Painting The Dead

Rodney Cox

At first I didn't know what they wanted. The dead milled around me, more and more of them, as if they hoped to catch some last remnant of life from my living presence. For what seemed an eternity, but would have only been minutes, I looked into the faces of the dead that pressed around me as I hovered there above the floor desperately wanting to know what had brought them to me. There were those whose memories of life were still vivid and who did not want to completely give up life yet. I saw others like me also surrounded by those who had passed on.

And in the world of the living, people laugh and cry, living out full beautiful lives, but here in this place, the dead only dream of life and crave a reminder that they too once had flesh.

Alone among the dead, I saw many faces and many races of those who had come before. They come to us and we paint them with living colors in the way each specifies so that they may be as they were before. I brought out my paints as others like me, who were nearby, had already begun. The dead pressed against me every one lonely within the multitude of their numbers.

And for years I worked, bringing unique joy to those who could no longer breathe the sweet, sweet scent of an autumn afternoon, or feel the caress of a lover, but only dream of what these things were and what they meant. And so I painted the dead. Each one as special and nonexistent as the next, yet they depended on me. They needed what I and a few others could give them. For awhile when the living paint swirled and glowed upon them, they were alive and they could almost pretend that they were also reborn. They remembered life and they could, though fleetingly, experience its loving breath.

At last I knew what they wanted, and I painted the dead.

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