A long time ago, in a place that was certainly filled with wonder, there lived an artist. He was renowned throughout the land, and was talented in every medium imaginable. Everyone admired him, and he was happy.
He lived in a house with his wife and his cat. His work has made him rich beyond his wildest dreams, but he settled for a perfectly average dwelling. It was a small but cozy house with the ground floor consisting of the kitchen, bedroom and living room, and the second floor devoted entirely to the artist's studio. His wife was sweet and supportive of him, even during his more obsessive projects, and they loved each other. The artist thought her the most beautiful creature in all the universe.
One day, after he'd finished his latest project, the artist realized something. He'd dedicated pieces to kings, he'd dedicated pieces to queens, he'd dedicated pieces to famed explorers, knights, heroes and politicians. His work was dedicated to more people than he could remember and was seen in cities across the world, but there was one person that his work had never been dedicated to: his wife.
The artist climbed the stairs to his studio and locked the door behind him.
"I'll design her a palace grander than any I've made for any royalty!" he declared. He pulled out a sheet of butcher paper, swept his desk clean of it's accumulated oddities and set to work.
He sat there, hunched over his desk, his hand scratching intensely across the paper. He did not stop. He worked through the night with a feverish haste, working by candlelight. He worked without sleeping until, as the sun shone through his open window, he finished.
He spread out the paper on the floor and looked at the blueprints. Examining it, he believed it to be the most impressive building he'd ever designed.
"It's not good enough!" he yelled in a fit of rage, and tore the paper to shreds. "I must try something else."
He walked in circles around his studio, pulling at his hair in frustration. He went to a box in the corner and pulled out a huge lump of clay that he'd made the day before.
"I'll sculpt her, in all of her beauty!" he said. "It will be a statue greater than the Colossus of Rhodes!"
He pulled all of his tools out of a drawer and set to work. Using his hands, he pushed and pulled and shaped the clay into the rough form of a woman. With his tools, he carved and cut and shaved away at the shape. He worked through the day, late into the afternoon, pulling his beautiful wife out from the formless clay.
Finally, as the sun sank behind the hills, he finished. He stepped back and examined the sculpture, and thought it every bit as gorgeous as the real thing.
"It's still not good enough for her!" he roared. "She deserves perfection, and this is not it."
A hammer was sitting on a shelf nearby, and the artist took it and pulverized the statue. The bits of clay fell crashing to the floor and joined the shredded paper. The artist walked over and gazed out the window. As he watched, the sun lit up the twilight sky in radiant swaths of purple, orange and pink.
"Perfect," whispered the artist.
He spun around and fetched a blank canvas and an easel. He lit a lantern and set it nearby, illuminating the white surface. He took his best paints and brushes, and for hours and hours, he danced the bristles across the canvas, recreating the sunset that he'd witnessed. Across the white surface, he swirled the fiery hues, creating a sunset perhaps more mesmerizing than the original. He worked well into the night, until the painting was finished. Looking over his handiwork, he thought it his best painting.
"It must be better!"
The artist took the lantern and smashed it across the painting, and the sunset burst into flames. The canvas burned, and the ashes fluttered to the floor to join it's clay and paper ancestors.
The artist fell to the ground in defeat. He sat against the locked door and leaned his head back against it as torrents of tears ran down his face. As he sat there for unknown hours, wallowing in hopelessness, his cat walked in through the open window.
The cat walked over casually to him, and rubbed against his leg, purring. The cat climbed up onto his lap and curled up in a tight ball and fell asleep. The artist looked down at his pet and smiled.
The artist reached for a pen and paper on a nearby shelf. He began to draw. After a few minutes, he set the paper down and fell asleep to the sound of the cat's purr.
The artist woke late in the morning exhausted and starving. His cat was no longer present. He picked up the paper, stood, and unlocked the door. He walked down the stairs to the kitchen, where his wife was cooking cheerfully. She turned and looked at him. Setting down what she was doing, she hugged him tightly and kissed him gently on the lips.
"You must have been doing something pretty important," she said, "you haven't left that room in two days!"
"The most important thing I've ever done," said the artist. He handed her the paper. "I tried to design a palace, a testimony to your amazing mind, but it was not vast enough. I tried to sculpt you, a testimony to your beauty, but it was not beautiful enough. I tried to paint you a sunset, a testimony to your perfection, but it was not perfect enough. So I drew you this."
His wife looked down at the sheet and smiled. On it was two simple hearts, over-lapping one another, and three words written below them:
"To My Masterpiece."