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  • Writer's pictureGavin Hansen

The Sky

Rain slickened the cobbled steps up the long road to the professor's home. The home had stood on its mountain perch for over four hundred years, and the professor had lived there just as long. He likely would until the mountain itself gave way to time.

A stiff knock on the door caught the professor’s ear. He had just started a bottle of wine, and hated to be interrupted before it was finished, but stood nonetheless, and shifted to the door. The poor courier’s hands shook in the cold as he handed a letter and parcel to the professor.

“Terribly sorry to hear about your student, sir.”

The door had already been halfway closed. It creaked slightly open again.

“What was that?”

“Your student, James. With the pneumonia.”

“Oh yes, James. How is he doing?”

“He died, sir… He left these for you.”

“I see. Terribly sorry to hear that, son. Send my best to his family.” 

The door was shut with force. 

First the letter. Then the wine. Maybe he’d get to the parcel in the morning. Knowing James, it was some foolish art piece, and the professor hardly had interest in such things. The envelope was damp from the rain, and so opened without a letter opener. 

Solemn final greeting, heartfelt opening, thanks for the time they shared. The professor skimmed the letter, until reaching his student’s remarks on death–which he skipped entirely. Why bother? His eyes landed on the final note before the final goodbye. 

I’ve left for you, a work of mine. May it brighten your halls

as you brightened my mind.

The professor chuckled. He had been right! Some crude depiction of himself, or perhaps the study hall in which he taught. Now curiosity overcame him, and he took the parcel in hand.

He tore the covering to reveal an oil painting. Blues and yellows and greens, the Sky in brilliant display could convince you that the painting itself was on fire. The sharp radiance of the sun cutting through a morning mist, a small array of avian silhouettes flew in the corner. At the very bottom edge, rolling hills of green and stone remained just barely in view. They knew not to come any closer. The Sky was the focus. And what a focus it was.

The professor observed the painting, and laughed. He pulled it, corner dragging, to the window and threw open the shades. He held the shining canvas to a cloudy sky.

“See this, sky? Bring the storm, bring the winds! When your gale threatens to tear my house from its perch, I’ll fetch this thing from my attic, dust it off, and nail it over the window. Let that keep my home intact!”

He laughed, coughed. Stared down the sky. Its rain kept falling. A sniffle, then shut the blinds, turning the painting over in his hands as he walked towards the door to the cellar. One bottle wouldn’t be enough tonight.

“The sky is seen by all, fool. Who needs your interpretation of it? When this canvas rots away, in time, and your name comes up by chance in the depths of some forgotten record, they will ask me who you were. What you did. I will tell them–oh, he painted the sky. You’re welcome.”

He tossed the painting aside and descended into the cellar. Beads of rain were squeezing through the stone walls, bringing with them a suffocating humidity. Forgetting a candle, the professor made do with his memory and brought back the first bottle his hands could find.

For now, the other bottle would do. After another quarter of it, the professor returned to the painting. Ought to do something with it. He tried it around his home, on various walls at various angles. No matter where it was, it was too bright. Darkened its surroundings. Finally, he found a spot where it didn’t look quite awful–next to the glass door of his balcony. The brightness of the sky, even cloudy, combated the brightness of the painting. Taking a step back, he laughed.

“Dearest departed, you seem to have forgotten to name this… piece. You leave that honor to me! A toast!” The professor finished his glass and poured the last of the bottle back into it. “Now, what to name you? As you contrast the real sky, perhaps Reality? Optimism?” He laughed a drunken laugh. Suddenly, he was stern.

“No. I dub thee—Art. Simple name, yes, and not very creative. But I thank god I am not creative, lest I had been lured into the arts and not the sciences. Lest I had found with my time not mathematical truth, but fantastical lies. Lies! As much as a lie to depict the sky as a shining wonder when without moving my eyes I can see the real thing! The cloudy, windy muck that tears and claws and drenched that poor courier. You, Art, claim it sunny and pure. But you can’t change it.”

He took a few steps back to the table, but paused to toast the painting once again. “To Art. Foolish, foolish art.”

The professor grabbed the second bottle of wine and turned to open it, but paused. His hands grew shaky for just a moment. On the bottle, the label had been ripped, leaving a white blank surface on which was written:

My Love

25 Years couldn't have come sooner

Another bottle for us to share

I promise I’ll take this one slow


At once the bottle was thrown against the wall, against the painting. Hues of gold and blue were sicklied over with deep wine red. The professor took a step back, breathing, and observed his mess. Shards of glass dug into the canvas, a red puddle formed on the floor as drops from the wall traced their way down. 

The professor sank to the ground, wailing, eyes locked on the painting. The clouds outside flashed with lightning. The brightness of the painting, even stained, combated the brightness of the sky.

“I’ll find another. Another love, another house, another bottle of wine. Hell, I’ll grow the grapes and ferment my own wine for eons. I'll be there to try the first sip. I’ll dedicate it to my 10,001st wife and watch her die like all the rest. I’ll teach millions of students, and watch them die in waves as time rolls on, carries them away from here, away from here.”

He held his face in his hands. “I know the Sky, James. I wish you could have painted death, so that I may know it too.”


Gavin Hansen is an emerging writer with a focus on screenwriting and short stories. He is fueled by a passion for storytelling and filmmaking, and has been doing both since a very young age. You can find more of Gavin’s work— including his films— on Twitter: @realgavinhansen


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