That he was fixated with the plight of the ephemeral effect of the eclipse twixt light source, person and backdrop that constituted his ‘shadow’ an indicator as to the onset of his lunacy. He knew full well it was unjust that his shadow was dependent upon a visible sun, the family of fire or a light bulb for its precarious existence. However, he took comfort in the knowledge that his shadow would live on after his death until such time as his body was encased or incinerated.
Once upon a midwinter’s evening walking alone, as ever in sorrowful drink, a bizarre scene came alive, for notwithstanding his mental deterioration he inadvertently stumbled in his stupor upon what he would soon discover was an unearthly niche beyond prediction. On the face of it, a towering vintage painted billboard was all it was, in a place he had either forgotten existed or one he had never chanced upon previous. Try as best he could, the purpose of the hoarding was quite beyond him. No marketing slogans, no scent. All his perplexed eyes could focus upon was merely an outlandish interior, a timeless drawing room by any other name.
Access to the high above, two-dimensional face of the structure was by a deflated grandest marble staircase that defied both logic and modern science. With all the Dutch courage he could muster, he took it upon himself to go forth, to climb up and climb into a room without a view. Once ensconced within and now at one with the canvas he, out of idle curiosity, felt compelled to open an ornate hinged door to God knows where. It led to a great chamber, clearly once the ceremonial centre of the household, although the furnishings were fewer than one would normally expect and frugal also, save for the giveaway glinting enormous crystal chandelier.
In the diary he penned during his subsequent internment in Bedlam he asserts, “I recall pausing, taking in the extraordinary setting that had unfolded. Within, I found a perfectly formed young lady of flowing bittersweet locks and scurrying chestnut brown eyes, wearing just a butterfly jet black bowtie. Uncommonly, given her state of undress, she was reverentially curled up upon a settee. A lonely pair of crimson high heeled shoes discarded on the floor beside her. Although for all intents and purposes stark naked she was seemingly blissfully immune to that aspect of social etiquette. Opposite her, perched decorously in her pin striped business suit, sat upon a plain wooden upright chair, the ripest, yet still stunningly beautiful alpha-female of a certain age. The pair seemed to either have chosen to ignore my presence or else were unware of it. Regardless, they were, I noted, in deep discussion. Eavesdropping, I ascertained that the illusion of depth of space in art and the worth of wasps come autumns windfall fermenting apples were the main topics under scrutiny.
Inevitably, given that I had made no attempt to take cover my presence eventually came to their attention. The younger, bare-skinned one of the pairing alighted from the comfort of her settee to speak with me, asking if I was ‘the artist’. Somewhat bewildered I answered in the negative. Making note that I was struggling with her question she added, ‘So you’re not the one who painted us into this scene…not the one who, one might say, ‘created us?’ I confirmed I was not the person she had hoped I would be. ‘Can you paint by the way?’ her next question. Once more my answer was in the contrary. At this she explained that had I been of an artistic bent she would have requested of me that I paint her some clothes to wear, ‘I am sick and tired of this bowtie, I want some proper clothing’. The older lady interrupted at this juncture saying that she would have liked me to craft in oils a bed with satin sheets had I been the painter I am not. The both of them made mention of the lengths they would go to be blessed with a shadow each. Sadly, for them it was not to be.
In the circumstances I felt it good manners to at least offer my white cotton shirt to the naked one. She was much shorter than me and it would serve to afford her a semblance of modesty. She gratefully accepted my offering and hoped I would not catch a head cold without the protection of the gifted shirt when homeward bound. Sadly, I had about my person nothing to donate to her companion.
Kindly, they insisted I should stay within their planar projection of the physical universe, an offer I would have accepted save that it would have meant foregoing my shadow, a thing I could never let happen. I bid the ladies a fond farewell. Often I wonder how they have fared.”
In an attempt to remedy his malaise his keepers within the institution that was Bedlam had him secured in a windowless, darkened room kept forever apart from his beloved shadow. As to his diary entry such things as ‘billboards and butterfly bowties’ were alien to the institutions physicians in the Year of Our Lord 1604. They knew not what to make of his condition.