Gold Man with Mirrors

The duke stands in his room, surrounded by mirrors. He turns, paying close attention to how the curvature of his spine affects his doublet. Too loose, and the doublet bunches up unnaturally, accenting his bulbous figure. Too tight, and his figure is shown for what it is, a marshmallow with two toothpicks for legs.

Today, he feels fine. He is comfortable. He looks acceptable. The duke fakes a smile at the mirror, his thin mustache curving into an elaborate sideways E.

The duke’s day consists mostly of staring blankly into the middle distance while people talk at him. He’s too important to do anything for fun, but not important enough that his decisions matter. He must sit quietly, not seen as eccentric, not power-hungry, but still wealthy, still powerful-enough.

He is bored.

The duke spends his time thinking about what he’d do if he wasn’t a duke. He’d hunt, perhaps. He’d build his own house. He’d be alone. He desperately wants to be alone. The duchess is fine as a person, the duke thinks, but he wouldn’t spend time around her if he didn’t have to. He’d rather live on a mountaintop, by himself, avoiding the world entirely.

In his room, before bed, the duke often writes for hours before falling asleep. He’ll paint too, occasionally. Sometimes he’ll just stare out his small sliver of a window, wondering what people are doing. He destroys everything he creates immediately. He tosses it into the fireplace and lights it, even on hot summer days.

Everyone thinks the duke is a fine ruler. He is neither liked nor disliked by the people around him. His personal purse is neither extravagant nor empty. Everyone around him describes him as acceptable, fine, nice enough, okay.

After a particularly normal day, the duke sits in his room, painting a portrait of golden apples. As he bends back to look at his painting—it is quite acceptable and fine—he knocks over his paint. He kneels and dips his hands into the paint. His hands look foreign to him. He undresses and covers his body in paint.

Covered in gold, the duke stands in front of the mirrors. Proud, finally. A barrel-chested golden nude man stands in front of him, his stomach leans over the edge of his pelvis like a slug making its way down a staircase.

He leaves his home and makes his way to the forests on the outskirts of the city.