What is your favorite work of art? What do you love about it?
“I don’t think there’s anything left here Lara,” Midge announced. The crumbling walls at the edge of the town didn’t scream invitation to him. “We’re still too close to the Dome. Other scavengers will have picked it clean.”
His companion stood in silence, her orange-brown hair dancing in the westerly breeze. Her unwavering gaze, unperturbed by the dust and grime swirling around her face, drank in the ruins of what had once been the hometown symbol of a great nation.
The history books had described them of course. There had been rows of homes with white picket fences, shopping and dining at the town center, and there would be a large open area for public forums. Concerts and plays in peacetime, political rallies and protests when there was war. The books spoke of them as though they were a simpler time. A time where war was pervasive hardly seemed simpler.
Lara continued toward the town. Midge sighed and shifted his pack as he followed her. She paused at the end of a street that looped back onto itself. Wood and concrete skeletons flanked the drive in a semicircle. Most of the homes were open to the sky, their roofs long caved in or blown away. Their picket fences were all rotted away except for a few stubborn posts wearing coats of ivy.
Those with doors still standing had been marked. Some of the markings were faded with age, remnants from the evacuations, but others he recognized from the scavengers codes. “Unstable,” cried the doors with the dark green squiggles. The maroon triangle signaled potential resources, usually metals or ceramics left behind that could be salvaged if needed. Most sported a big black X to indicate they’d been thoroughly cleared out.
Lara stared at the neighborhood. Midge would have given his favorite flask to have her telepathy at that moment. The silence grated on him. The world was quiet enough without her sudden reticence.
“It is quiet,” she whispered. Her two-toned eyes glistened with tears when she turned to look back at him. Her tight-lipped smile did not reach them.
“Oh man, I’m sorry,” Midge murmured. Tears were his one weakness. Well, that and his insatiable appetite.
Lara shook her head, laughing as she wiped her face with the back of a gloved hand. “It’s alright,” she said. “It’s just been a long time since there were so few voices in my head.”
He nodded. “Well, be sure to let me know if any new ones pop up. And if I should be speaking to them instead.”
That made her laugh again. Midge grinned. Laughter was much better than tears. “As far as I know, the only voices are yours and mine.” She turned towards the center of town. “C’mon. I wanna see what the rest looks like.”
He shrugged. “Suit yourself. This is your show, I’m just your pack mule.” He swept his arm in a grand gesture. “Lead on!”
Lara rolled her eyes and continued at a brisker pace. She carried her own pack of course, but his was more laden given his metabolism, and he liked to remind her of it every now and again.
The heart of the town was much as he remembered from history. Except instead of brightly painted storefronts and a manicured green space, the cracked main street was lined with boarded up facades. The upper floors had fallen in on themselves much as the roofs of the cul-de-sac had. The green of the square was a spreading jungle, the gazebo a prisoner in nature’s revenge.
Every place in the town told the same story. Some of the bricks sighed as they continued to hold their burdens, though their cracks were a fuse counting down their final days. Scavenger symbols painted up and down the streets cried their secrets, or warned of dangers, a myriad of colors and shapes in an otherwise desolate vista.
At the far edge of town, a church stood stark against the steel sky. Its paint had long since peeled away, the windows all broken by the storms, but yet it stood. “That’s weird,” he said. “There are no markings on it whatsoever. Not from before and not from scavs.”
Lara shrugged as she tested the front steps with an exploratory step. “Why would they? It’s a sacred place,” she answered. The aged wood creaked under her weight, but did not give way. She grinned and carefully scaled the rest.
“Are you sure that’s safe?” he moaned. The lack of markings was cause for concern if the building was at risk of collapsing. The warnings were commonplace for a reason.
She peered through the doors. “It’s in remarkable shape,” she said. “There isn’t a rotten beam of wood in here.”
Midge gingerly followed her in. The chapel was empty, the benches and furnishings salvaged long ago. It was cavernous compared to what it appeared from the outside.
Lara was at the front of the room staring up at the window behind the pulpit. All the other windows along the sides were gone, but the stained glass mosaic at the front was perfectly intact. In colorful fragments, a man and a woman were portrayed hand-in-hand. Behind them, a vibrant green tree lovingly spread its branches over them, its fruit bright and tantalizing. They were not looking at the fruit, and they were not looking at the serpent slithering beneath their feet. Their eternal gaze was locked on each other.
Midge stood next to Lara. He was about to make a quip about breaking a few of the panes to get the air flowing through but her face schooled his tongue to silence. She had another unreadable expression, one he’d never seen on her before. It might have been a trick of the light, but he thought it was a mix of joy and sadness.
“It’s beautiful,” she murmured. Midge again refrained from making a witty remark. He stood at her side in silence until she was ready to go. “I wonder if there are any others,” she commented as they carefully made their way back down the steps a short while later.
“Only one way to find out,” he grinned. “Which way from here?”
Lara stared at the horizon, then back the way they had come. With a short glance at the church, she grinned at him. “Journey to the west.”
Notes: This prompt really stressed me out. I’m not all that big into “art” in that I spend any time at all thinking about it. I enjoy visiting museums and galleries and admiring the time and effort that went into creating the pieces showcased there. I’m more drawn to pieces with exquisite detail than say, abstract works. Paintings and sculptures are my favorites.
But art is rather subjective. And while my brain initially went “work of art = famous = legend = Van Gogh, Dali, Da Vinci, etc,” it occurred to me that I don’t actually have a stand-out favorite. It also doesn’t matter because it doesn’t have to mean those. “The Arts” cover a wide range after all, everything from traditional mediums like oils and paints to sculptures to music to literature. Art is what you make.
“Art: the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.“
So with this definition in mind, I thought what sorts of things my characters would deem “works of art.” I actually started in several different directions before settling on this one. I felt like Lara would be fascinated by ruins on her first excursion into the wastelands of post-war North America and I liked the idea that a church would still be well preserved despite the apocalypse. Stained glass murals are always stunning and Lara would be entranced by the first one she ever saw.
What about you? Are you a connoisseur of art? What pieces speak to you? Write it down! It could serve as inspiration later! I believe in you! Until tomorrow!