Artists in the Underworld by Richard Wayne Horton

The town had been a river port. Barges filled with golden grain had steamed away. Ships filled with wines, pianos, furs and jewels had arrived. A ballet troupe from Muscovy danced at the Hall Of The Merchants, but the music was new and some noticed retrograde themes beneath the surface. The dancers departed and the river disclosed its own subcurrents.
++++++ The harbor silted up. The town was on a loop of the river and the ends of the loop became joined. Then the loop was cut free and it became an oxbow. Silt accumulated and became hills of sand which slowly covered the grand buildings and treasure houses.
++++++ One day two artists from a summer retreat came wandering among the dunes. The man had considered suicide because he suspected transcendence had escaped him. He hated the buyers of his paintings and their hysteria. The woman was married but wanted fire-bright sensation, however cruel it might be. She wanted the man’s distracted quickening, even though this offered only the sick charm of death love. At the retreat the two had become lovers. They fit together like gears.
++++++ A roof stuck out of the sand, so lonely. It drew them and they kicked and pulled at the sand till they found a window. How they laughed as they broke it! They loved breaking things. Then they crawled in and went down. Both carried flashlights. With hungry eyes they looked at marble staircases, murals, and paintings of merchant kings and queens covered in jewels. Then they came to a conference room with a long table and maps that covered the table, geological drawings. Though not invited to the conference so long ago, they looked at the maps and laughed. The charts showed two water tables, two suns and two horseshoe lakes, one world on top of the other.
++++++ The two artists now saw twos everywhere. They felt an overpowering urge to find the lake beneath the world, the second world, or maybe it was the first, and to see the golden light of its sun. They ran along hallways and down stairways and ramps and finally…
++++++ And finally they burst through the back door, out onto a sunlit hill…
++++++ A sunlit hill that glowed reddish gold, for the sun was at the horizon, and there…
++++++ And there was the lake and it shone pink and it looked delicious. They ran down the hill toward it and their hooves trotted, for they had hooves now. They trotted and grunted and squealed and they got to the lake and they ran right into it and they began drinking its water which was more than water…
++++++ Its water, which was everything.
++++++ Someone who might have been a man or might have been an angel or might have been something else stood on the shore and watched the two pigs struggle to drink the entire underworld. He laughed for he supposed that the lake must be tasty. He certainly hoped that it was. He had seasoned it, you see, with other pigs, who bobbed and floated merrily nearby, as dead as ever a pig could be. Little worlds they were, who had sought to drink a world.


Richard Wayne Horton has been published in Meat For Tea, Danse Macabre Online and others.  He has published a book, Sticks & Bones, with Meat For Tea Press.

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