The Art of War
Name: Antoine Flont (Formerly, Emille Yahz)
Emille was always an artist. At the ripe age of four his parents thought him to be a prodigy, as the young boy created pieces well beyond his years. His drawings were reminiscent of the finely placed strokes of da Vinci, his finger paintings practically mimicking Picasso, and his sculptures of clay rivaling the intricacy of Michelangelo. It seemed he would excel at whatever medium he attempted. This prowess for art continued to grow as Emille himself did. He quickly moved beyond physical forms of art to ones of the ear and imagination; namely, music and writing. Again, his apparently prodigious ability for the arts showed through as he quickly mastered these new forms of self-expression. Before long, institutions the world over were requesting his attendance. By the age of 11 Emille had established such a reputation for himself that he could practically take his pick of academia or career paths within the arts.
However, academics and collectors weren't the only people focusing their attention on young Emille. His pieces drew the gaze of one Trevor Flont, a psychologist working in the realm of psychopathy. Trevor's career revolved around using subtle signs in every day activities of individuals to diagnose psychopaths as early as possible. He had first seen Emille's art when the boy was only seven years old. A collection of his pieces were featured in a museum in Trevor's hometown, so the psychologist decided to pay them a visit. What he saw would spark an interest that would turn into an obsession.
Patterns. All artists love patterns. Some use them to great effect in order to evoke strong emotions, others purposely break them to subvert the viewer's expectations. Emille did something... different. His patterns were meticulous. Subtle. They were designed in a fashion one could never notice unless multiple pieces of his were scrutinized side-by-side. Yet as Trevor Flont stood there on that peaceful Tuesday afternoon, in a gallery dedicated to an apparent prodigy's masterpieces, he saw them. He immediately grabbed his phone and made several calls to connections he had made during his time in university, people he knew could get him what he sought. By the end of the week a large box was delivered to his apartment. Trevor opened the box carefully, slowly removing its contents and placing them delicately around the room. Once it was empty, the man found himself surrounded by replicas of the collected works of Emille Yahz.
Trevor spent the next year carefully pouring over every piece Emille produced. He could see the patterns underneath the art, but he couldn't discern what they were for. The man feared he would lose his mind trying to uncover the hidden meanings, as he constantly felt he was only a single connection away from unraveling the entire mystery. Throughout this year replicas of Emille's new pieces were constantly delivered to Trevor's apartment. Before long, he found himself lacking in enough space to house all of the pieces adequately. So he did the only sensible thing he could think of. On a nearby abandoned lot rested a decrepit but fixable house from nearly a century ago, and it was here Trevor set up shop. In this house he had enough room to carefully arrange every piece in a way that seemed to best align the patterns held within them.
One fateful morning, about a month after the anniversary of Trevor's descent into the pits of Emille's great mystery, it arrived. The piece that would connect the gaps between the patterns. The new work arrived as all the others did, and at first it seemed liked a rather simple painting. A tranquil scene of a fisherman in the middle of a richly colored lake surrounded by an almost mystical wood adorned the newly acquired canvas. But something was different about this piece. Trevor couldn't put his finger on it at first, but he just knew. After scrutinizing the scene for nearly three hours without rest, the rattled psychologist was ready to give up. As he pulled back his magnifying glass, a ray of light from an open window shone through it and hit the paper in such a way as to illuminate the water in the lake in a peculiar way. The light almost seemed to dip into the small crests of water spurred up by wind on the lake. In other words, the light interacted with the painting as if it were actually entering the scene. Clearly this was impossible.
Trevor wracked his brain for how the strange effect could have been achieved. For a brief moment he questioned whether Emille somehow possessed an otherworldly power. That's when it struck him. He called a friend and made an urgent request for a special item to be delivered as soon as possible. Within the hour he had what he sought. Trevor opened the box he'd been given and pulled out a brush and sealed bottle. The bottle was opened delicately, so as to not spill its contents. He then carefully spread the fine powder contained inside over the painting, trying to cover it as evenly as possible. Once it was completely covered, he used the brush to wipe away the excess. Sure enough, just as he expected, the powder remained in only select places around the painting. He had been leaning close during his initial inspection, so it was only as he finally pulled back that the grim secret of the painting truly came into view.
What the powder revealed was a picture within the picture. Each stroke of paint had been laid down with such meticulous care that they created intentional divots and curves in the piece. When overlaid with a material that could form to it, this layering created a new story. It was in this moment that Trevor knew how he'd first spotted the odd pattern in the first place: dust. How he had seen the changes caused by mere spots of dust he didn't know, but that could be the only explanation. The "how" didn't matter at this point though. What mattered was the gruesome scene in front of him.
