathed the blade they kept on them and slowly turned, only to find their agent staring at them. In a sigh of relief but more so disappointment, they put the dagger away. In a fantastical part of themselves, they wished it were some kind of attacker or animal stalking them, maybe even killing them. That felt like the best next step after having their will to create disappear.
“Merton,” the Creative said with the slimmest trace of affection.
“What was your stupid assistant talking about?” Merton asked. “He came to see me and at first I thought it was some new idea for an art piece, something engaging with mystery and flare, but then I realized your statement was real.”
“What did you do with them?”
“I wanted to kill them,” Merton scoffed, “but I told them to get me a case of beer and then fuck off.”
“Probably the first real thing I orchestrated in my life,” the Creative said. “At least that’s how it felt.”
“Cut the bullshit,” Merton snapped. “You can’t do this to your fans. You can’t do this to yourself. You can’t do this to me.”
“You’re making my point exactly, Merton,” the Creative said. “We used to be partners in inventiveness, in imagination, excavating the brightest spots in the sky of society while contrasting it with the darkest backdoors. Every piece I made allowed for people to see another angle of themselves, changing hundreds of lives around the world.”
“Don’t speak in riddles with me now you bastard,” Merton snapped. “You have a contract. You’ll lose everything.”
Merton stepped toward them, their tweed olive and brown suit tight on their body. A bead of sweat rolled down their taut forehead, catching the light as it traveled up and over their lips, finally falling to the earth below. The Creative told themselves they were crying, but they knew that was a lie.
“My work's purpose was to help people stare at themselves longer than one minute in the mirror,” the Creative explained, “to really see themselves for who they were in that exact moment to change for the better. My work’s purpose was to embrace absolute silence or trust their breathing when there was no air or go on their morning walks not for health or their partner but to realize there is nature even in the ugliest parts of the city; a reminder that they were in fact alive.”
“If this is for real,” Merton stated. “If the Creative I know is turning their back on loyal fans after years of showing them sides of themselves and the world just like that.” They raised their hand and snapped their fingers, the sound coming and going just as the Creative’s spark, as they remembered it, had come and gone. “They won’t take you back.”
“Goodbye friend,” the Creative sighed. “I’ll always love you, but you’ve lost the way like all the others have and while I’m still alive, I will no longer stray.”
Selfishly, no longer with the desire to share their life source with the rest of the world, they turned around and broke the last known connection with the outside world.
So like a down and out forty niner suddenly striking rich, they wanted to keep what was left of themselves to the confines of their myriad of notebooks, drawing pads, sculptures and clays, and canvases. Like putting fruit to air, they did not want to let their work rot by the poisonous, self-serving hands of history. After all this time, they did not want to be a part of the world anymore, even though the world had given them everything, they no longer wanted to contribute, they no longer wanted to create for anybody but themselves. The Creator wished for only one thing in return for his work and dedication: for the world and its people to change with them. Unfortunately, they did not oblige.
So the Creative continued their solitary works in the hills of Colorado painting murals of the night sky, of memories they thought lost, of the stillness of nature and the brutality of unfairness in the animal realm. They watched hawks throw goats from hillsides and feast on their corpses, clouds disperse without apology only to return the next day without reason, and the wind warn newcomers of approaching storms (no they did not listen). Then, one morning or night or afternoon, the Creative received a VHS tape detailing a tribe that created great works of art on bark parchment, in sand, smoke and air. They spent days, months, and years creating these pieces underneath the unrelenting beating sun and, when it was finished, destroyed it gleefully. In the video, which the Creative watched repeatedly, all things would eventually be exterminated, and they could then create without purpose, void of higher, lower, economic, social, or commercial reasons. Want and need were tired structures that only shepherded to do more of the same. The Creator no longer needed to be the hammer with the nail as their work.
On their last days, covered in paint and blood and dirt and honey and animal shit and summer air and winter snow and fog from the farthest corners of every mountain, the Creator found something they were sure they uncovered along their life, but like all precious things, was forgotten: a child creates to create because the act brings them joy to suddenly realize they can change the physical world around them. Underneath that, though, after answering the question of who you are through your work by the love within, comes expansion, followed by the lifelong pursuit of excellence. Finally, seeing every word written, every piece sculpted, painting completed, and speech that respects and moves the audience was to honor the giver of these talents, if for no other reason than to show them, and in a way oneself, gratitude for the time lucky enough to have been given.