You must know the feeling, dread and weariness packed into a tight wad that inhabits your stomach. I had it as I parked the car in the driveway after a long days work. I shut down the engine and then sat back with my eyes closed. The day had been long, tedious and made worse by the dread of going home to what had become close to a living torment.

I sighed, got out of the car. locked up and headed for the door, shoulders slumped, feet not quite dragging, but well on their way there. A gloomy pessimism enclosed me like a nasty, smelly cloud of oil smoke. Getting to the door, I fished the keys out of my pocket. Now my door is a beautiful and unusual door. Lead lighting is its dominant feature in the most extravagant reds, purples and greens. Those garish colours manage to co-exist in an uneasy truce around the single clear pane of glass in the centre. It sounds awful, it actually isn't. It manages to be beautiful in a strange subversive manner which is the keystone of her art. She designed it, chose the colours, did the lead lighting, installed it.

"Why the single clear glass pane in the middle?" I asked. She smiled and pressed a paint encrusted hand into the middle. "Now it is signed." she said and walked away.

Now as I made to unlock the door, I looked at it and froze. The single clear pain of glass, her signature had a smeared, three fingered hand print, blood red, dripping and puddling on the bottom lead lighting. The sight of the bloodied hand printed shocked me awake instantaneously.

For the first time in ages, I was aware of my surrounding. The sound of Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6 La Pathetique Suite droned its dismal way through its first movement. It would be on loop so as the dreary part ended, the symphony would restart again, and again. The smell of burning hair assailed my nose starting a wheeze in my chest. I stood for a long time, listening and looking, and then pushed the door open. It wasn't locked, I knew it wouldn't be and I smiled as I walked on into the house.

I am a banker, but I have always fancied myself as a rough, tough, can do sort of guy who climbs mountains, dives the seas and rescues damsels in distress all before attending the gala opening of the latest ballet dressed in the latest high fashion. the problem is that I am at heart a banker and bankers as you may have realised are careful conservative and completely unadventurous. The he man dream life that I live is actually mostly just that, a dream life.

Yes, I keep fit, yes I am trained in rescue techniques, abseiling and diving, but only under carefully controlled conditions. As one instructor said to me more in sympathy than criticism, "So long as it is a carefully planned, controlled and limited disaster, you will do just fine. If anything goes even slightly wrong, you will be in a bit of trouble." I failed the surprise emergency that the EME trainers threw at us and then spent the rest of the course telling them what they had done wrong. It was only when faced with a real life situation, over which I shall draw a discrete veil, did I realise that they had been right. I am not cut out for disasters because disasters are just such uncontrolled and ill disciplined affairs that a good banker just won't have anything to do with them.

My shrink says it is my desire for chaos, but chaos controlled by me and not random. I asked her why I wanted that and she said she didn't know, that I did. Sometimes I wonder why I pay good money for someone who doesn't know.

I met Dulcie by misunderstanding. I tried to rescue her and she didn't need rescuing but by the time I was finished she had had to rescue me. Almost as an after thought she bedded me. "Just to cover all the bases." she said. I staggered out of her house an hour later feeling strangely alive. As she closed the door behind me I heard her say, "I am Dulcie, by the way. Not Elizabeth."

A week later I visited again to take her a bunch of flowers, say thank you, apologise, explain, be a gentleman and as a dark part of my psyche said, probably, possibly score again.

"Only this one more time." I promised myself. She would not make a good bankers wife, but she had been haunting my waking and sleeping hours so I would visit her again, just to reassure myself that she would not make a good bankers wife. The visit got off to a completely wrong start, I knocked, she let me in and then disappeared into a back room for half an hour and just as I was starting to get restless, she reappeared, buck naked. "That's a good sign, you stay where you are put and don't go wandering around causing trouble. Cummon, lets go to bed and get the sex thing out of the way cos I have some friends coming over to meet you and I don't like being interrupted mid-coitus. It makes me bad tempered." The next hour was in the words of the song "..lessons in love". We did things that I am still convinced are ballistically impossible.

