The Exhibit 7: No Signs of Hope

Ben tried to see something through the black fabric against the windows. But if flashing police lights were outside, he couldn’t see any. More patrons were corralled behind them. Ben squeezed Melody’s hand twice and got a single squeeze in response. She doesn’t like this. The smell of blood filled the air, and no one cared for the dead man. Instead, the lights dimmed, and it forced the corralled people to face the screen.

A healthy man’s face appeared on the screen. The man’s broad shoulders filled the bottom of the screen. Ben knew the man’s name before he spoke.

“Welcome everyone to the first full Artist Exhibit,” The Artist said. 

The voice echoed. The Artist’s crooked smile sent Ben into shock. Ben read about the girl killed in the haunted house from twenty years ago, and any Artist related event after. The man’s name was Cass Lawrence and was eighteen when he got his first registered kill. Since then, he’d created a cult following while in High Security Prison. How can he get so much freedom? Ben trying to swallow down his fear but found a dry throat holding the knot in place.

“Also, Benjamin, I see you and your beautiful girlfriend made it tonight. I wanted you to understand what Bradley Brown did last year wasn’t art. That was torture and it disgusts me he dared claim association with me. So, I wanted to set things straight. You get to see the true Artist experience. I will let you see my work one day. Until then, I leave it to my apprentices.

Everyone else looked around the room and started asking who Benjamin was. Ben felt the fear and shock of last year reappear. A year of therapy gone. Sweat dripped down Ben’s back, and he could feel his sweaty hands once Melody loosened her grip.

“What’s he talking about?” Melody asked. “Who is Bradley Brown?” 

“I, I did nothing wrong.”

Tremors tore through Ben’s body. Ben tried to look Melody in the eyes, but her look of confused horror sent Ben’s gaze to anywhere else. Why did she have to learn about this? Melody let go of Ben’s hand, but didn’t move away. After a moment of silence, Ben told Melody about his coworkers, the abduction, and that they died horrific deaths. He didn’t see a reason to go into detail. Then Ben finished with his survival and Officer Lyle’s offer to help if the Artist ever appeared again.

“And did he respond he was on his way?” Melody asked.

“No,” Ben said, “or at least I don’t know. They took my phone before I got a response.”

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