Licking her lips like a greedy kid, Gretchen takes a step closer to the blood-splattered canvas. In the splatter, she sees an abundance of crimson shapes, shifting as if made of sand. Many of them are sexual. Those that aren’t remind her of death, which is the same thing, more or less. The radius of the ink blot-like patterns is only small—the size of her head at most—but it captivates her in the most profound of ways. Part of her thinks that nothing she does can improve upon what she sees and that she should instead take the opportunity to turn around and trudge back through town to her room, where she’ll no doubt drink, masturbate, and then fall asleep watching grainy old repeats of Bullseye on YouTube. She can say that this latest painting is a brave foray into minimalism—a bold departure from her abstract expressionism roots into a world of clinical precision. She’d more than likely fool half the course, too, such is the gullible nature of those she rubs shoulders with. They’d believe anything if they thought it made them look intelligent—even if they didn’t agree with it in the slightest. She wouldn’t be able to fool Angie the American, though, and more importantly, she wouldn’t be able to fool herself. No, this first, bloody mark isn’t a destination, but rather a prologue; an opportunity for her to latch onto a fleeting image and chase its tail into the maze of madness that awaits. Squinting her eyes, she scrutinizes the visceral patterns with the same look of wonder on her face reserved for when she gazes at the night sky; drunk, stoned, and more often than not, both.