Paris took a very regular route to and from the tower. With little deviation he passed the vendors, and houses, and people, and carts, and barrels, and open windows to meals, and closed ones to arguments. His daily travel to and from his source of income shifted and twisted very little. A left here at the market, a right there at the pottery vendor, and a left after the inn, and he was at his workplace. Turns in the opposite direction brought him back to the tower. Day in, and day out, he navigated this practiced path. Left, right, left, to work. Right, left, right to home. He passed the same people, the same smiles, the same “Hullo Paris!” greetings. He waved at the vendors over, and over, and over again. He nodded to the innkeeper time, and time, and time again. He winked everyday at the mischievous boys wrestling, and playing around the pottery vendor. He shook his head daily at the ragged girl trying to lift fruit from the vendor in the market. His was a commute of routine, of comfort, of familiarity, and of serenity.
Then one day, on his return from work, as he prepared to make a right at the inn, he felt an undeniable pull to continue straight at the intersection. The compulsion was so forceful in breaking his routine that an unsettled feeling crept into his heart. This feeling arrested his footsteps, and halted the swing of his arms. His gaze snapped from its rightward inclination to the alley across from the inn. He had to know what drew him there, he knew he must forfeit the luxury of his rote stroll to investigate the alley.
The innkeeper was just dipping his chin towards the ground when Paris abruptly redirected his path, sidestepped several shuffling groups, and proceeded to the mouth of the alley. The path dimmed in front of him. Paris squinted, and peered far into the alley before him. He couldn’t see an end the little street, so he committed to exploration, and began walking forward.
The alley continued a considerable distance before assuming the curvature of a waxing crescent moon, and then resuming its relatively straight direction. Paris internally measured the distance, and guessed at a half mile stroll before he noticed the path approaching an opening in the distance. As he approached the circular dead-end, he noticed a shape occupying the center.
He closed the distance between himself and the shape and found it was a statue. It was beautifully polished, unmarked, and unblemished. It was an exact facsimile of the perfect, naked, female form. The body of the statue was lithe and toned, with accentuation placed on the size ,symmetry, and shape of the breasts, and firm, ample buttocks. The arms of the statue were out in front of its body, biceps resting gently on the side of its immaculately carved breasts. Its wrists were crossed just below the navel, and her marble genitalia were covered by splayed fingers. The athletic shoulders supported a delicate neckline that culminated in a face tilted towards the ground. It’s face was smooth, lifelike, and featured full, pressed together lips, a small Greek nose, high, rounded, cheek bones, and closed almond-shaped eyes. The hair of the statue was straight, shoulder length, and slightly unkempt. It was beautiful.
Paris marveled at the statue, gazed at it, considered it, touched it, and ultimately became enraptured by it. He circled it once, then twice; he smiled, and then sighed, and he soaked in the beauty of the immaculate carving. He couldn’t fathom how such an exquisite piece of art lay at the tail end of a seemingly forgotten alley. He pondered, and questioned, the draw that had led him to the home of this incredible statue. He drank in the perfection of the form, the masterful craftsmanship of the sculptor, and the incredibly lifelike depiction of female elegance.
The sun began to set as Paris continued his admiration of the figure. The temperature chilled, as he continued his regard of the artwork. The stars twinkled and shone in the sky, and the moon climbed its invisible, curved, track to take its place in the obsidian canopy. Then Paris shook his head and realized how long he had stayed with the statue. He became aware of the lack of sun in the sky, the moonlight accents on the statue, and his weariness brought about by the waning of the day.
He drew his gaze from the moonstruck statue, and forced himself back down the previously unfamiliar alley. He slowly, deliberately, forced himself through the strangely placed curve, forcing himself forward against the drag and pull of the invisible tether affixed to his limbs. He reached the intersection of the avenues, and resumed his journey towards the tower.
His path was visible by moonlight and the occasional torch and fire, instead of the normal, and consistent rays of the sun. He walked his normal route, now making his way between shadows and shifting shapes, instead of between the vendors, the playing children, and the occasional beast of burden, as he returned to his home. Though normally compelled to ascend the tower, pull from within, and commit it to page, he disregarded his normal impulse, as he felt strangely weary. Likely, the extra time spent appreciating his discovery wore him down. He felt the need for rest cling to him like a cloak soaked with morning dew. It pressed upon him, and pushed him toward his bed, coercing him to lay his head upon the pillow.
