Monday, March 17, 2014

The Statue

This was my entry for a short story competition that had to be about the supplied image. The closing date has passed, and I've not shared many of my stories in public before so I thought I would share this one. If you have time to read it then I hope you like it. Thank you.

The Statue

The interior of the shop was clean, white, vast, cold. A paragon of minimalist architecture in the city. Each wall was a perfect right angle, and the high ceiling of the room, at least as large as a cathedral, was marked with a perfectly regular pattern of square mirrors.

George was standing in the middle of the space wearing a long black coat, a grey scarf, and a silent, fascinated stare. He was looking at a statue that sat on a white rectangular plinth. The statue was metal, green weathered copper, and depicted two figures facing each other, almost medieval in form and wearing conical cloaks like wizards. They were supporting a ring between them, grasping the rim as though in reverence of the circular hole.

A smartly dressed saleswoman appeared beside George.

“Can I help you?”

George remained staring at the object in fascination. “I'm sure I've seen it before somewhere, but I can't quite place it...”

“I know what you mean. It's a one-off though. An original.”

“I'll take it,” he said, then looked for first time at the woman. She had short black hair, pale skin and neat, black-rimmed spectacles that covered dark, kind eyes. He was struck by how beautiful she was. She smiled and gestured to a distant colleague.

The city street outside was busy, teeming with Christmas shoppers that snaked and bubbled along the grey slushy streets like mating salmon. George meandered through the happy crowds, hugging the black heavy package of his new purchase. His flat was nearby, just a short walk. He pushed along the wide pavements, lowering his head against a new flurry of winter sleet, and swept left into a twisting side-street. This road was much quieter, grey and lifeless, set with cars parked at unusual angles, and flanked by tall buildings of concrete and black windows.

At all times George's mind was on the statue. He was certain that he'd seen it before, somewhere, but where!? The memory was tangible, so real, but so elusive, something from a few years ago perhaps, while on holiday? No, that wasn't it! It was something else. Something deeper. In the shop it attracted him as soon as he saw it, calling to him with an unheard love song. Reeling him in on an unseen thread.

At the end of the road was a block of flats in the art-deco style. George bumped through the glass doors to enter the building, and was soon inside his dim apartment. He cleared a small coffee table and put the package on top, then unwrapped the crisping black coverings with care.

Perhaps the ring was a clue? He looked at the gold ring on his left hand, pausing as if caught by a memory. It was a wedding band, a smooth circle of gold. He rotated the ring with the fingers of his other hand to reveal some tiny letters, beautifully inscribed into the metal: “LUCY I LOVE”

Lucy was gone now. She was still alive, somewhere. Yes, probably still alive. Perhaps in another country somewhere sunny, or perhaps somewhere mundane. Perhaps very close to this small dreary flat, in this cold concrete maze of a wintery English city. George had lost touch with her many years ago.

Lucy was blind, fair skinned, with a shock of strawberry-blonde hair. Everyone thought her very beautiful. Everyone except Lucy herself. Her disability made her seem more special to George, and made her more reliant on him, but it was George's first proper relationship and they weren't an ideal match. Over time, her needs made George feel more like a carer than a partner, a man used, unloved. Lucy became insecure and guilty, trying to rely less on George but this only had the effect of making her more isolated, more introspective, and her soft, warm core became surrounded by a shell, like clay, that grew harder, and thicker.

Out of loneliness George began to get close to another woman, a kind woman with short black hair, who was a great comfort, but as those soft tentacles of love reached out towards her, Lucy found out, and she left instantly. She cut George off, and out, for good. It was as though both were thrown, far apart and far away from each other into two dark pools of a radioactive gas, two distant pits in space across which no light or thought or sound could cross.

The other woman had vanished, and over time Lucy and George became colder, darker people, more silent and still. The red coal of love inside them, once as warm and fresh as a spring morning, began to change to yellow, then green, then black. Icy and dead. The only thing between them was the ring, this hard band of brittle metal they forged together when they were happy, so long ago.

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