Disclaimer: This treatment contains descriptions of a graphic nature and depicts some unsettling themes. Therefore I wish to give a trigger warning to those who might read it. In addition, this treatment is entirely a work of fiction and in no way represents the thoughts of the writer or any other specific person. It is meant for entertainment and intellectual appreciation and does not encourage any of the actions contained within.
Credits role as we open on a dark room. Slowly, through brief snapshots, we begin to get a picture of the room. It is a dark apartment, and occasionally we see notebooks with black pages, most of which have been pulled out. Someone is in the room, though we do not see who it is, they kneel on the floor, body poised, intense.
Corbin Blake, age 29, dark hair; dark clothes; perhaps dark circles under the eyes, stares tiredly into a glass of champagne. He sits in a well lit room, a fancy restaurant, with two other men, one his literary agent, Edwin Parker, and the other, a prodigious intellectual. Edwin boasts of Corbin’s recent success and the intellectual responds. Corbin, for his part, seems wholly uninterested in the discussion. Corbin, we discover, is a rising talent in the literary world and an accomplished visual artist. His first book has made it onto the New York Times Best Sellers list. Edwin consistently paints Corbin as an eccentric genius. During the dinner, Corbin answers with short and, if appropriate, monosyllabic answers and stares at the intellectual, though not often or obviously enough to draw suspicion. Occasionally the point of view shifts to Corbin’s perspective. Eventually the evening begins to draw to a close and Edwin, jovially, says that he sometimes wonders what goes on inside Corbin’s head. Corbin responds simply, but does not give an answer.
Corbin walks calmly home to his apartment, apparently having denied a ride home. He seems happy enough, though he does not smile, as he walks down the streets of New York. Perhaps contented is a better word. The names of the stores he passes are all written in neon colors, even when they should or can not be so. He passes by a street sign, outlined in neon pink and highlighted against the darkness of the night air. The outline begins to fall apart, though the original remains, slightly darker and less noticeable than it ought to be, as if it were part of a play that the lights had gone down on. Corbin watches all of this with great fascination.
Corbin lets the door slam as he enters his apartment and moves quickly, deliberately, to a notebook with black paper. He begins to write furiously in gel pens, shifting colors mid-word, without apparent reason. While happy is still the wrong word to describe Corbin, for the first time we see him occupied; interested, there is satisfaction. After a time, he puts the notebook down for the night. He moves about his apartment, occasionally becoming distracted with what appears to be nothing. Eventually he makes himself some tea and as he begins to drink, notices that he has received mail. A few are junk mail, one is from the publishing company (and so he sets this one aside), and one is marked as being from a Bertram Daniels. Corbin barely looks at this letter and quickly throws it into the trash without reading it, along with the junk mail. Taking another sip of tea he retires to his room, where he will begin preparations for bed.
The next day, Corbin sits on a bench in the park. He faces directly towards the playground. Silently he watches the children at play. A few children are playing soccer, while others use the slide or take roles. Corbin seems to focus on one boy, a bossy popular type. A small boy walks over to the bench and climbs on with some difficulty. He perches on his toes beside Corbin. There is an awkward silence for a moment and Corbin seems uncomfortable with the company. Eventually the boy looks around, as if to check if someone else is listening, and inches closer to Corbin. Corbin, confused, looks at the boy, and the child takes this as acknowledgement and leans in to whisper in his ear, “There’s a dinosaur over there…” The boy seems quite proud of telling this secret. Corbin, merely turns back to watching the other children but adds an entirely empirical, “yes…yes there is.” Happy, the boy runs off.
The bossy child has now lost too many people to continue his soccer game and is rather upset. We now see the world through that same dark filter as when Corbin was walking home. The boy is outlined in bright red, he remains a moving shadow in the background, though slowly the world grows darker and the real boy fades away. In the dark world of the filter, the boy attacks the other children, similarly represented in vibrant colors. Soon his father appears, also in red, and picks him up. There is no transition between them being on the playground and being home, one follows the other in a matter of seconds. Arriving home the bossy boy’s father proceeds to beat him with little to no mercy. Towards the end the contrast of red on black makes it easy to see where and how much the boy is bleeding. And then the darkness fades and Corbin is back in the park in the present moment. He looks slightly sad at what he has seen. He puts this behind him and continues to people watch.
