A downloadable game

He is calling me perfection again. I, on the other hand, watch my creator slowly crumble and disintegrate, as only putrid flesh can do. His chisel has lain fallow for years now, next to the last block of marble. His hand rasps dryly over my unflinching surface, as he cackles to me, “You are my ultimate triumph, boy.” I register mild disgust at his fawning, but soon he is silent and both of us know peace.

Orderly people arrive and spend time poking and examining. They remove him. Finally they lift me and clean me. They bring me to the lord of the estate. He looks stern and distracted. He clips his words as he asks wherever on earth they found me. As he nears me for a better look, there is a sudden flurry in the hall. Accustomed as I am to greys and browns and the old man’s stale plates of food, I am taken aback by the rush of silky color.

“Oh, darling, what have you found for me now, a statue?” A petite head of ringlets bounces at the lord. “He looks like a dream. Perfect for the West Terrace. I shall have my tea with him every morning while I gaze at the water. He will keep my secrets better than I myself do,” her voice tinkles lightly as she places her flushed cheek against my shoulder. Awkward, uncomfortable sensations arise in me, but my countenance remains impassive as ever.

I spend a languid summer privy to the earnest whispers of Cleo. Not unsurprisingly, most of them are about the stern lord. However, what her whispers about the lord deliver in sheer number, they seldom match in attention. It is only after the chambermaid delivers the tea that Cleo’s confessions are full of tiny omissions and take on a halting nature. The daily ritual is a small stage for Cleo to explore.

“Lisette, I’m sorry, would you please taste my tea. I fear it is too hot.” Lisette, barely her mistresses’ age, bends low over the tea, touching the cup lightly to her lips.

“Milady, it feels about right, ma’am, it does. Should I give it a little blow?”

“Please,” replies Cleo, watching the lips carefully for any hint of distress at warmth. Lisette blows slowly, so as not to spray any hot tea onto her mistress, but as she takes in her third breath, Cleo starts suddenly, slipping in the chair and jostling the whole cup into her own lap. She howls in surprise, and quick as a flash, Lisette is up under her, lifting her skirts to prevent scorched skin.

“Oh, ma’am,” says Lisette’s muffled voice, “we’ll have to walk like this into the room to get these off. ‘Twould be a shame to have you burnt after all.” She holds the bundle of skirts off her mistress’ thighs, using both hands and tucking some material under her chin.

“Oh you look a silly goose,” giggles Cleo as the girls stumble over the doorway, careening into a chair. I can no longer see them in the recesses of the room, but I can hear more clumsy fumbling and giggles, and occasional huskier expressions of surprise.

Along with autumn comes news, first of harsh weather, then failed crops and trouble. On its heels, panting hotly, war and fire sweep the land. For awhile, I continue to watch over the pool. Cleo takes her tea inside and secrets are no longer even breathed.

I am there, watching mutely, when the rowdy troops sweep through. That evening, the lord’s head grimaces from atop the gate. Cleo and Lisette entertain the Lieutenant and officers. Lisette caresses Cleo to distract and amuse the officers and to ease Cleo’s rough introduction into a world of insignificance and brutality. In the end, it is the intermittent screaming from the village which covers the officers’ revelry.

As the night wears on, the troops engage in target practice with fixtures on the roof. They have scavenger hunting competitions between the regiments with golden goblets as the prize. Units compete to pull the statuary off balustrades, and the drunker of the burly soldiers entertain their comrades with mock plays of statuary seduction. My pale form falls victim to their escapades. Torn from my base, I find myself falling into water, fast then slowly. Muted and muffled, with my visage moving ever further from them, I settle and rest.

Later as they leave, they burn everything. The reflection of colossal flames plays across the surface of the water, but underneath I see only a mesh of lambent color.

Time is passing. Time is passing every day, and yet it makes no difference to me. Forgetfulness is my only companion here.

Cool and smooth, I fill the place I occupy, bound on all sides by warmth and movement in the water. Experiencing myself as present and here, I oddly, however, experience that which is around me as flickering, as sometimes-there-but-sometimes-not. That which is around me breathes the excitement and suspense of existence, the thrill of doubt. I am jealous from my marbled and stolid solidity.

