my writing

Flash Fiction: The Paintbrush Woman

A/N: Another quick flash fiction piece I wrote a long time ago and recently edited. I didn’t have an idea of where to put it since it’s not good enough to be published so figured my blog would be a good fit!

Even the sunset above could not challenge the brilliant plumes of orange streaked across the pavement, trailing behind a strange woman dressed in a simple white gossamer dress. Her hair was as white as her dress and pulled into a tight chignon atop her head. Staring, unfocused, at a point on the horizon, her rheumy eyes never wavered on her stroll.

The edges of her dress slithered like water across the pavement as she strolled down the boulevard. The world was her canvas.

If you spot her, look quick. Nothing so lustrous can last long. Blink and you’ll miss her.

She is known as the Paintbrush Woman, and only a lucky few have ever been privy to her unconventional art show.

To speak her name in the town of Oarbray is to ignite a rapid-fire chain of whispers.

I don’t believe it.

How come I’ve never seen her?

I always imagined her prettier.

She’s astonishing.

It changed my life.

An urban legend borne, a splash of color amidst the dull repetition of small-town life.

Most believe she is nothing more than a fairytale, carefully spun like candy floss.

Others believe she only appears to certain people. A few have devised intricate theories of the supposed colors she creates.

Perhaps she appears only to those lost in the graphite noise of depression, the angry smeared in streaks of garnet, or happiest crowd, a spattering of fuchsia.

The Paintbrush Woman sees Oarbrary as a blank page, white as a bone, and all of its inhabitants merely pods of color on a palette.

One day, an ornery older male citizen had his fill of the incessant whispers and gossip. He sought to end the rumors and lay the legend of the Paintbrush Woman to rest.

He staked his claim in his favorite chair outside of a popular cafe in the center of town. He stayed put for three days, sheer determination and bullheadedness allowed him to ignore some of his most basic needs. He took all his meals there. Brought a blanket to sleep on and off – shuddering awake at even the slightest of sounds so as not to miss her should she actually appear.

It wasn’t until the break of dawn on the fourth day he saw anything. By then he was strung-out, twitchy, and irritable from lack of quality sleep and almost couldn’t be sure what he was seeing.

A pale woman gliding down the street without so much as a glance in his direction. A river of buttery yellow billowed out behind her.

“Ma’am.” He was hoarse. Eyes wide in disbelief, he stumbled out of his chair, nearly upending the table in the process. Never before had he put much stake in the legend and yet there she was.

The man called out to her again. Not even a glimpse was spared in his direction.

A third time he yelled for her to look at him, and nothing. He grew angry at her lack of care for the patrons of Oarbrary. Annoyed at her for besmirching their town with streaks of color no one asked for.

There was nothing human about magic paint spilling from her, now a brilliant gold but fading fast into soft canary.

She walked right past him, oblivious, or perhaps uncaring, and this enraged the man.

Losing all sense of reason, he poured water behind her as she walked, stamping and jumping with all his might on the pigmented trails.

Suddenly, the woman stopped. A wretched dry heaving sound emanated from her chest. She hunched over and fell to the ground, her face a mask of agony.

Upon seeing her mangled form, the man came to his senses. His coffee mug shattered against the pavement.  “I’m… I’m so sorry.” As fast as the haze of anger had overtaken him, it had dissipated just as quick.

He hurried forth in an attempt to comfort her but she was already standing again. Spine stiff and gaze forward, she marched onwards.

After that, nary a whisper of the Paintbrush Woman could be heard in Oarbray. She began to fade away only to emerge in the rare fireside chat or mid-morning tea like a wisp of smoke.

But every once in a while, either from a town tourist or a a wizened old man stumbling through the streets after dark, someone would spot her.

They say she’s different now. No longer does she leave behind pools of sapphire or magenta – only an endless sea of midnight black.

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