Corbin is still in the park as the sun begins to set. Seeing this he rises, as if on a schedule, and begins his walk home. On the way he picks up a newspaper from a dispenser on the street, though by now it would be just as well to wait for tomorrow’s edition. He flips through, bored, but stops suddenly, pausing in the middle of the sidewalk, with little care for the complaints of anyone around him. He has found an editorial by Bertram Daniels. He reads it through hastily and throws down the rest of the newspaper as he breaks into a run towards his house.
He slams the door again as he enters and sifts carefully through his garbage until he finds the letter he threw away the night before. He doesn’t bother to check the name on the letter or the newspaper, instead tearing the envelope open and reading. It’s fan-mail, of course; he’s not quite famous enough yet that he’s having that sent somewhere else. Hurriedly, he calls his agent and demands that he meet Bertram Daniels.
Bertram Daniels, nervously knocks and enters Corbin’s apartment. He is perhaps 24, with blond hair. He is clearly anxious, and calls out to see if he’s entered an empty apartment. After a few tries, Corbin responds, though not in any clear welcome. Corbin is writing in the black notebooks again but he stops when Bertram reaches the back room where he is working. Corbin greets Bertram in an uncharacteristically warm fashion, though objectively it still leaves something to be desired. Bertram cannot hide the fact that he is a great fan of Corbin’s work. Corbin seems uninterested in this and is, in fact far more willing to talk about Bertram’s writing. Bertram wonders how he knows of his work, and Corbin responds that he’s only read his letter and the editorial he wrote in the paper. This surprises Bertram somewhat but he seemingly accepts that Corbin’s analysis of his writing is based solely on these two short pieces. Bertram’s letter, it is revealed, was a statement of his love for Corbin’s writing - though it is a bit darker than his usual flavor - as well as a mention of his intent to try to work in the same style on a project for grad school as he feels that he could learn a great deal from him.
Bertram is rather nervous at meeting his idol, more so as he doesn’t know much about this meeting other than the fact that Corbin personally requested it and that he has expressed an interest in his writing. Corbin drags things out for a while, sometimes drifting onto tangential or even completely unrelated topics. Eventually Corbin tells Bertram that he wants to be his mentor. Bertram is left somewhat speechless, after all, its not exactly normal for the biggest name in the New York art world to seek out a graduate school student and ask to be his mentor without any previous contact or serious exposure to his work. At this point, Corbin realizes that he’s been terribly rude and asks if Bertram would mind. Bertram, whole-heartedly agrees to the proposal and thanks Corbin thoroughly. Corbin does not seem to understand why he has elicited this reaction but seems quite happy at Bertram’s acceptance. An agreement is made that the two will be in touch and that they will discuss the particulars of the mentorship. The entire meeting is pleasant and it ends much the same. Corbin shows Bertram out and tells him that he’s excited to begin work with him. As he leaves we notice that Bertram has reached for his cell phone out of giddiness and shock.
Corbin smiles as he closes the door and returns to the back room where he resumes writing in the black notebooks, though more serenely, without such frenzy as before. After writing a few lines he checks the time and sees that its getting late. He decides to go out to get something to eat. He puts on his coat and leaves his building. Outside a homeless man approaches Corbin and asks him if he has any change. Corbin looks at the man and we see, in black on red, the man brutally murdered and mutilated. In a flash we see Corbin, enthusiastically, slicing the man apart, the bridge between the reality and the image. Corbin smiles answers affirmatively and gives the man about a dollar and thirty-six cents in change before going on his way.
Meanwhile, Bertram is finishing a call to his mother, still excited over his apprenticeship to Corbin. Bertram says that Corbin does have a reputation for being a sort of eccentric artist but that he thinks that he’s a truly great writer and that this is an amazing opportunity. After that he says his good byes and hangs up. Bertram arrives home at his apartment. He slumps down in a chair and continues his attempts to process what has happened in the preceding day.
Corbin and Bertram stare at each other. There is simply silence. There is lingering unease between the two and Corbin looks as if he feels that he did not think this through enough. Finally the silence is broken as Corbin begins to explain writing and his process in terms that a graduate student would understand. The graduate student does not understand. Corbin does not speak in the eccentricities that he favors nor can he force himself to think in a conventional way and the result is a truly awkward middle ground. There are subsequent attempts but each one fails, giving way to silence. In the void of sound, Corbin just looks at his young counterpart. Suddenly Corbin speaks, “Want to get some steak?”
