Flash Fiction Challenge
Writing prompt: Staring at the painting (or sculpture) in the museum, I was horrified to discover…
I looked down at the strange invitation I’d received a week earlier. It read: You are cordially invited to attend the “Create or Die” exhibition. I had no idea who the invite was from, but I figured it must be from one of those pretentious assholes I went to art school with.
I stood in front of the building and sighed, second thoughts running through my mind. Why was I here? Why did I care? The windows seemed to be covered with what appeared to be burlap; light shown through the porous fabric. I opened the door and stepped in. Inside, the place vibrated with the sounds of human chatter. At least 60 people filled the room, illuminated by tracking lighting. It was all so annoyingly beautiful. I looked for the bar.
“Willem, how amazing you came,” said a female voice behind me. I felt a hand on my shoulder and turned to face Marjorie. Memories came flooding back. She was the art darling of my graduating class. The one expected to go places. I hated her.
“Marjorie, how amazing to see you.” I kissed her on both cheeks. “Is this your show?”
“No, silly. It’s all of ours,” she gestured around the room. I recognized many of the faces as people I graduated with. “Come, let’s look at the art.” She tugged at my sleeve and I followed even though I was confused.
As we walked into the gallery, face after face appeared in front of me. Hellos and welcomes and how are yous filled the air. I laughed and nodded and said good. Most of them were nothing more than a distant memory to me.
The gallery was circular. Lined around the centre of the wall were large white canvases with small description cards beside each—about twenty in total.
“Please peruse at your leisure,” said a male voice. I looked towards the voice. It was Mac, a performance artist from back in the day. I wondered if he was still doing that embarrassing shtick.
“Mac, amazing to see you.” I wondered where Marjorie had gone. I embraced him. He kissed me on both cheeks.
I moved toward the exhibition.
On the first canvas a small grain of rice was stuck in the centre, a child-like sun drawn in the top right corner. Really? I thought. The description card next to it read “Impregnated by Art” by Marjorie Sloane. I was surprised because I thought she had more talent when we were in school.
The second canvas contained a child’s fire truck glued to it, rudimentary construction paper flames licked the left side of the canvass. ‘Here comes the shit-mobile,” I said under my breath. The description read “Art Saves” by Mac Jones.
I moved to the third canvas. I was horrified to see an unmistakable child-like drawing of myself. I was lying in puddle of blood pouring from my head, a paintbrush and canvas lying next to the (my?) body. I stared in disbelief at the painting. The description card read “Create or Die” by Willem Stone.
“Who did this?” I screamed. I noticed a crowd had gathered.
“You did. We all created art. You did not create art and now you must pay,” said Marjorie. The crowd surged forward. I felt the first blow to my head from what must have been a hammer. After that I felt nothing, except the painful regret of not using my fine arts degree.