Imagine a world without art. That’s the rabbit hole writers were asked go down this week. What they surfaced with are stories ranging from the bleak to the profound.
Art is a form of communication, something shared between creator and beholder; teller and listener; student and teacher. The stories this week challenge the notion that art can be squelched. A world without art is one where humanity has been snuffed. Brave the rabbit hole as writers did and read on.
The following are based on the March 16, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) go down the rabbit hole to a place where art is not allowed.
Words by Enkin Anthem
She sang for her daughter when she didn’t want to sleep. Songs of beauty and strength and freedom, like her mother had done it and her grandmother before that.
The first time they caught her, she came back without her tongue. Now she hummed as she sat at her daughter’s bed. The words were in their heads – in hers, and in the child’s.
The second time they caught her, they cut her vocal cords. They had stolen the music, and she only drummed the rhythm on her knees.
But the words were still there. One day, her daughter would sing.
Lifeless by Ann Edall-Robson
She loved music and dabbled in the arts. Creating sketches to hang on the walls, playing the piano, singing as she went about her daily tasks. The day she didn’t come home was a day of hell for all who lived there. Silence and loneliness the engulfed the rooms, terminating the life within. Slowly the artwork faded to nothing. The piano stood lifeless. Practising lessons stopped for fear of ripping the memory open. This desolate place where once love, laughter and music roamed the rooms, now only dust and cobwebs shroud the ivory keys. Life’s art lingers no more.
Flash Fiction by Pensitivity
No colour, design, or personal expression lived here.
It was a cheerless run down place, run by run down cheerless people, who basically couldn’t give a damn provided their paycheck went in every week.
The Chairman didn’t care he had crippled the community, taking away a way of life, the soul of humanity for those who had nothing else.
No reason, no notice, no choice.
Spiralling into the pit of despair, they left in droves, to where, no-one knew.
Now, the waters lie empty, and those hardened enough remember the days when the Art of Life was staying alive.
Same Old by Michael
It was wake up, get dressed, the same day after day.
The sombre grey of the working man matched the sombre grey of the business man, the check-out girl and the garbage man.
Let’s have no discrimination they had said. Let’s create a society where we are all one and the same. It did away with worrying about what to wear as the state provided everything. All you did was send in your size and back it came at you.
It worked so well. We all felt part of something. Then the something got muddled and we wondered why.
A Noble, Necessary Occupation by Roger Shipp
The bell rang.
Each student stepped to designations.
“Begin. Page 17. Future Career Possibilities. ”
Never a “Good Morning” or a “Nice to see you.”
“All life was castrated.” Dad whispered that once… as we lay in bed awaiting the proper sleep.
At night, alone… Oh, the stories. Of giants and beanstalks. Of trolls and elves. Once Dad drew on our sheets. “Daisy,” he said.
No more. Not since little Sarah passed. That night, dad hummed. Music.
It made me cry.
“Alfred. Are you with us?”
“Yes, Sir.” I stood at my desk. Alert.
“Erasers. A noble, necessary occupation.”
Colors by Sarah Brentyn
I smear color on tiles, watching different shades swirl together under my fingertips.
“Dammit, girl!” Heels click down the hall. “Why do you insist…” The woman’s eyes are wild, searching the corridor. She kneels in her nylons and clean skirt to look at the mess. “Well,” she tilts her head, “it’s a pretty one you’ve made here. You could have been an artist.” She yanks her sleeve over her hand and wipes away the colors. “No more. You’ll get us both killed. Understand?”
I stare at the women. She is always nice to me but I will find more colors.
No Art by Norah Colvin
She’d survived! In just minutes, art class with Miss R. Without Art today, she’d be somewhere else; anywhere. Or nowhere. Breathing deeply, imagining sunshine and calm waters, as Miss R. taught, helped quell the warmth rising from her feet, threatening to explode her heart and head. Somehow she’d avoided Brucie and his bully mates, escaping their lunchtime taunts. Now Art: sanctuary. Suddenly, tears obliterated hope as she read: “No Art today. Classes cancelled.” Where was that white rabbit with a hole down which she could disappear?
Later, during class, Miss R. asked, “Has anyone seen Marnie?” Brucie just smirked.