I yearn for more, for the electric uncertainty of life. The images reflected on the water surface are in constant flux as they reach me. Images of a blue bird and a yellow flower in the wind gain streaks of green as they approach me. As their reflections blend together in the water, shifting slowly and constantly, they achieve more wings for flight than possible in air.

I have never shifted. Perhaps I will never shift.

Shard-like, broken images of angry faces fall down around me, and I feel prickles of intention brush me on their way down. I see the mouths shaping words, but as the images drift, the mouths open to gaping holes and form a strange new beast, which runs away.

Dimness prevails, and as the sifting of reflections continues I start to forget the past. I now only recognize pieces. Echos float down, but I no longer know where the fragments belong, what order they follow, where their allegiances lie.

I first see the reflections of shapes and colors lite upon the surface far above. They ripple and flap in the wavelets, and then my imagination catches one edge in the water and they are slowly curled under. So begins descent. I watch as they float down towards me.

I have been here a long time.

I try to ask the reflections their stories, but they are powerless to help me discern their difference from the other fragmented reflections. The reflections don’t speak but have a sort of language of actions. I must take them as they come. Fish swim through them, rifting the reflections’ tenuous unity. A fish swims towards me, scales covered with the memories of bird plumage from the garden, and fish eyes protrude incredulously above the sunken reflection of a garrulous beak. The fish implores me not to mind the unintentional frivolity of its garments. He tells me he knows nothing of the fickle air because he pushes against water, against that which is solid and believable. Who would push against airy nothingness to move forward? How would you manage in a world with all that emptiness? He sings to me, instead, a soothing song of trapped air, of small bubbles that are encapsulated and safe, and then disappears into the murk.

When images arrive together where I am, I cannot tell if they are together by choice or chance. What I see might be separated above by time or space and could have drifted together randomly as it approached me. Or it could be the result of some gargantuan effort above, the defeat of teeming, scheming destiny by the struggles of puny actors in a moment of freedom.

As I steep in the jangling cacophony of images, I see a glimmer of one that I understand. It is something reaching. It mirrors my hand.

For what feels like centuries now, in the moments of my eternal isolation I have stared at the only part of myself that I can see, my hand, seemingly my soul’s only gesture. It stretches outward from my line of vision, pointing towards who knows what, expressing I know not what, and imploring that of which I can only dream.

And today, I see a hand elsewhere, reflected. It is the first coherent vision I have seen. Thus far, reflections have provoked curiosity or revulsion or made me laugh or sigh with their novelty or mystery, but this is the first time I have experienced the pang of recognition. Fingers stroke the water. It is dappled in its agitation.

I stir.

I desire motion and the precious separation of each time and space which accompanies action. I follow my reaching hand, pushing aside water thick with images.

Breaking the surface, I gasp. Everything stretches around me, devoid of content. I wave and clutch and grasp with no hold as my consciousness slides first one way and then another, aching for the absent orientation of color and form. I slide with panic through the air and collapse on the ground beside the water. In the distance, I see a small child running, waving hands in the air, I can’t tell if in glee or terror.

For the first time, I wonder at myself. No longer cool or smooth, I pull my legs painfully to my chest and hunch over, the new raw air knocking in my chest.

Slowly I stand, the folds of my tunic now shifting in unaccustomed fashion across my skin.

Also unaccustomed is a growling in my midriff and a dizziness. I start with unsteady steps, sure that what I need is not here and for the first time certain that there is an elsewhere and that I can reach it. The distance between here and there is shaped by my desires, a tapering bridge of gradual disenchantment with here and projection into what otherwise could yet be, into a there in the future that I cannot yet make out. The space between here and there is mine to fill, loudly with urgency or with quiet contemplation.

I set off, crashing through brush and grasping at berries. With time, I learn stealth and reap the benefits of my quick silent hands. I cover ground rapidly and find animals for meat, warm skins and even sinew for strings. I fashion a small harp, and my loneliness is no longer contained solely in the gesture of a hand. The hand plucks a string and gives expression to the very air about it, which trembles. The space surrounding each gesture allows for a preparation, an intention and a release. What once seemed precarious and empty air now allows me to feel to completion and experience the feeling’s fruition as it wafts off, carried on the air according to its own weight and dynamics. My harp, born of my hunger and searching, is offspring of my heart and the sovereign of space.

(Image by Stormseeker on Unsplash)

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