You may remember a couple months back, a teacher friend of mine asked if I would write a survival story aimed at Middle Grade readers. Of course, I said “YES” and the short fiction piece “Rest” was the result. Well, she came to me again with a request for a story about a historic place as described by a time-traveling archaeologist with no context for what it was that person was truly seeing. Again, I enthusiastically agreed. What I came up with a (hopefully) humorous look at Champaign local landmark, The Art Theater, titled “Captive Audience.”

Captive Audience

by Jason L Blair

Hello, my good fellows of Temporus et Anachronus Historical Respect Society. I am writing you today with some troubling news.

Per the assignment given to me by President Emeritus Tiberius J. Tubbs, I have arrived at the designated location, a bastion of civilization nestled in an expansive grain field called “Champaign Illinois” in the district our forebears once labeled Midamerica. While the travel backwards in time concluded without error, our expectation of what we were to find here is actually very far from fact. Where we expected a gentle and kind tribe, instead, is home to a collection of cruel and seemingly easily-amused savages.

If I am to believe what I have seen here, one of the greatest attractions in this ancient place is a small building that bears the name “The Art Theater.” A fitting name, perhaps, because this dreadful place is home to a most barbaric “art” form. The people of this time have mastered the ability to trap their peers inside some sort of two-dimensional plane called a “screen.” Once relocated, the captives are forced, by some unseen mechanism, to reenact cultural tales over and over again as entertainment for a cold and uncaring assembly.

I have seen many such tales, from a collective of sightseers forced to evade the razor-tipped claws of prehistoric lizards to the story of a young girl swept away to a world of crazed winged primates and a green-skinned witch to a most tragic showing of a man who, upon exposure to the light of Earth’s moon, is turned into a horrific beast covered in hair and sporting a large and deadly-looking set of pointed teeth.

To further add to the audience’s savagery, they often feed upon heated and salted kernels from the surrounding grain fields–destroying their environment as well as their humanity!

As further testament to the high regard to which this barbaric practice is held, the Art Theater itself is adorned with images taken from these vile displays. The names of the participants are listed on these “posters.” I heard multiple people in attendance say they enjoy the work of some of these prisoners–I wonder just how many terrible dramas these poor souls are forced to act out!

It is my recommendation that we never return to this place. We have, as a society, evolved well beyond such archaic and brutal practices. How I long to return to the year 3807 where I can once again enjoy more enlightened entertainment such as a robogator wrestling and flaming goat dancing.

Your humble archaeologically-minded fellow,

Bodomir Jevins III