Professor Jacob Hertz sat at his desk. In front of him were the works of three hopeful entrants for the last place in the academy, one of which sat outside his office even now. The slightly intense young man had presented his work a little over five hours ago and had patiently sat awaiting an answer ever since. He could feel the boy’s presence as, for one so small he seemed to take up more space than he actually occupied. Jacob stood and walked to the door. He opened it slightly.
“Are you still here?” He asked with a smile on his lips and mirth in his tone.
The young man looked up nervously at him, having been started from the trance that had taken over his thoughts during the wait.
“Y-Yes sir.” He stammered. “I am very keen to attend, and so...”
“And so you should be young man.” Jacob interrupted. “A place here is much sought after, but I must warn you, I could be some time before I make my decision.”
The young man nodded.
“I will wait sir. If you do not mind?”
The question was accompanied with a mix of passion and pleading in his eyes.
“As you wish.” Sighed Jacob as he gently closed the door. He walked back to his desk, a smile flickered across his face once again as he sat down in the overstuffed leather chair that had been with him for the past twenty years and surveyed the work. The boy clearly had talent but was simply outclassed by the others that had applied for the last intake. His work was intriguing to be sure and held the same passion that shone from his eyes, and the raw nature of the images projected onto the canvas came from pain and experience, which was troubling in one so young. The images were indeed beautiful but the savage violence that sprang at you stirred something from within that Jacob found hard to come to terms with. On the two easels next to the young man’s work were fine examples of students that had been favorites to masters of other renowned works. Fine brushstrokes and expert translations of known experience and pain echoed with talent and confidence. The boy wasn’t even in the same class. So why then could he not decide? His mind drifted from one piece of work to another looking for something to grab him – Something tangible. The sound of the grandfather clock’s ticking filled the room, its rhythmic drone turning Jacobs thoughts to a transient state that excluded all other sounds.
The seconds soon became minutes.
The minutes conspired to form hours.
And still, the boy waited.
Tick, Tock. Tick, Tock. Tick…
The sudden absence of sound seemed to make the room grow darker. The air became stale and slow as the shadows grew deeper until the silence that had become deafening in its absolution was shattered by a voice from within. Jacob called out in alarm, springing from his chair, causing it to topple over.
“I feel your dilemma.” It said.
The voice was smooth and menacing. Evil even. Not a voice that intended to unnerve anyone – But disturbing because of that very reason.
“Who goes there?” He called, his words betraying years spent in the military.
From deep within the darkened part of his office a shadow detached itself from the rest and stepped into the light. When the person became visible Jacob pressed himself against the wall in the hope that it would provide some haven from the nightmare that was now before him. Feelings of fear and loathing ran his blood cold with experiences never felt before. His mind sang with terror as he echoed his first cry with a louder and altogether more horrified one.
“What in God’s name is this.” He said. “What manner of demon are you?”
The figure stopped at Jacob’s desk and smiled. Her full red lips stood out against skin that was so black that it actually shone blue when what little light that had not been absorbed by its hue managed to reflect off of its surface. Across her face, running down towards and around her breasts were scars that seemed to have been carved into her skin rather than as a result of some trauma, and the loose-fitting gown she wore did nothing to hide a figure that looked as though it had been carved from stone.
“Please sit-down professor.” She said, her accent giving no hint to any origin that Jacob could put a name to. She almost hissed her words with bile and hatred and looked at Jacob as though she would gladly pull him apart rather than have any further dealings with him. She pulled up a chair and sat on it. As she crossed her legs the gown that she wore fell away to reveal a long and shapely leg that had the tail end of the scars that had started at her face. She gestured towards his own upturned chair. “Please.” She repeated.
Jacob righted his seat and sat cautiously whilst at the same time scanning the room for a means to escape.
“Don’t bother.” His demon said. “There are only two ways in or out of this room, one of them being the window behind you that offers nothing but a thirty-foot drop. Oh.” She added, “And a lovely view of the city.” She smiled again. A smile that looked as though the act of which was foreign to her and had been described rather than demonstrated. “As you know.” She added.
“My soul is protected by my faith demon.” Said Jacob, but even as the words left his lips he knew that the abomination that sat before him was not of Hell and possibly not of this Earth.
“It is not your soul that I have come for – Or even to save.” She added.
“Are you…Human?” Asked Jacob.
“You have no concept as to what a Human is, so your question is made mute by your ignorance.”
