Create or Die – Flash Fiction Challenge 20 #FFC52

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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.

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12 thoughts on “Create or Die – Flash Fiction Challenge 20 #FFC52

  1. C. E. Coburn says:

    A very poignant message: use it or lose it. Perhaps truer to form: use it, or lose it violently. lol.

  2. Mark Baron says:

    As a former art major, I applaud your excellent grasp of our madness and pretentiousness. 😉 More seriously, this was an excellent piece, and I enjoyed reading it very much! I had a small inkling where it was heading, but that did nothing to diminish the pleasure found getting there. I find myself very, very pleased to have stumbled across your blog!

    • Thain in Vain says:

      Wow, thanks so much, Mark! Hearing this kind of feedback means so much to me–not just as a writer, but as the host of a writing challenge! So glad you found my blog and glad I found your blog!!

  3. Kate Loveton says:

    What an interesting piece! You did a marvelous job depicting the main character’s contempt for both art and artists. I enjoyed the ending – I found it amusing. Having decided Willem has already died ‘creatively,’ his former fellow art students decide to finish the job. What made it amusing was Willem’s wry thought at the end. Well done. 🙂 (I rather like the idea of the toy fire struck stuck to the canvas with the paper flames shooting toward it.)

    • Thain in Vain says:

      There’s your next art project-fire engine, canvas, construction paper flames!! Thanks for enjoying this story!! And perfect read on it!! Thanks for the great prompt, Kate!!!!

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