We had just collapsed in a a sweaty, giggling heap for the second or third time when the doorbell went. "Just in time." she muttered and went padding off completely nude to open the door to a bunch of her friends whom she had invited "To meet the new ry ding." I was still scrabbling for my pants when a bunch of people stormed into the room. I abandoned my search for pants and was introduced to them, one by one, each surveying me with varying degrees of curiousity and amusement. I was handling the whole ordeal with dignity and style when a tall blonde and willowy creature took possession of my hand. He was dressed in tight leather jeans that left no doubt as to his gender and a vee top that was attempting to expose his navel. He held onto my hand in a surprisingly strong grip while his eyes devoured every nook and cranny visible to the human eye. "Sweety, You can leave him to me in your will if you like. He is very scrumptious."

That day passed in a whirl of disconcerting madness that I remember as a patchwork of surreal images, many of them not being linked in any logical way with any other image or previous experience. I remember staring at a brick in the kitchen where the plaster had been stripped from the wall and wondering about the person who had laid the brick. Then there is a memory using my fingers coated with red body paint to scrawl obscenities on the willowy blonde. Lying on the carpet laughing hysterically while two women mimed a scene from a war movie, possibly "Full Metal Jacket" using bottles of tomato sauce as guns. The tactile memory of licking the resultant tomato sauce off some very soft skin. Singing, or at least trying to sing "American Pie" as a duet, with me doing the falsetto part. And yes, I do know there is no falsetto part "American Pie" but it seemed like a good idea at the time.

I found myself at work on Monday in a daze, the guys were quizzical and the women, more acutely attuned to such things laughed quietly and whispered. An overheard comment summed up the feeling, "He has fallen for someone completely unsuitable." The terrible thing was that it was only when she said it did I realise that the woman was right, but far worse was the discovery that I really didn't care and I was hooked, completely and irrevocably. The bank, my life, my car, my clothes, everything had a somber undertakerlike aura that I could no longer relate to.

I became a regular at her home and the homes of her friends. They were a strangely mixed bunch of people. Artists, engineers, poets, madmen and mad women, all with one thing in common, they were capable of being bizarrely creative, completely unpredictable and headily provocative. They brought the bizarre, the creative, the new, the exciting out in one another. The “Soirées” as they were titled raged for most of the weekend. I am not sure why Dulcie kept me around at first. One suggestion someone made was that I was a lifeline to reality, another suggested that she hankered for a settled life, Craig the willowy blonde said he saw potential in me. Dulcie said nothing.

It turned out to my utter amazement that Craig was right. One night when I was floating on nearly a bottle of Johnny Walker Black I walked into a room where a tomato sauce fight had happened and someone was scrawling graffiti with the left over sauce on a wall. It looked so out of place in the whirlwind of creativity, that I gently pushed the near naked woman out of the way, appropriated the bottle of tomato sauce and proceeded to “paint” the wall. I remember little of the actual painting, I do remember the driving beat of a heavy metal band, the smell of dope and a sudden impossibly powerful surge of something deep inside me. Something dark, powerful and primitive. If there had been any doubt of either my creativity or my ambidexterity, that night squashed it entirely. I poured sauce on both hands and proceeded to paint a portrait of the woman I had pushed out of the way. It wasn't done slowly and with due consideration, careful study and observation. I remember my arms flailing, hands scraping, smoothing pressing, as I ran out of sauce and hand passed me another lump of the stuff. The hand kept feeding me as I raged across the wall. Then I was finished. Only then did I realise that the room was crowded with people, the music had died and you could hear a pin drop.

“Oh, my God!” an awed voice whispered. I looked at what I had done and was completely shocked. A portrait of power and passion had been painted on the wall while I flailed my arms. Then the spell broke, I was the hero of the weekend, I could do no wrong. Dulcie looked triumphant, Craig looked smug.

I was hooked.

I kept on remembering the feeling of power as my ambidexterity kicked in, the speed at which I painted the portrait with him passing me the contents of Hinds best. I remembered the reaction of the people at the party. That painting stayed on that wall for about a month before it started to flake and was reluctantly cleaned off. Where did the painting ability come from? I don't know. School art classes were a terrible trial, I never did well and the teacher despaired of my careful controlled drawing. “Be free break out. You are so ANAL!” all of which made me even less enthusiastic about art. But that night at the party I had broken out and something in me awoke and howled and it seemed as if that same beast had awoken and demanded to be let free again.

