A firm footstep echoed throughout the dim hallway. The paintings on the walls, undisturbed for centuries, rattled along with the sonorous shoefall. A cloud of dust rose from the floor like a sandstorm from the ancient dunes of the Sahara.
A conspicuously nondescript man paused, staring into a lush landscape within an ornate silver frame. A moon rose in the center, casting a faint glow over the forested hills and trickling stream. He reflected pensively for many hours, chuckled to himself, and forged ahead. The frame was now covered in tarnish, the painting torn.
He stopped once again in front of another artwork, this one of an imposing marble metropolis, sparkling and majestic. As he contemplated, it began to grow outwards until it covered all of the space between the wooden floor and vaulted ceiling. He observed for some time, seemingly waiting for something to occur. When nothing happened, he proceeded suddenly, leaving the mural to crack and crash on the ground.
The next painting ‒ one of a woman sailing through a tempest ‒ swayed to its own symphony, shaking with the scatenato staccato of the sea shackled within. When the man passed by, the composition reached a climactic crescendo as a squall consumed the canvas. He stood respectfully and beheld the culmination of the artist’s legacy; despite the fierce nature of the piece, a distinct undercurrent of miasmatic melancholy flooded the air. He continued somberly as the image swallowed itself behind him. For the first time, he softly spoke: “It was never your fault.” The words were not his own, but those of the woman in the artwork.
Beside the seascape was a portrait of a man on a rocky beach, gazing wistfully out to the turbulent water and the dark corridor that lay beyond. The stranger pondered for only a moment before dropping his clouded gaze. The colors began to bleed together in vertical streaks which dripped onto the floor. The bottom of the iron frame rusted and fell apart.
Further down the hallway, a depiction of a merry crowd hung proudly. The man studied each person individually. After he finished, every smile disappeared; most of the crowd attempted to remain stoic, but some wore their sorrow honestly as the image fractured and decayed. Soon, only a few hazy faces persisted, although they would not linger for much longer.
The next painting was much smaller than the rest, showing only the tall silhouettes of a man and a woman. The white background darkened until the figures were indistinguishable from it. The strange man reached out and gently touched the pink border before looking away.
The man sat against the wall, letting out a weary sigh as he rested his wrinkled hands on his feeble legs. He had seen enough to know that his painting would be on the wall someday. He wondered what it would look like. He wondered who would be there to appreciate it.
Maybe they could finally understand him, even if he could not.