Ushered around the red light lit stage, Ben realized the second figure looked too frail to be alive. Soft mutterings rippled through the patrons as they waited in darkness. Ben tried to locate Melody, but everyone’s faces cast in the red light distorted into inhuman shapes. The lights shifted to reveal the two figures on stage, one alive, breathing in a white blood drenched hoodie, and the other a skeleton with a shattered skull.
“Welcome, my patrons of the arts, to the first exhibit,” the man on stage said. “Everyone is beautiful, and it is their inner beauty that we Artist Apprentices desire to show. For we can only discover true beauty on the inside.”
Ben cocked his head to the side. Something looks familiar about that skull. The white bones flecked in red hues that glistened along the extremities. The figure held erect by metal poles on the stage. A fabric cloth sat around bony ankles rippled and flowed as if on top of water. A pungent smell of iron reminded Ben of the Plasma Center’s stench. Vomit roiled in the back of Ben’s throat, but he fought it down.
“Bone represents our deepest self-structure in two-fold,” the man said.
Ben didn’t care to listen to the ravings of a madman. I need to get closer to Melody, to make her understand. But could he face it again? An entire spent in therapy, and he expected Melody to be okay with it in the twenty minutes since he told her the smallest fraction of what happened.
“The skull,” the man said, “housing the innermost beauty bursts with ideas and futures.”
This comment drew mumbles of disgust from the crowd. The man on the stage spoke with passion, but the entire scene disgusted Ben. Why does The Artist want me to see this? He worked with every part of the body. Then Ben realized the man was a specialty artist. Or at least in the corrupted minds of The Artist followers, these represented the greatest minds underneath The Artist.
“Are those real human bones?” A man asked.
“Well, of course,” the Artist Apprentice said. “Where else could you find genuine inner beauty. Don’t you see the blood still fresh in the crevices? No, bleaching would hinder the art.”
Another person nearby threw up. The splattering sound rang echos of a sick coworker that died from a lacking health instead of Bradley’s own killing methods. No, I can’t lose myself in those thoughts. Find something to focus on. Melody stood across the room. He moved through the crowd towards her, but the Artist Apprentice fell silent.
“Thank you for enjoying the first Exhibit entitled Sticks and Stones,” a deep voice said, “Please continue towards the next Exhibit, The Body Unsheathed.”
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