The Chimney Sweep

Louis’ heart contained concrete. Many people say that that explained a lot. His heart was too hard, they say. His heart was much too hard. But, as is often the case with gossip, they were basing this on no knowledge of the man whatsoever, just what they read in the tabloids or heard at the parlor. Finding out the truth about the man means that one must find the beginning.
As it turns out, the concrete in his heart did quite the opposite of what everyone surmised. It kept his heart solid, dependable, and faithful. He was a very loyal friend, employee, and when he fell in love he fell hard. His heart knew only her and, as is often the case with love, his world followed suit.
He would climb to the rooftops with his broom at sundown and all night long he would work filthy, agonizing work. For the non-concreted hearts who shared his job throughout town this made for a dismal evening. But for Louis, the nights passed swiftly and to the tune of his whistle. He found that no matter what he saw it was good and often he marveled at what a good city he worked and lived in.
He saw parents coming home from work. He’d see families sit down to dinner and talk with one another. He’d see mothers and fathers tuck in their wee ones, and as is often the case with wee ones, he’d see them sneak out from under their covers and entertain themselves until they were tired enough to sleep. But his favorite moment of the night was when he would see loving couples go to bed and hear them confess words of love in their sleep
Then, filthy and tired Louis would head home whistling joy because he knew he’d soon be dreaming of her, and after that he’d see her for some while before she went to sleep and he went back to work.
So, as you can see, his concrete was a blessing. It kept him happy and strong.
Until it broke.
And when it broke the concrete poured out of his beating center and hardened his mind, changed his vision, and made his lips far too hard to whistle his lullabies. His heart broke, as is often the case with broken hearts, when he discovered a lie.
One snowy night too many chimneys were burning, which made for a short shift. He whistled and skipped home to be with his dear Catherine, but entered an empty house instead. After making himself some toast and an egg and watching the white flakes fall she finally came home. And she brought a friend with her. They both were laughing and leaning.
“I’ve needed a way to keep warm during these cold, lonely months,” she said. Louis didn’t know what she meant by “lonely”, for she was with him all the time and he assumed that he had been with her just as often. “It doesn’t hurt that he’s not covered in black flakes, either.”
It seems that where Louis had concrete, his dear Catherine had ice. And the story from here on out is what everyone else knows, or thinks they know. This is the moment that his concrete heart broke. And because the world mimics one’s mood, when his perception shifted from love to sorrow the world also followed suit.
Soon the families coming home from work were tired and unsatisfied. Dinners became a time to complain, argue, or sit quietly, uncomfortably. Children would sneak out of bed and slip quietly away out the window as unfaithful spouses slipped quietly away out the front door.
The sleep talkers still talked, but now instead of loving words, they confessed sins, admitted desires, and spoke all of the heavy things that needed to be spoken. And Louis, merely a pair of ears for their woes to settle upon, inadvertently granted tranquility to the sinners. He unintentionally became their priest. Listening to all of these confessions, Louis began to see evil in everyone. And before too long, preserved under layers of ash, Louis realized that he was the last decent member of a wretched community. Colors faded; black soot, white snow, black shadows, white lies, black sins, white hot.
The more he saw, the less he washed, keeping himself safe under layers of soot. He found solitude and a bit of pride in his clean spirit and slowly he became addicted to the foulness of others. He began to sleep through all sunlight and at night he threw himself into his work, silently traveling rooftops, unable to whistle his cheerful sound. But, as is often the case with addiction, he continued to listen to the confessions.
It was this hobby that sparked his nefarious idea. On a particularly crisp February night, one private prayer caught his attention and he stopped, statue still to listen.
An old woman with a tear shaped pearl tied around her neck with twine was muttering about seven horn blasts. She talked about wars and plagues and earth tremors. She asked for someone called “Gabrielle” to blow her horn and clean the land. She said, “Collect your horn from The Keeper and grant peace to the pure.”
“Grant peace to the pure,” Louis whispered. It echoed in his head. “Grant peace to the pure.”
He realized then that that was all he had wanted since his heart split; peace.
Louis waited, feeling motivated by his epiphany, until the woman was fast asleep. Then he stood tall, crystals of ice shaking off of his coat, and crept his way into the crone’s bedroom to ask his questions. Experience had taught him that while sleeping, a person cannot lie, and no matter how vile this woman surely was, she would answer his questions truthfully.
He started by asking, “Crone, if the horn is blown and I am pure, can amnesia be my peace?”
“And more,” she whispered.
Innocence was bliss, and aching to be reborn to it, Louis shook as he urgently gathered his information.
Louis shivered with hope and could not help moving closer to ask his next urgent question.
“Where is the horn, and how do I get it?”

The Chimney Sweep

Fionnegan

Woodland Hills, United States

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Artist's Description

Louis the Chimney Sweep discovers a way to end the world.

Artwork Comments

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  • Damian
  • Fionnegan
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