Artists Are Golden by Geoff Le Pard
‘Mary smiled to herself. ‘Oh, a silly dream.’
Paul hugged her shoulders and peered at the brochure. ‘Away artist retreat. You exploring your creative side?’
‘Stop teasing.’ She closed it.
‘No, I’m not. It’s just, I never thought….’
Her face was unreadable. ‘When I was 15 we had to choose our O Levels. Because I was good academically I was told I couldn’t do art. Dad, too, wasn’t keen.’
‘I never knew.’
‘Yes, well it’s a silly dream.’
Paul picked it up. ‘A great man had a dream once. He was right about that too. Come on.’
The Tray by Allison Maruska
Riley sneaks down the hall—why isn’t he outside for recreation?
I hurry over to him. “What are you doing?”
He adjusts something in his shirt.
“What is that?”
He stares up at me, pleading.
“Riley.” I hold out my hand.
He removes his cardboard lunch tray, where he’s painted a rainbow.
“How did you do this?” Art is forbidden—he could be expelled.
“I used my food.” He points to the colors. “Mustard, berries, Jell-o.” His lip quivers. “Throw it away. Please, don’t report me.”
“I won’t.” I run my fingers over his masterpiece. “Can I keep it?”
Men of Action by Scarlett Sauvage
Joseph Smithson watched dragonflies skim across the lake, hovering above the water, looking for smaller insects to eat. Black fish drifted beneath the surface, avoiding his father’s fishing line.
He took out his school notebook and drew the outline of a dragonfly, sketching the intricate design of its body. He started to trace its delicate wings and felt a sharp pain across the back of his head. He turned to see his father towering over him.
“What are you, some kind of fairy?” His father bellowed.
Art was not the way of Smithson men. They were men of action.
Flash Fiction by Pete Fanning
“Jake. Let’s go.”
Jake stared at his primary clash. Blobs of blue invaded the mounds of yellow, giving birth to a swirly green orb.
Jake’s mother nodded, flushed from her race through traffic. His jacket swished in her hands. “Jake. Come on, we’re late.”
The paint was no longer magical but wet and droopy. Jake hated tee ball. His father always scolded him for sitting in the outfield. Told him to focus. He was focused. On four leaf clovers.
Jake stood, the colors now ran down the page. Mom, yellow. Dad, blue. Jake, the green smudge they’d created.
The Bad Ole Days by Martin Cororan
It was the future and everything was fine – better than fine in fact – damn near perfect. The trains ran on time, war was a memory and grass grew equally green on both sides.
The problem was one of earth-shattering boredom.
Without conflict very little was ever in flux, and without change no one ever needed to react to anything.
If only there was some nightmarish netherworld where ‘stuff’ happened and insidious foes could be resisted.
But such a place could never be. The benevolent overlords who ruled with oppressive politeness wouldn’t allow such a phenomena to flourish…
No Access by Bill Engleson
For the final time that week, Delia drove to the ridge overlooking Pipers Lagoon. In the bay below, morning sun shone on the rustic ramshackle cabins of Shack Island.
“So little time to capture this simple beauty,” she whispered as she hauled out her easel and paints. “Before we forget.”
The memo from the Department of Beach and Ocean Access had been pointed.
EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY, OCEANS AND OCEAN VIEWS WILL BE OUT OF BOUNDS TO ALL BUT AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL. SMALL CRAFT AND FERRY TRAFFIC HAS BEEN SUSPENDED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE.
“What have they done to the sea?” she wondered.
Gone Art (Jane Doe Flash Fiction) by Deborah Lee
Jane sits quietly in the sand, eyes toward the horizon. The trees blur into smudges as the lines of sea and sky draw her eyes. The breeze whispers to her, a voice without words.
Her fingers almost itch to feel the smoothness of the blank page beneath their tips, to hold a charcoal pencil. She has written poetry on her phone before but in these days of want, sketch pads and pencils are a luxury she cannot afford.
As if by magic, a stick is in her hand and her hand is moving, lines in the sand, then more.
An Art-like Substance by FloridaBorne
Eyes closed, she slathered her canvas with bright green.
Running through grass, following his terrored breath, she became the predator, leaping toward a man in khaki. Past the point of rational thought, he broke through a trap, the predator leaping in after him.
“This is my premiere piece,” she whispered.