I stumbled, zombie like through my grey dull working days, only to emerge into a technicolour world that seemed to coalesce around Dulcie. My supervisor became a dread apparition, a messenger of pain, regret and fear. The words "job" and "jeopardy" started to inhabit sentences in emails and conversations with management. I was in trouble enough without any more stress, but like vultures troubles gather in flocks, mostly small, irritating problems such as a trolley ding on my car, licence expiring not being noticed, not much but adding up to a frenzy of stress. I was caught like a rabbit in the headlights, frozen, immobile as the behemoth of my past, present and future thundered down on me.

I had worked late trying to catch up on the seemingly endless work load, had excused myself from Dulcie and headed off home to eat, then continue catching up. Dulcie had not been very understanding at all and we had ended up yelling at each other. It was painful, searing and depressing. I wanted her, I needed her, but my bankers caution was getting in the way. She had been on at me to ditch my job and join her in her bohemian lifestyle. Airily she said there were "things" I could do to support myself rather than continue as a banker. I considered it, but I liked the lifestyle that banking could afford me. The money, the influence, the power, all because I counted others money, invested it and made them more rich. But to tell the honest truth, I was afraid. Afraid of the unknown, of the unplanned. I was out of my depth, out of my comfort zone. I wanted to run, but I couldn't.

I unlocked the door to the flat and stopped dead. "I am losing it. I am sure I switched off the lights before I left this morning." Then the sound of soft jazz and the distinctive smell of Chanel No. 5 entered my consciousness and then Elizabeth was there, a glass of my best malt in one hand and a pair of Dulcie's French knickers in the other. Garish, pinks and purples, jagged gap sliced in the gusset and, if my eyes did not mistake me, lots of bodily fluids. The provenance of the knickers flickered across my memory's TV screen and I felt myself stiffen.

The knickers were a jarring contrast to Elizabeth's power dressing style, severe bolero top, pencil skirt, silk stocking and high heels. Knowing Elizabeth as well as I did, I knew that the regulation
black g-string would be in her hand bag so as not to disturb the Brazilian style. She flicked the knickers across behind the couch, "You have been slumming again, you bad boy."

She oozed across the carpet to me, took a sip of whiskey and grabbed my crotch. Lust overcame caution, tiredness and sense and we fell into an old, well remembered dance, with Elizabeth in complete control.

Some hours later when I awoke Elizabeth was sitting in "her" chair at the end of the bed reading something on her tablet. She finished what she was reading and looked up. "I started hearing some bad stories about you and knew that you had made a serious mistake in chasing me away. You have a wonderful future and I can help you achieve that future. Stay away from those people and we can reconstruct your career." She shook her head, “your career is in trouble and friends said  hat you were on a slippery slope and couldn't save yourself. I decided you needed me just as much as I needed you.

"I asked you to come back and you said "Never."" I mumbled.

"I was hurt! You said awful things. You betrayed me.” the glib, manipulative sentences rolled off her tongue. I buckled, I surrendered and Dulcie was betrayed.

Elizabeth moved in and banished Dulcie from my life, or so she thought. You can subdue your thoughts, you can discipline your mind, but you cannot control your sub-conscious, it has a nasty way of breaking out of the most rigorous restraints and playing havoc with your neat plans. In my case it was Elizabeth's plans and soon I was back at work full time, overtime, weekends. Gym in the early morning, fashionable outings and parties, and like a sleep walker or a chained dog I followed. Dulcie became a vague memory, a dream, a phantasm, at least to my waking mind she did, my dreaming mind had other ideas and started to fight back.

First came the dreams, forgotten in the moment of waking, I would lie sweating, shivering, heart racing and almost whimpering at what I could not see, feel or remember. Elizabeth was not aware of this phase, I made sure she didn't know and my waking mind drew shutters across the dreams and all I was left with was a terrible feeling of menace, loss and despair.

The second phase was, in retrospect, funny and spectacular. At the time it was frightening and hurled Elizabeth into a fury of epic proportions. The first inkling that I had of something awry was Elizabeth getting up in the morning, padding through to the kitchen and letting out a scream that brought me running. What did I expect? Not what I saw. The white wall of the kitchen had a painting on it that wasn't there the night before. It was terrible, it was beautiful, it was crude and erotic and there was no doubt who the lovers were. It was done in exquisite detail, both the faces turned toward the viewer, my hands grasping Dulcie's breasts, her hand between her legs pulling me in, passion exploded out of the picture with raw intensity. For once Elizabeth was speechless, a hand across her mouth she stood looking at the painting. “Is that blood?” she whispered.

