Drabbles of Art

In this series of drabbles I take a work of art and write a drabble (100 word story) inspired by the piece.

The Scream by Edvard Munch

And so the moment arrives and it isn’t what you’d expected.

You have searched for so long to see me. I’m not the fanciful glory you heard in stories when you were a child. You behold my true self and so witness a magnificence turning the sky to blood and the world to water.

You stare into my being and for the briefest instant you understand what it is you have discovered. You sought a secret and have found only truth – a truth beyond your simple imagining.

And now that you know, is it any wonder that you scream?

Saturn Devouring his Son by Francisco Goya

It didn’t hurt like I’d expected. I knew it was coming of course – we all did. None of us would be allowed to grow into adults and wither in time. We existed only to satisfy our father’s hunger and allow him to live for a few years longer.

He took no interest in us until the feeding, but despite the neglect he cast a glamour so that we didn’t shriek as he consumed our flesh. Instead of pain I experienced only a confused wonder as I faded away with each bite. Not merely meat, but my spirit he consumed until…

The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Katsushika Hokusai

The spirits dwell within the white of the water. That’s how we know they’re there. When the sea churns they dance across the waves always racing towards the village. We sail our boats across the water to chase them away from the shore.

They can never be allowed to touch the mountain.

Why? You might ask.

Look upon the distant mountain’s peak and you’ll see their brethren frozen in their prison. If they escape and return to the sea then the waves will rise and drown the land, and so to save our village we must chase the spirits away.

Two Girls Dressing a Kitten by Candlelight by Joseph Wright

“You shouldn’t tease him so,” Lucy told her sister.

“But he looks so cute in the dolly’s dress,” Janine replied.

“That’s true, but see how he glares. There’s real fury in his eyes.”

“Inside the circle he’s powerless, so we can do whatever we like.”

“Are you sure?”

“Of course I’m sure,” Lucy answered. Her fingers traced around the markings on the table. “I found this circle and the markings in one of grandma’s old books. As long as he stays within the circle we can do whatever we want and I want to dress this demon like a doll.”

The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things by Hieronymus Bosch

Wrath casts its flame, its power casting those against me into rout.
Pride lifts me above all others, without the slightest doubt.

Eager lust quickens my pulse, warming my loins with a sweet sensual kiss.
Gentle sloth traps my limbs, wrapped in a cage of slumbers’ embrace.

My hollow gut heralds gluttony, an aching hunger never to be ended.
Encompassing greed consumes me, without hope of ever being sated. 

My doom is sealed with envy’s lesson that all I desire can never be mine.
And for my seven deadly sins I’ll enjoy the torments of hell’s fire for all time.

Witches Sabbath by Francisco Goya

“What the hell is that?”


“The giant stuffed goat.”

“Well, we don’t summon him anymore. Not like the old days, so I brought it to remind us.”

“Even back then we didn’t summon goats. It looks weird.”

“It’s not a goat – it’s Baphomet. Anyway it’s okay for you to bring your baby and who knows what Miriam’s skeletal homunculus is all about!”

“Well the fresh air does the baby good and he likes your goat, so I wouldn’t complain too much if I where you.”

“It sets the mood though, doesn’t it?”

“No, and don’t bring it here again.”

The Fifth Plague of Egypt by Joseph Mallord William Turner

“How could you do this?”

“I didn’t do this – I simply warned them what would happen.”

“Don’t lie to me Moses. Of all people I know the truth.”

“Then you should know not to question what must be done.”

“But to destroy their entire civilisation?”

“These people have to be released. They must find their way to the Promised Land and be in the appointed place at the right time for him to arrive.”

“And you will lead them?”

“Of course. Who else can?”

“And what of these Egyptians?”

“They will submit or history will forget that they ever existed.”

"Christ of Saint John of the Cross" by www.dali-gallery.com. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia

Christ of Saint John of the Cross by Salvador Dalí

“Father why have you forsaken me in my final hour of need?”

“I haven’t abandoned you my son.”

“Why do I only now hear your voice?”

“Because you became one of them my son. A base creature of flesh and impulse. It is only now as death’s veil approaches that you can hear me once more.”

“My trial has been for naught father. I have gazed down from this cross upon the ages to come and my suffering to wipe away their sins has been wasted. Why father?”

“Oh my son. Whatever made you think it would be so easy?”

The Mysterious Archaeologists by Giorgio de Chirico

“How long are we supposed to remain like this?”

“Until the end. You know the commandment.”

“I heard the words, but the masters are long gone. Their war ended millennia ago and they no longer infect our bodies. You should be pleased.”

“The word is the law. We are the embodiment of that law and here we stay.”

“Their civilisation has crumbled, they are no more. The world now belongs to the two of us and without your agreement I cannot leave. What do we do when their cities have returned to dust?”

“We wait.”

“For what?”

“For the end.”

The Nightmare by Henry Fuseli

Dear Diary,

I’m so happy to have Ink in my life. I can’t believe my good fortune. I sometimes wonder why he doesn’t visit during the day, but when he does visit he makes me feel complete.

I know my friends wouldn’t consider him handsome. His skin is rough and his body stunted, but that doesn’t matter to me. I feel so safe in his arms that I never want to leave them.

His deformities make him unique, but one in particular, and I’m blushing as I write this, brings me such pleasure that I swoon to think about it.

The Commuters by Wolfgang Lettl

“Would they really shoot us with that cannon?” the first finely dressed man asked, the fear restrained, yet clearly evident.

“I think that they would, but we’ve no choice,” said the second. “How else will the world know of what happened in this place?”

