Her unmoving eyes

“Tell me your story.” Vic whispered to the lady, staring into the statue’s unmoving eyes. He had visited the museum every day for weeks now, solely to obsess over this statue.

Furtively checking he was alone, he leant forward and quickly kissed the lady on the lips. She felt cold, much colder than the marble should be, and Vic’s feet give way under him. He tumbled into darkness.

What? Was I struck?

Vision slowly returned to Vic. He was no longer in the museum, rather he stood in a low ceilinged workshop, surrounded by massive slabs of marble. Stinking lamps burned in wall sockets. Sounds echoed around the space, horse-hooves on cobblestones, foreign shouts of a nearby marketplace, a ring-ring-ring of hammer and chisel on stone. This last came from the next room, and Vic carefully approached, delighted to have his wish granted.

The room was large and mostly bare except for a partly carved slab of marble, two people, and thick velvet curtains around the edges. Vic hid behind these curtains, careful to not interrupt the two inhabitants; the sculptor and the lady.

The sculptor was singularly unimpressive. Exceptionally short, almost a dwarf, and filthy, a foetid odour assailing Vic’s nostrils. For all his unkemptness, the sculptor worked like a demon, hacking into the stone like it had offended him, beating the freshly quarried marble into submission. The sculptor danced around his marble, attacking it, glaring at the lady with every strike.

The lady… oh, the lady. Like her marble counterpart, she posed naked but for a sheet tied around the waist, one arm twirling her hair, the other clasping a clay urn. Vic drank her in; everything else faded. He studied every aspect of her; her half-smile, her perfect curves…

The discolouration on her arms and wrists.

Who would dare bruise my goddess?

This was soon answered; she had posed for hours, arms raised; her muscles burned. When she inevitably flagged, the sculptor would scream at her in Italian, and viciously jab with the hammer.

Vic’s mind reeled. The desire to launch himself at the seething gargoyle, to save his lady, was overwhelming… but what about the statue? When he returned, what would be left for him? Could he deny himself?

Holding back a sob, Vic bit his hand as the argument escalated. The lady was begging now, pleading, whilst the stunted artist screamed and rained blows on her defenceless body.

He’ll kill her! What should I do? God, I can’t decide what I should do!

But Vic’s decision had already been made. His decision was exposed by every unanswered strike against her, by her every cry while he stood, a statue, as she was murdered.

With a final blow, the lady slumped forward. Vic stared into her unmoving eyes…and fell into darkness. The story was told; he was returned.

Vic stood at the statue until closing, until he was asked to leave.

“I’m sorry.” he whispered, but he could no longer meet her eyes.

(Word Count 499)

Ah, this piece was troublesome. I actually wrote it twice – I think this is the better one. It was intended to do double duty:

  • a Jacopo della Quercia #PopQuizHotShot challenge. But I think I took too long, and its not a funny piece, which is what I normally try to target for the #PopQuizHotShot challenges (Jacopo writes for Cracked). It is also a day late (I prefer to turn Jacopo’s challenges around within a few hours if I’m going to give them a shot – twitter has a short attention span).
  • additionally P.S. Hoffman challenged his readers to write a 500 word piece that had an ‘internal conflict’ that is a character with two contrasting and conflicting motivations. Now this story has this conflict (Vic’s desire to save her vs Vic’s desire to ensure the statue is created), but… the conflict is late in the piece, it comes up in the last 150 words. I’m just not sure if it hits the target; it’s a glancing shot, not a clean kill.

So I have a story I have written twice, supposed to do two things and perhaps doing none, but hell, I’m still posting it. I like the idea, and I think its not terribly written. That said, 500 words is a cruel limit for fiction, and this feels truncated to me.

Of course, I could be wrong, it could be as ugly as a bucket of smashed crabs, so let me know what you think in the comments. All feedback is appreciated.




14 thoughts on “Her unmoving eyes

  1. Oh that’s good. Beautiful descriptions really bring the sculptor’s studio alive – the noise and the smells. I think you covered the inner-conflict aspect well. If it had come in any earlier, I think it would have been too laboured. ‘Tell me your story’ and Vic tumbling through time/ the floor to learn it was different but worked well. Really enjoyed reading this and being transported with Vic.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much. I laboured that time travel process in the first draft, chewed up too many words. This seemed an elegant solution – fewer words & just hope the reader comes along with me 🙂


  2. Interesting idea. I thought at first it was a modern Pygmalion, but inserting a plausible realistic theory into the construction of the statue was genius. Those Greek/Roman statues which we admire so much who were they of? The equivalent of film stars of their day (top athletes, top courtesans, noble ladies) or slaves expected to endure anything and killed for the smallest offence. Also there is a subscript. Some psychics are reputed to read the history of objects – so a bit of time travel thrown in. Love this stuff. Good story. Agree. 499 words was a bit tight.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks – Pygmalion would have been an interesting take…

      I love the moral conundrums presented by time travel – should I change things, what happens to the future – which really means ‘what happens to me’. If you ask someone “would you kill Hitler if you went back in time to before he rose to power and had the chance?” Many would say yes. If you then say – what if you could only go back to the time when he was 3 years old – could you kill a toddler Hitler?

      As the In the original draft (which went on too long), I inserted a part that addressed whether he COULD actually make a change to the past or whether it is fixed and he is a mere spectator… but by changing the ending such that he ‘made his choice by not even trying’, I think it worked a bit better (and had fewer words).


      Liked by 1 person

  3. I jumped to the conclusion that your hero had made an unexpected psychic reading – so he was only an observer. To support actual time travel would have been cumbersome in a short story requiring you to invent a plausible technology. But not explaining what happened is better – if is after all a mystery and you leave the reader to draw their own conclusions. I read somewhere that a priest saved Hitler from drowning when a child. Actual time travel though – I suspect our universe is designed so that couldn’t happen. The ramifications are unimaginable. The daydream of changing ones own past evaporates when you realise if you had the ability so would everyone else – which would probably defeat your purpose. There is aSF writer who used time travel – changing the past as a theme. Unfortunately I don’t remember which writer or the name of the story. But he was good at showing why it would not be possible even though the story relied on the possibility. The usual theory that time travel/changing the past would destroy our universe at least – looks highly credible. “The moving finger writes …” And we’re stuck with it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This was fantastic KT. I was drawn into the character from the moment you showed his … very strong emotions for the statue. I think you chose the most interesting choice for such a short piece, I wasn’t sure how you were planning on ending it until I read it all the way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks mate – it took ages to get ‘right’! I’m glad you liked it.

      My alternative story for your ‘motivations post’ was going to be a writer who couldn’t choose between different ways to write his story & ended up just drinking martinis instead :p


      Liked by 1 person

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