The Pentakotic Gateway Painting---coordinate point.
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"The Pentakotic Gateway, herein, was rendered by an artist in paint, but upon the luminiferous ether it is a mystical fact. Let those who have eyes see the Gateway. It is branded, as if by a flame, in the Soul of the World, and is open to all, though not all are worthy to pass. In appearance the Gateway is a smoky white light."
"The Gateway will appear, it will open, and if so desired the soul of the initiate will enter a future beyond the light. Beware.
"Unless the mental traveler has committed himself to the Great Work, then avert your eyes from the gateway. The experience will manifest great fear and suffering within the un-initiated, which is not God's will, but rather the diabolical of Lucifer."
Bayber wrote the above passages nearby a space heater, while wearing a thick wool sweater and a pair of long johns underneath baggy, gray sweat pants. The heat felt luxurious in the coldness of the basement, but overly warmed his lower legs so that he was both hot and cold simultaneously. The ground-level basement windows were coated in ice and a draft whistled underneath the door that opened into the snowy driveway.
His mother was in the kitchen and her foot steps could be heard clattering upon the floor which was directly above the basement. It was dinner time. After finishing the note he joined his mother in the kitchen.
"You received an email," she told him.
"I did? Who from?"
She motioned toward a printout of an email lying on the kitchen counter. "I think it's from the agent Uncle Gio got for you."
"Oh, that Harvey Liehmann."
"Billy, this could be your big break!"
Happily she slid a deep-dish pan out of a hot oven; the pan was covered in tin foil, and appeared heavy. Billy stood there eating an apple, chewing slowly and reading the printout of the email while his mother labored the pan from the oven and placed it on the counter top.
"Well, what's it say?" she asked undoing the tin foil.
"Well, apparently some recording company is offering me $500 to design a DVD cover for a German heavy metal band out of Berlin . The recording company wants the project completed before the DVD is scheduled for print .."
There was a look of panic on his face. He swallowed dryly, and said: "Three days to design and paint a triptych. No, I can't do it. I'll have to decline the offer."
"Are you sure?"
"I'll write back and say no."
"Sorry Mom, but I can't. Three days is too soon. It's impossible, simply impossible."
His mother was Italian, very pretty and petite, married to a grocery store manager.
"Your father will be heart broken!" she said.
"Oh, I won't tell Dad. Forget about it."
"And your uncle."
"Forget about it, especially not Giovanni. He'll kill me."
The boy was more worried about Giovanni's reaction than his own father. Giovanni was the dynamo of the family, warm, cordial, exciting, but also somewhat of a bully; to think of the kind of scorn his uncle was capable of momentarily outweighed the anxiety of the DVD cover. Billy started pacing, the email clutched in his hand.
"Your poor uncle will be so disappointed," his mother said.
"Yes mother, I know. I know how angry everyone'll be."
The room seemed uncomfortably hot all the sudden, because he was acclimated to the temperature in the basement, and was now sweating from the strain. When he cast off his sweater and undershirt this revealed the tattoos from his years at The Art Institute; at the computer he sat down during the booting period. Everyone is pushing me, he thought to himself. I wanna go in, in, in, and all of you keep pushing me out.
"You could at least try the project, Billy," his mother cajoled him.
"Yes I know."
"Throw together an oil painting. What will it hurt?"
He rolled his eyes. "Mom, you don't know what you're talking about. Oils are out of the question. Do you know that my painting, The Pentakotic Gateway is still drying?"
"But you painted that weeks ago! It's still wet?"
"That's because it too cold down there."
"No, that's how it goes with oils. It can take months for an oil to dry. Oils are a pain to work with, believe me."
The mother removed a stack of plates from the cupboard, then started setting the table. In the center of the table was the lasagna, steaming.
"Since oils take so long to dry, you should use acrylics."
"Acrylics dry too quickly," he answered. "They literally dry on your brush. No, acrylics won't do. Oils won't do either. I'll have to use watercolors; no one will ever know the difference. All the old Iron Maiden record albums were water colors."
