Perseverance (zero-sum)

The chalk rattles as the artist rakes it across the stone floor, white dust billowing into his face, powdering it so that he looks like a perverse pierrot.  He is on hands and knees, palms pressed to the ground as he drags the chalk downward, backward, scrapes it across the series of chaotic, crisscrossed lines he has created, a confusingly complex cat's cradle, an uncertain conundrum…. But then suddenly he coughs and snap! the chalk breaks in two.  His ankles cramp slightly as he stands up, skirts around and between the white and blue and pink and yellow lines to view it from different angles, and then returns to the exact spot where he had left off.  "Now I'll have to start all over again," the artist grumbles, motioning for his assistant to fetch the tin pail.

The rusty-brown water from the pail washes away the artist's work, seeps slowly across the stony ground like a slithering snake.  The nebulous network of lines are instantly neutralized, turned to palimpsestic palindromes that cannot be read either forward or backward, neither left to right nor right to left, neither upward nor downward nor sideward nor even cross-ward.  You watch the water as it mercilessly erodes, erases bit by bit the ground separating you from the artist, leaving behind no trail, no trace of itself, nor of the colorful chalky lines of chaos.  And then the water level rises, leaches through the cracks in the walls, the ceiling, drips in dolorous drops from the cerulean sky above, short circuiting the electricity, carrying with it books, clocks, disfigured dolls, a dreary daguerreotype of the artist before the transmogrification from naïveté to narcissism to nausea to nothingness….

A figure now crouches upon the stone floor, frowning, a fresh piece of chalk in hand, mumbles, "Now I'll have to start all over again."  The empty tin pail is overturned once more.
Marc Lowe