“You’re jabbering again,” her husband said.
She stiffened at his touch. “I didn’t know anyone was here.”
“I’ve been trying to tell you I’m going to Africa tomorrow!”
“I know,” she sighed. “I saw your death.”
“Our marriage is as dead as your paintings.”
“Goodbye love,” she said, relieved.
The (Dis)Connect by Reena Saxena
Art is a function of the spirit, and articulation is crafting that spirit, for presentation to the world. At a more abstract level, it is called expression.
Communication is the mundane, everyday version of passing on a message. This format will survive in absence of art. Sensitivity will disappear, so will strong responses. Connectivity will replace connectedness. Relativity will be the ‘If….’ for artificial intelligence tools, to determine the ‘…… then’, for completion of a process. AI will measure both intent and impact, and close the loop, if certain parameters were fulfilled. Humanity will not be an essential factor.
Off-beat Punk and the Parapet Eclipse by Elliott Lyngreen
She was leaking them bright eyes; like the end and the shiny little dark was no longer – and the rest would be history. . . as we lost Record Rewind.
Looking up; sign glowing that seamed portion of the parapet; what could remain used and renewed again and again? She wanted to go back more than ever.
Gone forever; textured sounds slipped feint along the old way art goes.
In her usual far-off daydreams. . . . the sun angled, grazed her jawline, fractured, eclipsed, where she finally felt the tear drip.
The Art of Creation (or vice versa) by Liz Husebye Hartmann
In the beginning, there was darkness. No movement. No sound nor smell.
No Spark, the spirit that signifies the living and is dissipate with the dead.
Time stopped because there was nothing to segment, nothing to connect that which would be segmented.
And it was fucking dull.
God rolled over in the darkness, and gave a great fart. This poofed the blanket of nothingness. An irritating, organic smell scraped out and sparked an idea, lighting up the darkness with a big bang. This caused greater friction, resulting in discussion, and artistic and scientific work, which created more spark.
Double Tapped (or Redundant Triggering) by JulesPaige
It was a meat eater. There was a beauty in the raw plant that
digested living things. Some of the students just said ‘Yuck!’
Mr. Cartwright could only hope that one of them would see
beyond the science and venture to write something interesting
on Venus Flytraps. There was art in the way the plant preyed.
Jasmine had been to S.T.E.M. classes from preschool. She
enjoyed learning. Hearing jokes about how her mother had
gone to college to get her ‘MRS’ was all she needed to know –
about what she didn’t want. Jasmine was drawn in…
Art by Kerry E.B. Black
Mya blinked back tears.
Her husband Eric clenched his jaw. “I not going to pay for that.”
She held the canvas away from her chest, unwilling to look from a greater vantage. The piece came to life under her scrutiny as it was, filled with riotous joy and an appreciation for intellect and beauty. Subtle hues hid encouragement for future artists, while the highlighted portion danced with real and present victory. As her heart swelled, tears broke through her dam.
She memorized the lines and colors, but since she had no money of her own, she left the art.
The Coming Truce (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills
“You think I shouldn’t be allowed art?” Danni drank the Oregon Pinot, glinting like crushed golden berries in her glass.
Michael stood in her living room, his body tense. Neither wanted to be in the other’s presence, but Ike insisted on a truce while he served in Iraq. “You have no right to Native artifacts.”
“Art, Michael, and it’s mine. Those chinks? My great Uncle Riley made those. His Nez Perce wife beaded them. The peace pipe, a gift.”
“Your art is my history, Danni. I’ll take that wine now. If it’s not toxic.
“The wine or my art?”
An Unfavourable Ancestor by Luccia Gray
‘Destroy it, Brigs,’ Rochester said, pointing to the portrait.
‘But it’s your most glorious ancestor, sir, Damer de Rochester, who died at the Battle of Marston Moor.’
Jane gazed admiringly at the portrait and the man she loved, seeing a likeness. ‘You must be very proud of such a brave ancestor.’
‘Brave but foolish, Jane. The Rochesters have been on the blacklist since the Restoration, thanks to him.’
‘It’s a grand work of art. I beg you to reconsider,’ pleaded Rochester’s administrator.
‘I want no trace of him. The new Queen mustn’t know, and I will have my knighthood.’
