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One-Shot Portrait of the Artist as a Sane Man (Ghost Trick)

Negrek

busy dizzy lazy
Staff member
Age
31
Website
www.fanfiction.net
Rating: G-ish
Author’s Notes: This one just refuses to come right for me, but I’m done wrestling with it. Spoilers for Ghost Trick.

Portrait of the Artist as a Sane Man

He paints. Two reasons why: first, he needs something to do. You’d go crazy in prison just twiddling your thumbs all day, and of course they won’t let him anywhere near a computer. It’s ironic that he ended up in this old cell, painting, just like a certain detective he knows.

And that, right there, is reason number two. It’s the reason formed of innumerable tiny pieces of knowledge that he simply shouldn't have, all the places where his mind tells him one thing and his senses another, where he realizes his reality is just a sickening half-step out of sync with the real world. It's the shadows of insanity thrown off by all the real things in his life. He tries to obliterate them with each careful brush stroke, resolutely filling in what is over these—memories? delusions?--that distort his reality.

The fact that he knew all the guards’ names before they were introduced disappears beneath the snow draping a rocky landscape. He throws up a solid little farmhouse in front of the faces he recalls, faces years older than the people that wear them, the faces, he fears, of the people they will become. Being surprised, sometimes, that he can’t simply will a thing to work the way he wants grows roots and reaches branches towards the sky. And there’s the tension in the woman’s hands, how they shook with fear and the effort of resisting him, until he shoved her will aside and steadied them with a thought—he drowns it in a wide, placid sea.

But the sea is empty, and dark, and lonely, and he’s sinking, sinking forever, for all eternity, because he can’t die, because no one can see him, because no one calls the dead, because—and he can’t finish that one. He turns it towards the wall and does his best to ignore it. It’s two weeks before he summons the nerve to bring it out again and paint over it.

At first, it wasn’t so bad. Nearly a month in the hospital before he was well enough to transfer to the prison, but it’s funny the way the pain could make him feel so alive. Even after that, learning how to walk again kept him preoccupied for what seemed endless weeks. But now he is well again, his body as healthy as it ever was. Now it’s just his mind that’s broken, and he tries to deny it, but he keeps catching on those dark moments, half-living a life that can't have been his, remembering a future that can't be real.

He’s sure he never had nightmares like this before. They’re too detailed, too vivid; he's watching, always watching, as the world speeds on around him, a wash of color and sound and people, all living out their lives in fast-motion. He sits frozen, trapped in his own mind and his coffin of a body. He yells and they cannot hear; he rages, and they do not even pause. It's all their fault, he knows—they made him this, banished him to the shadowy margins of life. He wakes half-strangled by twisted sheets, his teeth clenched against a decade's fury and despair.

He prefers those dreams, though. Anything is better than the nights when he instead bolts awake, the feeling of sinking into blackness shrinking his perception to the cold-edged beating of his own heart and the knowledge that he’s all alone, and she’s gone, and it’s all his fault. No, not his fault, never his fault, it was their fault, but he doesn’t care right then. He’s too preoccupied by yelling for the guards, begging to use the phone, sitting in agony until his request is granted.

He knows she can’t be dead. The stack of letters under his pillow proves it. Not a one of them is a suicide note. But even though he rifles through them and tries to be rational—see, this one was written just four days ago—he can’t. What if it happened since last he spoke to her? What if this time, the nightmare is real?

So he paints. He paints happy scenes, children smiling, flowers blooming, the two of them together. Sometimes it works, but then the next time she writes she comments on the cat that keeps finding its way into the compositions—such a cute kitty! Maybe they should get one of their own. Would he like that?

He paints to forget, or, maybe, to move the madness out of him, to let it bubble up from the back of his brain and trickle down his arm, seep out from the bristles like its own pigment, the shade of insanity diluted in the riot of color. He feels the brush slide over the canvas and watches the picture take shape, as once he watched without eyes, watched as another inmate stroked away his cares. Sometimes he had painted then, too, seized the man’s arm in an unshakable mental grip and smeared over what he’d been working on, wrote mocking messages in the margins, turned the scenes as dark and helpless as his own unlife.

The best part had been that Jowd didn’t remember what happened afterwards. He laughed, long and hard, at the former detective’s bewilderment and horror. Then there had been the burst of inspiration that had him turn the detective’s brush to blacking out the faces of his family, and Jowd’s anguish had been exquisite, all the better for the fact that the man couldn't understand why he would ever do such a thing.

The detective had forgotten, but he remembered—did he? Could it really have been him who had reveled in the agony of the man climbing stairs, half-dancing, a broken marionette jerking on tangled strings (“We’ll put that extra spring back in your step, Inspector—not going to let a few broken bones crimp your style, are ya?”), who had forced the little girl who had murdered him once to do so again, who had sat, body lost, against the creaking bulkhead of a submarine, thought of the crushing black rushing up to meet him, and almost welcomed it? No.

So he paints. Sunny things. Normal things. Tranquil landscapes, happy people, the two of them together. He does his best to ignore how often the people in the background become people he feels he knows, but shouldn’t. Because there’s no way he could really have been dead, then not dead, for ten years, have been brought back to life by a time-traveling ghost cat, no less. Above all else, there's no way he could have been that hate-filled monster, trapped in a cage of his own forging, one barred with a desire for revenge perilously close to madness.

