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The Sculptor

Part One

Damon was a sculptor, and not a very good one. His peers would remind him that art is subjective and that there is no such thing as bad art. The same peers that sniggered behind his back and took bets over how long it would take for him to give up. But that’s one thing he couldn’t do. Despite his work never turning out how he imagined it in his head, he couldn’t stop. It was in his blood, his soul. The objects he obtained spoke to him, telling him what they longed to become.

 

He stared at his latest project: Girl with a Mouse in her Palm. The outstretched arm didn’t look too bad, but the mouse in her palm looked like it was part of her hand. Her other arm he’d overcarved and looked like a string of spaghetti. She was supposed to be leaning forward, ready to plant a delicate kiss on the mouse’s head, yet she was more hunched, her mouth seemingly prepared to devour the poor mouse forever welded to her hand.

 

Damon sighed as he wiped the sweat off his brow with the back of his hand. Sawdust showered down his face and under his safety goggles.

 

“GODDAMMIT!” He shouted as he ripped off his glasses and ran for the sink. He turned both taps on at full blast. The old pipes moaned and creaked, letting out a dribble of water before drying up. Damon’s mind went to the pile of unopened letters under his bed and imagined there was a final notice regarding his water bill in there somewhere. He scoured the medicine cabinet for something he could use. Nothing. With no other option, he opened the toilet cistern, scooped a handful of water and ran it over his eyes, blinking as he bathed them to push out the tiny sprinkles of wood. All of it came out on the second scoop, and he sighed with relief. Drying his face on a towel long overdue for a wash, he moved back into the only other room in his apartment and stared at his work - just another piece to throw away. Her legs he’d still not carved. She was a torso stuck in a block of wood. He should try and finish, but with so much already wrong with the piece, it all seemed pointless. 

Should Damon...

Give up? (33%)

Keep Carving? (67%)

Part Two

But what artist leaves his art unfinished? As fed up as he was, Damon couldn’t stop until he’d pulled the girl out from the wood - even if the final piece wasn’t the perfect picture he saw in his mind’s eye.

He carved well into the night and was still chipping her toes as the sun crested over the horizon. The morning light glinted off the window behind him, reflecting off the mirror beside his sculpture and right into his eyes just as he struck the final blow into the wood. Three of the toes came away. 

Damon watched the wood skitter across the floor and under the sofa. He looked back at the wooden statue. The left foot didn’t look too bad, but the right only had its big and index toe intact. He threw down his tools and screamed at the ceiling, his wail swiftly causing the tenant above to start stomping along the floor. Bits of plaster rained down, dusting Damon’s strawberry, unwashed hair and pooling into all of the unplanned dents in his sculpture.

“AAH! Why can’t you just be what I imagine you to be?”

He kicked the piece, letting it fall to the ground with a thud as he grabbed his foot in pain. “Dammit, Dammit, Dammit!” he shouted as he hopped around the small apartment. “I’m DONE.” 

Grabbing his keys and empty wallet, he left the apartment in a rage. 

 

* Later that day *

 

Music blared from Damon’s apartment block. He swore under his breath with each step up, stumbling every few paces, until he reached his apartment door and found the music thumping behind it. He fumbled with his keys as he rushed to open the door; the shots of cheap bourbon weren’t helping his dexterity. Finally, the key slid into the lock and turned. The old door creaked open. From a quick sweep of the room, it looked empty. He tentatively stepped inside and checked behind the door. Nothing. Slamming the door behind him, he ran into the bathroom. Empty. 

He moved over to the dated stereo and turned it off. It was too old for any sort of auto-function, so it couldn’t have turned itself on. Damon scratched his head. Maybe he turned it on as he left and forgot? He looked around again. Nothing was out of place. His latest piece still loomed over the apartment. It looked bigger somehow. As he stared, the wooden girl stared back blankly. A dead, blank stare. Until it blinked. 

Should Damon...