Corbin and Bertram sit at Morton’s Steak House. A waitress takes their order and leaves. Once again there is a period of silence. Bertram, guessing that the mentorship is on a break, attempts idle conversation but Corbin interrupts. Corbin begins a rant of questionable sense. He is not so much emotionally invested as intellectually interested. He speaks as if he understands every word; this is his natural state of thinking. While it is no more understandable than his attempt at explaining at the apartment, it feels much more natural. Suddenly, Bertram catches a line from Milton in the jumble of thoughts and begins noticing a recurring symbolism in the monologue. Before Corbin can continue, however, the waitress arrives with their food. Bertram waits for Corbin to make the first cut and then begins eating. Corbin looks at his food but starts talking again. He begins on another rant but this is slightly more intelligible. He does not try to explain his process or his thoughts on writing this time but rather begins to put it into words as he feels the spark of inspiration. This time Bertram has caught a hold of enough of the major symbols and concepts that he interjects a question here and there. With each inquiry Corbin seems to perk up and he explains for a few moments before continuing. With each statement the listener seems more and more interested in the other‘s words. Corbin seems to refine his idea with each question from Bertram and, while it is still encoded in symbols, it seems to make sense to Bertram and no one can deny that there is a good degree of internal logic to the rambling. Bertram finishes his meal and Corbin asks if he’s done, Bertram tells him that he doesn’t want anything else and Corbin, extremely quickly, calls over the waitress and pays. Corbin asks if they can go back to his apartment and Bertram agrees though he’s slightly confused. As they leave, Bertram realizes that Corbin didn’t take a bite of his steak, but it has been thoroughly cut into pieces.
Back at the apartment Corbin rushes to the back room and begins writing in the black notebooks. He writes about half a page before he pauses. He looks back at Bertram and cocks his head, curiously, sensing a matching curiosity in the young writer. “You write in gel pens?” Bertram asks. “Of course,” Corbin replies, “What do you write with?” Bertram, somewhat awkwardly replies that he does most of his writing on the computer, prompting Corbin to offer a simple but intrigued “huh…” before returning to his writing. As he writes, Bertram moves forward, beside him, and when he finally puts down the last pen, Bertram asks if he could see, expecting to be shot down. Contrary to expectation, Corbin insists. Bertram takes the notebook and reads. When he’s done he expresses shock that what he read was based on what they discussed at the steakhouse. Corbin replies that it makes more sense in the context, but Bertram meant that he was surprised how good it was and how much sense it made. He has also figured out that it is somehow related to the cutting of the steak, though he mentions this less. Whereas the conversation in the steakhouse made him aware that there was a powerful and complex mind behind Corbin’s eyes, this has made him aware that it is also a brilliant one. Becoming aware of the time, Corbin tells Bertram that he apologizes but that he has to get to an appointment with his agent. Bertram understands and thanks Corbin for being his mentor. Corbin thanks Bertram; he had worried that he would be a poor mentor.
Corbin now sits in Edwin’s office. Edwin, as always, is happy to see his favorite, and most famous, client. Edwin speaks almost entirely in terms of appearance, considering substance only in the case of Corbin’s writing. Corbin states that he isn’t yet working on another novel, just notes. Edwin is fine with this, there’s more to an artist than his work, you know. Edwin speaks, at length about his plans for Corbin, which Corbin himself seems variably involved in. He is clearly a good agent, in terms of getting results, and he appears to believe there to be a degree of friendship between he and Corbin. And as he talks on and on, Corbin’s attention, regrettably begins to fade. Slowly Edwin’s voice fades into harsh mechanical sounds as the world fades into the black of Corbin’s mind. The office appears, sparse as it is, in vibrant, painted, orange. Corbin himself, is bright blue. Corbin, seeing this, listens to the raucous sounds that have replaced Edwin’s droning explanations for a good while before absently, without thought and out of little more than curiosity, reaching for the stapler on his desk and leaning over the desk, opening the stapler as he does, to begin brutally beating Edwin in the side of the head with it. It’s almost like watching the making of a Jackson Pollock painting as the red splashes against the orange of the desk and the stapler. Suddenly Edwin’s voice brings Corbin back to the moment. Corbin apologizes for losing attention, and possibly more, but Edwin laughs it off, this is what he gets with an eccentric New York intellectual - at least that’s how he’s marketing him. Edwin explains that New York Magazine wants to do an interview with Corbin. Corbin says that that’s great, though it may be that he’s happy to see Edwin so excited more than he cares about his own publicity. Edwin has no other pressing business to discuss with Corbin so he asks about Bertram. Corbin says that he likes him, that he’s very happy that he asked Edwin to track him down. Edwin’s reply is sincere but slightly smarmy and he ends with a joke about how he should make sure that he gets to be Bertram’s agent if he hits it big as a writer too. Corbin thanks Edwin for his time and stands up to leave.
