Evolution Behind the Door

“I wonder what’s up there?” Phyllis said to Zelda over a background noise of the elevator counterweight system in motion. They studied the control panel showing floor levels marked with gallery names. The label for the top floor read PRIVATE NO PUBLIC ACCESS. A mutually-shared sense of curiosity dispensed with any need to exchange words, as her companion pressed the corresponding button.

Outside of the elevator, everything in view was a disorientating whiteness. A labyrinth of echoey corridors, soon found them lost and confused. “Wow,” said Zelda, “Are we in Heaven?” Aside from the floor, skirting boards, the walls, the ceiling and pendant lamps, there was nothing. Not a trace of decoration, no tropical plant displays, water-cooler or snack-bar vending machine, not even a fire-extinguisher canister, as one might expect.

“I don’t recall dying.” Said Phyllis sardonically, “This, is like some mad Minimalist’s fantasy! What is it about minimalism’s fascination with the colour white? Why not all this in mauve, for example?”

Reaching another walkway intersection, they eagerly peered in both directions. Their eyes yearned for something to focus on, but only more whitened expanse came into view.

“I don’t know about you, but I think we could try opening a door, see what’s inside one of these rooms.” Said Phyllis. “Look, at the end of that corridor,” she pointed to the left, “there’s a set of double-doors.”

“Since leaving the lift, these are the first set of double-doors we’ve come across.” Said Zelda.

“Let’s do it!” Said Phyllis.

Walking tentatively, the two young females loosely held each other’s hand, intertwining their fingers, symbolising emotional support. Now, beyond their earlier bravado, doubts had crept in.

Synchronised, nearing the end of the corridor, less than four metres away, they stopped and stooped forward. Their eyes attempted to focus on an engraved white-coloured plaque positioned on the wall to the side of the double-doors. The lettering had not been coloured-in, making it difficult to read until they had covered more distance, bringing them closer.

NO ENTRY, it read, disappointingly.

“Fuck this for a game of soldiers!” Said Zelda, as she grabbed a door handle. “Shall we do this?” With a quick bow of her head suggesting agreement, her companion placed her hand on the other door handle and together, they gingerly opened the doors.

“What the fuck?” Said Phyllis, her breath quickening as the interior of the room came into view. “What are we looking at Zelda, I’ve – I’ve, never seen anything like this before!”

All the white blankness they’d gone through, the starvation of form and now this, a sudden burst of chaotic colours and shapes pulsating with exuberance. Diagonal lines, circles, triangles, irregular chards, lots of confusing bits of things. It was a total, geometric and monstrously nonsensical abstraction.

“I, I don’t like it!” Said Zelda, as perspiration formed on her forehead and above her upper lip. “It’s just not natural! I need to avert my eyes, I’m beginning to feel quite faint.”

“SHUT THAT DOOR CLOSED, NOW!” A piercing shriek worse than a steel fork dragged across a porcelain plate, sliced through the air molecules. Turning around dizzily, they found themselves faced by a booted figure dressed in a shiny white bio-hazard suit. The helmet visor had been pushed up, revealing a feminine albino face contorted into an expression of raw anger. “Shut, the door! There is a risk of contamination that could prove cataclysmic and possibly fatal!”

Obediently shoving the doors closed, Phyllis and Zelda began frantically hand-brushing their clothes down, distressed involuntary gasps and groans emitting unconsciously from their mouths. “Take off all your clothes!” Came the third command. “Put them in this contamination bag I have here.” Promptly and without questioning, Phyllis and Zelda did as they were told. “Now follow me.”

The threesome walked at pace along more corridors, each indistinguishable from the last. “Where are you taking us?” Asked Zelda, nervously. “Are we going to be hosed down or forced into a shower and have our bodies vigorously sponged with a foamy disinfectant?” The Albino looked at her charges, raised an eyebrow but offered no utterance.

“In here!” She barked, unlocking and opening a door bearing a white name plate engraved with the word LAB. “Sit down.” The small room held no surprises, housing some chairs, a centrally positioned workstation, test tubes supported in a rack, glass beakers. The albino technician reached into a drawer from the desk, retrieving a scalpel, a bottle of transparent liquid and a pair of tweezers. In the lower, larger drawer, she lifted out an electrical device resembling to the untrained eye, a bread-making machine. “All I need, are some samples.”

“Oh God no!” Said Zelda. “I can’t stand needles, you can’t have my blood.” She wrapped her arms defensively across the front of her body. “I can pee, you can have my pee, I will pee into one of those beakers! You can even have a nail clipping, but you can’t take my blood.” The two young females exchanged agonised glances with each other.

“No, it’s not you I need samples of, it is your clothing. I need verifying samples to scan, to make sure no colour traces are left anywhere near the collage.”

“Ay? What do you mean?” A sense of puzzlement mixed with relief swept through Zelda, as she posed the query.

“Oh! You misunderstand.” The lab technician allowed herself a chuckle. “No, it’s not you who’s in danger of contamination – it’s the collage. Don’t you see? Its preservation here, is dependent upon a completely colour-free environment that extends across the entire floor-level of this building. Any colour contamination from dyed fibres of material, these could have a disharmonious and potentially harmful, irreversible effect on the work.” She took a breath. “I work for the Preservation Team, we can’t allow contamination, for what we have here is the next stage of abstract collage evolution. It is unique, quite irreplaceable.”

Provided with a sheet, the two friends sat huddled together, watching the technician extract fibres from their clothes. After establishing that both used hair dyes, small locks were snipped and dropped into separate test tubes. “Once I have identified colours, my job will be to clinically clean all the corridors and then, using a pigment scanner, I will go over all the areas again, making sure every trace of colour has been removed.”

Phyllis and Zelda re-dressed somewhat sheepishly and pulled on anti-contamination suits, readying for their protected journey to the elevator and entry back into the world of colour. “It’s not exactly what I think of, when I think of a collage, the one you are protecting.” Phyllis said.

“What do you imagine?” Said the technician. “A 1950s swimsuit pin-up in recline with a cocktail held aloft, wearing spiral optic sunglasses, a bunch of flowers growing out of the top of her head? A large, classic American car falling out of a starry night sky, about to land onto a rainbow road? An arrow vector or two thrown in, a piece of torn cardboard?”

“I thought,” said Zelda, “that a collage was when you put multiple photos of friends and family inside a picture frame and hung it on your bedroom wall.”

“That is a montage,” replied the technician sniffily, “a common misconception.”

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