The Competition

A flash fiction story by Brian Robinson.

The strangest of dreams. I was in a fine art competition with four other entrants. We each had to chose an object of fine art and suggest how it might be enhanced. This felt weird because I’m not at all artistic. Yet, I remember feeling really enthusiastic and couldn’t wait to get started.

As luck would have it, I was the first to chose among five objects so I felt smug at having that advantage. The first four works were so beautiful that I knew it would be impossible for me to improve them. The fifth object was a different matter. It is probably best described as a scaled down version of a mausoleum, and my first impression was that it was in serious need of cheering up.

This small box was metallic and had probably been cast from some sort of alloy. It was quite architectural in style and the outside had been gilded although the gilding looked dull and blotchy. It was the sort of thing you might find on a mantlepiece, perhaps used to store the remains of a loved one.

I opened the door of the box and found the inside to be equally dull. Etched into the metal on the rear wall was a sketch of two men deep in conversation. This didn’t seem to make much sense at the time. Although I knew this was a mausoleum, and it was obviously meant to strike a sombre note, I knew this would be a doddle to pimp-up.

I decided to stick with the theme of death, but I wanted to somehow include the universe. The universe has so much to offer in terms of colour, light and movement I was sure I would be on a winner. Bringing the two ideas together, I came up with the thought of a dying universe inside a box. The outside I would leave unchanged.

Once we had all put forward our suggestions the objects would then be handed back to the original artists and they would have to refine their work according to the suggestions offered. I had no idea how you could get a dying universe inside a box, but that wasn’t my problem.

Six months later, everyone involved, together with a small audience assembled for the day of judgement. I immediately noticed that the other four objects had been uplifted significantly by the addition of some exquisite refinements. This darkened my spirits because they stood in stark contrast with my still drab looking metallic box.

However, when one of the judges opened the door of the box, everything changed. We were met with a kaleidoscope of swirling colours as galaxies and black holes collided in the most magnificent display. Half the audience were forced to hold their breath: the other half gasped in amazement.

Then everything changed again. The most horrific roaring sound emerged from the box and everything in the room began to get drawn towards it. The gasps turned to screams as panic ran riot and people attempted to escape. I clung to a pillar and looked on more in bewilderment than fear.

Eventually, my grip loosened and I too was dragged towards the box. Just as my feet entered, I awoke with a choking sound still lingering in my throat. I sat bolt upright: but not in bed. That’s the strangest thing of all, I found myself here on Earth, an entirely different planet; in an entirely different universe.

The Big Crunch

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