The Sculptor's Grief

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic

This short story--though one might more accurately call it a short "scene"--is based on a conversation between me and a friend, an aspiring painter who struggled with his commitment to art. Though he is extremely passionate about what he does, often he finds himself paralyzed by lethargy and the fear that his ideas will not be able to take shape. He described the feeling as being akin to "a sculptor driven mad by a block of marble that refuses to take the shape he desires".

 

The old man sat waiting, eyes downcast. His breathing was pained and laborious, lungs weakened by prolonged exposure to dust and stale air. Clasped tightly in his hands were a worn-out chisel and hammer, his arms swinging them lazily to his sides like makeshift pendulums. There was no movement, no murmurs; with figure slumped in wretched isolation, his only company rested in the presence of a large slab of smooth, uncut marble set in front of his degenerating form.

Withered by the burden of age and toil, his wrinkled features contorted into a snarl as he let go of the items in his hands, tossing them angrily across the floor of the dimly lit workspace.  The sharp scratching sound of the hammer and chisel sliding across the floor and the bang of iron colliding against the wall filled the dark space with a momentary verve, the only sign of activity in what seemed an eternity. But the noise receded quickly, and the room was plunged back into the heavy silence that consumed the entire room. Even what little light that was there, emanating from a few tiny candles grouped together at the eastside corner, seemed to withdraw in fear of being devoured by the disquieting stillness as if it were some terrible beast.

The aged sculptor, who had unconsciously relished in the short-lived clamor but was aroused from his half-conscious daze when the ringing passed, sighed deeply and, raising his head, focused once again on the untouched slab. His eyes were now centered at the object of his obsession before him. There the sculptor sat, gazing angrily, pleadingly, the orbs under his furrowed brow in the throes of lamentation. He entreated to the stone for release, his pitiful countenance now running with sweat and tears, a sorrowful exhibition to which the cruel rock offered no response. It just stood there, a singular pillar of immovable fortitude.

An overwhelming fear gripped the old man’s exhausted spirit. His brilliant vision remained trapped within that great stone, stubbornly hidden in the core beneath its shell of cold rock. All efforts made by him to realize that vision in his mind have all met failure, and the resulting disenchantment paralyzed him, unable to so much as etch a tiny dent onto the marble’s face. His was an unfortunate dilemma, and it chilled him to the bone.

‘Was it all for naught?’ the sculptor thought bitterly. His mind fell silent for a moment before it continued. ‘Of what higher purpose does this awesome displeasure serve me? What do I stand to gain, or to lose? What mockery or praise shall I receive? What is there for me, if any at all?’

Dreadful reflections turned quickly into ravenous articulations. “My art, my beauty, my grace—my brilliant light! It is all there has to be! The splendor of my final rest, trapped in this column of rock!” He laid his hands on the stone as his thoughts raced on, taking shape in the sculptor’s mad bawling. “I must have it! I must have it! Forsake me not, my one and only treasure!”

“Do not lose me! Keep me with you!” The old man croaked and barked in a crazed stupor, grazing and scuffing at the stone with his bare hands. He attacked the marble slab with an almost demonic fervor, scratching and flailing violently at the unflinching marble until his fingertips ripped and tore apart. With nary a cringe or a pause for breath, he continued his assault, unceasing in his painful dirge. “You will not be lost!”

His burst of enraged lunacy left wet stains and splashes of blood on the marble slab’s surface, bits of his broken nails and pieces of torn skin mixed into the dark red ooze. What once contained his grand vision was now an effigy of blood and tears—but still it stood there. In its ghastly stature, still it stood, blissfully and cruelly ignorant of the intense sorrow that befell the old sculptor.

“No, no… all is lost.” His bloodied hands, now covering face in a vain attempt to shield himself from the shame and horror, muffled the sculptor’s words choked words as the blood seeping from his gored palms. “All is nothing. Useless… all useless.”

Again, the stone offered no answer; it offered no repose, neither psalm nor revelation. And so the sculptor’s cries ceased, his hands crooked and shaking, blood dripping onto the stone flooring as silence gripped the air once more. 

 


Submitted: April 26, 2012

© Copyright 2021 Jan Gabriel. All rights reserved.

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Comments

LittleStar

And yet another beautiful story. I really felt like I was witnessing the whole scene firsthand; although sometimes, your words were far too deep for me to fully grasp, lol. Nonetheless, this is very well written.

Fri, April 27th, 2012 2:07pm

Author
Reply

Hahaha, thank you again Little Star! (I think your pen name is very fitting, considering your age. :D) I hope I didn't go too overboard with some of the more obscure terms. I believe that a good piece of literature is one that compromises between readability and intellectual provocation. :)

Fri, April 27th, 2012 8:54am

brucek

first time i've read about the phenomenon, from the point of view of an artist, that faces all writers: being blocked. you did a great job of bringing out the emotional anguish the creator goes through when facing this. you also have an impressive vocabulary. i don't know if you are a fan of sculpture, but i am, and i highly recommend reading "the agony and the ecstasy", a novel about michelangelo's life. one of my all time favorite books. it's wonderful.

Mon, April 30th, 2012 3:28pm

Author
Reply

Thank you for your feedback, Brucek! Yes, it's one of those things that we as artists face constantly, and one that many people with so much potential have succumbed to. :) I will be sure to look for that book you mentioned when I visit the bookstore next week. I would also like to suggest the book "Chasing the Sun", which is kind of like a journalistic retelling of the influence of the Sun in human history and culture. :)

Mon, April 30th, 2012 9:45am

girly1986

wow!!!

Thu, May 3rd, 2012 7:15am

Author
Reply

Hahah, I'm glad you liked it. Or is that shock? I'm not sure. :D xD

Thu, May 3rd, 2012 12:29am

El Steveo

Hey Jan, well this certainly strikes a chord close to home. This is really well done, great scene setting and mood expressed in such a short block of writing (very Hemmingway-esque). Rich use of language and imbued with meaning, top marks man!

Fri, May 4th, 2012 6:09pm

Author
Reply

Thanks again, El Steveo! Feedback from a writer of your talent is always welcome. :D Also, I'm interested in why this particular piece "strikes a chord close to home". Hahah :)

Sat, May 5th, 2012 4:20am

El Steveo

Your welcome Jan, and please, you'll give me a big head, lol. To answer your question, I've lost count of the times I've stared at a blank piece of paper (more accurately, a blank document on Word) with an idea, typed the opening sentence, deleted it, retyped it, deleted it, etc. At times I run into a dreaded wall when I'm writing, and I have to get up and walk away to leave it to another day or night. At other times, the words, sentences, paragraphs, just seem to flow (usually after a beer or two, lol). I love to write of course, but other times I view the whole process with contempt, so I totally identify with the sculptor represented so artfully here.

Sat, May 5th, 2012 2:52pm

Author
Reply

Haha, us artists are all pretty familiar with the sentiments of the sculptor aren't we? (Maybe not to that extreme; I would much prefer to keep my sanity and the flesh on my fingers intact. Hahaha!) I guess it's just one of those curses that we aspiring writers have to live with. :)

Sat, May 5th, 2012 10:13am

Helena Parris

This tale definitely touched a chord. Haven't bled on my keyboard yet, but plenty of times I wish I could.

Mon, May 7th, 2012 1:15am

Author
Reply

Thanks, Helena! Hahah, this was a more visceral interpretation of what all aspiring artists like ourselves face. :)

Tue, May 8th, 2012 5:28am

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