Saying this, he realized he had talked himself into accepting the project.
In the "inbox" was a song from the band. The song was a furious heavy metal piece, ---but quit good, in his opinion; the aggressive beat dispelled his anxiety. He finalized his decision by sending a curt acceptant email to his agent. Meanwhile his father ambled into the kitchen, tired-looking from work, and said nothing about the music blaring. He was a tall, slender non-Italian in his late forties, balding on top, wearing a Hy-Vee golf shirt, khaki slacks, and black tennis shoes. Finally, the father snapped at the music: "Cut that crap off!"
Giovanni didn't hear the news until the weekend was almost over. By then the news had spread through the family starting with the woman, and from the women to the men, ending as a non-descript message on Giovanni's answering machine. On Sunday evening he made the drive to the suburban Brookside neighborhood in South Kansas City where the Bayber's lived in a small, charming bungalow, across the street from Brookside Park.
A snowdrift poured into the area by the washer and dryer where Giovanni opened the basement door. Quickly he re-closed it. "It's incredible out there," he said, stamping the snow off his shoes. His face was red from the cold and his eyes sparkled. Billy gave him an irritable glance from across the room, and then resumed painting.
"Again, you come uninvited."
"I'm working, uncle Gio, can't you see? You're supposed to call before coming over."
"I did call, you just didn't answer."
Giovanni warmly embraced him with both arms, without return. The boy was too involved in the task of adding yellow nuances to a ghoulish watercolor painting to provide the customary welcomes. All his attention was on his minute brush strokes.
"I'm almost finished," Billy said, his paint brush adding depth to a wrinkled, corpse-like face. Giovanni nodded his head in critical approval.
"The yellows are phenomenal. I'm impressed. This is the triptych you're painting for the DVD insert?"
Giovanni was hardly able to believe that grotesqueness such as this could pour from a soul as sweet and gentle as his nephew's. The yellow hues, which saturated a ghoul bearing a bloodied machete, penetrated the entire painting in an aura of black magic; the yellows were very slight in the urban background and aglow in a cratered full moon. It was a dirty, putrid yellow, faintly luminous, like the skin of a corpse after it had aged weeks in the casket. To think that these emotions originated from his nephew, and were not accidental, made Giovanni decidedly un-easy; he took a step back under the guise of giving the boy space, but inwardly was repelled by the watercolor. The yellows, he believed, expressed the fatigue and hostility that comes from pessimism. Hopelessness consumed Billy's art, but also a sense of aggression and violence. The way the intense vermilion reds clashed with the yellows suggested a desire to overcome the pessimism through violent means, exemplified by the bloodied machete. Unconsciously Giovanni took another step backward, repelled by the feeling of violence, embarrassed by his revulsion, yet fascinated by the genius. In an attempt to reconcile his feelings, Giovanni poured a cup of coffee and started browsing through the stacks of canvases. The vibrant supernatural hues of the Pentakotic Gateway were all the more brilliant when contrasted against the dull naturalistic colors of Billy's art grotesque---a style that used a color scheme consisting in ghoulish yellows, fungus-like greens, toadstool grays, and glowing atelierbraun browns. The gateway painting was a refreshing break. After Billy finished the water color he explained what the symbols in the Pentakotic Gateway painting represented, and allowed Giovanni to hang the canvas at his restaurant.
In the next week Giovanni had the Pentakotic Gateway Series framed, professionally photographed and then uploaded to the anonymous Web page supplied by his new agent. Anyone with a connection to the Internet could have download the hundreds of electronic images that were now apart of the Web page, and see the DaVinci-esque anatomical drawings Bayber painted last summer showing the computerized biology of what Bayber called the "the future race"; or see the gorgeous esprit de spirit floating aloft upon the crumbling ruins of the Titan Memorial Fountain. Barton-Phillips Art Agency was a corporation that represented hundreds of artists nationwide and owned a giant Web-catalog that included 300,000 works of art. The agency had one page devoted solely to Billy Bayber; where his picture should have been there was a solid grey box with a caption that read "anonymous." The contact name was Migliazzo Enterprises.