Corbin is writing in the black notebooks again, Bertram stands behind him. When he’s done he looks at it for a second and then hands it to Bertram. Bertram reads it over. He tells Corbin that it’s good and that he doesn’t see a reason for Corbin to keep letting him read his notebooks as every time it is good. Corbin doesn’t quite answer but his response is to ask if Bertram has any of his writing with him. Bertram is somewhat surprised but he actually does and he, stunned, hands them to Corbin. Corbin, in typical fashion reads them quickly and methodically. As he reads he starts to write things on the page, his notes slowly get longer as he reads further. A few pages in he stops and apologizes, he has been rewriting Bertram’s work and feels rather ashamed as that’s not at all polite. Bertram reads over the changes, some of them are very good, at least one changes how he had been thinking about the short story and allows for a simpler structure. Bertram does say, somewhat familiarly, that some of the changes to content are a bit darker than he intended or is used to writing.
Corbin awkwardly offers to make tea, and Bertram accepts, though he worries that he’s imposing too much. After the tea is made, Bertram finally asks again why Corbin keeps having him read his notebook entries, which points to the unasked question of why Corbin set up this mentorship in the first place. Corbin answers that he wants Bertram’s feedback. Bertram asks if Corbin ever got feedback on it before and Corbin answers no. This established, Bertram argues that there must be some reason why he keeps looking for his input. Corbin replies that he thinks that Bertram will understand. This confuses Bertram to an extent as the content of the black notebooks is beyond his full comprehension. Corbin seems unfazed, he says that artists create to express something, that it’s nice when there’s a sense that a message has been received. Bertram almost laughs a little, after all, hundreds of people are reading his book all the time; there are probably a lot of people who understand better than him. Corbin says that a lot of people understand the book but not the author and not what makes the book real. Through the filter, Corbin sees a deep purple puddle on the floor of his apartment by where he writes in the black notebooks and a similarly colored dagger hovering. With every few seconds a drop of color falls up from the puddle and pools on the blade’s edge. Corbin says that he thinks that Bertram and he think alike, a statement that Bertram is slightly flattered by, and that he likes Bertram and thinks that Bertram is very smart. Bertram offers a thank you for the kind words, but by now Corbin’s mind has kept moving, and he asks Bertram if he thought the last black notebook entry expressed the feeling he was looking for.
Later that week, Corbin and Edwin sit down with an interviewer from New York magazine at a restaurant. The interviewer asks Corbin what its like to be the rising talent in the literary world that he is. Corbin doesn’t really know how to respond, he’s not comfortable with his own peculiar stardom. The interviewer also asks about the content of Corbin’s writing, saying that some think that it is overly dark and violent. Corbin sees both the interviewer eating his dinner and a blue outline of him reaching down, tearing its stomach open and pulling out its own innards. Corbin says that it probably is. The interviewer mistakes this for simple wit, though Edwin doesn’t help; his every reaction designed to play up the image he’s built for Corbin. The interviewer sticks mainly to questions dealing with Corbin’s writing but most of them are really about his celebrity status. Corbin makes his best attempt to be honest and sincere but he doesn’t really understand the whole celebrity concept, though he accepts it as the path that’s been set out for him for some reason. The interviewer asks if Corbin thinks that there are limits on his writing, on art. Corbin thinks about this question for a while, it is a legitimate one, after all. Corbin replies that he doesn’t feel like he has control over his art the way he does over other aspects of his life and that, in a way, he is the limit. The Interviewer asks if Corbin ever wants to remove those limits if they are self-imposed. Corbin says he does not. The interviewer asks if Corbin is familiar with the Roman Emperor Nero’s last words. Edwin butts in to say that Nero was absolutely insane and that he, personally, has issue with where this is going. Corbin ignores him, however and says that he is, “Qualis artifex pereo, what an artist the world loses in me…” Corbin agrees that Nero was insane.
