His hands ran over the small valleys and canyons, and swept away the most recent shavings of his midnight work. He leaned heavily, one hand pressed flat on the table, and blinked his bleary, weary eyes. Blowing gently, he forced the dust and debris out of the deeper crevasses, with his unburdened hand following the rush of his breath. He blinked again.

He raised up and stretched, subtle movements, just pushed his shoulders back enjoying the pops and cricks, and tilted his head grimacing at the tension. He gave up trying to stretch his tight neck muscles and sighed. It’s not time yet, he thought. Keep going. He blinked, slowly, again.

He stepped back with another sigh, and reviewed his cutting: dull, lusterless, and rough. It was nothing much yet, but it was taking shape. A large collection of mahogany boards dried thoroughly and glued carefully together to make one solid piece, the right side still smooth and flat, the left full of rough and ragged images. In the upper corner there were swirls curling and sweeping and raw, reminiscent of ‘Starry Night’, the beginnings of an idea, an image. He blinked slowly, and smacked his lips sluggishly, and blinked, and sighed. It’s not time.

He stepped forward, leaned over and continued. With each touch, he stripped more away, a little at a time, and then a little more. Each stroke revealed more of his vision in rough detail, and filled his ears with the sounds of the scritch and scrape, his nostrils with the leathery smell of the wood. He focused intently on the section he worked, carving away the bare wood and revealing, little by little, the picture he could not carve and shape fast enough.

The nightmares that drove him started years ago, intense and draining to a boy who could not understand. Too frightened to sleep, too frightened to let others know of his wakefulness, he forced himself to remain awake. He told himself stories, placed himself in visions full of images that wavered between whimsical and macabre, and confused his mind. Because he was a boy, he would drift asleep, and the nightmares would seep, and dig, and settle. He could not maintain the image, but as time passed, and as he grew, the more he tricked himself awake, the less he was actually able to sleep.

Youthful fingers first found paper and colored pencils. When he could not get the images out of his mind, and he could not sleep, he would get up and he would draw. And then his mind could rest, just enough, just for a while. To settle his mind during the daylight hours, when it teamed with tumultuous thoughts, those same young hands and fingers learned to whittle, though it was just stripping layers away – turning dark into light, dull into sharp. His age and skills increased, as did his need.

A little more defined, was a hot air balloon and basket.