As soon as it was framed the Pentakotic Gateway painting was hung in the VIP room of his downtown restaurant, on the same night that Giovanni entertained guests from the Jackson County Sports Commission. He always carried a drink in his hand but consumed little in the course of the evening, just two servings of bourbon and a half glass of wine. The meek, mild Midwesterners were easily awed by Giovanni's colorful temperament; and because of their inebriated state, all were highly receptive to the most obscure and outlandish ideas. "A nephew of mine painted that dastardly piece," said Giovanni in the private lounge where the Pentakotic Gateway hung on the gorgeous walnut paneled walls. Giovanni stood with drink in hand, adding: "I think it's wonderfully insane. You see, to my nephew, it exists."
"What do you mean, it exists?" a woman asked from a lounge chair.
"Just that, this gateway exists. This isn't just a painting. It's what remote viewers call a coordinate point."
"I've never heard of such a thing," a man said in a scratchy voice.
"Well, I think it's a bunch of BS, myself," said Giovanni, whereupon he lowered himself upon a lounge chair. "My nephew is quit the eccentric. He believes in remote viewing, how by focusing on the occult symbology the visionary is able to mentally open the Pentakotic Gateway and receive visions of what exists on the other side. One time he came up to me really, really quietly---he's a very quiet boy, never talks, always keeps to himself---and he tells me, `Gio, Gio,' and he taps me on the shoulder. And I say, `What kid? What's on your mind?' and he tells me in a haunting voice: `You tell me that the elements--earth, wind, fire and water--cannot exist on the spiritual planes, that Gheanna is a spiritual impossibility. Yet I traveled to Gheanna, which is beyond the Pentakotic Gateway, and I bore witness to this elemental kingdom, indeed traveled a portal into its belly.' And I said, `Really Billy, that's great.' `The portal spirals as it dives down through bowels of the Original Universe, which encompasses Gheanna in a queer, hyper-dimensional matrix. Do you hear what I'm saying? The elements are rooted in the spirit realm.''
Everyone laughed at Giovanni's imitation of Billy Bayber, but for Astril.
"You're horrible!" she said with shy amusement in her voice. "The boy is sublime, leave him alone."
"I'm only joshing, sweetheart," Giovanni said. "I love him greater than gold."
There was a pause in the conversation, during which the jazz music in the lounge could be heard. Astril poured more wine into the empty cups.
"So you are kidding?" asked the portly gentleman. "Your nephew doesn't really believe in the Pentakotic Gateway or in Gheanna or other such things?"
"Oh yes, he's quit convinced the Pentakotic Gateway exists, as well as Gheanna."
"So what is Gheanna in the first place, hell?"
"I don't know, my dear, but I believe it must be some place in the future. That's what all those symbols are trying to tell us."
The symbols he was referring to were the thousands of small shapes in the background, all painted in subdued brown colors. The rows upon rows of neatly organized letters, shapes, numbers and slashes, gave the background the data-driven look of a computer program. An elderly man in the group was particularly stricken with the symbols and was close enough to the painting that his nose touched, nearly cross-eyed.
"It's so intricate," said the old man. "What else did your nephew say about Gheanna.'
"Quit a bit, old boy. He has friends who live there.'
Everyone laughed, including Astril this time.
"No kidding," she said.
"They're his imaginary friends, in my opinion. Yet he talks about them as if they're real. One is named Mostaffa Hannif, the Mad Arab, who, according to my nephew, was a philosopher in his former life and now lives in Gehanna, not far from the dilapidated Temple of Heliopolis ." Giovanni spoke as if telling a fairy tale, with animated expressions and a dramatic voice. "Beyond the Pentakotic Gateway, in the nameless, un-created universe, eternal night wraps the kingdom of Gheanna in sinister darkness. No sun or stars shine in the sky. Here the earth is alive. It is an organism; nay, a beast that rumbles and quakes, eking green sulpheric gasses. . ."
