2018-10-25 14:44 fiction flash-fiction Benjamin Brood

The Tourist

The lesser known city streets led nowhere, they circled around the museum like they were shy, or worse, like they were predatory and waiting for a moment of weakness. If you got caught in them you might never find your way out. As the museum was full of ancient things of beauty, those streets were dotted with ugly impossibilities, the stunned and the invisible, great works out of spite or desperation. And tourists, seeking the renowned museum, driven astray by subversive guides, are caught up in this vortex of streets, ancillary roadways and walkways paved with cobblestones from the previous empires, each a minor sacrifice. Tourists would warily take a couple of photos, standing in front of a burned out store front, or next to a decapitated statue, forcing the required smile onto their faces, then abandoning the traditional snapshot with shame as the nature of their situation became defined and portentous. They would never get to the museum. They would stare at their snapshots again over the following years for any signs of escape or any indications of premonition in their own faces. And who was that man in the background? Is he the man we sold the kidney to? Is he the man who stands on the overpass yelling at traffic every night? From the shelter they created out of discarded shipping pallets and plastic tarps, they could see the columns of light around the museum, adorning a gala or opening. They would fold and unfold the maps sold to them at the airport, yes, certainly the light came from the museum. Perhaps these few photographs they'd taken, which they now perceived as alien and obscene, were there hanging on the walls, being seriously contemplated by serious, well-dressed people. The streets inside the perimeter were impenetrable, but maybe they could go outwards, back towards the airport, admitting that their travel agenda would never be satisfied.