The new picture depicted something that could only be described as torture. A figure was shown carving a young woman's body into an odd shape. Much to Trevor's dismay, the woman appeared to be alive, as evident by the anguished look on her face. The shape being carved seemed to be the start of a sculpture of some kind. It was hard to make out what the intended final piece might be at first; that is, until Trevor's eyes made a sweep around the room. They settled on a nearby piece, a marble statue Emille had made a couple months prior. A statue with very similar proportions to the one in this painting. Critics had lauded the piece for its creativity, saying the young prodigy was merely expressing an abstract concept through a distortion of the human form. However, Trevor now suspected there was a darker meaning to the piece. He had only one way to be sure...
The psychologist dashed around the derelict house he'd practically lived in for the past year, applying the powder to every piece he could. More horrible scenes unfolded before his eyes. Scenes of grotesque murder. One thing that seemed odd about all of them was the size of the figure committing the acts. They were often small in stature, and the size varied from piece to piece. Once he'd covered enough of the pieces in powder, Trevor inspected each one carefully, trying to figure out a pattern between the pieces. It took an hour before he spotted it. If he looked at the pieces in order of creation, the figure appeared to grow taller over time. This gave him an idea. He ran to a nearby computer and pulled up pictures of one Emille Yahz. Sure enough, the size of the figures seemed to match up perfectly with how tall Emille himself was at the time of creating them. The meaning was clear: Emille envisioned himself as the killer.
Trevor had terrifying evidence in front of him, but did it mean anything? So the boy fantasizes about cruel scenes of torture; surely it's wrong, but it's not strictly illegal. What could be done about it? At the time, nothing. Trevor continued to study Emille's art over the years, and the patterns always appeared. The scenes grew worse with each passing year, the "experiments" - as Trevor had become wont to calling them - on the boy's human specimens increasing in creativity and deplorability. They became especially interesting when Emille dipped his toes into the world of music. The patterns still existed in the music; the means of revealing them were simply different. By now Trevor was an expert on the boy's methods, so he figured out how to analyze the sound spectrums rather quickly. Rather than images, he was now presented with sounds. Sounds that haunted his dreams for a week after his analysis of the first musical score. Somehow, Emille had composed his music in such a way as to hide the sounds of his apparent victims being mutilated. Not only their screams and crying, but also the sounds of his tools digging into them. It was visceral, and to Trevor seemed undeniably... real. How could the boy have not only constructed such realistic sounds but also hid them in an otherwise beautiful piece of music?
The answer came to Trevor in a flurry of revelations. One morning while checking the news, he saw an odd report about a case that was still unresolved. A fisherman had been found at the bottom of a lake, tied up in his own line in an intricate pattern. The killer left no traces, and the investigation was finally being dropped for the time being. Trevor tried to figure out why this sounded so familiar... Then it hit him, one of Emille's paintings featured a fisherman on a lake! This was a common thing to depict in art though, surely it was just a coincidence. The psychologist began looking for records of the case. What he found were pictures of the crime scene. And much to his chagrin, the scene lined up perfectly with Emille's painting. Spurred on by his discovery, Trevor looked for connections between Emille's other pieces and past crimes. The results came pouring in. One unresolved case after another, all matching his subject's art in some fashion. Was this really possible? The earliest pieces were from when the boy was only four years old, surely he couldn't have been killing at such a young age? And the murders were all over the world, how would that be possible?
Trevor went to his notes. He traced back through the patterns he'd found in the pieces and... found they didn't begin until Emille was six. In addition, they didn't begin appearing consistently on every new piece until the artist was seven years of age. Most damning of all, this was also the time period in which the young Emille started receiving invitations to show his art in various galleries across the globe. The evidence all lined up. It was absurd, the idea that such a young boy could be a mass murderer, but the facts all seemed to be there. Even if it were all true though, who would believe him?..
The answer was a resounding: no one. Trevor went to the local police, and they laughed at him. A world renowned prodigy of an artist, a serial killer? There was no way. He then went to a government official, and again found himself being laughed at. In an act of desperation, he posted his findings online. As expected, many people mocked the report. However, much to his pleasant surprise, a small group believed him. This group followed every post he made about Emille's art, but it was clear they were held together by a thread. Should a single shred of doubt arise, or should Trevor's posts lose their credibility, his following would disband in an instant. He'd need to be diligent in order to reveal this horror to the world, in order to save the victims of Emille Yahz.
