Sunday, October 30, 2011
Written and owned by Greg L. Miller 2011
Chapter 33: American Art and Portraiture
Black and white stripes boldly splash the wall in front of Andrew. He yawns as absently drifts in space. He doesn’t understand why contemporary art has to be so odd.
Seth nods to his left. The French man looks at the art. If Andrew didn’t know better he would think the man has an inner knowledge about the artist. Andrew feels impatient; it has been a few hours since the initial tsunami hit Washington DC. Andrew wonders why Seth doesn’t look like a homeless person.
Wasn’t he in rags when I first met him? This is odd.
Light cascades from the ceiling illuminating the gallery’s content; the skylights still function as they should. The Great Hall bored Andrew. He had to escape into the contemporary art wing but now is equally as bored.
“Seth, I hate this man. We are supposed to be taking control of the city and here we are in a stupid art gallery which reminds me of a museum. When do you think we can go outside? You think the waves will ever stop?”
Seth smiles as he brushes his chin. The man has an old school goatee; Andrew has the impulsion to touch it but his survival sense stops him. Seth ditched the girl’s sweater from earlier but still wears the Burger King’s employee’s shoes. His hair is kept well.
Seth giggles like a school girl, “Patience. I love how the black and white stripes compliment the orange in the middle.”
Andrew doesn’t dig the moment, “This sucks man. I don’t understand why people call this art. Anyone can draw lines straight lines and circles. What’s up with those cans and bottles glued to the floor in the previous room?”
Seth draws in his breath as he patiently tries to explain, “It’s about visual and performing arts and its message through American History. Each person in the gallery represents a specific time in American history. If you look closely you can see a little of everyone from George Washington to Marylyn Monroe.” Seth’s voice takes on a poison which confuses Andrew.
Maybe he’s showing French snootiness? Where did his brothers go?
“Whatever man, I can’t wait until we can get out of here. I wish there was something to do.” Andrew laughs as knocks over the exhibit. Seth doesn’t join in the destruction but looks aghast.
Andrew takes a left and walks into a wing showing art since 1945. He has to climb over rubble but it appears someone made a path already. He doesn’t care, he has a gun. The bathroom is to the left. Most of his sheep are holding up in the Great Hall which is on the other side of the building. His sheep are high on drugs and many are passed out. They are waiting for the Tsunami to go away but a few wander around the third floor. The Ocean took the first floor and wrecked most of the stairs on the second. He doesn’t know how they are going to get out but it doesn’t really matter. Everyone is happy they survived and few doubt the durability of the building.
Andrew laughs as he tells nobody, “It’s going to take a lot more than a earthquake and tsunami to destroy DC.”
He pauses before entering the Men’s bathroom. The pharmaceutical medication coursing through his system has hit its peak.
His vision is blurry but he is aware of his environment for he has been taking drugs his whole life. A noise comes from the bathroom sounding like a pitiful whine.
Andrew silently opens the door an inch and peers in. The bathroom first appears to be dark. Heavy duty maintenance lights illuminate the opposite side of the stalls. Andrew’s heart freezes as his vision takes clarity. Two of the men are Seth’s brothers. There is a pile of corpses near them. It’s hard to determine how many people are in it.
One laughs as he hits the bound prisoner without mercy. The third man is one of his sheep he recruited; it’s one of the guys wearing a Metallica shirt. The third man is still alive. He screams into a muffled rag tightly tucked into his mouth.
Andrew lets the door swing shut. He shakes uncontrollably and walks into the female bathroom.
What the hell was that?
His heart races fast as true fear grips his conscious. Andrew attempts to use the faucet but nothing comes out. He can’t see too well. The Xanax fights his awareness. Perhaps he took too many. Sweat pours freely as he tries to think straight. He enters a stall and puts down his hand gun.
I need to get out of this wing. Did they see me? Why are they torturing people?
He can’t piss or shit. He’s too terrified. Andrew darts out of the woman’s bathroom. The Xanax loosens its grip for a moment. Panic grips his awareness. The unscrupulous man forgets his hand gun.
