The artist leaned heavily on both forearms on the table and glared at Katrin. “You want to destroy my artwork,” she said. “Not just incinerate it, consign it to the waste pile of history. Remove all representations and references to it, then actually erase it from the memory of everyone who even saw it.” She pounded one first on the table. “For what?” she said, emphatically.
Katrin opened her mouth to reply, but the artist continued. “They call in a méllonologist to judge my work,” she said. “Is it subversive? Am I some sort of traitor to society? I thought we had freedom of expression.”
“I prefer reliquus,” Katrin said. “I deal with the relics of the present, and how they will be presented to the future.”
The artist said something quietly that might well have been “different shovel”. Katrin wasn’t familiar with whatever that idiom meant, and simply let it slide.
“I have no interest in subversion,” Katrin said. “A reliquus…,” she paused for a moment. “A méllonologist, if you will, is an inversion of an archaeologist. My job is to ensure that the future correctly interprets the here and now. Your work isn’t subversive, and nobody thinks that it is.”
“So why are you even here?” said the artist.
“Because the future might incorrectly think that we had considered it subversive,” said Katrin.
“You mean that you want to destroy my art because it isn’t subversive?” The artist looked as if she was about to explode. “I don’t even understand what you’re accusing me of. Am I unoriginal? Inauthentic?”
“Possibly just too subtle,” said Katrin.
“What sort of supposedly open society destroys art because it is too subtle and might be misinterpreted by people that aren’t even born yet?” said the artist.
“It isn’t my place to judge society,” said Katrin. “Just to present it in the way that it chooses to be presented, through those heirlooms that it designates to pass down to posterity.” She paused, holding up her hand to still the artist’s fury. “Perhaps you’re in a better position to provide that judgment,” she said, taking some of the sting out of her previous words.
Katrin had an air-limo dedicated entirely to her service. She wasn’t sure whether it was due to her purported status, the importance of the case at hand, or if it was simply an unfathomable artifact of bureaucracy. They had also given her an assistant, whose name she couldn’t recall, and whose sole purpose so far was to tag along behind her and periodically offer to carry her bag. The limo made a small beeping noise in recognition, as she approached, and then began to open its hatch.
“What’s that?” her assistant asked. She reached down and picked up a small object that had flown free as the door opened.
“I’m not popular around here,” said Katrin. “You may want to be more careful about picking up stray objects in the future.”
Her assistant didn’t say anything, but made a circular shape with her mouth. She dropped the object, and it fluttered, spinning, down to the ground.
Katrin bent and picked it up. It appeared to be a red plastic flower of some kind. “Touché,” Katrin said, and made a snorting sound.
“What is it?” asked her assistant.
“Our artist friend is an antiquarian,” said Katrin. “If I’m not mistaken, this is a red spider lily.”
“That’s a bit cryptic,” said her assistant. “Is that intended to convey a message?”
“Floriography,” said Katrin. “The ancient language of flowers. I believe that this one means ‘a lost memory’, and also ‘never to meet again’. The ancients used to strew this sort of flower about at funerals.”