Stained Black

Kristine Kathryn Rusch

In a world stained black, he felt colors as objects: blue as an ice cube, red a burning coal. Simpson stepped out of the blind man’s body and into his own.

I’ll take it,” he said.


The body arrived in a wooden sarcophagus, an ironic touch that sent shivers down Simpson’s back. He directed the delivery workers to his studio. They gaped at the ceramic tiles, the marble colonnades, and the large white walls where he had hung his paintings. Sunlight streamed into the eastern windows, illuminating the workers as they set the box down. Simpson memorized the moment. Maybe this time he would use the image, although he suspected he would not. His beautiful studio was sterile; anything he painted in it looked washed-out and dull. The problem was neither the light nor the studio. The problem was that he had conquered his art without understanding it.

He tipped the workers generously and told them to find their own way out. Then he watched from the studio windows as they headed, empty-handed, to their van. His wealth was still too new for him to be careless with it. Part of him suspected that one day he would wake up to find everything missing—the spectacular house, the wonderful furniture, and his paintings. Taken because he no longer deserved them.

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