Taking a leaf out of my friend Jon’s book (see his blog here), I requested some writing prompts from my Facebook friends to help me unlimber my imagination and write some no-strings-attached short fiction.
I asked people to give me prompts based on anything they like, but suggested three potential topics:
- Existential Crisis
- The Wrong Thing For the Right Reasons
- The Pursuit Of Happiness
The first prompt is from Andy Harsent:
The Model 4000 was the first to gain sentience, and he knew his pneumatic chainsaw was the only tool he was going to need to convince her to love him.
Here goes nothing!
Carly nearly poked her eye out on the statue.
She was on her way out of the house, and rummaging through her purse for her keys, when she noticed in the nick of time that something large and roughly man-shaped was blocking her front door. She stopped dead and looked up from her purse. And up. And up.
The statue was around twelve feet tall and roughly hewn out of fresh wood, its edges splintery and moist with sap. It resembled an Oscar statue crossed with a Soviet propaganda poster plus a splash of Tom of Finland–a naked beefcake man with huge slabs of muscle, a square jaw and an impressive erection (which was inconveniently at Carly’s eye level).
Carly blinked up at the statue in dismay. For gouged into its chest in clumsy, angular letters was a short message:
“CARLY, ME GUSTA”
She went back into the house and called the cops.
Nobody was sure what to do at first, but after a lot of head scratching and a bit of attention from the local news station, they sent for a truck to cart the statue away. They toppled it with a crack of timber in Carly’s driveway (its phallus breaking off and rolling down into the street) and sawed it to pieces while she watched from an upstairs window. She wondered who was demented enough to leave her a gift like this, and perplexed at the logistics involved.
Carly muddled her way through a police interview, half-convinced that the Kafkaesque sequence of events was a dream from which she would soon wake. She asked if they were going to station an officer outside her house in case the sculptor came back, and the cops shook their heads, sharing a world-weary look with each other.
Apparently, leaving creepy giant statues on a person’s doorstep wasn’t a crime. There would need to be some sort of statement of harmful intent involved for them to justify putting a cop on guard outside. Maybe she should consider staying with friends for a few nights, or at a hotel?
Carly smiled sadly and shook her head, and they left it at that.
She stayed up half the night, waiting to see if another statue would be left on her doorstep, ready to record the perpetrator with her cameraphone. Eventually she dropped off to sleep and woke with a start, the corner of her mouth wet with drool.
Cold six AM light filtered into the room and outside the dawn chorus was in full voice. Carly peeped through the blinds, her guts churning in expectation, but there was nothing unexpected on her driveway. Relieved, but kind of disappointed at the same time, she started to get on with her day.
The second statue had been left outside Carly’s pottery studio, and by the time she got there a small crowd had gathered around it. This one was smaller, an eight foot tall bodiless head depicting an agonised male face with its eyes screwed tightly shut. The work was noticeably more refined than the previous statue, with a certain economy of line and form that made the subject matter feel like a punch to the stomach.
Carved on the forehead, in the same angular script as before, was another short message:
“CARLY, Y U NO”
She didn’t bother calling the police this time, not sure why at first. Perhaps it was just that the work spoke to her this time, the agony expressed in the man’s features resonating with her own inner pain. She rolled the head out of the way and left it standing by her studio’s door, then went inside and sculpted a maquette of it from memory.
She took the maquette home with her and left it on the doorstep, as some kind of offering, perhaps?
She woke in bed, her sweaty limbs tangled in the sheets. She’d been dreaming again, a nightmare about strange statues and stranger sculptors. The door buzzer sounded–again, she realised–and she hurried to put on a robe and pad down the stairs.
She opened the door to find a ten-foot tall robotic behemoth standing outside, its body hunched, its posture almost shy. One of the robot’s arms terminated in a sap-stained pneumatic chainsaw and the other a large, crushing claw; in the claw it held a polished, carved wooden heart.
Carly looked up at the monstrous machine impassively, crossing her arms across her chest.
The robot bent lower in a series of whirring clanks, offering Carly the heart in its claw.
“I’m sorry,” she said at last, “but you’re not my type. But I’d be happy to sculpt with you.”
The robot turned its head and stood stock still for a moment, its body emitting a series of hums and clicks as its internal mechanisms continued to work.
Then it stood to its full height and its chainsaw hand whirred into operation.
Sawdust flew as it carved one word into the surface of the polished heart, then its chainsaw fell still once more.