I didn't have to guess, but I stepped forward, ran a finger across a puddle of the “paint” lifted it to my nose and sniffed, then licked it. “Tomato sauce.”

Elizabeth erupted in a screaming, violent fit of anger directed at me. “You bastard, you utter and total bastard. You want to rub my nose in the existence of that slut?” I tried to defend myself, that I could not remember getting up and doing the painting, but my hands gave the game away, stained with red food colouring, they screamed my guilt.

“Cleaned it up. I cannot bear it.” Elizabeth stormed out and left me in the kitchen to clean up. I stood looking at the painting, then at the prompting of something in my soul which stirred, stretched, twitched like a dog dreaming of the chase and the kill, I stepped forward and scrawled my stylised G initial in the bottom right of the painting. I didn't take pictures as I was tempted to and reluctantly washed it away.

The painting stayed with me in my mind long after the last of the tomato sauce sluiced down the sink, tempting me, taunting me, urging me to do unthinkable things. I tried to ignore the urgings, but they kept on pounding at me.

Things did not get any better, if there wasn't tomato sauce there was HP sauce or soy sauce. Even mosaics of lentils, beans and split peas could be awaiting me in the morning. I used to go to the kitchen in trepidation, sometimes the kitchen would be pristine, other times it would be decorated. I even managed to do a bit of poker art on a wooden carving board without setting off the fire alarm. Overtly I was apologetic, covertly I gloated. I went to to my shrink and she laughed out loud and told me to stop doing in my sleep what I should be doing awake. “Come out of the closet.” was her advice.

Then one evening I was cleaning out my send box from my home email address when I found the pictures. Each time I had sleep walked/painted/created I had taken pictures and sent them to Dulcie. The actual messages in the emails were complete gibberish, the ravings of a sleep walking mind. I wrote and apologised. I got no response.

I continued to battle the night time artist, but nothing worked except getting paralytically drunk and then ending up at work, hung over and useless.

Some two or three months after the painting started, Elisabeth arrived home in a frenzy of excitement. We had been invited to the opening of an art exhibition at the new gallery of one of the banks biggest clients, Crixly-Brighton. Hugely wealthy, extremely eccentric, he had nearly terminated my career by demanding I have nothing further to do with his account as, in his words, “He seems to have lost his way.” It had been deeply humiliating. I still had not been reinstated to the exalted heights of handling even his minor accounts. It rankled deeply. Nothing it seemed would banish his bad opinion of me. Why he had chosen to invite “Elisabeth Hughson and Partner” was way beyond my reckoning. The opening was to be the social event of the year. Only the best, the most famous, most interesting were invited, but Elisabeth was an operator and had been working furiously to redeem my image. Possibly this was a reward for her hard work. She twinkled. I was seriously apprehensive, I did not want to go, I expected to be publicly ridiculed, or worse. As the due date came closer, I became more and more morose, more introverted. The dreams became worse, the mid night art episodes became more vivid. I was in a complete frenzy by the time we arrived at the art gallery on the appointed evening. My trepidation was worsened by recognising some of Dulcie's friends and some of the art works that they had been working on when I had been Dulcie's lover and companion. To a man or woman, they ignored or snubbed me. I was invisible at best, at worst ordure under foot.

Someone took my jacket and another pressed a drink into my hand. Johnny Walker Black. Deja vu of the worst order. The music was a relief, soft lilting, gentle, Enya doing her soothing thing. I scarcely realised that I had finished the drink when another was pressed into my hands. Eventually it was announced that we would be treated to an “Art Experience”. We had to walk down a partially lighted corridor with tiny rooms set a random distances. Each was a terrifying walk down memory lane, sounds and smells combined with artworks I recognised from the “Soirées” crowded each room. Lighting, sound combined to hurl me back into my time with Dulcie. I was almost incoherent and certainly getting badly drunk by the time we arrived at the door leading into a bright white room. It clinical whiteness was a relief, across the wall facing the door written in huge black letters, “Waiting for a man like you.” and there was a woman sitting shrouded in white linen. The whiteness was broken by some ineffectual graffiti on one wall scrawled in red. A woman was giggling inanely and trying to add to it. Elisabeth recognised the paint. “Tomato Sauce?” she whispered, horrified..

