There was still something off about it. He scowled at his effort and brushed a matted lock off his forehead. The proportions were painfully skewed. Maybe not to the eyes of a layman, but his keen artist’s gaze was relentless. His batch mates had marvelled at the life-size sculpture; the fine chiseling of the soapstone, the painful detailing of the figure’s garms, the all-too-human curves in just the right places. But he was not happy. The flaw was minuscule, but it ailed him like a maddening itch at the anus. There was too much stress on the lower pelvic quadrant, he noted, with grim decision. It was throwing the figure’s relaxed leg off balance.
He twisted the carving chisel between strained fingers. Just the slightest touch will do it… The blade glided through the soapstone and took a thin layer out of the left hip.
Not quite. He gritted his teeth.
The blade in his hand taunted like winking eyes withholding a diabolical scheme. A little more… Just. A little. More.
The blade rose to the left hip and smoothened it out the slightest bit further. He stood back. No! It still looked… wrong.
The imperfection was now an agonizing ache on the inside of his skull. He raised the chisel.
Twist. Examine. Hiss.
Slice. Examine. Repeat.
His lips were gnawed bloody in a fever of his concentration, but he did not taste the piquancy of rust. He could have bitten his lips off entirely, and it would not have made a difference. He did not rest his wrist.
The quest became a metastasis in him – all-demanding, all-consuming. When weakness crept upon his damp brow, he heaved against it with the wild desperation of one fighting sleep to the freezing. It could have been minutes or hours; time unfolded its soft arms from about him and stood back in horror. He did not relent. The chisel was his only tether to sanity.
A door exploded open behind him. He twitched but did not cease.
“Oh Lord! What are you doing! Stop- Oh my god STOP IT-”
He was vaguely aware of frantic footsteps approaching him from across the studio hall. It irked him, but the noise was a mere peripheral distractor. He was not done. The hip was simply not right. He had to make it right.
Heavy arms grabbed his engaged hand and tried to prise the chisel out of it. Someone was screaming into his ear. What do they want! I’m so close! He could not let them interfere. The metastasis in him reared its rotten head and roared. The chisel flew out of his hands. His attempt to fight was futile; there were too many against him. He dissolved into a barrage of thrashing arms, disembodied shrieking and a vague dampness he could not place.
They do not understand! It is almost there! It is almost PERFECT –
There were spots in front of his eyes. “WHAT ARE YOU DOING? Oh dear Jesus!”
He felt the floor dive toward his face. A hard coldness pressed up against his body like an abandoned feline. A black jaw yawned before him, slow and sinister, beckoning. And then there was nothing.
The crowd of campus-residents had to be held back at the studio doors. Paramedics swarmed the area, as did an assortment of crisp, uniformed men. The carving chisel, blade already black, was sealed off in an airtight bag and carried away by gloved hands, like a cursed talisman.
His body had been taken out on a stretcher. The trail of blood that had gushed out of the multiple lacerations on his left hip still marred the expanse of the studio. It snaked from the full-size mirror he had been standing in front of, to the hallway doors. Scarlet. Irregular. Sinuous.