Images flashed in front of Henry's waking eyes. The same horrible images he'd seen for the past six years, two months and twenty-two days. Images with short bursts of movement and sound. Plump bodies of the damned, insect-like, skin dark gray, faces wiped of any distinguishable features, they crawled into the gaping maw of a thing that resembled what they had become. The smell of rot in the humid, stagnate air. Henry could not get the memory of that smell out of his nose. During the day the smell would resurface and surprise him. It was something Henry hated and put him in a angry state of mind.
Henry painted the pictures and hung them on his wall. He'd heard if you talked about your nightmares, or gave them physical form, they would stop. In the beginning he searched for a psychiatrist located outside of town. A girl that worked in his office went to a local psychiatrist, they all knew, and she was judged because of it. Attention, was something Henry detested. Attention on something that bothered him could not be tolerated. He found a psychiatrist, an older Asian man who blinked excessively. Henry reluctantly told the doctor what he sees every morning upon waking. The psychiatrist blinked and nodded. A gesture that Henry couldn't interpret. He wasn't sure if the doctor understood. A five minute long silence followed. The doctor got out his prescription pad and scribbled a few indecipherable words. The psychiatrist ripped off the prescription, smiled, blinked and walked Henry to the door.
Henry tossed the paper into the garbage before he left the psychiatrist's office.
After this, he began to paint. The first paintings were childish. Crude shapes and colors against the stark whiteness of the paper. His ability to paint improved slowly. He bought better materials and focused on capturing that moment. Henry believed if he could just get the painting perfect, it would relieve him of the images. At night he would paint, and on the weekends. We watch videos on how to learn and improve his skill. Some of the others at the office commented on his stained hands. He made an extra effort to clean them, to scrub them with turpentine and pumice.
The final painting was completed. Henry had captured what he saw upon waking. The image of the damned plunging into the mouth of a greater version of themselves. The sky was just right. The shattered building in the background, a semblance of a forgotten past life, perfect. It was complete.
A moment passed. The smell of rot filled his nose. Henry doused the painting in lighter fluid and watched the colors drip down the canvas. Henry grabbed the lighter and waved the flame beneath the bottom edge of the canvas. A burst of oxygen generated a ball of flame that quickly spread across the canvas. Henry watched it burn. He stood close enough that the heat singed the hair on his arms, but he did not move. He wanted to see every inch of that image burn. The smell of rot vanished beneath the smell of burnt canvas and ash.
After two thousand, two-hundred and seventy-three days of waking to the same image, Henry awoke free of the image, free of the smell. He stood and walked through his burned out bedroom. Walls blacken with flame, the floor covered in a thick layer of ash. Henry rubbed his arm when the fire had singed his hair and the skin peeled off like a loose sleeve of a shirt. He watched the blacken flesh fall upon the floor. Henry knew intrinsically he was running late for work. It would be a good day.