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  Table of contents Issue Twenty-five YOU FROM YOU



ou’re sitting at your desk. It’s light oak with a maple gloss finish, large enough to fit the necessaries comfortably - sketchpad, easel, pencil rack, paint pads - but not so large that there’s much wood space showing on top when it’s in use; just an ordinary desk. Just your desk. There’s a single drawer on the left side with a gold-coloured handle in the shape of a wave, like a letter s that’s been grabbed at both ends by tweezers and stretched almost flat. You put your left hand on this golden handle, this stretched metallic s, and hook your thumb over the top and fingers under the bottom. It’s cold to the touch. It feels almost wet at first but quickly absorbs the warmth of your hand, and you realise it’s dry. Why would it have been wet?

You’re sharing your body heat with an inanimate object; generous you.

You pull the drawer halfway open, just enough to confirm that what’s inside is still there. It is. Of course it is; it was there five or six hours ago, and you haven’t moved from your seat at the desk since you last checked the drawer, not even to pee. You stare at what you can see through the half-open drawer for some amount of time, you’re not sure how long. The way it gleams black against the felt red cushion. The way it appears so smooth in some areas and so rugged, so bumpy in others. It’s like a beautiful piece of art, in a way. It’s better than half of the crap you’ve been drawing lately.

You’re admitting that a handgun is more immediately beautiful than the artwork you’ve spent your entire life working to create, to master; self-depreciative you.

You resist the urge to touch it. You close the drawer. That’s for later, better to save it for then. You realise that maybe you won’t have to touch it, that maybe you’ll be allowed to lock the drawer up and hide the key back away in the shoebox in your closet where it belongs.

You’re considering the possibility that this could have a happy ending; Ha! Poor, little, hopelessly naive you.

You take a size two detail brush and dip it in the small bowl of water you’ve set up beside the paint pads - cobalt violet, Prussian blue, bismuth yellow, Winsor orange, burnt sienna, mars black - in that order. Most oil painters use upwards of twenty different colours to complete an average piece of work.

You only use six. You’ve only ever used six; different you.

You dip the tip of the brush in the Prussian blue, so lightly that the individual badger hair bristles that make up the head of the brush barely bend at all. Just the tip; it’s the details you’re trying to get right here. It’s the details that might save your life.

Save you from you.

You close your eyes and breath in and out deeply - once, twice. The smell of a thousand different chemicals making up the paints in front of you fills your nostrils, sting your lungs. You open your eyes and move the brush slowly, purposefully towards the painting propped up on the easel in front of you. Towards your not-quite-masterpiece. It’s on the cusp, and so are you.

You have six more hours to create something perfect, a masterpiece that pulls the breath from spectators and stands to time. If you don’t, you’ll open the drawer on the left. Instead of closing it, this time you’ll take the handgun out, and you’ll use it.

You’re going to kill yourself if you don’t complete the best oil painting you’ve ever produced in the next six hours; stressed you. Deluded you. Pressured you. Terrified you.


You swipe and dot and wiggle the brush in tiny increments on the picture in front of you, on the picture that is so full and so finished, yet still so empty and incomplete. You begin administering these final touches first on the bottom left corner of the painting, moving from left to right, then moving up, and then from left to right again. This seems to be working well to start with; the areas you’ve touched up on the bottom half of the painting are looking better, so much better than they did minutes ago. They almost look incredible.

You think you’ve figured it out. You think you’re actually going to pull this off; happy you. Relieved you.

You notice an area towards the top of the picture that’s clearly missing something - maybe a touch of bismuth yellow, perhaps a dot of burnt sienna - and you get ahead of yourself. You break from formula. You break from the formula that’s actually been working, and you touch up the part of the painting that caught your attention instead of the part you should have been working on. Now, when you look back at the bottom half of the painting, the part that’s supposed to be finished, it doesn’t look quite so incredible anymore. It, like the rest of the painting, looks impossibly far from complete. You look at the digital stopwatch at the rear of the desk to the left. It tells you that you only have three hours, fourteen minutes, and twenty-three, two, one second left. A drop of perspiration lands on the desk with a plop.

You’re sweating now; panic-stricken you.

You breath in deeply in an effort to calm yourself down, but your lungs don’t feel full. The air gets caught, blocked by an invisible wall somewhere inside of you. The breath you exhale is trembly. It’s more like several miniature breaths than one full exhalation. You tell yourself that it’s going to be okay.

Something else in the room tells you that it’s not.

You pretend you didn’t hear anything. You continue to paint. You put all your focus into your brush: The way it feels like an extension of your body rather than a tool disconnected. The way it glides with no resistance against the canvas, lubricated by the oil in the paint. The way you’re holding it so tenderly, so lightly that no one would suspect you were clutching onto it for dear life.

Will your death-grip feel the same?

You try to keep this level of focus up, but it’s hard to concentrate on anything when there are two sets of lungs breathing in the room.

You paint. Paint, paint, paint. More lines are drawn. More shadows are created. Time passes, and you forget about the second set of lungs at work in your studio. You forget about everything. Everything except the picture. Calm returns.

The Doctors told you painting was bad for you, for people like you. They told you artistic self-expression heightens the symptoms. Increases the regularity of episodes. What the fuck do they know?

You look at the digital stopwatch again. Just over an hour left now. You look at the painting. It looks good. You’re sure a lot of people would call it beautiful. But it’s not done yet, not quite. An hour? You might just pull this off.

No way, you’re told, you’ll be dead in an hour.

You scout the painting frantically, hunting for anything and everything that can be touched up, perfected. Time is running out, just over ten minutes now. You can’t find what needs to be altered, what’s missing. Not because the picture is perfect, it’s not. The picture is still incomplete. And as long as the picture is incomplete, so too will you be. That’s the real picture. By the time the digital stopwatch reads five minutes and forty-five seconds, you’ve stopped scanning the painting for areas to touch up. Instead, you’re staring vaguely at the canvas before you.

You’ve given up; defeated you.

You stare so long the colours all melt together, go grey. The picture is no longer a picture. You’re staring at the end of your own existence. The stopwatch rings and breaks you from your trance. You press a little black button at the top of the clock, and it clicks, then silence.

Behind you, the voice tells you what the alarm has just told you, what you already know, that time’s up. Life is no game, but you found a way to lose it anyway.

You open the drawer.




Mark Judge is a recent Health Science graduate with a passion for reading and writing. He has one full-length novel, a series of short stories and a modest collection of poetry completed, although You from You is his first published piece. He is always on the lookout for literary representation. Until then, he is happy enough travelling, writing, and listening to Deftones.

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