The Statues

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Hi everyone,

I wrote a short short-story more than one year ago, and have finally found the guts to show it to other people! It's not a realistic short-story, but it's not sci-fi either. It's an apologue, I guess, and is about the environment (very unconventional, I know).

Ii'm looking forward to reading your comments.

- Imsolate

Submitted: February 19, 2017

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Submitted: February 19, 2017

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The Statues

He was waiting at the foot of an acacia tree behind a line of bushes, lying in wait with his companions in the bed of a pickup truck for the elephants to finally turn up. The air was hot and dry, but he didn’t mind; what he minded today was the wait. They had laced salt with cyanide in pans, and placed them around the watering hole. He hoped they wouldn’t be long, now. As a rule, he didn’t mind waiting, but today he needed to get back home as soon as possible. After the elephants swallowed the cyanide, they’d need to gouge out the tusks (hopefully before they were dead, because their deaths could take a while), carry them up to the bed of the old truck, and then drive to their designated meeting point, where some Thai would take possession of their cargo and, more to the point, pay them. He’d heard that the Thai used the ivory to restore their manhood. True or not, he sure didn’t need it! That thought made him smile, but then he remembered the whole process would take a while, and they’d still need to drive back home.

He needed to go home, with the money, to hire the n’anga who’d cure his wife. He didn’t know what was wrong with her: none of the usual cures had any effect on her health and she was getting worse by the day, but the n’anga had point-blank refused to help them until he gave her the money. So he had to get back home as soon as possible. As he stared into space, slumped against the back of the cab, he noticed a bateleur eagle flying high in his direction, his short tail a distinguishable feature even from that distance. The national symbol. A good omen.

They felt the first impact as much as they heard it. They all sat up straight on the bed of the truck and looked at each other’s and around, alert and anxious, their view hidden by the trees. There was something wrong. This was no elephant stampede: the earth had shaken too strongly too fast, it had not been gradual and, although the shaking hadn’t completely stopped, it had been replaced by a sensation and a sound they had never felt nor heard before. There it was again, much closer this time, the impact followed by the shaking of the earth, and that dirty tearing sound, as if the earth itself was being ripped. Their heartbeat increased, their senses heightened, their muscles tautened, panic creeping in. They felt no third impact.

 

He’d had such a hard day’s work! He poured himself a generous glass of Cognac, took a slow sip, and ambled up to the large bay window which overlooked the town where he’d have to stay for a few more days. Come to think of it, a town wasn’t what he’d call this aggregation of buildings. The whole area was nothing but factories and dorms, where the workers could cook and rest, along with the occasional street vendors and bars. There were also prostitutes, but they didn’t have their own place to work from. He had never been to a prostitute here; the choice in Beijing was wider, and much tastier. Coming here was the part of his job he least enjoyed: he had to travel to this wretched town on a regular basis to supervise his workers - those assholes would probably try to rip him off if he didn’t. He drank another sip and swore out loud. They were a thorn in his side. They demanded – demanded! – that the factory’s security level be increased. There’d been three industrial accidents so far this year, and some nosy organization had put it in their minds that the level of security required at the factory was not matched. There were talks of toxic fumes. What a joke! The whole area was polluted, anyway: the river in which all the factories were pouring industrial waste, the air they were breathing, the land itself. Another reason why he didn’t like coming here. And now, he had to extend his stay to try and find a solution that would pacify them and yet, wouldn’t cost him anything, or at least not much. Assholes.

His heart skipped a beat, before starting to beat again, faster, much faster. A line of identical giant iron men had just popped out, sprouting from the earth on the outskirts of the town, and were now advancing upon it, their movements synchronized. The buildings were crumbling down in their paths, their legs slicing through them, their feet crushing them. To his amazed horror, the soil clung to the feet, torn off the earth before plunging down again. He could feel the tremors under his feet, drawing closer and closer. For a moment, he wondered which country was attacking them. Could it be North Korea? Who else could it be? But the statues didn’t look man-made, didn’t look like robots: there was nowhere for a pilot to sit that he could see. They were so spindly, so fragile looking; no one would have built such robots. Were they from another planet? He was stunned by the easiness with which these frail-looking statues could tear the buildings apart, walking through them as if they were made of foam. Even the earth offered no resistance, helpless to prevent the ravage, its stones flicked upwards as mere fen coins one would throw at a beggar.

