This is a story about a broke painter, who has the resources to do just one last painting. He is successful in selling it to an exhibitor but what follows can be considered either as an unfortunate coincidence or maybe a work of fate.
Jim believed that he had come to the end of his rope and that if his new painting wasn’t going to be accepted. And he was sure of dying penniless in the streets of Munich, the city he hardly knew.
Jim had always believed his paintings were good and that he could live comfortably by selling his works. But the truth hit him hard when he realized that it was all his childhood fantasies. He painfully realized that for his paintings to be exhibited, he needed much more practise and network.
He had a clear image of what he was going to paint next. It would be ‘the great fire of Rome’.
But Jim didn’t have enough paint, through which he could bring out the effect. And also it was his last empty canvas to draw. Nevertheless, it was a risk that had to be taken.
He worked tirelessly for days and weeks, trying to work with the remaining paint he had for capturing the fire on his canvas. Luckily, he managed to scrape through with everything he had. Finally, he was left only with the colour ‘Prussian Blue’.
When Jim finished weeks later, he found his painting satisfying and pleasing. But he observed one flaw. The painting lacked a ‘feel’ – the finish which a person would feel, had he been witnessing the real great fire of Rome.
To make up for the missing feel, he decided to draw a burning shawl over the buildings using ‘Prussian Blue’ the last colour in his hand. This shawl was intended to represent death and agony.
Jim had in some ways, succeeded in painting the shawl but not in creating fire. This was because he had used up the blend of colours that represented fire. So, Jim left the shawl, the way it was and decided to sketch human beings getting burnt as to portray the effect of agony without adding fire to the shawl.
Finally, within another week or two, he finished the painting and decided to sell it to exhibitors. Most of them promptly rejected the piece saying, ‘It wouldn’t capture the attention of people unlike the other paintings which would be exhibited.’
Jim did try a lot to convince them. But most of them didn’t want to hear him.
Finally, he tried with one last exhibitor, who surprisingly liked his paintings. Dean Rider was the exhibitor’s name. He was not a well-known, but still he said he would pay Jim handsomely and also would exhibit Jim’s painting in his exhibitions. Jim adored it. He was also encouraged by Dean to paint more. Jim could finally tell everyone who had laughed at his condition that he worked an artist, who was getting paid. And who lived in Munich. He did not have to fear dying penniless since he had much more money than he had hoped to get for his works. Jim improved his lifestyle, lived more lavishly and bought more paints, brushes and spare canvases.
The day finally arrived, when his painting labelled ‘The Great Fire of Rome’ was exhibited. And unlike what other exhibitors remarked, his painting captured attention instantly and the blue shawl was appreciated by almost all the viewers. Jim liked the praises by most of them. After all, no painting could interest all its observers!
That’s when the most unfortunate happened. Among the audience, a man smoked and threw his burning cigarette in the exhibition hall, near its beautiful red curtains. The first one to notice the fire was a young girl, who screamed when she saw it raging through the curtains, engulfing most of the ceiling and also some of the exhibits. While some people rushed out, others panicked. And as the fire grew, there was nothing, anyone could do to extinguish it. No normal extinguisher could have stopped it, now. The fire was uncontrollable.
It soon spread to the hall’s roof, burning the structure into nothing, but ashes. Dean tried to escape. But was killed instantly, when a part of the roof came crashing on to him. The smoke was getting too thick, making it harder to breathe. People who panicked did not have a chance. Some suffocated, while others died when the structure crashed down.
Jim surely knew he wasn’t going to die. He had to live. He knew he had wished he did not die penniless, but surely, he knew this too wasn’t the way he was to die… trapped in burning shackle. Also he had to paint more works! Who would do it, if he died?
He rushed out avoiding as many collapsing structures as he could, and as he neared the exit door, His hope to live revived. The door handle was just within his reach, when the last remaining structure of the roof collapsed, in between Jim and the door.
The smoke was too thick to breathe through, Jim started suffocating and soon he gave up.
The fire brigade arrived late. And when they reached, all they found was the burnt up hall with a lot of burnt and suffocated corpses. Needless to say, Jim was among them.
The brigade did find a clue just within a few miles of the building. Coincidentally, it was a blue shawl. The one similar to what Jim had painted with ‘Prussian Blue’ in his work of burning Rome.