The Exhibit 3: Mark of the Artist

In the moments it took for the crowd to process something was wrong, a wall of men and women emerged from the shadows and blocked any escape path. Each person held different weapons and wore black jeans with a white hoodie. Why do I recognize those clothes? The shadow of the hoods hid most of their faces. The woman that cut her arm now painted the wall with her blood in a determined manner. 

“Ben, what’s going on?” Melody said. “Why are they pointing knives and guns at us?”

Melody scanned the room. Ben’s stomach knotted the more he saw the design of the blood on the wall. The circle of blood on the wall finished, the red-haired woman sliced on her other forearm and then painted the details in the middle. While rough and not clear, Ben recognized the symbol. Maybe my research will pay off. But then Ben realized that if it had paid off, he wouldn’t be in the current situation.

“What is that?” One person asked.

“Can she stand to lose that much blood?” Another person asked.

“I can save her if these brutes let me through,” One man said, “I’m a doctor.”

The crowd tried to let the doctor through, but the now encircling captors raised their weapons as he neared. The woman collapsed to her knees but kept painting. A microphone remained on and allowed everyone to hear the woman’s last words. 

“I give my Inner Beauty to The Artist to mark his return to our world,” the red-haired woman said.

The woman crumpled to the floor, motionless. A stark red pool of blood crept from under her corpse. Ben predicted the following events as the captors walked through the crowds and took phones and smartwatches from the captives. Ben shot off a quick text to the only person who might help them.

One man fought back, screaming obscenities and trying to resist. One of the hooded figures stepped next to the man, waited for him to look their direction, and shot them in between the eyes at point-blank range. Blood and gray matter splattered those near the men, including some of the other hooded figures. Melody and many others screamed. Ben felt his insides try to pull him toward the exit doors. Not again. Why did I trust Melody? Part of Ben wanted to hate her, but when he looked into his girlfriend’s blue eyes, he knew she wasn’t at fault for the situation. All of Melody’s joy, gone. Ben looked at the dead man on the ground and thought back to the six people he watched die last year. The desire to run disappeared.

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