And then he dreamed.
This wasn’t a dream like that which he normally experienced. It wasn’t one of flying, soaring, or gliding. It wasn’t one of saving, fighting, or dying. It wasn’t one of sadness, or catharsis, or ecstasy. It was about the statue he had seen. In the dream he followed the newly discovered path down the enigmatic alley. He navigated the crescent curve. He approached the clearing amidst the buildings, and he regarded the statue. But in this dream, something was different. In the dream the statue hummed, and buzzed, and Paris could feel life pulsing from inside the statue. In this dream, he walked forward, reached out and placed his palm on the elbow of the statue. The place where he placed his hand went from cold stone to warm flesh in an instant. The grey solidness around the elbow, and into the statues arm, began to morph and change into pale flesh. The effect spread throughout the statues body, and a warmth began to radiate from the changing form. Eventually, the transformation reached the shoulders and neckline and chin. The grey receded from the former statues mouth and a subtle smile formed upon its lips, followed by a barely perceptible flare of its now human nostrils. Her eyelids twitched, stretched, and fluttered open, to reveal stunning brown eyes, flecked with hints of gold and green, the likes of which Paris had never before seen.
He woke from his dream with feelings unlike any he had experienced before. Sitting up, his eyes found nothing but the blackness ensured by the lack of windows in his room, and place at the center of his tower. Paris longed for the image of the beautiful woman transformed from stone. He ached to see the bright radiant eyes and touch, though it may only have been in a dream, the soft, warm body of his awoken goddess. He closed his eyes, lay back down, and willed himself back to the dream. He begged his mind to rest, relax, sleep, calm, anything to let him return to the feeling he experienced when the stone became flesh. He breathed deeply, in, out, in, out, and attempted to move his thoughts to nothingness. When rest would not come, he pressed his eyelids together trying to forcefully impress the dream image of the statue’s open, radiant, eyes into his waking memory. He knew his state of unrest would only be calmed by returning to the influence behind his dream. He felt calm waiting for him at the end of the alley, the one with the crescent curve in its center, the one that led him to the statue. He was convinced that the dream pointed him down a path, he now felt a new purpose waited for him with this statue. He knew what lay underneath the carved marble, the granite exterior, and the cold, polished, beautiful rock. She was real, the dream was but a glimpse of the truth. He alone could awaken this perfect woman. He felt deep in his soul, that if he could touch the statue, he could bring her to life.
He arose from the bed, and busied himself with comfortable, and familiar, tasks and chores. The dream still pressed upon his thoughts, and his feelings of anticipation were heightened. He was excited about this day. His thoughts focused singularly on the alley and the statue, and he ate, dressed, and cleansed mechanically, his mind preoccupied with the vivid imagery of the transforming figure.
He conducted his walk, with its left, then right, then left again turns, automatically. The people he nodded to, waved to, and greeted regularly were a blur, though he walked with the same, practiced stride used with each prior commute. His head was hazy, and swam with images of the statue, as he reached his workplace.
Soon, the end of the work day came for Paris, and he joyfully exited the building into the street. He felt tendrils of allure reach to him from the alley, and he willingly let himself be drawn up and pulled in their direction.
Paris passed the inn, gave the slightest of nods to the innkeeper, and went straight to the mouth of the alley. He picked up his pace and soon reach the curved section. He could feel his heart rate quicken, and a slight heat rise in his cheeks and forehead, and several beads of sweat form near his hairline.
By the time he reached the clearing, he had already wiped his brow several times, and his hands were damp and clammy with perspiration. He paused, stared at the statue, and soaked in its beauty as he had done the prior day. He breathed in deeply, closed his eyes, and recalled the vividness of the previous nights dream. He exhaled, opened his eyes, and walked towards the statue.
The pulse that he felt in the dream wasn’t present, but there was a tinge of mysticism in the air. Paris could feel in his very being that something incredible was about to happen. His hand shook as he reached out towards the statue. Gently, he placed his palm on the statues rigid elbow. He closed his eyes, breathed in through his nose, and internally counted to an impossibly long one.
He opened his eyes, and nothing had happened. The statue was still made of stone. Where his palm contacted the elbow, nothing had changed. The statue was still masterfully carved, beautifully proportioned, skillfully etched, and yet, still a statue.