“Maybe the girl will distract them,” suggested the third with brittle hope.

“Don’t let her distract you!” the fourth shouted. “We’ll only get one shot at this.”

“We are already at full speed,” the fifth told his compatriots. “The fans won’t go any faster, they just don’t have the power.”

“Prepare to fire,” ordered the girl.

The Fall of the Damned by Peter Paul Rubens

I witnessed the moment when the archangel Michael cast Lucifer and the rebels out of Heaven. Even he seemed surprised when God decreed that their punishment would be banishment. Many of us expected that the punishment would be more severe considering their sin.

The first sin in all creation.

Nobody died in the war. Angels can’t die unless God himself dissolves us. Nobody died, but plenty suffered – on both sides. And then when I watched the pit open and Michael force the rebels into it we realised what Hell meant and dissolution would have been a far more merciful fate.

The Triumph of Death by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

Wherever I look the taint of death blemishes the world and brings an end to the living. I see the Reaper lurking in our shadow, wearing a cloak weighed heavy with sickness, violence, age and grief.

There’s no escape, no way to prevent the inevitable. Rich or poor, young or old, we all meet him when our time comes. He follows our lives with his skeletal visage, waiting for that final moment.

Is he the cause of our mortality? Or merely witness its passing?

Does he welcome the meeting?

I imagine he does, for why else would he always appear?

Untitled by Zdislav Beksinski

Even in Hell you can find love, and perhaps that is the greatest torment of all.

Alone the pain is endless. The scorching dust shrivels the flesh and desiccates the soul. There’s no respite, but eventually you almost grow accustomed to it.

Then I met her. Another traveller in this desert of suffering. In the howling gale we couldn’t talk and never even learned each other’s names. Small comfort came from holding each other close, entwined in limbs as dry as sticks.

Alone I endured, but watching the constant despair in her eyes my pain is magnified a thousand fold.

Skull of a Skeleton with Burning Cigarette by Vincent van Gogh

There aren’t many pleasures that the dead can enjoy as they once did while alive. It is true that a precious few can be relived before the body degenerates too far, but when only bones remain what possible satisfaction can there be?

I have no lungs so I cannot inhale, but I can remember. All too easily I recall the ritual from a lifetime’s habit. The smoke curls inside a mouth no longer flesh and the imagined exhale brings contentment and also no small irony in the fact that this smoke was how I lost my lungs in the first place.

Vanitas with Sunflower and Jewelry Box by Maria van Oosterwijck

She loved to collect things and always placed her favourites in the gloom of my study. Some of them were so weird that I didn’t dare ask her where she’d found them.

I liked the flowers. They brought new and delightful scents into the air. Most of what she collected were dead things, except for flowers. She cared for them. With delicate care she tended to them to keep their bloom alive until the inevitable wilt.

Now the decay happens faster because the bouquet will never be cared for again, not in this empty house.

I miss her so much.

The Water Ghost by Alfred Kubin

They say that there is only really one storm in the world. When it wakes, it rages with all its force until its strength is spent. Then it sleeps awhile and drifts upon the currents in the sky until restored and ready to blast its fury once again.

But very few know the real secret. Only those wise in the ancient lore know that at the heart of the storm is a creature. It wears the storm as its garb, a cloak of wind, rain and lightning.

Even the wisest of us don’t know why it hates us so much.

"The number of the beast is 666 Philadelphia, Rosenbach Museum and Library" by William Blake

The Number of the Beast is 666 by William Blake

And from the earth rose a second beast, this one horned as a ram. His words moved the world to fall under the sway of the first beast.

He summoned fire from heaven to fall upon the earth. With other great wonders he deceived mankind into making an image of the first beast.

The image was granted life and he slew those who refused their worship. Those who cast their lot with the beast were marked forever.

Wisdom allows you to count the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666.

(c) Wayne Barlowe https://waynebarlowe.wordpress.com/artwork/hell/
The Examination by Wayne Barlowe

“And what is it we have here?” the first demon asked. “It’s shaped a bit like us, but puny and malformed.”

“It’s soft and warm to the touch,” said the second. “And there are things inside that crack when I bend its appendages.”

“I don’t like its strange stink,” complained the third. “It smells sharp and rotten like bad food. Fragile too – part of it has fallen off.”

“Well I think it tastes just fine,” opined the fourth. “Here try for yourself.”

“What a peculiar keening noise it makes,” said the fifth as its teeth crunched through skin and bone.

The Plague Piper by Zdzisław Beksiński

First came the dust and it quickly smothered the world. No-one knew where it came from. It blotted out the sun and scoured life from the earth. Many died as the air became too thick too breathe. The old and infirm were the first to die, and they were the lucky ones.

Now we survive underground, but some of us have to go above ground to scavenge. A few don’t return and we hear stories of a presence in the howling storms. It’s preceded by mournful pipes, alien tunes heralding a fate worse than living upon a sand blasted rock.

"Pine Trees" by Hasegawa Tōhaku - Emuseum. Licensed under Public Domain
Pine Trees by Hasegawa Tōhaku

Walking through the mist transforms the familiar surroundings into the surreal. The pine forest normally fills the valley with its lush, green texture, but in the morning, when the river’s mist hugs the ground in its damp clasp, there is no colour.

Only the endless wall of grey.

Shapes are formless, the mighty trees only recognisable only as I approach them. The damp drains my spirit. I cannot even smell the sap from the trees. The closing mist presses against me, its chill touch absorbing all sound.

But all is transient. The sun rises and the world of colour returns.