He didn’t notice it earlier. The air is full of a tangent pungent odor which flips his stomach. It smells sweet and pungent. He smells blood.
Andrew runs back into the contemporary art gallery. Seth is still near the black and white tapestry. Andrew stops a few feet away. He reaches for his gun only to discover it’s not in his belt. Seth doesn’t pick up on his distress.
I can’t let him know I know.
Seth continues his paradigm from earlier, “You know, this building shows a great attempt at Greek Revival Architecture. I do however think many of the portcullises and vaulted galleries will forever be no more.” The French man gingerly walks to the next gallery heading back to the Main Hall.
They have to pause for a moment as part of the ceiling caves in. Rubble is everywhere. The sun glairs through the cracks, humidity builds in the building. Many portraits show heavy signs of damage. A few remain untouched. The Main Gallery has been stripped of all its portraits. His sheep have placed many of the treasured icons in newly made fire pit. No one is cold, they just like destroying things.
Andrew looks around for support. He needs allies if he’s to do something with people who like to torture and murder. He doesn’t want to be the next victim.
I need a gun. What the hell?
His sheep don’t look like what he remembered. He thought there were 40 if not more. A quick count shows him only a fifteen to twenty.
Seth adds, “There is something I need you to do with me if you want me to be your general.”
Andrew is dumbfounded when he sees the remaining of his sheep are old and the weak. No longer are there robust males. The females are gone.
Feebly Andrew asks, “Where is everyone? I thought we had more than this?”
Seth laughs as he easily dodges the question, “I think your sheep are sleeping in the surrounding galleries. Don’t worry. They will show back up when the Tsunami ends.” Andrew doesn’t believe him. He thinks they are dead in the bathroom.
Seth doesn’t pick up on Andrews hesitation. Andrew lies, “Yeah man. The Xanax are giving me a pounding headache. I could really use a nap or something.”
Seth sounds heartbroken as he blurts, “I need your help. There is a portrait I must have. It’s in a temporary gallery in the second floor due to yearly maintenance. Have you heard of Gilbert Stuart's "Lansdowne"?
Andrew does his best to hide his fear as he blurts, “Ok Seth, whatever you want.”
Seth continues, “It’s a painting of George Washington. I must not let these heathen destroy all the treasures.” Andrew picks up on the hatred Seth feels for the destruction of the gallery.
I’m a dumbass for not seeing this earlier. What was I thinking of letting him chill with me? I need a gun.
Andrew looks around but he sees no guns. Outside of pipes and random debris from the ruined building, there appears to be no good weapon. He remembers the brothers having assault weapons from the National Guard they slaughtered earlier in the day. Andrew decides it’s best to play along until he can escape. He doesn’t want to try to fight these dudes, he just wants to survive. As far as he’s concerned they can kill as many people as they want as long it’s not him. The American Victorian Renaissance style architecture has lost its splendor.
All of the cultural, scientific and political figure heads of the 20th century lay in ruin. Nature continues to pound the walls as Mother Earth declares war on mankind. No longer will anyone be able to see the rise of social justice or the glory of civil rights. Busts of statutes remain only to trip survivors. Forever lost is their message. Photographs and caricatures remain fairly intact but soon become trampled under foot.
Andrew follows Seth like an obedient whipped dog. He no longer feels like the ferocious leader from a few hours previous. He coils as Seth’s voice permeates the stillness. A new wave hits the building.
I can always throw myself out a window if things go bad. I would rather take my own life then let these freaks do something to me.
Seth’s voice sounds like death itself, “The painting I want is part of the “America’s Presidents Collection. In 2000 America almost lost the painting because the owner wanted to sell it. Some foundation bought it and gave it back to the museum as a gift to the nation. I think it was the Donald Reynolds Foundation.”
Andrew quakes. He feels his broken arm and wishes he has more drugs.
Before following Seth he asks, “Where’s the drugs?”
Seth points to a sack near the fire, “Over there, most of its gone. You were passed out for 6 hours and many people took off with what they could hold. Did you know this Hall was the original Patent Office back in the day? Inventors had to make small miniature models before getting patented. It was also the home for the Declaration of Independence for 40 years but don’t let me bore you.”
