He was the tallest building she’d ever lived in–six-foot-seven, with hands stretched across him like a canvas. He had long, dirty hair and panicked eyes. Ruby seized whatever words she could on those rare occasions when he talked. The horror of speech was that when he spoke, he painted. Blazing canvases howled around the inside of their two-room apartment. Ruby would stare at his washed-out teeth and not see what it was that closed in on them. Two rooms were riddled with garish abstracts. Poster size Easter egg splashes of paint saturated the walls. Ruby’s teeth hurt whenever the crawling neon pinks, purples, yellows and greens stared back. She stopped looking anywhere, but at him.
Ruby used to imagine a larger apartment would save them, but he’d just paint more paintings with more wall space to condemn her–room after room like the circles of hell. Two rooms already plastered her in.
His eerie stories kept them running like a slow moving train on a track. He’d been homeless for years wandering the plains of Wyoming, sleeping on the ground or in caves, face to face with mountain lions and bears. A rattlesnake had even slept in his sleeping bag once, but the story Ruby worked to get out of him was the one that disturbed him the most. His strange face would dissociate. His paintbrush would hang limp in his hand. Small, gray creatures with simian arms and elongated eyes had taken him up on their spaceship. He had flashes of anal probes and massive needles in his ribs that found him immobilized on the ground the next day with brutal chest pains that never let up. He hadn’t stopped coughing since. Ruby considered the cigarettes he dangled from his lip, one after another that crucified his lungs.
Ruby could only ask a few questions to keep him clipping along or suddenly his bloodless lips would curl back over his cigarette and retire. Paintings would take over again and he’d silently start slathering away at another asphyxiating bee bonnet until it hung with the rest on a wall.
The shrill rooms drew in on themselves and on Ruby. She looked up into his faraway eyes. Aliens weren’t gray. They were saccharine perversions that caked maudlin colors over canvas. She looked down at her shoes. She started to cough. She was sick of hiding her eyes.
“Alien Art” will soon be published in Fractured West out of the UK.