The Darkest Time of Night

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Alecko this work of yours is the work of a genius.  You are a brilliant mind blessed by the gods, or perhaps destined to join them.  Alecko there is no way that your genius can fail you now, for it is you who is the genius.”

I woke up with my bed and body both drenched in sweat.  My heart was pounding so hard I could almost see it thrusting out of my chest.  This must have been the hundredth time I had this dream, or should I say nightmare, but I was breathing just as hard as the first time and the weight on my shoulders only seemed to get heavier and heavier with every day that passed.

Outside my window, I could see nothing, the darkest time of night, which only meant that the sun would soon begin to rise.  I decided there was no use in trying to go back to sleep, so I laid there in my bed for a moment, rubbing my bright blue eyes until they didn’t sting so much.  I laid there trying to gather the strength and courage necessary to face another day.

Soon enough, I could see the bright beam of light entering my window from the creeping sun that was crawling over the distant hills.  I then knew that I could no longer prolong my cowardice, so I slowly and with much difficulty pulled up my body into a seated position.  With a deep sigh, I stood up and began my day.

It was midday and everything had been tended to except for one thing.  I realized that I could no longer postpone my dreaded sentence.  With my hand moving from side to side of the back of my neck, I walked down the hall past the small kitchen and my dark room into my wretched studio.  For most of my life, it had been my blessing.  Currently, it was my curse.

It was where I once was able to fully express my emotions, creativity, and soul into works of art that everyone I encountered could appreciate.  It was where I once created masterpieces that now decorated the halls of royal homes and fine cathedrals.  But, now it was a cell where I was a prisoner of my own self, of my own accomplishments.  Now, it was a reminder to myself that I was a failure.

My studio was always half-lit with a single lantern resting near the canvas in question.  Against the walls, leaned several unfinished pieces that I knew would not suffice for the reputation I had to live up to, all of them a symbol of my burnt out talent.  Beneath my feet, the weathered wooden floors were spotted with old paint and dirty sheets, my attempt to keep the studio clean.

Each time I began a painting, I had such high hopes for myself and for my work.  I thought to myself this painting will continue my legacy, ensuring that I, Alecko, will go down as one of the world’s finest men, but, much like many things in my life, I would get half way through it and end at a standstill.  After a few days and weeks of frustration, I released my anger on the canvas and moved on to a new great one in the making, but I was always met with the same disappointing outcome.

I had now been working on a much larger piece.  It was about the width of my arm span and I knew there was great potential for something unforgettable.  I stood in front of the canvas where I scribbled on vague shapes and various colors.  I tried to feel inspired, but I only heard the voices from my nightmare.  Voices that were actually from my past.  Voices from the people who praised my talents so long ago and now claimed me as forgotten.

With my brush in one hand and paint in another, I waited.  I waited for something to take over my body and create something beautiful, something brilliant, something that was the work of a genius.  At times, I rested my grey bearded chin on my paintbrush, as if that would help.  But nothing took over my body that day.  I simply stood there waiting.

I thought to myself how can I do this?  How can I prove to my public that I still have talent?  How can I show the world my true capabilities?  That I am a true creative mind with much more to offer than a few good works?  But what if I fail?  What if the gods curse me as a fallen daimon?  Oh, the horror!  How nobody knows my suffering!  Nobody realizes the truth as I stand here in my unholy studio alone, slowly drowning in my defeat.

I couldn’t take the harsh cruelties of the truth anymore so I retreated to my bed where I cried myself into a deep sleep, secretly hoping for an easy solution to this desperation.  Perhaps, I was secretly hoping for a simple and fast escape.  Perhaps, I was secretly hoping for that night to be my last, for the gods to rid me of my torture… but that was not my last night.

That night I only dreamed, but not of the voices of my past that tormented my present and future, but of my genius.  I saw a light and it soon broke into my soul, speaking to me.

A soft, velvet-like voice that said to me, “Alecko, I am here with you.  Do not fear what is to come, for you are not alone and you never have been.  Do not worry yourself with divine titles and responsibilities, for that is too much for you to bear.  For others to say that you are a genius or a daimon, is purely selfish and ignorant.  They do not know the toll it can take on a human being, yet they do not care and they only wish to feel the pleasure of having seen one.  Do not let mankind’s biggest mistake torment you, for you, much like other great creative minds of your present and past, know the truth.  I am here with you, so do not fear what is to come.”

I awoke the following morning just as the sun was beginning to crawl over the distant hills.  I was not drenched in sweat nor was my heart pounding out of my chest.  I did not feel lethargic or defeated.  I simply felt at peace.  I felt like I knew my capabilities and that of my genius, which were immense.

Knowing that I was not in this alone, I went to my studio and began to paint as another being took control of my body and mind.  I finished my greatest work to date within a few days, proving that the darkest time of night is always just before the sun begins to rise.

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About Tatiana Figueroa Ramirez

Born in Puerto Rico and raised in the mainland United States, I graduated with a B.A. in English Literature from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) and am a 2016 VONA Voices Alumna. I currently perform spoken-word in the greater Washington D.C. area and have previously performed in Philadelphia, Miami, and the Dominican Republic. Most recently, I have been published in Public Pool, Spillwords, and The Acentos Review, and Here Comes Everyone: East & West Issue.

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