From the author: A derelict part of town. A strange house where the rich and elite come to view The Purest Art.
There is a house of dubious repute burrowed into the space between two abandoned factories in one of the more seedier parts of town.
In this place sits the Curator of an attraction that draws a significant number of visitors each evening. Viewers from diverse cultural and social strata, contrasting in appearance and manner and nature, rubbing shoulders and hips, each breathing in the smell of the others. The air becomes a soupy mix of sweat and grime and soap and perfume. They all come to look.
And see. And gape.
The street is sodden and the air carries the stench of burnt plastic. Rats scurry in places unseen eating other unseen things.
The house has a spire that spikes out of its west side and a steepled roof on the other which cuts into the sky like a razor. It has no path and no gate and certainly no door.
Word is spread of the attraction from lips to ears. Whispers.
The lawn is so unkempt and overgrown that the grass reaches to the Viewers chest. It has the shape of wheat. Feral cats hunt vermin in its depths. The rustling of the undergrowth gives away the prey’s whereabouts. Their shelter betrays them.
The Viewer pushes through the grass and up the wooden porch steps which creak with the weight of each heavy step.
The Curator knows the Viewer has arrived.
Shadows fill the hallway, almost pitch black, insulated from moonlight by floor to ceiling red velvet curtains. Up the stairs to the top landing. Resplendent in his tuxedo and top hat, the Curator waits outside the viewing room. He stands silently in the dark. He only gestures to the doorway, to the curtains that hang there in lieu of a door. Pulling a black silk handkerchief from his pocket, the Curator ties it across his eyes and when it is secure he leans to the side and pulls the curtains apart.
A solitary wooden chair faces the far wall. The Viewer is guided to it and there he sits.
It isn’t really an artefact or a work of art. It is a unique thing. A curio.
The Curator closes the curtains and the Viewer is alone to look upon the thing he has come to see.
There is no roof here. The empty stars wheel overhead, the night sky illuminating the room.
The wall has an image scratched into the brick work. An eternity of fingernails clawing at the masonry and plaster has created it, carving the matter into something else. It takes the general shape of a circle but it consists of squares and triangles and other complex shapes and criss-crossing lines.
It is not a circle. It is a hole.
The Viewer stands for a closer look.
The scratches have gouged so deeply that the surface of the circle has smoothed out the brick work.
Closer still. The hole fills the Viewers vision. All he can perceive is the hole. All he can comprehend is the hole. It is black inside the hole. The Viewer pushes his face against the surface, but there is no surface, only a gossamer thin membrane that splits under his touch. The Viewer pushes his head through. It is not a circle. It is a spiral of scratches. A funnel gouged into reality. Or out of reality. The skin of the world is unpicked. Transition occurs.
The Viewer screams.
“I can’t tell what it is.”
The moon rises behind him and the moon sets and the stars grind against the heavens. A deep humming fills the void.
They always scream. They cover their eyes but it doesn’t stop their minds from shattering. The blindfolded Curator fumbles along the wall till he finds the Viewer and he leads him back out of the room and down the stairs. He removes his blindfold there and takes the Viewer out through the hunting grounds, where a kingdom of cats wage war on the rat race, and out into the sodden street. The Viewer claws and foams and wails.
“I can’t see.” He tears at his hair and claws at his scalp until blood trickles over his forehead.
A car is waiting to take the Viewer home. The Curator lies him on the back seat of the car, he can no longer sit up. The Viewers head is full of realisation, or is empty like a void. The Curator whispers something to him before the car leaves.
“It is art. The purest kind. It is nothing and everything. The soul of the world.”
Whispers pass from lips and tongue and teeth to ear and mind.
Once upstairs he dons his blindfold again and draws the curtains closed and takes his place on the top landing.
A stretch limousine drops off another who has come to view. They push through the long grass where the cats hunt.
This story originally appeared in The Horror Tree.