"It's a dragon," the old man said to the slightly confused child standing next to him. Pointing to another

carving on the surface of the tubular cave, he added, "And that's a knight holding a sword."

The young child said nothing for a long while. "Will he kill the dragon?"

"I think that he will try," the old man said plainly. "But I don't believe he will succeed."

"How do you know so much?" the child asked, as the figures portrayed in these abstract works were not so distinct to his eyes.

"Well," the old man said, and paused.

"Did you carve them?"

"No." His withered eyes looked down at the child fondly, and seemed to twinkle as the light was momentarily captured in them. "But I've been studying them and their meanings since I was your age."

"What's that one over there?" the boy asked, pointing to the next picture, his attention span not as long-lived as his grandfather's.

"It represents an army of men walking bravely into battle," the old man said.

The child squinted almost painfully at the wall, but still felt that it resembled nothing more than a few lines scratched randomly into the stone.

"Well," the old man said, "perhaps you are too young to fully appreciate such things. Maybe in a few years..."

From the farthest end of the long hall, inhuman screeches suddenly exploded.

"What are those people doing down there," asked the boy, as he stared blankly upon a gathering crowd.

"I don't know," the old man returned, "I've never seen so many people in this place at one time before!"

As they began to walk, the crowd appeared to multiply with each step: Fifty bodies became a hundred. One hundred became two, until at last they had arrived on a beach that emptied into a sea of people. Representing this vast collection were many different races of beings: Humans, dwarves, an uncommon race of Pisminites, and an entire herd of upright cow-like creatures. All of whom were cheering and hooting as though in an establishment for drinking and gambling.

"Not the behavior art deserves," the old man muttered to himself. Pushing through the crowd, he was able to make his way to the source of the commotion.

"What's going on here," the old man shouted, brazen red eyes flashing fits of anger. "This is a house of fine art and not for the likes of vandals!"

This outburst was greeted with vast array of boos and hollers.

"You've been alive too long, old man," the tablecloth-clad young artist said. "The people want modern art. They want to look at pictures and know in an instant what they are looking at, and not have to research it's meaning in a dusty book." He raised his stick. "Here. Let me show you."

The artist tapped the thin pole on the wall and two sickly-yellow worms bobbed their heads at attention. Moving his baton around, much like a symphony conductor, the artist began to control the movements of the worms: In a grotesque fashion they wriggled along the wall, leaving a slimy trail of putrescence behind them.

The artist tapped his pole again, and this time the worms began to gnaw on the stone until a shape began to form. Faster and faster the artist moved his arms until the intricate detail of the old man's face was transferred onto the surface of the cold, stone wall.

"Now that's what I call fine art!"

The crowd filled the room with greedy applause.

"It's ludicrous," the old man said, "And deceitful!"

"And it's my fortune in the making!"

"Don't you think that others will soon be doing this? Anyone who can shake a stick about can be an artist now -- and you'll be left to rot under the whole pile of them!"

"Not true," the artist said. "I designed these little pets myself. It took years of cultivation, trial and error and the hallucinogenic properties of the dung of the galatronk mardore beast before I had them perfected. I assure you that I'll be the only one making money from this art form!"

"I'm very glad to hear that," the old man said. Smiling, he grabbed both of the worms and popped them into his mouth.


by BMB Johnson

Artwork by J

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