Paris removed his hand from the arm of the figure. He stared, bewildered, at his palm. He was sure that what he envisioned in his dream was true. Yet, what he had seen in the dream hadn’t managed to enliven the stone.
He tried once more. This time he held his breath for even longer, and in his heart he willed the change to happen. And still nothing happened. There was no flaking of stone, and emergence of flesh. He continued to remove his hand, and then replace it, but no matter how many times he tried, the statue remained rigid. No metamorphosis occurred, and no transmutation made the granite flush with life.
Paris was dejected, confused, and saddened. His dream was so vivid and lifelike, he was sure that he simply needed to place his palm upon the statue, and the hardened exterior would give way to soft, warm, skin, a vigorous heartbeat, and let him look upon those radiant eyes. But placing his hand upon her elbow hadn’t worked. His contact with the rock had not resulted in analchemic response. He retreated down the alley, back through the crescent curve, and continued his commute where he had left off.
He chose not to write again that evening. He had never abandoned his passion for more than one day. But, he was obsessed with the idea of giving life to the statue. He tried to understand why what he felt, and experienced in the dream didn’t work when he executed it that afternoon.
He mulled over many possibilities for why the directions in the dream failed to yield life-giving results. Each of his subsequent conclusions seemed more ludicrous than any previous. Finally he settled on one that didn’t seem so outlandish.
Maybe the touch was symbolic?
Perhaps direct touch wasn’t the answer. Maybe the statue needed to be affected to gain life. Paris considered this very carefully, and knew what he would do the next day.
The routine was quickly becoming inconsequential, and Paris went through the motions in almost oblivious fashion. He found himself at the clearing amidst the buildings, at the same time as the evening before. But he had brought something along this time. He felt that if he could get through to the woman trapped inside the granite shell, if he could affect her somehow, the transformation would happen.
So he sat in the dirt, in front of the statue, removed his guitar from the case he had held in his left hand, and strummed several chords. The chords led to individually picked notes, and then back and forth between the two, as Paris poured himself into the music. He produced melancholy, slow-moving pieces, and fast paced Spanish style flurries. He shifted into mournful ballads where he sang songs of love, and loss, and redemption, to the statue. He moved to happy, fast-paced, driving songs of celebration and festivity. He played music that touched on all aspects of human emotion. He poured his heart into his performance. And though the songs were impassioned, and the playing honest and sincere, the statue continued to remain as still as ever.
Eventually, Paris gave in. He accepted that his singing, and playing, were not affecting the statue. He gently cleaned his guitar, returned it to its case, and regarded the statue solemnly. He sighed; he was exhausted, and slightly exasperated. This was his second failure to animate the statue.
Upon his return to the tower, Paris considered how else he may affect the sculpture. He, again, made a list of his possible options, and, as a result of his exhausting, several hour attempt with his music, chose to retire early, to attempt a new way of connecting the following day.
Left, greetings. Right, Hullo. Left, nod. His travel, the next day, breezed by imperceptibly. His work day vanished. And, just like that, he was back at the statue.
This day, he had brought along a book of poetry. He thought that the fluid, sing-song nature of the prose, might move the being trapped in the stone. He sat on the ground at the feet of the statue, and turned to the first page. He recited line and stanza about rolling hills and babbling brooks. He offered sonnets of romance and revenge. He quoted verses that described mountains and valleys. He referenced quatrains depicting passion, and elegy about loss. He read limericks that made him smile, and haiku that perplexed him. He spoke refrains that brought anger, and couplets that brought calm. Between each piece, he glanced longingly, at the statue. But absolutely nothing changed. The stone didn’t chip or flake. The marble didn’t magically morph into flesh. And ,the statues visage remained as stoic, and placid, as the first time he gazed upon it.
Paris knew then, that poetry was clearly, not the way to reach the soul in this statue. He stood, tucked the book under his arm, and by starlight, navigated his way through the alley. Once again, he shuffled home by torch and moonlight, and knew that he would be abandoning his commitment to the page in pursuit of his dream.
