The Sculpture

Bethany Dean By Bethany Dean, 15th Mar 2010 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Short Stories

A girl is posessed to make a sculpture that takes on a life of its own. A strange fantasy that came to me listening to Massive Attack's 'Teardrop'.

The Sculpture

They said he had to have been made from someone. But no, no, he’s just as he is. He has no human counterpart, no likeness. He sits in the corner of my sun flooded studio, head gently bent, sad and yet half-glad to be in the light, looking uncomfortable, as if there’s yet more of him to uncover. My fingers go to him every time I’m alone and I watch his face motionless with its sliding shadows. He was born one day of heartbreak, when I sat on my floor hating all the I’s and me’s and myself’s, as I sat aghast at the world cracking and failing all around me, I once saw something beautiful in those cracks and something noble in its failure, now the earth was dust and vacant vanity and I hadn’t created in the week since my heart was broken.

My fingers found no solace until they found him, inside a block of clay taller than I was. I was meant to teach a class, they delivered it a week ago to be cut up and portioned out to ignorant students. I remember standing looking at it with the sun firing its dying red fury upon my window, turning my studio into Hell so it made me think of angels. I tore at the clay, squeezed it beneath my fingernails, smoothed it, ran my trembling hands blindly over the contours of his body until he stood before me, unsheathed. Puddles of his flesh were splattered all over my floor and a crack zigzagged its way up his thigh, I’d been working so furiously into the night I hadn’t noticed that my studio was pitch dark – I couldn’t see a thing, but I could feel his presence. Yet I did not turn on the light. The spell hadn’t broken. I thrust my hands where I knew my smeared glass bowl lay, wetted my palms, caressed his leg back into being, and began over his stomach and ribs, flicking away yet more superfluous clay until it felt so natural that I knew every unnatural touch as one would notice on a lover.

Time came that I ran out of water and breath, and so I stood back and felt the first flood of fear upon me, borne of the darkness of the room and the pressured silence which had accompanied my work. Stumbling, I made it over to the light switch. Illumination came like I was slipping into a dream. He stood six feet tall, dripping apologetically onto the floor, so, so beautiful... but his face was worse than blank, it was a half-life. I had to finish him. Twenty-seven hours I spent staring into his face, hardly eating, hardly breathing, until this boy came to life beneath my fingertips. I had no model, no one was there to witness him. Yet people would swear he must have been created from life. I knew he was; from that in my heart. His upper lip delicately curved, his nose was noble and yet gave a modest look to his otherworldly countenance... nothing I can say about his eyes, for those were the eyes of my very soul, and that I cannot describe for that had come apart from me and turned quite unfamiliar. Within his clay shone out my very existence and I was rapt. He never moved, but it seemed like he was just being patient, standing still as I sculpted. I drew back, suddenly aware of how dry my mouth was after more than a day sacrificing my thirst so I could wet my hands, and he swam in my vision. He became the sun, the earth, the sky and the trees of my childhood, swallowing my whole mortal apartment. I moved closer and the shadows playing about his body moved with me. As I fell weak from physical exhaustion, he finally looked at me. Gazed into my heart, and I felt it lurch with the ages of his stare. I was drawn to him, and pressed my lips to the wet clay, our eyes flickered shut.

When they discovered my lifeless form the next day he still held me, limp. I had drowned. Clay had poured into my lungs until I could no longer breathe, and I hadn’t noticed. It was running through my hair and drips sat cracked on my still cheeks. They were mystified as to why my lips were blue. But they all remarked how beautiful and lifelike the boy was, how it must be that guy they saw down the street, my ex - no, it was my actor friend. They zipped me up in a rustling black bag. When they turned around, there was nothing on the plinth but a mound of misshapen clay, slipping wetly between the floorboards. The sun had risen; it was melting. They remarked it was such a sad shame how he couldn’t be preserved. They didn’t see the puddles on the floor, shaped like human feet, leading towards the window and out of the door.

There was more clay in my body than was dug out of my grave, and he visited every day. Though I don’t know if I saw through his eyes or he saw through mine, I remember seeing grass, and wet footprints, and feeling my body as heavy as ever and knowing I would live on and on. Forever.


Clay, Sculpture, Short Story, Writing

Meet the author

author avatar Bethany Dean
Author of the Rose Prince, available on Kindle and in paperback. | @bethanyrdean

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author avatar Shaun
16th Mar 2010 (#)

Bloody brilliant full of heart and emotion not a practised piece just wonderful!

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