Bertram and Corbin are in Corbin’s apartment again. Bertram asks how the interview went and Corbin says it was ok. Corbin tells Bertram that he’s not sure that he understands what most people mean by artist. Bertram assures Corbin that he is a great artist, and that his work is revolutionary. Corbin thanks him. Corbin continues to write in the black notebook. There is a short silence and Corbin breaks it by talking about Dante and Shakespeare. For both of them, in slightly different ways, and their audience, every line and every word had several meanings. Dante wrote the entire Comedy, all its lofty themes, to teach on at least four levels, all while scripting it with mathematical precision, aligning it to the numerology of his faith. Shakespeare’s audience knew that a single word could have a myriad meanings, and could convey an entire thought, used correctly. Corbin says that sometimes he feels like a man with no understanding of Shakespeare. Bertram says that it just takes a little getting used to, that Corbin makes sense. As Bertram says so three bright red snakes of fire slither behind Bertram and form three sideways nines, each representing one of Dante’s canticles, as much as the three divisions of the Inferno. Corbin finishes and offers him his black notebook. As Bertram reads, Corbin sees a spiraling peeling of his body, like a Dali painting, and through the spinning gash he sees into Bertram and sees all manner of torment. Bertram, meanwhile, finishes the entry. He enjoys it but he seems unsettled. Bertram says that this entry is particularly dark and graphic and while he knows that that’s Corbin’s style he still felt it was a little troubling. Corbin doesn’t deny this possibility, in fact, he seems to think that this is a good interpretation, but Bertram doesn’t realize what he’s trying to express. Corbin says that this is what comes to him. There is awkward conversation as Corbin hints more and more of what influences his writing to Bertram, but Bertram finds it a bit too heavy. The point is put to rest, however, when Bertram’s alarm goes off. Bertram apologizes for criticizing Corbin’s notes and says that they’ll figure out when to meet next. Bertram says goodbye and goes, leaving Corbin alone in the apartment. The room darkens as the neon colors of myriad books, lining the shelves of Corbin’s apartment take flight, circling like monstrous vultures around Corbin. Corbin surrenders to them.
Meanwhile Bertram is on the phone with his mother again as he walks back to his apartment. Bertram tells her how peculiar Corbin was today. He denies the option of writing it off as an extension of Corbin’s eccentricities, and hopes that it will be gone tomorrow. He also denies having a “man-crush” on Corbin, as apparently his mother thinks he’s too invested. Bertram says that there’s something that he isn’t seeing, something that Corbin wants him to see. He wonders what Corbin does see.
Later, Corbin meets with Edwin in his office again. Edwin thinks that he can get Corbin on Charlie Rose, that things are looking way up. Edwin talks for a long while explaining plans and such until Corbin interrupts. Corbin asks if his work is too dark. Edwin responds that people know that that’s Corbin’s shtick, that that’s his trademark. Corbin seems not entirely convinced. Edwin tells him to trust him as it’s his job to find niches for people. And it’s Corbin job, his niche, to make art. And not just any art, Edwin tell him, Corbin expands art, makes what other people can’t see visible to them. Corbin may be the next great artist, the next Camus, the next Andy Warhol. That’s his place in society, to be the transgressive artist. Of course, Edwin doesn’t care anything for this, but it’s a series of buzzwords he’s come to understand in his line. Corbin considers that maybe Edwin is right, maybe that’s what justifies the dark nature of his stories. Edwin tells Corbin not to worry about it. Corbin nods and leaves.
