Ben could feel everyone else around him standing a little closer than before. The stench of stress filled body odors wafted from all directions. Footsteps clacked in unintended unison. There were no screams or whimperings of pain or fear. The sight of people being dragged off into the unknown depths of the exhibit quelled any individuality. Each person checked their neighbors before they moved on to the next exhibit, afraid of what they might find. The group surrounded Ben and Melody.
“Why wouldn’t you tell me about this?” Melody asked.
Surprised by the abrupt and blunt question, Ben replied without thinking.
“Because this ended last year. With the Artist in Maximum Security psychiatric prison, I didn’t worry about an attack from him.”
Melody looked at him hard, and Ben noticed a few others flitted their attention his way. Ben whispered as loud as he dared.
“Look, I did my research on the psycho about six months after I survived the attack on the Plasma center. That is the only reason I know what I do. I have no interest in becoming one of those demented apprentices.”
The expression on Melody’s face didn’t change. Though Ben whispered, Melody didn’t bother with subtlety.
“You’re not answering my question in full,” Melody said. “I see your implied lines, but I need to hear it.”
More heads turned towards Ben, but everyone continued to walk. There wouldn’t be a better place to handle this situation. If they waited and let everyone pass, then the apprentices would ask questions.
“Because, like I said, I didn’t want you to leave me.” Ben saw Melody didn’t care for that answer as she pulled away again. “Because I love you and knew my past would change things. Because you’re the only girl in this damned state who didn’t know me as the donation center guy.”
Ben didn’t have time to assess Melody’s reaction. Though he wanted to watch her response to the big three.
“Holy fuck,” a man said.
The man stood next to Ben, and he followed the gaze to the next stage. The group of exhibit goers stopped walking. Bright red LED lights revealed the woman taken earlier standing next to the man who sat strapped to a chair. Next to the woman, holding her hand, stood one apprentice. Ben heard what the apprentice said.
“Your first creation is always the most painful. Inside you, I see the eyes of an artist.”
The apprentice guided the woman’s hand and blood splurged from the man’s shoulder. Both man and woman screamed. Multiple people threw up. Ben wanted to find Officer Lyle. Ben screamed.
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