Andrew rummages through the bag. He finds a bottle of Oxy Cotton. He munches on the three without water.
“I thought you said people were sleeping around in the surrounding galleries?” He spies a tranquilizer and pockets it hoping it might come in handy later.
Seth doesn’t think twice as he flippantly replies, “Where else would they go?”
Andrew tries spotting a gun before getting up. The people left are in a daze and don’t want to be bothered. Andrew shakes in fear as he follows Seth. The white corridor of the Main Hall fades as the light dims down. A medium size statue looks back at Andrew as he passes. It says P.T. Barnum.
Seth follows Andrew’s gaze, “He’s the man who brought modern entertainment to the 19th century. You really don’t know shit about your own culture do you?”
Andrew drying replies, “No. You know me. I’m all about partying and having a good time. Who has time for this type of thing?”
Seth rolls his eyes, “You’re a sad man Andrew. You really should appreciate the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery.
Within these walls America is defined. There isn’t one country which has not been touched by American pop culture. Your country redefined the world with its sick twist on neocolonialism through the media. I suppose this doesn’t matter anymore under the present circumstances.”
Andrew notes Seth is carrying two side arms like a gunslinger. He doesn’t know if the French man has a concealed weapon. He lacks the nerve to reach out for one of the guns when Seth isn’t looking. He now sees Seth differently. The man is revolting. Even though he’s not patriotic to America he feels rage in the attitude of the person he thought was his friend.
This piece of shit shouldn’t talk about my country like this. From everything I heard France isn’t the shit compared to America.
The painkillers kick in. Andrew’s body feels numb. He mutters, “Freedom fries.” Seth stops dead in his tracks.
“What did you say?” His voice is void of emotion.
Andrew mutters, “What are you talking about? I didn’t say anything. You’re not American?”
Seth laughs, “No. I’m visiting and have a visa. I always wanted to live in America and start a family.” Andrew’s skin crawls. He decides it’s a bad day after all. They reach a stair way which is semi intact outside of a few fissures.
The diabolical man continues, “I always loved and hated how Americans felt they can be whoever. Did you know I always wanted to be an artist?”
Andrew plays along, “Nope. What kind of art?”
Seth navigates the corridor as if he’s been down here already. The painkillers take hold. Andrew’s vision takes on a drunken haze. He always thought these types of painkillers were like morphine. They make him feel drunk without the hangover. The only drawback is they often make his heart miss a beat during the first ten minutes of usage. Andrew doesn’t know where they are going.
“I think it will have to be something new, something with a twist.” Seth enters a side gallery, “Behold, my masterpiece.”
Andrew freezes. His innate sense of fight and flight has been shattered. What he sees in front of him is something he never dreamed of. His whole life he knew he was a bad guy, but today he found a man who is truly evil.
Seth happily explains, “You see, in a year or two people will come back to the gallery. When they do they will find my masterpiece. Only in America could I become an artist.”
Displayed in front of Andrew is a wall covered in blood. Seth took an empty white wall and painted the destruction of Washington DC. Heaped to the left are a dozen dead females and males. A bucket with blood lies spilled near the paintings base.
Seth sounds depressed, “My painting is almost over. I decided to show the final chapter of America. Do you like it?” Andrew turns and pukes. His spunk is depleted.
Seth tells his story, “You see, it’s not my fault. My great granddad raised us this way in France. I need you to help me finish my painting.” Andrew looks up in defeat. There is only one thing left to say as he lunges for anything to fight with.
“You’re a sick monster. Fuck you.” Andrews’s eyes go big as Seth raises one of his guns. Seth eyes are empty. Andrew looks into the abyss and recalls all the misdeeds in his life. He knows there is a special place in hell waiting for him.
“Wrong answer, I no longer want to be your general.”
Andrew buckles and falls. He feels a distant impression in his gut. It feels warm, as if he urinated himself. He’s on his back. Looking up he sees a missing gap where he knows his blood will fill.
Seth laughs as a child as he gingerly takes out a butcher’s knife. He’s whistling something European. Andrew screams as he feels Seth cut into his chest.