its a bit precious to think this is necessary, but there were a couple of large, embarrassing errors in the last version, so i am posting it again with corrections. after all the story is about someone without much talent worrying about posterity while drugged, so it is weirdly relevant. Pre-apologies to anyone offended by my pomposity.
Joachim the younger is not discussed much nowadays, which is not surprising as he was obscure in his own day,which is also not suprising as he was a very bad artist. He inherited the business from his father, Joachim the elder who was a mediocre but successful painter. when his father died, Joachim's stilted figures, rough colouring and childish perspective soon drove the business close to ruin.
The lack of trade at least allowed joachim to roam the mountains.it was a beautiful spring morning and he had walked much further than usual.
He sat down by a small stream to have his bread and cheese before heading back. As he munched away he looked around. there was the magnificent view he could never capture, the blue sky whose depth would alway elude him. At his feet was a small mushroom. I will paint you, he thought, I can manage that and he put the fungus in his satchel.
Back at his cottage he put the fungus in a bowl and started to draw it in charcoal. it was much more difficult than he thought - the surface was a confusion, the level of detail required was unclear. he scrunched up the drawing and threw it into a corner. In his anger and disgust he picked up the fungus and chewed it maliciously. He felt most peculiar and lay down on his bed. The room spun round and round. he closed his eyes but that only made the sensation worse, It was a relief when he fell asleep.
His dream started in blackness then a delightful little fairy appeared.
'i am mushroom and I am going to grant your wish for one day'
'but I haven't told you what it is'
'i know it already you dumbkoff' she laughed and disappeared.
He had the same dream ten or twenty times before waking up.
how peculiar,he thought as the dawn light shown through the window.
as usual he had a slow leisurely breakfast followed by a slow leisurely stare out of the window.
out of respect to his late father, he did a little light sketching before lunch.
He drew the cat sleeping in front of the empty hearth.his fingers moved quickly as if his eyes were in direct contact with his fingers.
The cat on the parchment looked more alive than the real one, you could almost see it dream of chasing rats, you would swear you saw its paw twitch. Joachim was thrilled. He picked up an unfinished Madonna and Child. With a few clever highlights,the two figures were illuminated in a holy light. For four hours he worked furiously, hardly breathing,never mind stopping to eat. He could see clearly what he needed to do to create a wonderous object - deep humanity with a varnish of spirituality.
The sun set. In the candlelight he made a clumsy stroke and nearly obliterated Jesus - his gift had gone. 'For one day' the fairy had said, and now it was night, he stared at the unfinished painting - knowing he dare not lay a single brush hair on it. Tears obscured his vision.
The next day he set of from home before dawn and climbed quickly to where the mushroom had been. His heart was beating alarmingly fast, lights were flashing before his eyes and a band of steel was compressing his skull. He felt his body could explode at any second.
When he got there, he found there were no more mushrooms. He looked around desperately.
There was a menacing laugh behind him.
A goblin was sitting on a rock, it seemed like the very ugly brother of the fairy in his dream.
'Are you real?'
The goblin ignored the impertinent question.
'I suppose you want another mushroom to gobble' The goblin smirked.
Joachim nodded, unable to speak.
'There is a stiff price to pay. If you have one more day of your heart's desire,it will be your last day and your heart's demise.' the goblin stared at him and said slowly, as if to an idiot 'No one takes two mushrooms and lives. Its your choice'
From behind his back he produced a mushroom and laid it down on a rock.
'Its your choice!' he chortled, and was gone,
Despite feeling weak, Joachim rushed home in next to no time.
He sat by the rough wooden table, the small fungus shining a spot of sunlight.
"If I leave it my whole life will have amounted to nothing. When I am gone, and I will die eventually, it will have been as if I had never been - no mark made, no sign that I have ever been. But I know that if I create one, just one, great work of art I will be remembered. People will stop in front of it and say - he was a great artist."
He looked up at this self portrait of his poor, mediocre father. The portrait spoke to him, something it hadnever done before.
"Don't do it boy, obscurity is better than death. I know, I've tried both"
That settles it he thought, and stuffed the fungus into his mouth, A tear of pride and sadness seemed to appear on the old man's cheek, something he had difficulty painting when alive.
Joachim set to work - there were only eight hours until sunset.
He finished the madonna whose face looked out at the viewer, sharing her love and foreboding. He finished the child, innocent yet knowing, looking at his mother with sympathy for the suffering that is to come. He completed the few patches of background left unfinished from before.
Just before sunset he added the last touches his masterpiece. It was impossible to look at wtihout coming under its spell. He was just about to sign it when there was a cough behind him. on the windowsill sat the goblin.
'Well, you've done it now. Ten seconds to live. All you have to do to achieve immortallity is sign it.'
He picked up the brush and reached towards the painting, his heart started to race, getting faster and faster until individual beats were inperceptable - then it stopped, like a runaway horse hitting a stone wall.
'Make that five seconds.'
The room was empty of life, except in the extraordinary painting. The room grew darker, Everything in it blended into the darkness.
The painting can be seen at the Hermitage, wrongly attributed to Giampietrino.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Giampietrino_Virgen_con_el_Ni%C3%B1o_Hermitage.jpg