Jacob could not find the words as the wall created by his terror blocked any rational thought causing horror filled bile to stick in his throat, chocking any attempt to communicate. This caused a drawn-out sigh from his tormentor.
“My name is Destiny Sails and you and I have something to discuss.”
Destiny gestured towards the drinks trolley that habitually housed a decanter filled with brandy and four lead cut crystal glasses.
“Pour yourself a drink professor, you look as though you need it.”
Jacob’s eyes flicked towards the door as his thoughts ran to calling for help. The young man was still outside and would surly come running if called.
“Go ahead.” Said Destiny. “If you think it will do you any good.”
“What have you done to the boy?” He asked, fearing that she had dispatched him before making herself known to Jacob as the woman seemed too confident that no-one would hear him.
“My name is Destiny Sails.” She said, ignoring his question. “And I have come to talk to you about the decision you are about to make.”
Jacob was still weighing up between whether or not he should call out; against what this woman? Female definitely, could do to him if he did. She seemed unconcerned about any action he would take as if she already knew what the outcome would be.
He walked hesitantly towards the brandy and as the decanter clinked nervously on the glass Jacob’s eyes never left Destiny.
“Would you like one?” He asked hoarsely.
“Poison yourself by all means.” She laughed. “It’s enough that I have to breathe this foul air.”
A questioning look flashed across Jacob’s face.
“No” Sighed Destiny. “Thank you.” She added as an afterthought.
When Jacob had seated himself once more, Destiny continued.
“The young man outside these rooms will one day go on to do such things.” She began. “Things that will inspire and drive the human race towards…” She paused. “This.” She said gesturing with the upturned flat of her hand towards herself.
Jacob regarded her, appraising her as an artist would his model. Her beauty was grotesque in its nature. Your mind did everything it could to remove the image from your memory, but every fiber in your body forced your attention towards her and to her alone. Every movement from her magnificent frame showed a slender muscle structure that pulled and strained like a rabid dog in a bid to release some hidden power that, if unleashed could tear the very universe apart. Her gown matched her skin colour exactly and looked as though it was forged from some strange metal but flowed like the finest silk. It covered more than it suggested and exposed more than it should, and, in some places, it was hard to tell where the gown stopped, and this abomination of the human form started. As to read his thoughts Destiny said.
“Believe me, you are as horrific to us as I am to you.”
Jacob held up a protesting hand.
“No, I do not think…”
But his words were cut short.
“The boy.” Destiny insisted.
“Yes.” Said Jacob, relieved that his inner thoughts had been dismissed.
“His work has been presented to you for consideration has it not?”
Jacob’s eyes momentary flicked towards the three pictures.
“It has. Yes.”
“What are your reservations?”
Jacob took a pull from his brandy.
“Sails, yes. Why are you here? Who, other than the strange name you have presented me with, are you? and what is your interest in the boy?”
Destiny linked her hands in front of her and raised them above her head as if to stretch out the weariness of the conversation. Her breasts pushed out against the thin material of her dress as she thrust her chest out and arched her back. Her bones cracked sickeningly at this excursion causing Jacob to flinch at the sound, but still he could not take his eyes off of her. She tilted her head back letting the long mane of red hair fall like ribbons of silk before returning his gaze with her own, overly large, bright green eyes. Other than her luminescent stare, it was hard to make out any of her other features as the blackness of her skin was so intense, so uniform.
“A traveler.” She said simply.
“From where?” Asked Jacob.
“When.” Answered Destiny. She sighed once more at the lack of comprehension from the professor and mused at how freely they awarded that title in this time.
“Another time Professor. I have traveled forward, stopping here to see if I can make sense of something that once went so terribly wrong.”
“That’s not possible.” Jacob said weakly. “Time is not a thing to be traveled. It is merely a measurement of existional passing.” He instantly regretted his words when Destiny slammed the palm of her hands down on his desk as she rose suddenly and violently from her chair. Her face contorted into a mask of fury and loathing for Jacob, whom she seemingly regarded as nothing more than an insect. To be tolerated, ignored…Crushed.
“Do you see anything about me that suggests some normality? Or the hint of some possibility in your world? Is there anyone in this time that bears any resemblance to me?”
Jacob shook his head dumbly as he felt the uncomfortable feeling of the slight loss of bladder control that her outburst had caused. His eyes were wide, and he could see the terror on his own face reflected in Destiny’s as the brandy left the glass by way of the uncontrolled violent shaking of his hands.
