(From the Dystopia series of stories)

Art is so subjective. Not everyone appreciates the same kind of art. Sometimes making art is a slow, painful process. That’s when it’s most effective. Good art needs to be meaningful and convey a strong message. I try to always include some sort of timeless image in most of my art.

This time I chose crucifixion. What a pain in the ass. Every time I would go to stand the cross upright Lawrence’s body would fall off. The damn nails would tear right through his hands.

After he fell twice I decided nails just weren’t cutting it. I switched to screws. Two in each palm, three in each wrist and two in each foot. That is what I should have done from the start.

I propped up the crucifix against the far wall, under the machinist rigging. It was about a day before he finally got tired enough to pass out. Thank goodness. I was sick of hearing him bitch, sick of the sound of his hoarse voice asking me why. He wouldn’t understand my artistic vision.

His silence helped me to focus on my work. I began to take photos. I wanted to capture the beauty in his punishment. The way the blood streaked down his arms, the way it dotted the wood and puddled on the floor. His hair all wild and unkempt from his struggles.

I had intended to simply dispose of my work in the furnace at the far end of my studio. Inspiration, it turned out, had other ideas.

I retrieved the little cart from the corner and wheeled it over to him. I took a strap and fixed it around his legs, securing his body to the wood. Then I wrapped copper wire around each ankle and connected the end of a jumper cable to them. He didn’t wake. I watched him for a moment, resting peacefully.

“Lawrence?” I said.

No response.

“Lawwwrennnce… Wake up!”

Not a stir.

This simply would not do. I took the other ends of the cables and hooked them to each post on the car battery.

That did it.

“Wake up you son of a bitch! Pay attention!”

I took off the clips.

He gasped and choked on the air.

“What… What the fuck do you want from me!?” he screamed.

Ignoring him I took the cables off his ankles and wheeled the cart back to the corner. I went and got the step ladder and put it by the cross so I could climb up.

“You’ll see,” I whispered in his ear.

I took the chains that were hanging from the rigging and wrapped them around the wooden crossbeam. I made sure to draw up his arms as tightly as possible. Returning my step ladder I hit the button to turn on the pulleys. I definitely heard the snap of his left arm as the chains bit in.

“Fuck!” He exclaimed.

As I pushed him across the floor to my work bench I whistled an ancient tune my mother had taught me. She told me it was called ‘If I only had a brain’.

“Do you?” I said as I positioned him over my work bench.

“Do I what?!” Lawrence shouted.

“Have a… oh never mind, I’ll find out when I’m done. It’ll probably look good in print, maybe something in a sepia hue…” I trailed off. Sometimes I get distracted by the artistic visions I experience.

He said something about my state of mind. I hit the switch to lower him and his wooden bed onto the metal surface of the bench and removed the chains. He was centered on the bench with his head hanging off the far end. I then set up my video camera, hanging it from the chain above his face. This was going to be a work of brilliance. I didn’t want to miss anything.

Taking the big tie down straps from under the table I strapped him across the waist and chest, pulling him and the wood into the table. I made sure to snug the one on his chest to the point that it was clearly affecting his ability to breathe.

Moving to stand at his head I pulled two more straps from under the table. These were special, they both had ratchetings systems to tighten them down. One had a cup for his chin, which I affixed and ran over the top of his head. I needed it tight, I wanted pressure on his teeth. Another strap around his forehead and around the back of the cross to hold his skull tight and keep him from moving.

Watching the pain in his face I finally told him why I had him here.

“Lawrence, your methods, your choice in victims… there was such a horrible sickness in those decisions. You committed offenses that my Order has never seen in it’s the hundred and sixty year history. That was why I was chosen to cleanse your blight from the land. My methods of justice are equal to the level of evil you have displayed.

“They don’t send me often. I think they are afraid of me. In the end that is ok. I do what I do to protect the innocent and keep hope alive.

“We’re kindred spirits Lawrence, you and me. We are both artists, destined to meet, and I’m so happy we did. You are going to be my masterpiece. If only you had not chosen to give in to that sickness in your soul. Fucking despicable. Such a waste. You probably thought that in this wasteland you were safe to engage in your depravity. You were wrong.”

I grasped his head and leaned in, staring into his eyes.

“When you meet Lucifer, tell him Gideon Cane sent you. I’m willing to send you to him in the hope that Heaven might once again shine on this community that you destroyed.”

The fear in his eyes was exquisite.

“This might be a little… unpleasant.”

I had already prepared everything I needed. From under the table I lifted my tool box and set it on the edge of the bench. From above I lowered a chain that had a large metal eyebolt on the end.

“Are you ready?” I asked him as I reached up and hit record on the camera.

Incoherent words were all I heard as I opened the toolbox. I grabbed four sharp metal hooks threaded with thick twine. Apparently you used to be able to hunt fish as big as a man with these things. They easily pierced his flesh as I pulled his lips back. Two hooks through his upper lip that I tied to the eyebolt above him, and two below that I tied off all the way down onto his big toes.

“Kids Lawrence. Fucking kids! The last bastion of hope and innocence these people had in this shattered place and you chose to do things more evil than any who had come before me had ever seen! That is not what you do to make art Lawrence! I will teach you what art is about. Horrible, dark and torturous art. It starts with the proper canvas!”

