Painter and Canvas
(Decidedly not for the faint of heart!)
By Patrick M. Tracy
Donald was glad for the industrial earmuffs, because the screaming broke his concentration. So many distractions, sullying the purity of the work. Already, the stench of urine and meat cooking against tool steel filled the workshop. It was like a cookout for the incontinent. He shook his head, hand against the drill press, feeling the reassuring vibration of his instrument. He lowered the handle.
Little slivers of skin and subcutaneous fat crawled up the drill bit, then spun free. One especially large gobbet of flesh spattered against his face shield, obscuring his vision. He stopped, spinning the drill press handle back upward and stepping away from the work. He had a cloth with window cleaner and alcohol to wipe away such impediments. He had to see, of course. It was their eyes, the look in their eyes as he lowered the bit against their flesh and allowed it to dig in. All the art in the human soul resided in that moment. The realization of mortality, the unleavened horror of knowing they would feel all the torments of hell before the end.
Donald stepped back to the living canvas and returned to his work. Slowly turning the wheel of the press, he touched that same place—the meaty part of his canvas’ upper arm. Lingering with the spinning 3/8ths bit just skimming the previous wound, he watched as the sweat of horror and the tears of pain popped upon the canvas’ skin. Sighing, Donald was sure that, just like every time, his fun would be over far too soon. Once the deep wounds were breached, he would lose his resolve, unable to marshal himself. He’d completely lose control.
The screaming, even through his earmuffs, was loud and awful. He wished he could simply put these canvases on mute, like the afternoon ballgame. A string of muscle tissue slapped against his apron, shards of bone and a gout of arterial blood spraying against his face shield. A shiver went through him, just as it always did when he’d torn through to the bone. No longer mindful of obscured vision or the hope to extend his pleasure to hours, rather than minutes, Donald thrust the drill bit in and out of the canvas’s arm, flinging a welter of blood and tissue fragments all over. Behind his mask, his grin was a rictus, as much pain as joy. Sweat and ammonia stink rose out of Donald’s skin like condensation on soda bottle.
He was erect, on the verge of climax, dimly aware that he was making a slurping monotone noise at the back of his throat. Donald bit at the side of his tongue until he tasted his own blood. His belly tightened, his hips spasming, and he released his seed. Shuddering, he knew he needed another point of entry, another beautiful crimson hole in his canvas. He withdrew the drill bit and turned off the press.
Shifting the canvas would be difficult. He was a big man, heavy and awkward. Donald had nearly thrown his back out getting him into position. What next? Donald furrowed his brow, wiping the face mask clean with his increasingly-sodden shop cloth. The leg. Yes, the leg. That would be easy. He’d just have to unhook the leg irons holding the canvas to his shop table.
The canvas was more animated than usual, twitching against the chains. That was odd. The dose of sedatives he injected them with generally left them awake and aware, but paralyzed. The canvas was a big man, though. Perhaps he’d underestimated his weight. Donald unlocked the leg irons nonetheless. At worst…
For a moment, Donald got a good view of the tread on the canvas’ left boot. Wolverines. Size fourteen. The next moment, his mask burst inward. He felt his teeth, his nose, his whole face cave in at the impact. A sudden pain, just as quickly chased by the spiraling dark of unconsciousness.
Kicked asleep, he was also kicked awake, bolting to a seated position as two of his ribs cracked. The canvas stood above him, baptized in gore. Donald wondered how he’d escaped from the shackles. The sight of a disembodied arm hanging from the nearby table, then the tourniqueted stump of the canvas’s upper arm told him all he needed to know. He could picture it, the wet pop of the remaining sinew as it tore away, the anguished yell as the arm flopped free. Clearly, that had been an act of will, and he would have loved to witness it.
The canvas bent, eyes wild as a shy horse, and drove a punch into Donald’s face. He could feel the orbit of his eye socket shatter. The eye went black forever, ocular fluid pouring out onto his cheek. He tasted his own exploded eyeball for a moment before passing out a second time.
The steady drone of the table saw muttered in the shop. Donald’s one functional eardrum told him this as he felt himself hoisted by the neck. He faced the table saw, seeing that the rip fence had been backed far over to one edge of the table. The blade had been raised to its highest elevation, the ripping teeth blurred with speed.
“Oh.” Donald said.
“That’s right, fuck-o. Time to ride the big ‘coaster yourself. See how you like it.”
That one hand, terribly strong on his neck, somehow flipped Donald up and planted him on the table, legs foremost. The drug mustn’t have gone into the canvases veins. It must have been…
The feel of the circular blade as it bit into Donald’s inner thigh was like all the pain he’d ever felt, all concentrated into one, pure moment. He wished he could have seen his own face as the screaming started. The blade ripped higher up, producing the churning noise of an industrial blender. Everything but agony dwindled into nothing. Donald saw the mangled remainder of one of his testicles fly upward and out of his view. His body juddered and nearly jammed the saw as it came in contact with his tail bone, then his lumbar spine. The smell of burning bone and spun shit filled the shop. The gore leaked down into the motor of the table saw and shorted it, charred blood and harsh electrical smoke pouring out the side. The lights in the shop flickered and went out.
For a moment, silence. Donald hung there, his head unsupported by the metal surface of the saw. Blood from his descending aorta spurted upward into the dim air like the orgasm of some god of the damned. White and silver sparks flew at the corner of his vision, and the pain began to seem distant. Donald lamented, just for a moment, all the work left undone. It was too much to hope that the canvas would take over where the painter had fallen, though clearly, he had aptitude.
The lights came back on. The canvas approached, clumsily holding the power nailer in one hand. Donald tried to speak, but only succeeded in spitting out blood and a piece of his bitten-through tongue. The canvas laid the power nailer against Donald’s upper belly and pulled the trigger. Again and again and again.