Artistic Licence [Flash Fiction]

An irregular drumbeat filled the air, a series of staccato thuds that set Anneka’s heart racing. She felt it in her chest, in her mind, caressing her skin, filling her from head to toe, making her body twitch as she swayed to the primal pulse. As she reached for the door, the trill of a flute joined the beat of the drum, its melody intertwining around the heavy staccato. A smile tugged at one corner of her lips. The place sounded in full swing tonight.

Inside Xanadu, the main lights had been dimmed. A rainbow of spotlights aimed at a large disco ball sent firefly reflections dancing around the room, skimming over walls and patrons alike, painting them all the same regardless of skin tone and gender. Here, they had more in common than they did in difference. They were all artists. All criminals. All risking their lives to express themselves.

Anneka passed by the sculpting area, where men and women worked on thick leathers to protect their bare feet from the chips and shavings of stone and wood, and the squishy coldness of dropped clay. Why don’t you just wear shoes? somebody had once suggested. Much scorn had ensued. Sculpting was best done shoe-less. Everybody knew that.

By the time she’d ordered a drink from the bar, another two musicians had joined those on the stage. She recognised Ted, on the French horn, and Margo, on the cello. At first, discord reigned, the cello and the drums battling each other to set the tempo, the horn and the flute competing for melody. But then, the rhythm settled, the players complementing each other, and harmony draped its soothing blanket over the patrons in the room.

At the painter’s corner, her home away from home, Anneka found her best friend, Neil, offering advice to Keiko on her surrealist painting of a waterfall. She smiled at the purples and blues and whites, triangular forms cascading down a bare drop of brown and grey. Keiko’s work was a masterpiece, but nobody outside this room would ever be able to appreciate it. The diminutive woman’s artistic licence had been revoked six years ago, her nude portrait of the President of Earth deemed unsuitable for the classical direction human creativity ought to take. Ironic, given that the nude form was the most classical of all.

A worm of envy burrowed its way through Anneka’s stomach, as it did every time she saw Keiko’s work. She herself had never even had a licence to be revoked. Unfortunately, Ms. Lindberg, your work does not meet the minimum standard required of public artists. You may wish to refocus your attempts onto a subject more socially acceptable, such as landscapes.

She banished the worm and picked up the spray can. Before her, on the wall, was the image she’d been working on for the past week. A rainbow wrapped around a charred and cracked Earth. Crouching down, she angled her can, spraying her words of defiance beneath the rainbow of creativity.

“Can you picture how it would be if artists were allowed to tell the truth?”


Just a little story for Chuck Wendig’s Friday flash fiction challenge. This story was inspired by AUTOBOTS. I mean, err, INSPIROBOT! That’s where the featured image is from, by the way. Canines still keeping me busy, but having lots of fun.

7 Comments on “Artistic Licence [Flash Fiction]

  1. Great story! Like I said over on Chuck’s site, I love how evocative the story is – you pull us right in. And the idea that artistic license is an actual license is creepy and terrible and engaging. Something to think about.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Merci and beaucoup, Daniel! I think the suppression of expression is something close to the hearts of all artists, regardless of whether our medium is paint or words or sound. Glad you enjoyed the story.


  2. Whoa! I wasn’t sure what kind of story you were going to write when I saw the quote, but you did not disappoint. You crafted this alternate world of secrecy and oppression and government secrecy so well, I almost forgot it wasn’t reality (…or is it?) Freedom, particularly freedom of expression, is definitely one of those things we take for granted until it gets taken away from us.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Jade! This is actually a story I’ve wanted to tell for a few weeks, and although it ended up being shorter than I initially envisioned, seeing the quote after I’d already had my idea felt like kismet. 🙂 Sad thing is, there are some places where freedom of expression is already repressed, and where artists are imprisoned (or worse) for sharing their work.

      Liked by 1 person

      • You are absolutely right about that and that is another example of how this world still has a long way to go. Looks like the universe really wanted you to share this story ^_^

        Liked by 1 person

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