There’s no way it could be true, not any of it. Not the way he could seize a living creature’s body and, suddenly, see right through it, see muscle and bone and all the workings of the organs, trace out the filigree of nerves and know it all, all its twists and turns and hidden crannies, and then bend it to his own ends. There’s no way he could have soared in the body of a crow found dead by the roadside or rocketed from coast to coast over the phone lines, bouncing from life to life like a skipping stone, ripples of change spreading in his wake. How could he alight in a machine and find himself aware of all its tiny moving parts, able to see how they fit together, and how he could twist, just so, and make it do whatever he wanted? It couldn’t have been him, with the power to control everything. No one dead could be that alive, that much a part of the world in a way he had never been before, the master of all he surveyed.

But above all there’s no way that could have been him, the shade of a man who had urged the little girl to strain just a little bit more, barely able to reach the gun and thread the fuse through the cylinder, the last birthday surprise her mother would ever enjoy. He wouldn’t have indulged in thousands of little cruelties, obsessed with manipulating the lives of those who had wronged him. If he were a god, he wouldn't be a vengeful one. No. It's just a shadow on his mind, maybe the response to some lingering trauma from that fateful day, maybe something festering in the closeness of the prison.

So he paints. Sometimes he paints just himself, maybe off in the distance, perhaps right up close, maybe out from the canvas. This is who he is. Yomiel. A guy who had everything, then lost it all over some damn stupid cop and a crime he didn’t commit.

He paints himself happy, content; untroubled. This is who he is. This is who he should be. This is who he wishes he could be.

But every now and again, oh, once in a while, those painted smiles show the glint of teeth; they turn to the faintest of smirks. I control everything.

Not all the dreams are nightmares.
 

bobandbill

Miror B FTW!
Avatar Credit
By minty-fivestar on DA (with edited background by myself)
This was I thought a neat take on the fact he also painted at the end of the game, puts a curious perspective on the whole jail time as well as the memories-retained-after-death aspect (or well, not at all in cases). I liked the writing and Yomiel's doubt about his memories/dreams (particularly his doubt on how he couldn't possibly have been vengeful, haha) was quite interesting.
Being surprised, sometimes, that he can’t simply will a thing to work the way he wants grows roots and reaches branches towards the sky.
This sentence felt a bit confusing, like part of it was missing.
He turns it towards the wall and does his best to ignore it. It’s two weeks before he summons the nerve to bring it out again and paint over it.
I feel that you could have mentioned or at least made more clear what 'it' was as it was a bit confusing initially.
but it’s funny the way the pain could make him feel so alive.
I quite liked this line in particular for various reasons. =p
But every now and again, oh, once in a while, those painted smiles show the glint of teeth; they turn to the faintest of smirks.
I feel the latter part isn't necessary.


I haven't much else to add, although I did feel the ending seemed a bit disjointed from the rest - maybe if it was expanded somewhat it would feel more 'finished'? It just felt a bit rushed and sudden in the change from the whole theme of the story with the ending, but that's me. Otherwise I liked it.
 

Negrek

busy dizzy lazy
Staff member
Age
31
Website
www.fanfiction.net
Gaaah, thank you for the review, and sorry it took me so long to respond! *rolls around unhappily* I kind of gave up on this one as a bad business.

This sentence felt a bit confusing, like part of it was missing.
Mmm, no, that's the whole thing. I had hoped that it being in the same pattern as the others before it would help out with it a bit, but for some reason it does read more weirdly than them.

I feel that you could have mentioned or at least made more clear what 'it' was as it was a bit confusing initially.
Simple fix.

I feel the latter part isn't necessary.
Yeah? I was trying to point to Yomiel's evil!smile with that, and I wasn't sure the glint of teeth was indicating that strongly enough.

I haven't much else to add, although I did feel the ending seemed a bit disjointed from the rest - maybe if it was expanded somewhat it would feel more 'finished'? It just felt a bit rushed and sudden in the change from the whole theme of the story with the ending, but that's me. Otherwise I liked it.
Yeeees, this is undoubtedly the biggest problem with this 'fic. It makes sense in my head, I swear. << I think I just had an editing failure here, since I balked at the extent to which I was going to have to write things to make where I was going apparent from the start. What I did add in ended up being clumsy and not enough, and so the ending is ??? instead of "ah-hah!" I didn't build up to it well enough at all.

Thank you for the lovely review!
 

bobandbill

Miror B FTW!
Avatar Credit
By minty-fivestar on DA (with edited background by myself)
Gaaah, thank you for the review, and sorry it took me so long to respond! *rolls around unhappily* I kind of gave up on this one as a bad business.
That's okay, I'm been a bit slow myself. Because yay life and illness!
Yeah? I was trying to point to Yomiel's evil!smile with that, and I wasn't sure the glint of teeth was indicating that strongly enough.
Hmm...I still don't feel knowing that that I would have had that come to mind, but maybe I just don't remember the smile by itself well enough.
 
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