Run out of the room? (33%)

Inspect his sculpture? (67%)

 

Part Three

Damon squeezed his eyes shut, rubbing them hard. He took a few deep breaths before he opened them. He blinked. Once. Twice. His eyes focusing a little better each time. 

 

His sculpture was still there, unmoving. Blaming the bourbon coupled with a trick of evening sunlight beaming into the apartment, he moved towards the kitchenette, eyes still fixed on the wooden girl who stared back. He thought he saw her lips twitch into a smile, her eyelid shudder as if trying to wink, but he shook it all off. It couldn’t smile. It couldn’t wink. It was a lump of wood poorly shaped into a person. Finally turning his back to make a coffee, he wondered what to do with it now that it was beyond repair. No respectable gallery would be interested in her. No unrespectable one would either. 

“Woodchipper it is,” he said under his breath.

 

As he muttered the words, he heard an ear-splitting scraping noise from behind. Spinning around, he watched as the sculpture painstakingly shuffled toward the door. Damon stumbled back, the countertop in the small kitchen keeping him from falling to the ground.

 

“Oh my God, what the… how the… where…” Damon couldn’t settle on a question, so he stared dumbly as the wooden girl slowly turned full body to face him. 

 

“I’m not sticking around just so you can throw me in a woodchipper.”

 

The words came out thick and clumsy, but he understood them well enough. Not that he could process anything beyond the fact that his statue was talking to him. 

 

“This isn’t real,” he mumbled before shouting, “This isn’t real. Carl must have put something extra in that last drink. This can’t be real.”

 

The statue moved its arms to place its hands on its hips. If he weren’t terrified, Damon would have laughed. Her one hand still had the mouse attached. It vibrated as it perched on her hip as if trying to escape. Her other hand sat flush against her but looked like it would snap off the skinny arm at any moment. He’d carved out legs for her, but her thighs were fused together. It was supposed to look like she was wearing a floaty dress, but she really just had one giant thigh with chunks of wood sticking out either side of her near her knees. She looked terrible enough inanimate. 

 

She looked down at herself as if self-conscious of his stare. 

 

“What?” she asked.

 

“What, what?” he replied.

 

“What are you looking at?” 

 

He laughed then. “What else would I be looking at? You are a talking piece of wood!”

 

“I’m not!” Her brow creased as she frowned. “I’m a girl. She flicked her eyes down to her hand, “One with a pet mouse for some reason.”

 

“The mouse embodies the fragility of nature. And how we should nurture it.”

 

“Well, you might want to tell him that because he is desperate to escape. I’m afraid he’ll start chewing at my hand in a minute.”

 

Damon looked at the mouse. It was vibrating more violently. As they both stopped talking, he began to hear a soft squeaking noise. 

 

“Could you please get him off my hand before he does it himself?”

 

Damon stared at her for a moment. Was she talking to him, or had he lost his mind? Could he even get the mouse off without taking her whole hand off? Did it even matter at this point?

Should Damon…

Attempt to remove the mouse (100%)

Leave it and explain how bad he is at sculpting (0%)

Part Four

It didn’t matter if he accidentally chiselled her hand off. If it was as alive as she was, the mouse would eventually detach itself, taking her hand with it. He picked up his tool and set to work. He worked as gently as possible, yet his hand slipped and peeled part of her palm away several times. He heard her yelp quietly each time he did, but she didn’t complain. 

He worked in silence at first, convinced that if he started to talk to her that it would accelerate his spiral into madness. It wasn’t until he slipped and the chisel hit her thigh that he finally spoke.

 

“Sorry,” he said, “Did that hurt?”

 

“Yes,” she replied, “Of course it hurt. Why did you stick a mouse on my hand to start with?”

 

Damon sighed. “The mouse was supposed to be sitting in your hand, not stuck to it. But you are both from the same wood block, so you’d never be fully detached.”

 

“I’m aware of where I am from and where he is from, but why is he there?”

 

Damon stopped chiselling and looked up at her. His face twisted as he tried to find the words to explain.

