The Creation of Night
The Creation of Night
There was no denying it: the thing was hideous.
Though it had a roughly human shape with more or less proportioned head, neck, torso, and limbs, it was devoid of normal human features; it had a smooth, flat face with wide-set, opaque eyes, round nostrils where its nose should have been, a lipless slit of a mouth. It was fashioned naked yet had no navel, nor genitalia, and its surface was a sheen of sickly, milky gray. It ought to have been transparent, like all his other full-size glass sculptures. How had it turned out like this? What did it mean?
As Malcolm stood stooped and sweating in the cramped chamber of his annealing oven, the answer rippled across his consciousness like a pebble of truth thrown into a swamp of denial: hed been too drunk this time, or too high on the new drug cocktail hed used for ‘inspiration. In fact, he barely remembered what hed been doing in the studio. Hed woken from some kind of hazy nightmare knowing only that there was something awaiting him in the oven, and that he must see it: everything else pertaining to the last eight hours or so was a blank. Probably he was trying to get that damn commission finished so he could look Lorna in the face again, affirm her abiding faith in him and repay her for her tireless work booking exhibits, promoting his art, preserving his reputation. And for what? Her commission fee ammounted to peanuts compared to the effort she put in. The truth was she didnt manage him for the money. She managed him because she was a good friend who wanted him to succeed, wanted to keep him honest. And all he did was disappoint her.
He put on the canvas work gloves tucked into his apron and grabbed the thing by its shoulders, preparing to remove it from the oven–what did it matter now if it cracked from cooling too quickly? “Its back to the flames for you, my vile friend,” he muttered into its misshapen ear as he heaved it though the low, steel-framed door of the annealing pod and picked his way through the mess of empty wine and beer bottles, open jars of enamel, and disheveled boxes of junk glass littering the floor of his studio. Then he nearly dropped it.
“Mother of God!”
The thing had moved. Not settled somehow as it cooled, not tilted over as a result of his movements or a random gust of air, but moved itself, of its own volition. Hed seen its fingers reaching, felt a quiver beneath his gloves like the slight flexing of muscle . . . but no, it couldnt be. Malcolm began shaking, as he did when he had to go too long without a drink, and nearly knocked the sculpture over as he set it down. It had to be stress–that combined with his imagination, which had been described by several art critics as astonishing. He had certainly astonished himself tonight!
“God, Malcolm, you need a brandy,” he said aloud. The thought of it calmed him, then cheered him. He laughed at himself and his queer companion, parodied its bland expression.
“Why dont you make yourself useful and clean up this hellhole?” he taunted before flicking off the lights of the studio and ascending to the house above.
Next morning, despite a bad hangover, Malcolm kept his resolve and dragged himself down the stairs to his basement studio; much to his surprise, he found it neat and organized, with all his tools cleaned and hung in ordered fashion, the floor cleared of debris. The whole room smelled pleasantly of lemon disinfectant and ammonia. Malcolm crossed his arms and nodded approvingly. He couldnt quite remember having cleaned up, but congratulated himself anyway as he noted the newly mopped cement floor. If only the shelves werent so bare! But hed grown so weary of the silly little vases, plates, and other baubles he sold in the gift shop. They seemed so trivial, so banal compared with his gallery pieces. Yet, as Lorna took pains to remind him, they kept food on the table until the art pieces sold; or they had, when hed been more productive. He should really pop off a few dozen vases and dinnerware sets before the tour bus season arrived, if only to please Lorna. But no, first he would see to that terrible sculpture. Thats when he finally noticed: the thing was missing.
“Now where the devil did I put you?” he mumbled. Then he began remembering snatches of the hallucination hed had when hed moved the thing out of the oven, and felt the skin prickle and hair rise on the back of his neck. Surely it couldnt No, of course it couldnt! He must have destroyed it, broken it up for seed glass before sorting his shards and cleaning up … now what was that? He looked