The next day he brought flowers to the statue. He chose beautiful, perfectly formed flowers, with delicate, silken to the touch petals, that he brushed on the hardened physique, before laying them at the statues feet. He plucked fragrant lilac, honeysuckle, primrose, and jasmine. He waved them in slow circles in front of the statue, hoping that the scents would stimulate olfactory sensors beneath the stone. The floral smells drifted towards the sky, and passed the statue with no effect. Paris drew in, and reveled in the fragrant and pleasurable boutique, before it was lost to the wind. And yet, once again, he observed, no augmentation to the sculpture.
The following day, he thought of the contact that he had made in his dream, and his hand upon the statues elbow, and procured lavish oils and lotions. He gently applied the oils, with his fingertips, on the elbow, lower back, and calves of the statute. He tried applying scented lotion with his palm on the statues hands, feet, and perfectly sculpted thighs. He dripped the fragrant oil on the figures head, stomach, and across the statues breasts. He massaged the lotion onto her, cheeks, neck, shoulders. And still, the statue remained unchanged.
Paris retreated that evening feeling defeated, and slightly heartbroken. He had little money to make efforts with lavish goods, nor precious metals. And after exhausting himself with the music, prose, flowers, and unguents, doubt began to take root in his heart.
He started to wonder if he had missed something in the dream. He began to search his memory of the dream to try to catch a missed detail. But the dream had begun its travel to the hazy realm, and Paris found recalling specific elements challenging, with only major shapes and actions coming into his mind’s eye.
But he was undaunted by his failures, and continued to visit the statue each day. After his left, right, left, breeze through the workday routine, Paris found himself back at the statue. Some days he touched the statue, some days he had simple conversations with it. Some days he sang to it, and some days he pleaded for a response. Some days he brought small trinkets, testing different items and materials, and everyday, the same result, nothing.
Paris was resolute, and day after day, continued his pursuit to animate the being, he knew to be trapped under that granite shell.
One day, after this devotion had lasted many cycles of the sun and moon, something changed.
In the morning, nothing was different. Paris conducted his left, right, left travel. As he made his last turn he looked towards the alley, knowing that he would visit the statue at the conclusion of his work day.
After his workday, his rote actions delivered him to the entry point of the alley. But when he got there, there was no opening. He stared blankly at, quite simply, a wall. There was no evidence of the alley that he had entered so many times. He looked from side to side, bewildered, sure that some trick had been played on him. But all the passersby were engaged in their business, and no prankster lingered behind a cart, or stall, to snicker at him. He knew that he had taken the correct path, he had done so countless times. He never doubted his sense of direction.
Perhaps the wall was some sort of crafty illusion? Paris needed to test its concreteness to be sure. He began to tap lightly on the wall, and finding it solid, frustration and despair began to enter him. He started smack the wall with his palms, and out of his mouth came the moans of “No, no, no, please no.”
His hands became bloodied from the force with which he hit the wall, and soon crimson streaks appeared, accompanied by his loudly wailing, “NO!” over and over again. The people in the street became alarmed, and dragged Paris away from the wall. No one knew how to address his bizarre behavior, and shooed him back to his home.
Paris went back to the tower, and wept.
After he wept all the strength from his body, and all the resilience from his weary soul. Paris slept.
When he woke the next day he felt completely hollowed out, as if someone had crept into his room, in the middle of the night, and siphoned all essence from him. He went through his routine, conducted his navigations, and impulsively found himself at the wall, which was once an alley. His blood still streaked the wall in front of him, but he just stared at it, in his mind failing to recognize the obstacle in front of him. After a time, he willed himself home.
Out of habit, he repeated the same process the next day, the day after that, and even more days beyond that. Until one day, he stood at the wall, and couldn’t recall why he kept coming there. The wall that sealed off the alley, removed all hope of making that vivid dream come. And he knew that he had tried everything that he could, to make that dream real. He held out his hands in front of him, and knew that they were finally healed.
With a weight lifted from him, Paris returned to the tower. He sat at the doorstep, and used his repaired hands to play his guitar, pleasing those whole passed him in the street. He climbed the stairs that evening to the tower, and after an extensive absence, drew from his heart, once again, words he put to the parchment on the table in front of him. He reached deep into his soul to weave a tale, deep, passionate, inspiring, and mournfully heartbreaking.
Upon completion, he stood at the table, drew in the evening air, and sighed contentedly. He closed his eyes, and breathed in through his nose, bringing his shoulders up and towards his head. He then gathered up the pages in his hands, and delivered them to the gentle, evening, breeze.