The Elephant Graveyard

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Museums were never Rose's thing, despite interning at one. After discovering a piece of artwork one summer night, her life was never the same...

Fantasy / Mystery
Age Rating:

Isaac Limon

I hate museums. I don't understand how a banana taped to a wall or a bicycle wheel in the middle of a room can be considered masterpieces. I don't get the mystery behind Mona Lisa's gaze or the fascination behind a gold earring from an ancient civilization. A museum's like a looted wasteland to me: a place that upholds taking glorified art pieces and depositing them into a glass case for the common art fanatic to obsess over.

But this was the only summer internship I could get. While every other teenager in my town is enjoying beach days and cookouts, I'm stuck in an overly-sanitized institution with the common marble statue to keep me company.
Today was a bit different, however. At exactly 12 noon today, the general public would be embarking on a jOuRnEy Of A lIfEtImE. We just opened a new exhibit last night on an up-and-coming artist. His artwork isn't that bad--it's actually interesting to view. I got a sneak peak of it as we unloaded the artwork last night.
"Rose, look at this painting," Helen, my advisor, said in awe as she lifted up one of the paintings from the large U-Haul.
It was indeed something. The painting featured a vivid depiction of the most lush, deep green forest known to the eye. There was precision in every brush stroke, color selection, and placement. The forest vines framed a scene in the middle of the painting: a clearing that contrasted with the rest of the piece, a clearing that was dead. The lack of soil revealed cracks within the ground, with dead roots growing out of them. A strange slime-substance coated the tip of every root. Despite the lack of vegetation, there was a sense of life within the dead plants. They appeared to pulse with sadness, crying out for help, reaching for whoever they could to hear their pleas.
I was captivated, wondering what it all meant. "Woah," I said, astonished by the painter's precision, wondering what all of this meant.
Helen smiled, nodding. "Indeed, Isaac Limon is a very talented man."
Isaac Limon, I thought. What a strange name.
It was a pretty medium-sized crowd, mostly made of college kids that looked as if it was a requirement for them to view the exhibits. The exhibit was open to anyone who wanted to view it, giving people the space to walk around, read the associated plaques with the pieces, or just sit down and take in the work around them. I could hear people gasping, sighing, questioning. I believe this is what art was intended to do. Make you think.
Helen assigned me to take control of registration so she could view the exhibit and monitor the pieces. I looked at the clock. 1:00PM. The registration line was getting longer and longer, with more and more people hoping to view the exhibit. Although I had helped put the initial pieces of the exhibit together, I didn't really get the chance to see the finished product. As people exited by the registration desk, I heard excited chatter, something involving elephants, weird-looking plants, and mystery. None of these components seemed to go together. As time went by, I was willing the crowd to thin out just to see what everyone else was viewing. 2:00 passed by, then 3:00, then 3:24 until finally, the crowd disappeared.
"Wow that was a large crowd," Helen said, finally appearing by my side at the registration desk.
You're telling me, I thought, secretly rolling my eyes.
"Well, you're free to go now if you want, Rose."
I wasn't satisfied with leaving. I wanted to view what everyone else was chattering on about throughout the day.
"Actually, Helen," I said with a start, "would it be okay if I viewed the exhibit before I left?"
Helen smiled, nodding. "Of course. You deserve it."
I rushed away from behind the desk and walked toward the exhibit, my heart racing. Why am I so excited? It's just an exhibit.
I entered the room. Instantly, I was transported into a world full of imagination, ingenuity, and absolutely illogical in the best way possible. Sculptures and paintings depicting weird yet fascinating scenes unfolded before my eyes: a purple-slime substance appeared to be a sealant of some kind that patched up worn holes in the ground, giant hairy beings with droopy lips and a trunk-like nose stalked around in green pastures, various wildlife coexisting with humans in suburbs, urban life, even in the most remote of places. Each piece spoke of a reality that definitely would not exist, but was compelling enough to almost make me believe that it could, or did.
I continued walking around the room, being enveloped in this world of fantasy and life, when I came upon the painting that contrasted the rest--the painting of the dead roots coming from the cracked ground. The smile that I had been holding the entire time I walked around the exhibit instantly dropped. I wondered why this painting had to exist, what it could be possibly communicating to me as the viewer.
Despite having already seen the painting before, I noticed a few things I hadn't noticed before--mountains, in the distance. A plume of smoke beyond the mountains, large mechanical machines in the distance cutting down vegetation and planting more. People in adventurer styled caps, shorts, and shirts. The overall lighting of the painting appeared more vivid, harsh. The harshness of the sun made the dead-yet-alive roots glisten and sparkle like they hadn't before. I took a step closer to the painting. The roots began to bulge and pulse like they did before, except this time it wasn't an illusion. As the roots pulsed, the cracks in the ground grew wider. As the cracks grew wider, a silver-blue hard substance under the ground was revealed.
What the, I thought, stepping so close to the painting that my nose almost touched it. The cracks continued to get wider and wider, revealing this silver-blue light until....
Everything went dark.
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