A Painting of the Revolution

She knew full well it was going to be the last thing she ever created. The art piece was almost complete too. A zealous charge overcame her, and her brush no longer made the delicate strokes when she started the piece. She could not restrain her anger any longer, and bits of paint landed on the floor and on her clothes with every stroke. The ending was bold and a bit chaotic, and vibrant yellows, blues and greens covered what started as gray and monotone. It was all once black and white, featuring a protester off-center, throwing a Molotov cocktail at the walls of the Permanent President’s home. The painter captured the volatile cocktail mid-explosion, which radiated in a burst of color. White chamomiles, yellow roses and red carnations replaced the flames, and gave the painting a hidden meaning. The light from the explosion changed everything around it, bringing it all to the past, a scene from a time before the Permanent President. Some parts remained black and white and gray, which violently clashed with the approaching color.

She made only one mistake. After spending far too long painting and not enough time sleeping, a casual trip to the market to buy food ended in a quiet disaster. She still had clearly visible paint marks on her clothes, and seeing some of the faces around her, she quickly made the connection. Anyone who saw her could have tipped the police for a modest reward. The Permanent Law Against the Creation of All Arts meant all of her paintings would be destroyed once the state acquires it, and she would face ten years in a labor camp.

Without warning, police broke her door in and streamed inside. The painting still had an unfinished look to it. The officers handcuffed her, and carried away her masterpiece along with all her other art.

The officer who should have destroyed the unfinished painting instead couldn’t believe his good fortune. Police pay had stagnated over the years, and made it a challenge to buy basic goods. Prices kept increasing regardless. This month, he didn’t even receive his pay, along with many other officers. The bureaucrats said it was just a temporary bug in the system.

He stole the painting and marked it as “destroyed”, and quickly sold it to a relative’s friend who was an underground art collector. Such a hobby at the time was equivalent to a liquor collector during the Prohibition. The art collector greatly enjoyed the painting, the officer happily went home with pockets full of cash.

But all was not well. Soon after the raid, all police officers involved were laid off. The higher-ups noticed that the number of paintings destroyed did not match the official report, and hadn’t the patience to conduct an investigation. It was far easier to hire more from the long waiting list of prospective officers.

Months went by and the deteriorating conditions in the city sparked occasional riots, all of which were easily suppressed. The art collector took great interest in what was happening in his city, and with his numerous connections and ample cash reserves, he managed to invite the architect of the riots.

The people are afraid of change, his guest said.

The people are the greatest source of change, replied the collector.

Perhaps all they need is the right push at the right time, the mastermind considered. The city needs a shower of sparks to ignite the will of the people.

They talked about the problems of the city, the laws, the police, and how it all connected to the Permanent President’s rule. The collector showed the rebel mastermind the unfinished painting, and an idea was born.

Several weeks later, a bright Friday morning, the entire city was covered with copies of the painting. They were nailed to fences, taped to windows, wrapped around light posts, and scattered all over the streets. The backs of the posters listed the substances one could use to make a Molotov cocktail, along with an invitation to act immediately. At the same time, a large group of organized rioters, each with a Molotov cocktail, dashed to the Permanent President’s house and hurled the fiery bottles over the high wall. Some of the bottles shattered against the wall, covering it in flames. Before security services could do anything, the house itself started to burn spectacularly. Some of the police at hand rushed to put out the flames, while others shot at the rioters, killing several before the rest ran away in separate directions. The President’s house partially burned before being put out by firefighters. The President immediately announced martial law, and the military patrolled all of downtown by the afternoon.

By the evening, a terrible clash occurred. Thousands of civilians, many with bottles full of alcohol, diesel fuel, kerosene from lamps, and gasoline from their vehicles marched towards the President’s home, with the mastermind of the riots leading them on. The army opened fired, and the revolutionaries threw their Molotovs. Hundreds of civilians were shot, dozens of soldiers died, and posters with the painting burned along with the city. After several days of this, with increased intensity, the elites of the country called for the President to leave his office. The country was at the precipice of civil war, and elites knew it could be stopped with one move. The Permanent President was no more.

After the painter of the revolution was released from the labor camp, she was surrounded by those who took part in the violent days that passed. They were kind to her, but were curious most of all. They asked if she will finish her painting, as it now has an enormous historical impact, and was indeed the spark that started the fiery revolution.

She shook her head, and triumphantly stated, “You all finished my painting. You are all painters of the revolution!”

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