Art Effects: Flash Fiction for Grammar Ghoul Challenge #2

FrancisBacon-Pope Innocent X

“Study after Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X” (1953) by Irish artist Francis Bacon.

“It’s by Francis Bacon,” Mialy pointed to the violet hologram and elevated her voice, “ ’cept for the shrieking, of course. That’s a modern addition.”

“Wait! The Francis Bacon? The one who invented everybody’s favorite sizzly meat that almost nobody is able to get their hands on anymore?” Joba snickered. “He sure did a lot of wildly different stuff in his lifetime.”

The screaming subsided as Joba spoke, but the New Memphis Art Museum & Distillery hum-spun sound within its walls, smothering the tortured yells for the next patrons.

The building itself had been dubbed “acoustically perfect” through stringent certification channels. One’s ears could only be thankful the hologram of Munch’s famous disconcerting painting was housed in a faraway room.

“No, goofball. It’s some other Bacon according to Teacher Farflung’s notes.” Mialy moved her neck from side to side and it cracked as she attempted to get the implant into better position. “I told you, you should have gotten the neural implant at the door. Teach will not be pleased, if it’s monitoring this field trip out there somewhere.”

Mialy thumbed over a shoulder, causing mauve hair to swing a seeming pendulum behind her head.


“Hmm. I thought they were supposed to be motion- and heat-sensitive to a particular genetic pattern,” Joba muttered.

“Oww, that chair guy is giving me such a hunormous head-ouch,” she typed hurriedly onto the tablet, afraid the wailing would start up again at random.

Joba nodded. “Or maybe it’s the imp. I’ve heard of brains that reject the injection . . . “

“Nah.” She interrupted. “Just listen! Whadda you figure’s his problem?”

“Access your hoytay-toytay mind-friend, why don’t you? Harness alllll the benefits of your tech,” he mimicked the booming voice in the jingle for TechUnique Products. Mind-fiend is more like it, Joba thought.

Mialy nearly shouted again. “I know, but I wanted to figure it out myself. Art’s effect is personal, y’know. Some people get pain from art, especially this holo-painting. Some reap pleasure. Some get both. Art’s supposed to provoke, amiright?”

“Yeah, but with the whole pain/pleasure thing, art reminds me of drugs.”

“Uh, well, yeah, I guess it’s like those drugs that mold to a person’s genetic contours. Personalized psychotropics.”

Joba fiddled with his tablet. “Howya access the data on, um, what’d you say the artist’s name was again? Franks’N Bacon?”

Snickers seemed to trigger another blood-in-a-centrifuge moment courtesy of the now-popping hologram.


“You know,” Mialy made a tunnel of her fist to amplify her voice, “I think the screams are changing. You hear it? But why?”

“Just a bug in the programming,” Joba offered.

“Anyway, let’s get going. We’ve got lots of art to partake of today, my lady.” He pulled Mialy gently by the hand and past the room sensors that guided the advanced acoustics of the 19th and 20th Century Modern Art pavilion of the museum.


In an interior room adjacent to the artwork informally called “Screaming Pope,” two people are at work.

“Ay, Segala, you can go easy on the audio now,” Rayson shouted to his colleague from well across the room.

“It’s no use,” she called back, letting the arm drop to the side of the chair.

“Damn. That’s the sixth audio to crap out this week, and it’s only Wednesday.”

She shook her head slowly. “I know, tell me about it. Hope we don’t get a lecture from Kathy. She’s a beast when it comes to protocols.”

Segala tugged on the straps, but nothing gave.

“Ray, can you help me get the electric nails out? It looks like I accidentally blew a vein. Don’t slip on her hair . . . anyway, we’ll have to pick up another volunteer on the way back from the DR.”

“Yup, I sure hope the next one holds up longer, for both our sakes. And is less messy. You just never can tell by looking when you’re gonna get a spurter.”

“Yeah, and it seemed like those last patrons were beginning to suspect . . .” Segala’s voice trailed off.

The wet echo of a thump came, and then only a prolonged squeal-screech of a cart on wheels. As the two left the room, a resonant door slammed behind them, complemented by a piping up of hidden music, which was believed to encourage employee tranquility.

“I think to myself/what a wonderful world” serenaded the duo down the hallway, although neither had a clue who the singer was.


14 thoughts on “Art Effects: Flash Fiction for Grammar Ghoul Challenge #2

    • Thank you so much, Andrea. I want to say congratulations on the magazine publication, too. I will definitely see if I can pick up a copy and recommend it especially to UK-based writer and artistic friends. My old(ish) computer is putting me on a slow, slow boat when I try to look at it online, darnit.

  1. This was such a creative take on the prompt. And extremely dark, I might add 😉 Well written, Leigh, I loved the idea of a modern art museum adding sound – even if it did have a gruesome source. And I thought you did an excellent job with all of the little details you brought together to define the space and activity .

  2. Ooh, so creepy! I guess technology can only reproduce so much… I think the line that really does it for me is “Don’t slip on her hair” – it tells us exactly what’s going on, and it made me shudder. Love the futuristic world you’ve built here, and the comfortable dialogue between both sets of characters. Nicely done! 🙂

  3. Implants to go see art is a scary prospect! Although this was dark, I really enjoyed the unexpected bits of humor (maybe “bits” isn’t the right word, especially with the blown vein and all 🙂 )

  4. Until I met you, I thought my writing was way out! But I think you beat me on the originality front.
    This “Art Effects” story is so cool. Reading it makes me think that you just must get on with writing that novel of yours, as I can think of a publisher that would really like it. Every year they have an open door for unagented submissions. They’ve had their one for 2014 and my novel wasn’t ready for it, but I expect they’ll be doing it again in 2015. Will keep you informed.

    • I’m very humbled by your comment, Sarah. Thank you for that compliment! You should check out the Grammar Ghoul challenges when you’ve got time; so far, the prompts have had incredibly interesting art and words to integrate into the story.

      • When I’ve “got time” is a moot point. I’m very good at allowing myself to get distracted too easily from what I’m meant to be focusing on and, at the moment, I’ve suffering from bad avoidance issues. I will certainly check out Grammar Ghoul challenges, but not until I’ve finished sorting out the science fantasy novel etc. Meanwhile, I’ll enjoy reading your wonderful contributions, Leigh.

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