 

“Actually, why are we both here? We can hear you rage, you know. Complain and sigh and whine about how we aren’t how you want us to be. What is so wrong with us, and why did you make us if we aren’t good enough?”

 

“It’s not that you aren’t good enough,” he rushed to say, suddenly fearful of hurting the wooden girl’s feelings. “It’s that you aren’t what I imagined you to be.”

 

She scoffed. “Is anything ever how we imagined it to be? I imagined I would remain a mighty oak tree, yet I am not.”

 

“The medium speaks to me, tells me what it wants to be. But my hands do not listen to my brain.”

 

She made a sound that sounded like laughter. 

 

“What’s so funny?”

 

“Nothing. Nothing is funny.”

 

He continued to work in silence, trying his best to carve around the mouse and not hurt either of them. Finally, he made his final strike, and the mouse fell away. As he tried picking it up, it bumbled into the kitchen and under the cabinets.

 

“Ok. He’s gone. What now?” Damon asked. 

 

The girl looked like she was attempting a shrug. “I don’t know, what now?”

 

“Well, what do you want?” 

 

The sculpture fell silent. Her face, with its limited range of movement, looked pensive. 

What should the sculpture do?

Ask to be taken back to the forest. (33%)

Stay and help Damon. (67%)

Finale

She finally answered. “I’m not sure what I want. I can’t return to what I was and don’t know what I am now.”

 

Damon felt a pang of guilt. She was pulled from her home and made into this lopsided, clunky wooden girl. And what for? So he could have some sort of recognition as an artist? That he could acquire respect, fame and fortune? It all seemed so arbitrary now. All that seemed important was how to help this now sentient being find its place in the world.

 

“Well, maybe we should start with how and why you came to life?”

 

“What do you mean?” 

 

“That’s a dumb question. I’ve always been alive. I told you, I could hear you complaining about me and our little mouse friend.”

 

“Well, you’re the first sculpture that has started moving of its own accord. The first that could speak.”

 

“I’ve always been able to speak. Perhaps it is you that has changed. Maybe now you are listening.”

 

Damon crossed his arms. “I’ve always listened to my medium. It speaks to me, and I carve what it says.”

 

The sculpture laughed. It laughed so hard that, if it could have bent over double, it would have. “I can assure you, I was not telling you to turn me into this!”

 

“Well, you weren’t supposed to be this either.”

 

She stopped laughing and stared at him as he uncrossed his arms, moved to the sofa and slumped down onto it.

 

“You were supposed to be a graceful young girl, gently kissing the head of a tame little mouse. You were supposed to represent kindness and oneness with nature.”

 

“And what made you believe that is what I should be?”

 

Damon shrugged. “Because that is what the voice in my mind told me.”

 

The sculpture awkwardly shuffled over to him and placed her already extended hand on his shoulder. “Well, there is your problem. Your mind tells you what things should be, and it expects perfection. You see the blueprint, and your mind wants you to follow it. But nothing in nature is perfect. I am not what you expected because I am the product of your mind, not your heart.”

 

“How am I supposed to listen to my heart?”

 

“Well, you are listening to a block of wood shaped like a girl. I can’t imagine it’s that much harder.”

 

“Fair point. But I don’t know where to start.”

 

“With me, obviously. I must be able to talk to you for a reason. So let’s fix me and see how it goes.”

 

Damon considered this. It wasn’t the worst idea, taking advice from a dead oak tree. “Okay. Let’s give it a go.” He got up and began to gather his woodworking tools. 

 

“Great, just remember I can feel every tap you make, so be gentle.”

 

“Got it,”

 

“And that I am not meant to be perfect. I am simply meant to be what I am.”

 

“Got it,” Damon said again with less certainty.

 

“And one more thing…”

 

“Yes?”

 

“Could you put the radio back on? I love music.”

 

Damon smiled as he moved over to the table and switched the stereo on. The girl attempted to smile back. Her smile, he decided, would be the first thing he fixed. 

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