Stephen Shirres

Absorbing Art

An art lover’s wet dream, a gallery as artistic as the art it holds. A giant open aired labyrinth of twisted green hedges with wide dead ends of pictures, sculptures and paintings. Each meant to tell you something about the human condition. All it tells me is how good humanity is at bullshitting itself.

The only difference between this and a normal gallery is that I can have smoke whenever I want. Just tell the better half I’m off to look at something over there and I’m free. My lighter snaps a flame into life and nurses the white stick of tobacco into the same condition. I pull the drug into my lungs before puffing out a thin grey cloud. Through the smoke; reds oranges and yellows emerge, painted in waves. Between them a figure rises, dressed in black, an oval mirror for a face.

To symbolise the torment of modern life’ the description explains. Like hell it does. The painting is no more than a fairground mirror with a painted surround. I wonder if it twists your body into the same weird shapes?

I walk up and press my nose onto the glass. The surface is strange, warm and damp. I step back but my nose is glued to the glass. My eyes roll in their sockets to find what is holding me. All I can see is the painting as if it has been painted onto my eye balls. My breath quickens. My hands squeeze themselves into fists and slam into the painting. The same warm dampness covers the top of my fingers.

“Stop it,” I scream but I don’t hear the words, drowned out by paint pouring down my throat. Filling my mouth with the taste of fire and lead. With great pain I rip one of my hands free. New red is added to the picture’s flames. From my pocket, my hand withdraws my lighter and flicks its back into life. The tiny flame is my only weapon.

A surge of heat rushes through my hand and up my side. The flames climb the canvas, boiling the paint. The colour starts to run and waterfall into my shoes. I can feel it between my toes, starting to harden. I try to move but I’m stuck to the spot. Fire dances around me but never touches. The heat does; an intense burning pain covers my body. I scream and don’t stop. I can’t stop. My whole body is stuck in a single position. All I can do is look out at the gallery beyond and the people staring. back.


I’m a charity fundraiser by day and a writer by night (often very late into the night!). I’ve had short stories published in magazines across the world and they can be found on my website