Suddenly I needed to be out of there, I tried to back out, but the door was closed, and then the music changed, Enya had faded while I was pushing at the door, in her place came the roar of heavy metal, the light changed, flickering reds, golds purples. A single spotlight picked out the shrouded woman. As I turned to look at her, she pulled the shroud away and stared at me challengingly. Dulcie. For seconds the world stood still. Then deep inside me the night time creature stirred, stretched and the moved. Almost in sleep walking mode, I removed my jacket, then my shirt, a waiter holding bowl of red fluid appeared at my side and offered it to me. I stared at it for a long moment, then I dipped my hands into the bowl, lifted the red fluid up and slammed the heels of my hands onto the pristine white wall, I slid them outwards at an angle, using the pressure of my hands to thin the curves, narrowing them to look like eyebrows, I lifted my hands and with my thumbs created the pupils of the eyes, my fingers cutting lines around the pupils, Dip back in the bowl, lips, cheeks, hair grew under my hands. A slide of hand drew the neck long and elegant, the arms straight down, hands curving back to form breasts, thumbs defining her nipples. I paused, then without rational thought the arms were bent toward one another, right hand supporting, left hand sheltering something. What? I stood back for a moment, then school biology images blazed in my mind. My hands drew an anatomically accurate heart, with ripped arteries and veins, sheltered in her hands, with an almost clean finger, I carved my initial into the heart. I stepped back and as I turned, I used I ran a red line down the centre of my my chest with my right thumb, the left hand fingers tracing four equally spaced lines across my chest. Staples to hold a severed chest closed. I took the last of the red, splashed it on the the wall next to the painting and then turned around, back to the wall. The room was full, I didn't know when it had happened but it was full. I stood stupefied for a moment, then slammed my back against the wall where I had splashed the red and slid slowly down the wall till I was sitting on my haunches. I didn't need a mirror to tell me that I had achieved the effect I had sought. Someone in the audience whimpered, another moaned softly and then there was dead silent.

I sat there for a short while, eyes closed. I knew I was finished as a banker, Aside from the fact that I had just destroyed Crixly-Brightons wall and possibly his gallery opening, I realised that I was no longer the person who had walked in the door, I was someone else. An outcast, maybe, but free. I had found my controllable chaos but at immense cost.

I opened my eyes, and looked straight into those of Craig. :”Hello Sweety. I told them all you were going t surprise us all.” He looked at Dulcie. “Only she believed.”

He sighed theatrically. “You are a stubborn person. I nearly had to have you fired to get you to break out and start doing the stuff you were born to do. Those night time photos saved you. I realised that all we needed was to get you here, feed you enough whiskey and prompt you. Stop looking so bewildered. I made them all promise not to introduce me properly. May I formally introduce myself? Craig Crixly-Brighton at your service.”

“Miss Elisabeth. I will have my driver drive you home. This man and I need to discuss business and then Miss Dulcie wants a few words with him too.”

By the end of our business meeting, Craig had agreed to pay me for the art work on the wall. Apparently the whole performance had been filmed and would be sold as a video and a book. I would get a share of any royalties accruing. My part of the contract? I had to continue producing art works, in any medium I liked so long as they continued to be in Craig's words “as powerful as that one there.”

My meeting with Dulcie was far more strained. She was not friendly, angry, aggressive, accusatory, she told me she didn't think we had a future. I was, in her words, “a lost cause. An artist with huge talent, but a lost cause as a human being.” I was shattered, devastated. She was uncompromising.

I resigned from the bank and started to work my notice. They excluded me from anything that might allow me to do them damage, I even ended up doing teller duties one day. I lived a split existence. The days dragged slowly by and the grey drudgery clawed at my soul. At night I was energised, I worked frantically painting, erasing, redrawing, slowly building up a repertoire of painting performances, resulting in huge, powerful images that haunted the few hours that I slept in the early hours of the morning.

Dulcie ignored everything I did, said, painted, sang. She was cut off from me. All I had left was the door. In desperation one day I sent her the keys to the house. Still no reaction. The only good thing was that she didn't return the keys.

With one week to go I was convinced I was failing, that my life was a mess and that it was all a cruel dream. Then came the day when I walked up to the door and found the hand print. Dulcie was back and somehow I knew that I would succeed and that my new life had started.