The fear in his eyes, it was the effect I was looking for. I reached into my toolbox and slowly brought the drill up into his field of vision. He began to buck against the straps and suck quick, panic breaths through his teeth. I pulled the trigger quickly, just for effect. I could see the drill bit reflected in his eyes. I took the drill and positioned it against his front teeth, making sure it was in contact with both his top and bottom incisors.

I pulled the trigger and it was beautiful. The diamond tip of the bit met with some resistance at first, but squeezing the trigger a little tighter fixed that. I wanted some control but I didn’t want to drill down and plunge through the bastards throat, so I let the weight of the drill alone do the work.

Squeezing tighter the drill began to emit a high pitched whine. The bit caught and sent one of his upper teeth tearing through his gums, twisting the tissue and welling blood. I released the trigger and realized that the high pitched whine wasn’t the drill, it was Lawrence.

“Was that as good for you as it was for me?” I said with a laugh.

Removing pliers from the tool box I reached down and grabbed another of his teeth and twisted as hard as I could. The tooth snapped off at the gums.

At this point his squirming had loosed the screws in his feet and his flailing ripped the hooks from his bottom lip. He tried to say something but I didn’t hear him. My mind was in another place, and it wanted to keep going.

“You realize what you just did! You cock sucker, I need you to cooperate! You’re fighting my muse!” I shouted, frustration welled in me.

Reaching down into my boot and removed my knife and held it over his face. His eyes had glazed over as his mind began to check out on me. I reached down and pulled out his lower lip and easily slid it in and down to where it met the gums. It was very easy to remove. In one fluid motion I was holding it in my hand.

He shrieked and sprayed a bloody mist into the air. His lip seemed so soft in my fingers and I was momentarily fixated by it.

“What shall I do with this? Do you think you’ll be needing it back? No? Ok then…”

I reached for his upper lip, still affixed to the eyebolt. It came off just as easy. I hooked the lower and upper lip together I adjusted the twine so they hung from the chain like a gruesome decoration.

As I was hanging his lips I noticed a silence had fallen over him. The pain was getting to him apparently. Slipping my knife back into my boot I took note of just how much blood was flowing from where his upper lip had been. Apparently I hit some major vascular structure. The blood was flowing down over his teeth and running into his mouth. I could hear him begin to choke.

“Why can’t you cooperate with me!? You can’t be passing out or choking to death. You don’t have my permission to do either.”

I ran to my tool cabinet and removed my propane torch. I returned quickly but he was already unconscious, breathing, but unconscious. I clicked on the igniter and the bright blue flame jumped to life. Cauterizing produced a smell of flash frying blood and skin that was awful. I wish I could have integrated the olfactory into my video, this was something that I’d want to remember.

The blood kept flowing, but slower. Finally I got my knife back out and heated up the blade to press close the wound. After a few tries the bleeding stopped. I had to pause and marvel at how he looked. Crisp black rims bordering crimson teeth. It was horrific and beautiful.

Checking his pulse he was still alive, still breathing, but out cold. I rechecked all my straps and then went to my medical chest. I believe in being prepared, and I had a shot, something of my own design, that would wake is ass up. The pain had turned up his blood pressure to the point that the veins on his neck were as thick as fingers. I found that crimson flash easily and blasted the 3ml shot into his body.

Now that was some art. His eyes flew open and his chest heaved. The sound was unlike anything I had ever heard before. For nearly thirty seconds he gasped and shrieked and coughed. It was beautiful.

“Lawrence! You let me down, so let’s finish this thing,” I said as I climbed up onto the table and dropped down onto his chest.

Grabbing my pliers I made short work of the rest of his incisors. I wanted a hole so I could see the back of his throat. I reached into the tool box and pulled out a scalpel.

“How far do you think it is from the back of your throat to your brainstem Lawrence?” I asked, waving the scalpel over his eyes, “I have always wanted to know.”

I slipped the blade through the hole and into the back of his throat and paused. Something was telling me this wasn’t what this piece needed. I got off his chest, leaving the scalpel there, and began to pace around the table. For the sake of my art, my muse, I had to make this a worthy reflection of what he had done.

I thought back on all the victimizers I’ve encountered and all the beautiful art they became. I recalled what this monster had done. All the missing children across numerous settlements out here in the wastes. I remembered what he did to their remains. I saw the sadness on the faces of the families left behind.

I stopped and prayed to my muse for guidance.

Guidance came.

“You can meet the devil now Lawrence. This has been more rewarding for me that you can imagine. You have been an amazing canvas.”

Walking back I removed a long buck knife from the tool box. I plucked out the scalpel as I stood over his head. Grasping the buck knife in both hands I raised it above my head.

“Justice shall be served this day. You have been found guilty by the Order of crimes against hope and innocence. Receive your final judgement now.”

With that, I slammed the knife through the hole in his teeth and clear through the back of his head, driving it deep into the wood of the cross.

The next day the settlement found the art I created. I the crucifix planted at the edge of town. The only parts of Lawrence that were still attached were his head, blade still in his mouth, and his hands. His body lay in a heap at the foot of the cross. In the center of the cross I attached a letter of judgement from the Order, describing who he was and what he had done.

I kept his lips as mementos of the time we spent together. I wanted to remember those good times.

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