"It would appear I've been discovered... I'll need to prepare a... special, piece..."
Emille Yahz, now 17 years old, packed his bag carefully. He didn't need to hide any of the strange items he was bringing with him. The TSA was no obstacle, he had received a special pass to get through security many years ago. After all, the world's finest artist should be allowed to take whatever tools he needs with him in order to complete his masterpieces. He never needed to explain himself. People just assumed they wouldn't be able to understand his process. The chains in his bag would seem odd to many, but what do they know of fine art? Nothing! And if they don't know any better, they have no choice but to let him get away with it. It was as simple as that.
This flight was different though. Emille wasn't leaving to complete just any piece. This would be the first part of his magnum opus. He'd had a vision for many years now. A vision of a gallery carefully constructed by his own hand. Any other involvement would ruin it, no one else shared his unique perspective on art. No, he would have to complete this on his own, just as he always had worked. And this journey would be the first step to doing so.
The flight took a few hours, but finally Emille arrived, a slight smile creeping along his lips as he stepped off the plane. He hailed a cab as soon as he could and gave the driver the address to this destination. It was a 45 minute drive with the traffic in the area, but Emille had no trouble waiting. He was an artist after all, and good art requires endless patience. When he exited the cab, bag in hand, he marched up to the door of the apartment he stood beside with a fiery purpose burning deep within his eyes.
"Trevor Flont, I presume? Emille Yahz. You've heard of me, yes? Oh, I know you have..."
Emille forced himself inside before he could be stopped, closing the door behind him. Trevor looked on in horror the entire time, taking slow steps backwards until he was up against a wall. Emille simply smiled and began opening his bag.
"Do you know what comes next? Yes, you will be made into one of my finest works of art yet..."
What followed was a horrific act that not even the investigators and coroners on the scene had the stomach to properly describe. The reports list various injuries sustained by the victim, one Trevor Flont, but they all gloss over the true extent of the crime. Trevor was not simply murdered. He was turned into an exhibit. On his flesh was carved a story, written in an intricate script, detailing the apparent view of the artist. The tale was a harrowing one, and explained how such a person could be lead to commit such atrocities. The full record reads:
"My world is not yours... I have always seen this vile planet for what it truly is. I exist in a warzone. A battlefield where I stand alone against an army of miscreants seaking to destroy the beauty I would create. They have tried to blind me... From the day I was born they sought to hide the truth from me, but I saw through their lies! I am no mere artist; I am a solider! This man, this general of your army, has been commissioned into a dazzling work of art. Others will soon follow. This world will be transformed by my hand; I will emerge from this battle not just an artist, not just a soldier, but as a god!"
Emille Yahz is no more. With his secret revealed, the artist no longer felt safe with his original identity. He knew it would only be a matter of time before his enemies rose up against him and sought to see him destroyed once and for all. This, of course, was unacceptable. He had a job to do. His gallery would be completed.
The name change was simple enough. Antoine felt fitting, and Flont held the proper artistic irony he sought in his new identity. After all, it was Flont who created the need for this change in the first place. In this own mind he would always be Emille, but to others he would have to get used to responding to Antoine. The name would not be enough though. Emille knew this. His face had been plastered on websites, newspapers, and magazines world wide for years. It would have to go as well.
Performing surgery on oneself is a difficult procedure. At various times throughout the process Emille thought he may very well succumb to the pain. However, his stubbornness and burning desire to see his work completed carried him through. The final product was just as much a work of art as anything else his hands had touched. He knew others would not understand. Why the single eye, moved into such an odd position? Why the curvature to his mouth, or the jagged marks in his lips? Why the sewn up nose with holes carefully lining it so that he may still breathe, albeit in a more difficult manner that would require a good deal of practice? The answer was simple of course: because this was how humanity should look. Emille hadn't ruined his face, no, he had liberated it! He was now ready to fight the war and bring his artistic vision to the battlefield he had first seen at the age of four. And he was prepared to liberate any who stood in his path. After all...
"It is not I who is crazy, it is those who do not see the perfection in my work! If they cannot appreciate my art, they will become it..."
"The battlefield... is my canvas. And I shall paint a mural born of bloodshed and tears."
"These tools may be crude, but with them I will bring out your inner beauty!"
"Oh how lovely, your voice carries on the wind like a delicately crafted instrument. I look forward to adding your cries for mercy to my collection..."