Flash Fiction – Captive Audience
Private Mason picked his way through the rubble of what was left of the town’s museum. The attack had started so quickly that there was no time to rescue many of the works of art that had been housed there. Ripped and scorched paintings lay on the floor, while pieces of broken display cases and their contents were scattered across the cracked marble floor.
The soldier picked his way across the floor, trying not to step on anything that only a week ago would have been priceless. The gunfire and shells exploding outside shook the building, and clouds of dust dropped from the cracked ceiling that blinded Mason, made him stagger and trip over.
He rubbed his eyes and looked up, that was when he saw her. A miracle, a painting had survived. Mason’s parents were devout Catholics, so he could recognise images of Mary and the angel Gabriel. He stood up and rubbed the dirt from the brass name badge that hung at an angle underneath the painting.
‘Annunciation by Henry Tanner. 1898’ Masons took the crucifix on the gold chain that hung around his neck and held it tightly. ‘You’re still looking out for me aren’t you?’
Masons looked at the painting, the background noise of gunfire faded into white noise and he lost himself in the image. Mary looked so beautiful and innocent as she looked in wonder at Gabriel. There was something so loving and warm in her smile, a smile that was reaching out to him. The more he looked at her, the more he felt the warmth of her love growing within his chest.
The image flickered, and Mason saw that Mary was smiling at him, it felt as if time had slowed down, every shot and explosion that shook the building had been slowed down to a low pitched growl, as broken rubble and plaster fell to the ground as slow as snowflakes.
The warmth in Mason’s chest grew hotter. Finally the heat became so intense that the private was shaken from the loving embrace of the painting. Instinctively he looked down at his chest, and that was when he saw the dark red patch growing around the end of the bayonet protruding from his chest.
The bayonet quickly disappeared, and he fell on to the floor feeling the agony of the attack for the first time. Left only with the image of the painting and the sound of his killer’s slow and heavy footsteps running away, he gripped the crucifix around his neck tightly again and smiled.
‘Guess you couldn’t wait’