Written by Atticus Payne
i — Black
Some say I am a demon, spawn of hell, brought to test the caution of their souls. I will tell you this, as I sit covered, draped in a curtain of black, black for a void, black for a shadow, black for hiding every shade underneath, I tell you that I am but a painter that loves these four shades: black, red, white, blue. That is our promise tonight. That we are but painters, and nothing more. Though ‘we’ is hard to place in a room absent of a single face. All colour, blotted out by thick cloth, shielded to keep our every feature, shade, shape, from the threat of a wandering light. We wouldn’t want to cause a bout of chaos. So we cannot see each other, and we cannot mouth to silently speak: this is silence. This is a canvas. Black in broad strokes scattered across a hall where we kneel, back unbowed for hours on the ground like a sort of stubborn grass. Kneel or be knelt. But it is painful when knees are shoved quickly to concrete, so the former is preferred. When I kneel I am black and nothing more, or so I promise tonight.
ii — Red
Some say the sight of red is cowardice or shame or shame in cowardice. Red spills as blood trickles into a soaked cloth, desperately washed as a sister’s last one replaces it. The red of shame. Red pulsing as a sister takes her life, at last breaking to be more than black cloth and shadows. The red of cowardice. Red blooms through thin white cloth worn as if the Lights are innocent; I believe the stains match their skin better. The Lights are the ones that shroud us in shadow. I have said, I am a painter. We think of the colours alone when the knives go in and life goes out. Bullets release and we begin to stand; so now I know whom among us carries death under their cloth. There is so much of it even lengths of metal are not hard to hide. Perhaps not enough to finish with our souls all intact, but that is not the concern. We paint. This is art, and this is anger.
iii — White
Some say that that which is art must not be wrong. They were born cowards, running from the weight of sin. There is an evil to this art in which my sisters relish. We were born for nothing else but to channel the anger of centuries’ cries. As I pivot, the ground slick for movement with blood still bright and red, I think: wrong or right, fair or impossible, what of those variables? Metal is metal. Sharpened and against the softness of a human body, it will never lose. There is always an excess of metal and bodies, no matter how many are gone through. I leave every blade I sink in the hole it made, and simply take another for the next blood to be shed so the white does not tear away and stick to my hands. Yet still they grab me, so, still, they fall. We begin to sing and scream the grief of our sisters, pouring the blood of the shame and cowardice grown in this hall through the ages. Shame and Cowardice are not the faults of those that bear it. That is our chant, as all the lights’ white turns red. For so little against so many, I think we have done well.
iv — Blue
Some say that the death of one who is not a coward must always end in a scream. Still, I chant as I begin to taste metal. Still I speak the wishes, the prayers, the hymns each sister sung crying out for our help. A hand comes on my throat. Death is not an end, but a simple inevitability, and I begin to count towards ten. Beauty has been made today, and so, my task is finished. No longer am I simply black. I am simply a sister. I am just a dying girl. A face turns blue as it dies, so I feel it calcify as I reach the number ten.
Then I am back again, and this time I will sing the anger of a different world.