'The Sower' by Nichola Deadman
It is still a little dark.
He has heard the theories of light, and how to create light from pigment. But he is not thinking of this now.
He trudges the familiar path down to the wheat fields, his easel propped on his shoulder, the still-wet canvas held facing inward and away from his body, so that no one will look, and so that that the fierce wind will not drive it into his trousers.
In the frail lavender light-before-the-sunrise he is keenly aware of the seeds growing and reaching for the sun and being eaten by cows or trampled by men or drowned by rain… but still everything strives, and it fills him with awe and despair. Everything strives; everything is magnificent; and in the midst of it goes he in a cloud of darkness that no pigment can enlighten, and when he speaks it is like throwing seeds on rocky ground - no one hears and no one can reach him.
He is two years and one month from his death.
But he is not thinking of this now.
"Bonjour Monsieur." It is Patience Escalier, the old gardener. "I've come to help Monsieur with the easel."
The gardener looks like his father and the artist wants to shower him with gratitude and affection. Instead he grunts "Merci," and without another word they work together to drive the easel into the ground and lash the canvas to it with rope.
"Gracious me, Monsieur! What progress you have made since yesterday!"
Patience is being polite, surely. Yesterday he observed tentatively that the colours were "a little bit different from reality, non, Monsieur?" and the artist, in this one instance free of his own fear, had insisted that he didn't give a damn what colours reality chose, but that his own palette was what he felt. Patience had nodded equably. "Monsieur is a true artist."
"I'll paint you, if you like," said the artist unexpectedly, though he was aware that people disliked his portraits and kept them hidden out of embarrassment.
"That would be an honour, Monsieur," said Patience Escalier gravely.
And now. Thought has passed and he gives himself entirely to what is to come.
The sunrise. He turns towards it as though his bones were made of sunflowers. The great hush as creation holds its breath beneath the birdcalls and the crunch of the farm workers' wooden shoes as they move slowly across the field, distributing seeds on the rich black loam.
The sun creeps over the horizon like a blessing. For a moment each thing that the sunlight touches is made exquisite, and his heart is bursting in this embrace of light.
He is weeping, his shoulders shaking beneath the brown coat, tears running down his cheeks into his red beard.
Behind him Patience Escalier watches in silence, touched and disturbed by the artist's defenselessness.
"I'll be back down again tomorrow, Monsieur Van Gogh," he says, turning to leave, but the artist doesn't hear him.
FlashFlood is brought to you by National Flash-Fiction Day UK, happening this year on 27th June 2015.
In the build up to the day we have now launched our Micro-Fiction Competition (stories up to 100 words) and also our annual Anthology (stories up to 500 words). So if you have enjoyed FlashFlood, why not send us your stories?More information about these and the Day itself available at nationalflashfictionday.co.uk.