“Are you here to kill me?” He said with tears betraying his emotions.
Destiny’s mood changed as quickly as it had come. She sat back down.
“No.” She replied simply. “I am here for the boy…As I said.”
Jacob let his heart slow down before asking his next question. He wiped the tears from his eyes and said.
“What do you want him for?”
“It’s what I want for him that matters?”
Destiny stood up and walked over to the piece the boy had used to gain entrance to the academy. From this angle Jacob could see her scars more clearly. They were disturbingly self-inflicted as they seemed to have a pattern to them. Circles and squares connected to a larger pattern of numbers and letters with no apparent meaning. They ran up between her breasts and down her back. Her left arm carried on the trail whilst the right remained unscathed. He looked away suddenly when he saw that she was looking directly at him, regarding his voyeurism with interest.
“It’s a map.” She said.
Jacob looked confused.
“The scars. You were wondering what they were.”
“No, I was just…” He trailed off under her stare, fully aware that there was no use in protesting his innocence. “A map to where? Of what?” He said instead, not entirely sure he wanted to know.
“Time.” Said, Destiny, as she returned her attention back to the painting. “He has talent.” And after pausing to evoke an answer, said. “Do you not think so?” When she received none.
“Yes. Raw, but yes. Are you interested in new artists?” Jacob asked, flinching at the stupidity of his question.
“I love art. Not this, but art none the less.”
“I am sure the young man would let you have it.” Replied Jacob. “Would you like me to invite him in?” He added hopefully. Maybe the addition of another human being would expose this nightmare for the dream it surely was.
“No…Thank you, but no.”
Destiny returned to her seat. She crossed her legs and once again the dress fell away exposing more of what she referred to as a map.
“Where are you from?” Jacob’s words fell from his lips without due thought or consideration. His quick acceptance that this woman was not of this time astounded him, worried him almost. Had his terror addled his mind so much as to be fooled so easily? Or was the proof so undeniable?
“A long time ago. Or a long time to come.” Replied Destiny, and for a moment she looked unfocussed - Lost. The savagery in her face left her as she said, almost to herself. “It’s hard to tell anymore.” She snapped herself out of her maudlin state with start. “I would like us to discuss his merits.” She said, changing the subject and putting her reasons for being here back on firmer ground. “His talent and his future as an artist. I need you to be honest with me because I need to understand the decision you once made.”
This sudden flooding request from this strange creature had the effect of calming Jacob with the apparent respect she felt for his opinion. It was as though she needed him for something, something that moved some imaginary balance power over to his side of this temporal barrier - An image soon shattered by the look on her face. It was as though she could read his mind and was now rebuking him for thinking that he was in any way her superior. Her equal, or even the same species.
“We have done this before then?” He asked timidly.
“You have.” Replied Destiny. “This is the first time that I have been involved. And the last.” She added under her breath.
“May I ask what decision I made?” Asked Jacob.
“How would that help you now?” Asked Destiny.
She leaned forward in her chair as if to appraise his words while Jacob pulled further back into his seat at her focused stare. Her interest in him was unnerving – Frightening almost and the intensity of her gaze was almost palatable.
“I would like to know.” He said with unease. “If I was the one who denied the world this.” He waved his hand towards the boy’s work. “Grotesque beauty.” Jacob shifted uneasily in his seat, unsure if Destiny would recognize that his description of the boy’s work went hand in hand with his thoughts of what sat before him now. For in truth she had said that he had gone on to inspire the horror that now shared the same space as him. Had this woman come from darkness, or was she the optimization of it?
Destiny tilted her head as if to evoke more from him. Jacob obliged with a little more confidence in his tone. “Or did the regimentation of the academy stifle his muse – Or feed it? How can I know?”
Destiny closed her eyes which gave the effect of turning her face into a featureless mask, half swallowed by the encroaching darkness afforded by the room, made visible only by her scars. She opened them again.
“There is no real wrong or right.” She said softly. “Only how his works now or in the future make you feel. It is the ramifications of certain decisions that turns a whore into a princess. A novice into a master. A man into a monster.”
Her word hung thick in the air, waiting to be savored like an expensive wine.