For the rest of the evening the buearocrats entertained themselves in his private lounge, which was stocked with fine liquors, imported beer, good Italian wine, and there was a humidor with a wide selection of cigars including Pirose cigars that Giovanni had shipped in from Havana .
Meanwhile, Giovanni and Astril enjoyed a late night supper in the main dining room. It was ten o'clock. The room was full and the pianist could be heard playing a Cole Porter composition, Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye. The music was gentle and unstructured, slightly flat. The lack of thematic undertones increased his feeling that all human values are subjective. When he expressed this view to Astril she seemed disinterested and continued staring at a work of art hung above their table. Framed in gold-leaf molding, and highlighted by a museum style lamp, the painting was luminous in the dim atmosphere: another Billy Bayber piece.
"It is a marvelous work," she finally admitted. "The angel is un-touched and virginal, yet sensual, like the petals of a lily. Your nephew painted this? What's his name, I can't find his signature on the canvas."
"He doesn't sign his work. His name is William Bayber, but everyone calls him Billy."
The brushstroke seemed to entice the girl with ripples of enjoyment. Heavy-brown, almost black brush strokes filled the lower corners; but in the receding background behind the angel, the browns gradually lightened in hue and dissolved into the aluminiferous brightness of the angel. The studio brown color of atelierbraun was reminiscent of those seventeenth century Dutch Protestant masters. In these deep brown hues one could make out a collection of occult symbols surrounding an illustrious gateway of sort, where the angel hovered. The queer, un-earthly splendor induced a curious sensation, the nature of which Giovanni found dizzying. He changed his position in the chair and sunk his fork into his salmon steak.
In-between them was a red rose.
"Do you want this painting?" he asked.
"Sure I want it, but. . ."
"I don't want you buying me things. You're not my sugar daddy."
Looking up at the painting, and chewing absently, he felt something touch his leg underneath the table. It was her foot sliding up his calf.
"Do you want a taste of my scallops?" she asked. "They're incredible."
"Sure. I'll have one."
The girlish enthusiasm Astril displayed earlier, when pouring over the painting, was gone. Her girlishness had lost itself in the coolness and calm of her poised dinner composure. They touched hands. "They're delicious," he said when tasting the scallops. Then, with an ego-deflated sigh, he rested his elbows on the table, cradled her hands and kissed them while sustaining eye-contact. He was sitting there, drinking her up in the candle light pouring over the aristocratic implications of her oval-shaped face. With his eyes he drank up her logical, mocking, cynical grin; drank up the teasing downward tilt of her shoulder. He was thinking how odd the girl was, radiant in her purity. Yet too much determination energized her features to produce an impression of mere girlishness. She had loose, full lips, long, straight auburn hair, and eyes, stunningly blue in color, that shined as if a light burned in her skull.
Down the aisle rattled a pastry cart pushed from behind by an old but very alert waiter, who stopped the cart at their table, a tray in one hand, a towel draped over his arm. In the candle light his wrinkles looked beautiful. The candle light went as far as their table, no further, and left only an atmospheric haze on the old man's face.
"May I take you plate, miss?" the waiter asked.
"Yes, I'm finished."
"Are you ready for your second course?"
Giovanni answered this time. "We're ready. Bring the souffle potatoes and the lemon chicken."
"As you wish, sir."
A bottle arrived with the second coarse, this being the baked lemon chicken and the souffle potatoes, brought to the table in ceramic serving dishes. They tried the potatoes first, then the drumsticks. The skin was golden brown, crispy in the mouth, tasting of lemon and another ingredient they could not identify but thought it might be a combination of salt, pepper and garlic-flavored olive oil. The sharp, peppery taste to the toasted oil added a unique richness to the meat, a smoked flavor that went well with the mouthfuls of wine and the cold slices of buttered French bread. Thus they finished their meal, in a lusty trance.