Holey Outlaw Canvas by Joe Owens
“What is this?” Inspector Clouseau said as he turned the piece of contraband over in his hand as he surveyed the scene of the latest Art Hater Serial Killer murder.
“Once it was called a canvas,” Yvette said. “For art.”
“Art! Art has been outlawed for a decade!”
“Legislation cannot stop passion, Inspector.”
“Perhaps not, but a slug can,” he said nodding to the lifeless form.
“So we assume AHSK found out about the victim’s art and came calling?”
“Assume nothing, dear Yvette. Check the desk calendar.”
“It just says Moriarty!”
“Holmes’ nemesis? I though he liked all art!”
Fragile Minds by Anne Goodwin
“I’m deeply disappointed.”
My second visit to her office. She was scary enough at my recruitment interview. Now I’ve been “invited” to discuss my expense claim.
“Wasn’t it addressed in your training?”
I could be done for fraud. “I’m sorry I lost the receipt. But you can check the prices at the Tate Modern café.” It wasn’t meant as therapy. An ordinary outing as friends.
“Forget the coffee. Matty returned so agitated they had to sedate her.”
Agitated? She was alive!
But there’s my CV to consider. “Another chance?”
“No more galleries, okay? Art’s too disturbing for fragile minds.”
Feedings by D. Avery
There were entertainments, of course, at the arenas. Relentlessly the Trump Youth rooted out books and paintings that still polluted many of the buildings. These fueled their great bonfires after the Feedings. Artists were kept on hand in miserable cells until a show at the arena where the large animals from the forsaken zoos would finally get to satisfy their hunger. The writers were the first to go. Not just the journalists, but all writers, even poets and songwriters.
All eyes were on the pouncing tiger. Only the poet saw the single ashy page fluttering aloft on the wind.
Escape by D. Avery
Sprawling from the impact of the tiger, the poet grasped at more loose pages from a half burned book of poetry among the bone littered ash. The tiger nudged and pawed her. The bloodthirsty spectators thundered with taunts for the poet to get up and fight. Knowing that fighting for her own life was futile, the poet would fight for theirs. Even as the half starved tiger ripped into her flesh, delighting the crowd, the poet stirred and clawed at the ashes, releasing ninety-nine ragged edged poems unto uncertain winds that carried them over the walls of the arena.
Opening by D. Avery
The artist had witnessed many fires, many Feedings. Peering through the crack between two stones, he watched the poet stride purposely to where just the night before there had been a tremendous blaze of paintings, books, and the remnants of bodies.
Then came the tiger.
He had seen many struggle desperately for their lives, but this poet was much stronger. She conjured hope to rise up from the ashes.
He would go out in a blaze too. He prepared for his exhibition. Finding a small sharp rock, he began an outline of a phoenix on his chest and torso.
Detail by D. Avery
“Did you enjoy the Feeding?”
Marlie straightened, startled. “Yessir.”
“Disappointing, the lack of fight in that cowardly poet.”
“Oh, yessir, very. Disappointing.”
“Well, Marlie, you’ve got clean up detail tonight.”
The officers weren’t supposed to call the Youth by name.
“I should patrol outside the arena as well. Wind took some litter from the stands.”
Taking the bucket and stick, Marlie methodically cleared the bleachers of dropped napkins and cups, hoping the lieutenant hadn’t noticed her anxiousness.
Out around the gate she gathered litter, working her way towards a singed piece of paper lodged against a bush.
What an interesting and diverse collection of ideas, with no one in favour of art’s demise, but all seeing some value in it. This really got down to philosophising and expressing values below the story surface. Now that’s art.
So artfully stated, Norah!
Everything we do and everything we see is some form of art. All we have to do is look and listen as this compilation of stories explains to us.
That message comes through in these stories!
So many good ones!
[…] I know many of you read as responses are posted, but if you get the chance, take a read of the Without Art collection as a whole. Thank you. That is the gift writers share, and reading is the gift in return […]
I agree with Norah, art is alive and well at Carrot Ranch!!
An amazing collection this week. It always is but the turn-out and variety are wonderful. Here’s to art. 🙂
[…] pieces of fiction are the results of responding to CHARLI MILLS in FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE on Without Art MARCH 23, 2017 & MARCH 30: FLASH FICTION […]