“But consider this.” She said at last. “By denying him entrance to this academy he may go on to become one of the world’s most famous if tortured artists. His pain and loneliness echoing throughout the years within his work, recognized, only after his time as one of the great masters. However, if he is allowed to train here, he might be elevated to the stars through guidance and tuition. That same pain channeled and focused so that the world could see what beauty could be lifted from the soul of one mere mortal. Pushing and inspiring mankind towards a brighter and more peaceful world.” Destiny stood once more as her words found their mark. She walked over to the picture once again. “Or nothing could happen from either decision.”
She shrugged her last comment away. “But let me tell you this.” She added. “The decision you made last time – The first time, saw that boy out there die in the arms of his wife. Unaccomplished and sad at a life wasted in pursuit of a dream that was never realized.”
Jacob half laughed an incredulous and mirthless guffaw.
“But that’s not fair.” He protested. “If I allow him in based on what he has presented today I could be giving him false hopes of greatness, but if I deny him his chance then I could destroy his dreams – I could destroy him.”
Destiny smiled and placed her hands on Jacobs desk. As she leaned in her gown fell away from her breasts, but Destiny seemed unconcerned that her modesty had been compromised and this action did not spur any thoughts of eroticism in Jacob either, who now stood on shaking legs to face his accuser, a strength given to him by this impossible choice.
“You gave this no thought the last time.” Indeed.” Destiny continued. “You thought for three days whilst that young man sat in hope at your door. You passed him several times throughout those days and gave him no clue as to his fate whilst the other two boys sat at home waiting for a letter from you that would also change their lives. Do you know what became of any of them?”
She looked almost sad for a moment.
“But then, how could you know?”
“But you know.” He said pointing an accusing finger at Destiny until snatched back down by her withering look. “You could tell me.” He continued in a much more subdued, hopeful and almost pleading tone. The silence grew between them until broken by Destiny.
“I am not here to influence. I am here to understand. To learn.”
She straightened up again.
“To this end.” Said Destiny Sails. “I will answer one question before I leave. But.”
She said sharply as Jacob opened his mouth. “I will not give you my opinion, so do not ask me what I would do?”
Jacob sat back down.
Both he and Destiny locked eyes, both searching for answers.
Eventually, Jacob spoke.
“In your time.” He said softly. “Is his work remembered.”
There was a pause that seemed to go on forever.
“Yes.” Said Destiny. “Very much so.”
“So, I made the right decision.” It was a comment rather than a question and Destiny treated it as such. Instead, she walked over to the darkest part of the room.
“I will ask you one question - If I may.” She said.
Jacob did not answer, and his silence was regarded by Destiny as permission to do so.
“How does his work make you feel?”
For a moment all Jacob could see were Destiny’s oversized, bright green eyes. When she closed them, he instinctively knew that she was no longer in the room with him. Eventually, he stood once again and made his way to the drinks trolley and poured himself a large measure of brandy. He drank it all in one gulp and refilled his glass before turning to the boy’s painting once more.
“How does it make you feel?” The words of this strange demon echoed within his thoughts as he studied the painting. His mind drifted within the images and flowed within the brushstrokes until his eyes stung from his unblinking gaze. He shook his head as if trying to fit the last piece of a jigsaw into place, hoping that it would reveal an answer to this impossible conundrum. But in reality, there was no right or wrong answer, just a choice to make. His demon had said that the boy’s work was remembered in the future – But remembered for what?
“He has talent.” He said to himself at last before making his way to the door.
“May I see you, young man?” He said.
The boy practically snapped to attention at this and followed Jacob into his office.
“Please sit down.” Said Jacob.
The boy did as he was asked. His eyes flicked towards his work and to the other two paintings. Jacob nodded towards the painting.
“Tell me what you were feeling when you painted this.” He said.
When the boy had finished talking the room took on an eerie silence. Jacob could not help but be impressed by his eloquence and understanding of the social psyche. His passion and drive held a power that was infectious. This boy believed in himself and his abilities. He would, in Jacob’s eyes go far, and if not tethered, trained or guided, maybe too far. He sat at his desk and removed a piece of paper from the drawer.
At the top, he filled in the boy’s name, and at the bottom, he signed his own.
He folded the thick expensive parchment into an equally expensive envelope.
“Congratulations.” He said, handing it to the boy. “Welcome to the Vienna Academy of fine arts Mr.” He looked down at his notes once more to remind himself of the boy’s name. “Hitler,” He said with a smile.
THE END - OF WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN