Short Story: Fading Paintings

Renaldo loved going to the art museum, and since he had met Paulina, he looked forward to going to the museum even more.

He walked past the crowds that were lining the walls enjoying their favorites paintings. There was a painting for every mood.

Renaldo showed up at the appointed time, and seeing that he had arrived before her, pulled out his pad, and wrote ‘Hi’ on it.

Since neither could hear the other, they wrote their conversations down for the other to see. The inability to hear connected them.

He looked up and saw that she had shown up.

He held up his pad, and she held up hers in response. ‘Hi’ was written on her pad as well.

They spent the afternoon talking. It was just the two of them, enjoying each other’s company.

As the afternoon gave way to early evening. They wrote their goodbyes, and approached each other, close enough to hug.

A sadness fell over them, like it did every time they were to go their separate ways.

They each placed their hands to their own side of the canvas, wishing their worlds were connected by more than just the ability to see each other.

It had been more than twenty years since scientist were able to open viewers to other worlds and dimensions.

At first, the ability to view was one way, so they collaborated with artist from around the world and came up with the idea to create an art exhibit where humans could see other worlds as if they were looking at paintings.

Many of the worlds and dimensions were so different from earth, that they even looked like they had been created by an artist. Some were filled with bright colors, some had different types of gravity, and some worlds had unexplained textures.

Over time, the artist and scientist began giving the worlds names based on the way a world, or dimension resembled historical artists’ works.

Paulina was from one of the Monet paintings. Her dimension was covered in beautiful country landscapes and full of colorful plants that resembled flowers.

Even the inhabitants wore clothes very similar to the French clothing within Monet paintings.

While most people were drawn to the Picasso and Dali worlds, Roberto always found the Monet, Manet, and Rembrandt worlds more serene.

One year, scientist from a parallel dimension very similar to the one Renaldo existed in, found a way to make the paintings two way, and it wasn’t long before other worlds were able to see Earth through paintings of their own.

While there were dozens of paintings that were two-way, there were still well over a hundred that remained one-way. Whether it was because the other world was not as technologically advanced, or had not discovered a way to view other worlds yet on their own. These paintings were the truest form of the term paintings, as these worlds and dimensions were able to be viewed without the knowledge of the inhabitants of those worlds.

Unfortunately, even with the worlds they were able to communicate with through various soundless means, they were never able to find a way to allow either side to hear each other and over time, inhabitants from both sides merely moved on, content in only being able to view the other worlds and dimensions as before.

Inhabitants from both sides started to see the inhabitants of the worlds they were viewing as bothersome, so it came to pass that worlds started viewing the paintings from their own side at times when the inhabitants of those paintings were not present.

To appeal to the other worlds to continue viewing Earth, when the museum closed, they would place a screen over the paintings projecting images from cameras around the world, changing the destination daily.

Now, as the patrons of earth walked the hallways to enjoy the various paintings, except for those that were one-way, most of them were only pictures of beautiful, other worldly landscapes.

Paulina’s world was another version of earth. Her calendar time period was the same as Renaldo’s, and much of their technology was similar, but they had remained fashionably locked in France’s history.

They spoke a variation of English, and much of their names for places and things were identical.

Renaldo was very lucky to have found and clicked with her one day as he was enjoying the various paintings. As an artist himself, he always enjoyed spending time at the museum.

One day he was drawing a picture of Paulina’s world, when she had walked past, turning in curiosity at who was viewing them at that moment.

Their eyes locked, and it was her that waved first. He shyly waved back.

The first day, they weren’t sure how to communicate, but they somehow managed to understand the message to meet at the same time the next day.

They had both brought pads with them the second day, and though their languages were slightly different, they were able to convey their questions and answers.

It wasn’t long that they were both looking forward to talking each day. They spent hours sharing pleasantries, describing their individual worlds, and eventually, how they longed to find a way to meet in real life.

Renaldo knew that the scientist on Earth had never given up on trying to travel to these different locations. They simultaneously worked on space travel, in an attempt to reach these planets, made easier by at least learning what direction they may be in.

The alternate dimensions were more difficult, but also the more likely winner in the race. While traveling between dimensions had never been done, the paintings that allowed to at least view them, was at the very least, a major step in the right direction.

Each day when Renaldo parted ways with Paulina, he would go to the next floor up in the museum, where the scientists worked around the clock, learning all they could to travel to these other worlds and dimensions.

Renaldo watched as she walked out of sight, as he did every day, and then immediately marched to the labs on the second floor to meet with his friend, Stephen.

Stephen lit up when he saw Renaldo.

“Renaldo!” he called out when he saw him. “Come her my friend. I have some amazing news!”

Renaldo had seen Stephen happy before, but nothing like this.

“What’s going on?” he asked.

“We believe that we have found a way to transverse between dimensions!” Stephen exclaimed, barely able to contain himself.

“What?!” Renaldo asked, adding to the excitement.

“Yes,” Stephen continued. “The revelation came late last night, and all of our simulations have come back with positive results. We feel confident enough to attempt a link with another dimension as a real-world trial!”

Renaldo couldn’t believe what he was hearing. His initial instinct was to recommend Paulina’s dimension, but he decided to not to risk it on the first trial. He knew if it worked, he would be on the top of the list to attempt a visit to her world. He also knew there would still be the need for further tests to ensure it was safe, and whatever traveled to the other dimension could come back.

While he was excited about all the things he would be able to show her, he also knew he would have to be patient. Being with her could still be months, if not years away.

Unable to contain himself, he asked, “How soon are you going to make your first attempt?”

“Since this if of the utmost importance to the government,” Stephen explained. “We are to make our first attempt in six hours, when the museum is closed, and we are able to coordinate with the other side.”

Renaldo wished he had a way of telling Paulina, but he knew he wouldn’t be able to talk to her until their appointed time the next day.

He wasn’t allowed on the second floor once it was time for them to make the test. He had seen them take a painting with them to make the attempt, but he wouldn’t know what the results were until Stephen was able to tell them.

Renaldo knew it was pointless to hang around waiting, but he was too excited to leave. Stephen had allowed him to crash in a room with a cot.

It was around two-thirty in the morning when Renaldo was suddenly woken by a series of alarms being set off.

He jumped up and ran first to the lab, which he was still locked out of, and then to the first floor, where the alarms were all going off.

His heart began to ache.

All the paintings in the museum began to blink, static, return to normal, and repeat. He knew something was wrong, and his fear of losing connection to Paulina forever felt as if it was coming true.

He wanted to run back to the second floor, bang on the door, and demand answers, but he knew it would be futile.
All he could do was sit there and hope that each blink of the paintings wouldn’t be the last.

At some point he dozed off, still sitting on the floor leaning against the wall.

He jumped when Stephen shook him awake. Before he evened noticed Stephen, he saw that the paintings had returned to normal.

“What happened?” Renaldo asked, wiping the sleepiness from his eyes.

With a sad look, Stephen replied, “We failed more than we could ever have imagined.”

Renaldo was confused. “I don’t understand. The paintings look normal.”

Stephen knew what he had to say would be hard.

“They look normal for now, but they are actually beginning to fade,” he said. “When we sent our first trial object, an inanimate object, a vase, it seemed to work fine. But when they passed the vase back, everything seemed to go haywire. Every mechanism we had in place began to go crazy.

“We have spent ever since trying to stabilize the connection once more. We were eventually able to restore the connection, or so we thought, but once we reviewed the data, we realized that the connections were slowing degrading. And not just the dimension we were collaborating with, but all the connections to the other worlds, and dimensions as well.”

Stephen slid down the wall next to Renaldo.

“All of us are now trying to stop the degradation before the connections are completely gone, but it doesn’t look promising.”

They sat there for a brief moment, before Stephen stood back up.

“I have to get back to help the others,” he said. “I just had to step away to tell you what was going on.”

“How long before all the paintings have faded completely?” Renaldo asked.

Stephen’s face saddened even further. “By this time tomorrow, all the connections will be lost.”

Renaldo watched as Stephen walked away and returned back to his dismay of knowing the next time he saw Paulina, it would be the last.

Though he knew she wouldn’t show until the appointed time, Renaldo stayed at her painting and waited.

The clocked ticked away with excruciating slowness.

He looked at his watch and saw that he was only an hour away from their appointed time, when he once again felt Stephen’s hand on his shoulder.

“Come with me now,” Stephen said urgently.

“What?” Renaldo tried to ask, but barely got the question out as Stephen half-dragged him down the hallway and up the stairs.

Once they were on the second floor, Stephen stopped them and looked around to see where everyone was.

Renaldo was about to ask him what was going on, but Stephen stopped him with a finger to the lips.

Seeing the area clear, Stephen led Renaldo to an empty chamber and closed the door behind them.

“All the scientists are occupied, so if we’re going to do this, we need to do it now,” he said.

“Do what?” Renaldo asked.

“I’m going to bring Paulina over before the paintings completely disappear,” Stephen explained.

Renaldo couldn’t believe what he was hearing. While he stood there dumbstruck, Stephen went to the controls, and with the push of a few buttons, had Paulina’s painting brought into the room.

It wasn’t long before Paulina arrived at the painting. Her waive to Renaldo was interrupted by her confusion on why Renaldo’s background looked different than it usually did.

Renaldo pulled out his notepad and caught her up on what was going on. The time had come to ask for her to take the leap of faith and leave everyone and everything behind to join him there.

A look of panic grew across her face, and then she slowly nodded.

She asked if she had time to say her goodbyes, but one look from Stephen informed them both that there wasn’t.

She was sad, but in love, so she nodded again, and asked what she had to do.

Renaldo looked at Stephen for guidance.

“All she has to do is…,” Stephen was cut off as there was a commotion at the door.

He looked at the security cameras and saw that the other scientist had discovered what they were trying to do and wanted to stop them.

“They still think they can solve the problem before all the paintings fade,” Stephen explained. “But I know better. We’re down to minutes before we lose it all, and I want to see at least one person happy before it’s gone.”

All of a sudden, the door crashed open and scientist and security guards burst into the room.

“Jump!” Stephen yelled.

Renaldo knew what he had to do. He turned to look at Paulina, and then charged towards the painting. Realizing what he was doing, she quickly moved out of the way as Renaldo jumped through the frame and into her world.

He stood up and looked back through the painting. Stephen, the scientist, and the guards stopped what they were doing and stared at him, not believing what he had just done.

Stephen shook himself free and slowly walked to the painting.

The two stared at each other through the frame, and as the view began to grow dark for the last time, Renaldo waved a ‘Thank you’ to Stephen.

Stephen was still waving as Renaldo and Paulina disappeared completely.

The sudden realization of what had just happened dawned on Renaldo, and fear crept in.

All his fear disappeared the moment Paulina threw herself into his arms.

Antonio Garcia
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Published on September 19, 2018 10:13 Tags: short-story
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