On his way home, Corbin passes through Times Square. Walking up the street he notices Midtown Comics. In the window is a cardboard cut-out of the Joker. The cut out visibly unsettles Corbin. He continues walking but the streets go dark, all lines becoming bright, but unsettling, colors. The city shakes, buildings swaying; the sky rips open, the widening schism filled with scenes of madness; in the center of his vision a spire forms, growing taller and taller, an asylum. Corbin is clearly terrified of this structure. The world doesn’t make sense any more, it hasn’t for a long time but clearly this is a far more disorienting vision. The hallucination grows in intensity until, suddenly, Corbin walks into another man walking the opposite way and is knocked down. The man is slightly upset at him, he does not recognize him. As the man screams at him, Corbin sees a vision of him mutilated, and then how he could make it so. It begins when Corbin gets to his feet and presses his thumbs into the man’s eye sockets and goes on to include a few crude cutting implements. Corbin shakes himself out of this particular vision and runs. The walls of the asylum grow up around him and he screams.
Corbin slams the door of his apartment and runs to the back room. He kneels down before the stack of black notebooks, writes the last page in the book he was using, and systematically tears the pages from each one. Now we see the same tableau as the opening scene. The room is dark, and the floor is covered with the colorful words on black. Furiously, possessed, Corbin rearranges the pages, words matching up on disparate pages, a code instilled in each page, each one designed to function as the blocks of a coherent journal as much as for this from the moment they were written. Deftly connecting each of the hundred pages, Corbin works tirelessly. Slowly the seemingly random colors flow together. Time passes in non-uniform ways, it is unclear how long Corbin has been at work. Standing over the finished product, Corbin looks at it, from a distance the colors create a picture on the black. Corbin looks down on his tapestry of prose. He stares into the most brutal and horrific image of slaughter we have seen. Quietly he bends to his knees and begins to ramble, partly in his codes, his symbols, as he writes out his thoughts one last time. This is what his mind is, what he is, he reasons, kept quiet because it was not right. But he is an artist, and the artist transgresses, pulls society forward. He is the artist and this is what he is. His art is right, his art is acceptable. If he is the artist and he is this brutality then this brutality must be art. The art of murder. Done with canvas, he determines, done with pens and paper. The medium is clear.
Corbin picks up the phone and calls Edwin. He informs Edwin that they are done, that he does not need an agent where he goes. He steps out of the apartment to prepare.
Bertram walks up the New York City streets, he is on his phone again, this time he talks to a friend , though he is no more audible than Bertram’s mother. Bertram tells him that he is, in fact, going back to see Corbin again, despite the weirdness of their last meeting, and the mentorship in general. Bertram defends Corbin as an extremely noble and intelligent man, who seems to be kind of off, and possibly in need of a psychologist. Arriving at Corbin’s building, Bertram says his goodbyes.
There is a knock on the apartment door, and then another. Eventually Bertram attempts entering, as Corbin does not always respond. The door is open. Bertram always feels awkward in those moments between entering the apartment and Corbin acknowledging his presence. This time it lasts longer than usual. He calls out for Corbin, wondering if he’s home. Instinctually he wanders back to the notebook area. There on the floor he finds the image. At first he can’t quite process what it is, the kind of focus required to undertake it is staggering. And then slowly its meaning begins to come together for Bertram. With fear in his heart, Bertram rushes out to find Corbin.
That night Corbin stands on top of a building overlooking an alley, its hard to find a good one in New York. He puts a magnum away and takes out a knife, glistening with the perfection that comes of being cleaned by someone with OCD. He muses to himself that this is the way that society wants him, finally tired of stringing him along. He considers his tools, the narratives he could work with, the stock characters, type scenes; perhaps the Annunciation, it seems like there are already a lot of repetitive interpretations, this one will at least be different. Deep down he knows that it doesn’t matter, he’s never acted on any of these thoughts before, but every time it plays out so simply, so perfectly, in his head. He’ll have no say what the work is, he’ll just be a pawn to inspiration. He looks out over the city and sees it in its myriad colors of his mind, each person now gives a brutally beautiful option on how to render art in the rending of flesh. There is a moment, before he starts on his way back down the fire escape, where he pauses, afraid of what is to come. Any sane man is afraid to take another’s life, to open oneself to that, but this is his role. And the time for indecision has passed. He finishes his climb down the fire escape.
