I’ve been friends with Alan since elementary school. We lived down the block from each other and basically grew up as brothers, with all of the good and bad stuff that entails. We’ve celebrated successes, mocked each others’ failures, seen all of the positives and negatives of each other for over two decades.
So when, a couple months back, Alan said that he was taking up figure sculpting, I snorted. I mean, what I wrote back was “Cool, man, I can’t wait to see it,” but what I was thinking was “I can’t wait to see you swearing about it.” Alan loves taking up new hobbies, but I’ve never seen one last more than six months. At various times in his life, he’s played soccer, baseball, football and lacrosse. He’s done swimming and track. He’s played at least four different instruments, taken up various types of painting, carried a sketchbook, and even tried his hand at whittling.
He buys the supplies, is super into it for a few months and swears he’s going to make it his profession, and then as soon as it gets difficult he drops the whole thing. And that’s sort of okay, because—and I say this as the closest thing to a brother he’s got—he pretty much sucks at all of them. The visual arts especially.
I don’t know much about sculpting, but I distinctly remember Alan’s attempts at figure drawing. It was like he’d never seen a person before. I don’t know what tutorials he was working off of, but he could have turned his sketches in as drawings of Slenderman. A child’s drawings of Slenderman, anyway. And not like a talented child.
Anyway, my point is that I figured that sculpting a person would be at least as hard as drawing one, with the added difficulty of having no way to erase mistakes. So I was excited to see what sort of a monstrosity Alan would produce. I kept bugging him to send me pictures of the work in progress, but he would just put on a lofty air and declare that he had artistic integrity to maintain.
I wasn’t the only one on his case. Everyone knew his tendency to pick up and drop hobbies, and we were all giving him a hard time about it. There was even a bet going on about how much of a statue he’d get done before he quit. I said he was going to get three-quarters done. No one else was willing to go that high.
Then last weekend, Alan called us all to come over. He said he was ready for the unveiling, and that we should all come over for drinks to admire his sculptures. Sculptures, plural.
I was impressed and a little bit skeptical. It’d only been a few months, Alan had been holding down a day job during that time, and he’s never been the type to really knuckle down to get a task done. So I figured we were going to see like a couple of amorphous busts, maybe some kind of clay hand reaching up from the ground, that kind of thing.
When we arrived, Alan had a curtain hanging over a section of his living room, cutting off a slice of it. There were four of us coming over—me, Cara, Julio and Erica—and he insisted that the reveal would have to wait until everyone arrived. Julio was late, so while we waited for him we cracked open drinks and made jokes about how bad the statues were going to look. Alan took it all with decently good humor. His look was slightly aggrieved and slightly smug, like he knew we’d all be eating our words in a minute.
Julio arrived, and Alan dimmed the lights on our side of the living room. We all fell silent as we stared at the shadows visible on the curtain. No details were visible, but there were four distinct statues, and each one was life-size.
“These’ve gotta be just like big rocks, right?” Julio whispered to me. “No way he had time to make four full statues.”
Before I could answer, Alan called out, “Behold!” and pulled down the curtain. Our jaws dropped.
At the far side of Alan’s living room stood four perfect replicas of us carved out of smooth marble. The likenesses were uncanny. We each walked to the statue of ourselves and did a slow circle, examining them for flaws. Mine was perfect, right down to the slightly bent nose and the hitchhiker’s thumb. It was astounding.
“Dude,” said Julio. “This is surreal. You did this in two months?”
“I put a lot of hours in,” Alan said modestly.
“What did you even work from as a model?” asked Erica, tracing a finger along the ridges of her statue’s ear.
“Facebook photos, mainly. I used a posable figure for the overall shape, then filled in the details from your photos and general observation. I’ve known you guys a long time, you know.”
“Yeah, but this—this is something else.” Erica sounded almost reverent.
“Thank you.” Alan’s tone was nothing but pride. “Admit it: none of you thought I could do it.”
“Yeah, no way,” said Julio. “But man. These are amazing. You found your calling, man.”
“I want you to have them,” Alan said.
We all fell over ourselves protesting, exclaiming that we couldn’t possibly take them. I couldn’t even picture having something this incredible in my apartment. Where would I put it, next to my Craigslist sofa? In the kitchen by the card table I ate breakfast at? It belonged in a museum.
Alan was insistent, though. “I made these for you, to prove that I could. I can make more. I’m already making more. These are for you, for being my friends…and for *not* believing in me, so that you can see them every day and remember how wrong you were.”
We still tried to refuse, but when Alan brought out a dolly and started loading the statues into his van, we realized this fight was lost and pitched in to help. I snagged everyone’s door keys and Alan and I went on a quick delivery run to drop off the statues.
“Alan,” I told him earnestly once we were alone in the van, “you can’t give these to us. These are museum-worthy. They’re archaeologists-learning-about-our-culture worthy. You’ve gotta sell them.”
“Sell my friends?” Alan laughed. “Not a chance. They’re going home with all of you. I’m absolutely dead set on this.”
It took us about an hour to hit everyone’s house, wheel the statues inside and find a decent place to display them. By the time we got back to Alan’s house, the others had gone to fetch a nice bottle of whiskey and set up some sort of charcuterie board.
“I leave for an hour and you all turn fancy on me?” laughed Alan.
“Hey, you started it, artist-in-residence,” said Cara. “We didn’t know we were coming to a legitimate art opening at first. We’re just trying to catch up.”
“So what else have you done? Can we see?” asked Erica.
Alan waved her away. “Not yet, not yet. Nothing else is anywhere close to finished. I wanted all of you to be first. Once you’re on my side, then I’ll go take the world by storm.”
“We are definitely on your side, man,” said Julio. We all fervently agreed.
Much later, the bottle of whiskey was empty, the food was gone and I was back at my apartment, fumbling open the door. The first thing I saw when I stepped inside was that statue in the corner, dominating the room. It practically glowed in the moonlight, and nearly took my breath away. I couldn’t believe Alan had made this. Even in my inebriated state, it was awe-inspiring.
I was in danger of falling asleep on my feet, though, so I made my way to the bedroom, stripped down and collapsed into bed. I slept dreamlessly until my bladder woke me up, and I stumbled out of bed to go to the bathroom.
When I opened my bedroom door, though, the statue was standing there. Right up against the door, for all the world like it had been listening to hear if I was awake. I leapt back, shouting, and its blank gaze bored into mine. I slammed the door on it and grabbed for my phone.
No one else is answering. Erica, Cara, Julio—I’m getting voicemails for all of them. I just tried Alan, and he did pick up, but what he said did anything but put my mind at ease.
“Just go back to sleep,” he said, before I even said anything. “It doesn’t hurt. Or if it did, it wasn’t for long. I don’t remember it hurting.”
“Alan, what? What?” was all I could manage.
“I hoped you’d all sleep through it,” he said. “The others did, I think. Please, just go back to sleep. It’ll all be clear in the morning.”
That was about the time I heard the doorknob rattle, and I dropped the phone to shove the bed up against the door. When I picked it back up, Alan had hung up.
Something keeps testing the door, rattling the knob and putting more and more weight against it, trying to nudge the bed aside. I’ve moved all of the furniture in the bedroom into a blockade, but even so, I can see it starting to shift. There are no windows in here. I’ve got no other exit.
I really am very tired. Maybe I will just go back to sleep. It’ll all be clear in the morning.