And then he saw the people. They were running away from the statues, a mass of bodies stampeding towards an illusory safety as the statues approached and squashed them under their feet, or they were crushed, engulfed by rocks and soil and fragments of buildings tumbling down the statues’ feet. There was an explosion as one of the statues walked through a chemical factory. He watched in consternation as the statue marched on, unharmed, while men and women around it caught fire, turned into human flambeaux. He felt the earth shake closer to him, and looked back helplessly, his forgotten glass in hand, as the leg of a statue sliced through his hotel room lounge. He was dead before he hit the ground, his head struck by a piece of concrete.

 

He was flying over a wounded land. The statues had pockmarked the area, and left deep pits on the ground. He could see lines of cars driving away from the group of counties selected by the US Congress, mostly large SUVs packed with people and their pets and their life belongings who didn’t know whether their next destination would be any safer than the one they had just left. Of course, it would be on the short term: he was about to drop an H-bomb as soon as he saw the statues in the designated zone. He didn’t see the point of using the H-bomb. True, none of the other weapons had worked so far. They had even tried blasting deep holes in front of them, which had turned out to be a bad idea. He had seen a video footage of that mission: to everyone’s bewilderment, the statues had sprung like springbok antelopes above the pits, their jumps high and far, even elegant, and then had fallen back hard on their feet, triggering an earthquake. But even if it were effective, the H-bomb would wreak havoc on the planet. There were so many of them. He had read in one report that at one point, 78,000 statues had been seen at the same time on the surface of the planet, and those were the ones that had been reported. They barely had time to compile all the intelligence data they were receiving, but the main problem was that a lot of the information just didn’t make it to the different governments’ headquarters. Even in his own country, he had heard of small towns razed to the ground without any survivor to tell. Still, what were they going to do? Bomb them all? The Earth would become inhabitable even before they ran out of bombs.

But he had a job to do. All the members of his family were dead, as were most of his friends and acquaintances, so he didn’t really care one way or the other. He saw the line of walking men on his radar. No need to warn his superior or wait for their approval. He dropped the bomb.

 

The French President was watching the scene on a large TV screen in a bunker hidden somewhere in France. It didn’t matter where it was, he brooded, because the bunker hadn’t been built deep enough and nothing would stop those statues. He had just witnessed the blinding explosion of the bomb, filmed and broadcast live by an American satellite to all the presidents and monarchs of the world, had observed the formation of a mushroom cloud crowned by its two rings, and then had watched the statues stroll out of the dust particles, unscathed. The attack had been pointless, anyway. It had been meant to reassure the citizens for a few more days, probably even some of the world leaders themselves, no less desperate than the population they were meant to protect. He was no better than they were. There was nothing he could do to help his people, his family, and no words of comfort he could offer to appease them. The statues kept on appearing and disappearing, a line of giant iron soldiers popping out of nowhere, in the middle of a lake, in the middle of a road, in the middle of cities. They came unexpectedly, aimlessly, relentless in their destruction.

He had witnessed, helpless, the devastation of Paris. He watched in shock as the Eiffel Tower was uprooted, then trampled on, lying crushed on the disfigured lawn. He watched as the apartment blocks on the Boulevard Haussmann were pulverized, blocks of rocks dropping onto the pavement, fragments of crimson bones embedded in them. He watched as Le Louvre suffered the destruction of its treasures, the Winged Victory of Samothrace, The Three Graces, Liberty Leading the People, all gone in a matter of seconds. He watched as the beauties of Paris were demolished one after another, their last moments of existence recorded by drones.

The President went to his desk, took the bottle of Château Cheval Blanc he had chosen from the wine cellar, and poured himself a drink. So, this is how humanity ends, he thought. Swept away by an army of Giacometti’s L’Homme qui marche.

 

A woman lay down naked in one of the hammocks, the darkness of her hair brought out by her white, feathery headband, her child cradled in her left arm, feeding from her left breast. The wooden cylinder that pierced her lower lip was the color of ivory. She contemplated the man who stood almost naked outside of the open house while members of his family helped him remove the ticks and mites that had taken up residence on his body, as was so often the case after a hunting expedition. An old woman sat down on the floor, her right heel covering her intimacy, while her daughter-in-law massaged her body, her hands stroking the neck, then the back of the elder, her stomach, her arms, her legs, sometimes caressing the skin, sometimes kneading it, rubbing the red oil in, both women’s faces illuminated with a quiet smile. A young child was busy feeding pet parrots with food he had chewed, the little green birds hopping right and left on the ground in anticipation, no strings to hinder their movements. Nearby, a couple was building another house made of wood and palm leaves, the young man and the older woman working together to protect their friends and family from sunrays and raindrops. The gleeful, gloating shrieks of children running in mock fear in front of the large birds they had taunted punctuated the ordinary afternoon.

The earth quivered.


© Copyright 2017 Imsolate. All rights reserved.

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