He stands calmly in the alley, dark clothes somewhat lost in the darkness. Slowly, Bertram enters the alley. Corbin is surprised to see him here, but Bertram says that the image in the apartment left a blood spatter on three walls and a floor. He says that that’s poor composition and therefore meaningful; it wasn’t easy to figure out which alley Corbin would be in but he did find him. Corbin says that, in a way, its good that Bertram’s here; Bertram understands him, it’s so much easier to make art for a friend than for critics. Bertram tells Corbin that he doesn’t have to do any of this, that he should forget about it and go back to his life as it was. Corbin says that that’s impossible, that society demands he go forward with this, that he doesn’t like it but that its what he needs to do. Corbin has completely fallen into the perception that this is what his celebrity status forces him to do, that it’s his purpose to create this artwork. Bertram struggles desperately to convince Corbin to put an end to this but he seems unswayable. Their argument becomes more and more intense, Corbin’s madness escalating. Despite his clear insanity, Corbin does work on logical principles. The fight rages, each unsure of the choices they’ve made in coming, in arguing with the other.
Corbin says that the first person to walk into this alley will be the one, that he’ll look at them and see the artistry of their death. Bertram says that he’s the first person to walk into this alley. Corbin refutes this, it doesn’t count, but Bertram persists. Bertram is sweating. The idea of killing Bertram is the first thing that seems to rattle Corbin’s confidence in his plan. Bertram, knowing this is his only chance, tells Corbin that he couldn’t call the police on Corbin but that he couldn’t let him kill someone either. Corbin says that artists can’t go backwards, that they must always push the limits of their creativity and that he’s been floundering. Bertram, however, seems to have expected an answer like this and makes an impassioned appeal for Corbin to seek psychological help. Corbin is terrified of this option, and though Bertram tries to argue that its for his own good and that if he submits to it himself it will be done to help him, there is no convincing him. Corbin shoots back that he will not be changed to better conform, that he’s seen terrible things for fifteen years and that he’s never done anything wrong, that he’s acting because the rules changed. Bertram tells Corbin that if he doesn’t stop now that the only options will be an asylum or prison and begs Corbin to submit to treatment himself. Corbin continues to deny the option, he begins to ramble, a mess of art terms and genre buzzwords. He screams about the third option, how Bertram thinks that he’s found it, but that he hasn’t. Corbin suddenly pulls the gun on Bertram. Bertram is afraid, the thought of Corbin killing him has seemed far away. Corbin says that society wants him to be a killer, that this is the purpose that it has set out for him. He tells Bertram that society exists because man is not meant to be alone. He says it again, that society wants him to be a murderer. He says that he wants to be an artist, that that’s how he felt connected to the world. But society wants to make him a killer.
And then Corbin puts the gun under his chin and pulls the trigger.
Bertram is too late to stop it. In the aftermath he stands there, numbed. Slowly, he moves towards Corbin’s corpse. Corbin’s head is destroyed, his face a disgusting mess, barely and thankfully obscured by the shadows. His blood lines the floor and the walls. Bertram stares at the disgusting tableau before him. And then in the black of the filter he sees Corbin’s body. Neon colors flow through his body, his blood. It’s what Corbin would have seen, and its absolutely beautiful. It shames the notebook piece. Bertram can’t help but smile a little bit at Corbin’s opus and his escape. Fade out.
Fade in a few weeks later. An art gallery has collected all of Corbin’s visual works. In the back of the gallery, people swarm around one particular image. The notebook pages plaster the wall and artists and intellectuals and critics bustle for a view of the miraculous accomplishment. Some stand dumbfounded, while others attempt to read the brilliant prose that composes the image. All agree that it is an incredible achievement. Edwin moves throughout the crowd, hobnobbing and such. He seems happy, why shouldn’t he, it doesn’t take much time at this show to realize that without Corbin around he receives any and all rights to the work. In the course of his schmoozing, Edwin notices Bertram solemnly moving through the gallery. Edwin approaches Bertram and strikes up a conversation. Bertram doesn’t seem especially fond of Edwin. Inevitably Edwin asks if Bertram has heard anything from Corbin. Bertram says he hasn’t and asks if Edwin has any idea where he disappeared to. Edwin says he does not. Edwin asks Bertram to tell him if he ever finds out what happened to Corbin and moves off to socialize some more. Bertram looks out over the gallery. He sees how the people marvel over their ‘eccentric’ genius, over his legendary life and disappearance. Bertram sees it all and he knows: they killed him, we killed him. He muses, “Qualis artifex pereo, what an artist I am in dying…”