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Galatea

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Long ago, there lived a gifted sculptor. His creations were so realistic that people from all over would travel to see them. His skills allowed The Sculptor to have an affluent life, and he lived in a home occupied mostly by his art. Though his talent and wealth prompted many to try to befriend him, The Sculptor rebuffed such attempts. The statues he had created were so amazing and so lifelike that he felt real people could not compare.

One day, The Sculptor managed to create his most beautiful work: an ivory statue of a woman. She had a sweet face, a body he envisioned for his imagined wife, and her eyes seemed to look right at him, no matter where he stood in the room. He became so enraptured with this statue that he ignored his other creations in favor of her. He spent hours staring at her, touching her, talking at her. She was perfect, and he had never wanted anything as much as he wanted her.

He prayed every night that one day she might become flesh, that she might respond to his touch, or speak. He lost interest in his work, in other aspects of his every day life, and soon his supply of customers dwindled, for he would not see any of them. He imagined how sweetly the woman would receive him, if only she were alive! How tenderly she would touch him, how she would tell him that she loved him.

One night, The Sculptor kissed The Statue, intent on enjoying her even if she was not real, and to his surprise felt her ivory skin soften, and then move under his touch. He stepped away from her in shock, and watched in wonder as the statue came alive right in front of his eyes.

As The Statue – The Woman – fell to her knees on legs she did not yet know how to use, she slowly raised her head and gazed at The Sculptor. Then her eyes fell to her own form, tracing over the lines of her body, and she lifted her trembling hands to stare at them as well.  Her tongue moved slowly behind her teeth, and her mouth struggled to form words.

“Who am I?” She asked at last.

The Sculptor smiled at her, and took her hands, pulling her to her feet.

“You are mine,” he told her, and she looked up at him again, and this time did not turn away.

She had not been asking him.

“I am yours?” This time she was asking him a question, but The Sculptor took it as fact.

“You are,” he said, no longer looking at her face. His fingers traced down her naked body, leaving her arms to hang limply at her sides, and he repeated himself:

“You are mine.”

The Woman said nothing, but The Sculptor did not care.

~-~-~-~-~-~

Time passed, and The Sculptor resumed his work, content that his prayers had been answered.

The Woman spent much of her time wandering the house, looking at The Sculptor’s other creations. She trailed her fingers along the stone, the ivory, and waited for The Sculptor to seek her out. He always did. Each time, he came with a demand.

“It is late, and I am hungry,” he would tell her. “Prepare some food.”

He never asked if she was hungry, or if she knew how to cook.

“Smile,” he insisted, never considering if she had any reason to smile.

“Listen to me,” he would tell her, and if she was doing anything else he would make her stop. “Listen to me,” he said, and he would tell her all about his genius, his work, how someone did not want to pay enough for his art. Or he would tell her how beautiful she was, how perfect.

“Thank you,” she would respond, because she learned quickly that that was what he wanted her to say. He had been angry at her ungratefulness, before. He had made her, he said, and she owed him everything.

“Tell me you missed me,” The Sculptor would say, whenever they had not seen each other for more than an hour.

“I missed you,” she said, staring past him as he kissed her, but he did not notice.

“Undress yourself,” he would tell her, and she did.

He did not ask her what she wanted. He did not ask her if it hurt. He pushed her body like it was still being formed with his hands, bending her to suit his desires.

“Say that you love me,” he would tell her when he was done.

“I love you,” she would reply, putting her hands on the bruises over her hips.

“Look at me,” he told her, and she did.

“You are mine,” he would say, his fingers tightening on her arms until she responded.

“I am yours,” she told him each time, and only then would he release her.

~-~-~-~-~-~

Sometimes The Woman would read. She had been born – created – with sudden knowledge, but there was much she did not know.

“I never taught you to read,” The Sculptor said when he saw her doing this.

“You did not have to,” She told him, looking him in the eyes (he liked it when she looked at him).

The Sculptor smiled in pride, but not for her; the pride was for himself.

“You are perfect,” he told her, and then left the room to resume his work. He never asked her to speak, except to respond to him.

“I know,” she said once he was gone.

The Sculptor did not like to go out into the world often, but sometimes he had to. If he could, he would bring The Woman with him. He did not carry her, or place her in the back of his cart, but he might as well have.

“Look at how envious everyone is,” he would tell her. “The want you, but cannot have you.”

“No,” she agreed. “They cannot.”

He would sometimes buy things for her in the market. He would drape these things across her, like they were paintings and she were a wall.

He did not ask her if she liked them, if she wanted them, but she did not expect him to.

The Woman watched the other people when The Sculptor wasn’t looking. He did not like her speaking to anyone else, did not want anyone else touching her.

“They do not deserve you,” he would tell her, leaving unspoken his obvious but I do.

The Woman watched children with their parents. She watched friends, lovers. People with the animals they owned. People with their food, people with their wants, people with their tools.

The Woman wondered which of those relationships people saw when they looked at her and The Sculptor.

~-~-~-~-~-~

At night, after The Sculptor fell asleep, The Woman would leave the bed. He did not ask her if she slept, and would not care that she didn’t.

She walked through the house. The other statues stared at her as she went. Sometimes she would stare back. Other times she would read. Other times still she would walk outside and look at the stars.

The Woman wondered what would happen if she kept walking; down the path, past the market, away from the empty house.

You are mine The Sculptor said every day. She was his, and he would not let his things wander too far.

Still, every night she wondered. Then, as morning came, she would start to prepare The Sculptor’s food, as he had told her to do.

He’d told her that he’d prayed for his statue to be alive, but that was a lie. All he had really wanted was a puppet, to pull her strings as he wished.

That day everything went as it always did. She made him food. She listened to his complaints. She promised that she loved him, that she was his. She did not move when he touched her, when he positioned her as he liked.

The Woman waited.

Eventually, he fell asleep again, helped along this time by something she had hidden in his food.

If he had ever asked her what she was reading, he might have learned of this, but he never had.

The Woman walked in the empty house again. She stopped in each room, filled with different sculptures of people and animals.

She picked up The Sculptor’s chisel and mallet, and with all of her strength broke the statue nearest to her. One after another, she destroyed them all. It took some time; her hands trembled with the effort, but she did not stop. She thought of The Sculptor’s every word, every touch, and shattered his precious creations.

It took longer than she had thought it would. She was left panting, staring at the ruined sculptures at her feet.

She heard him coming before she saw him. She had no time to turn around before he pushed her hard, and she fell to the ground, the chisel and mallet flying out of her hands.

The Woman glared up at The Sculptor, on her hands and knees.

“What have you done?” He demanded, looking in horror at the ruin around them. His eyes were wild, his hands shaking, and he picked up a broken piece of a statue and threw it at her. It missed, and broke further.

“You were perfect!” He howled. “You said you loved me!”

“I lied,” The Woman said, straightening so that she was just on her knees. She saw the chisel close by her.

The Sculptor did not seem to understand. “That isn’t possible! You are mine!” He screamed at her, his teeth bared like a dog. “How could you do this? You are mine!”

The Woman’s head snapped up, and she grabbed the chisel at her feet. She swung it wide, slicing The Sculptor across the face. He fell backward with a cry, clutching at his bloodied eye.

She stood tall, looming above him. She clutched the chisel in her hand, held it high, ready to strike again. She stepped closer, and The Sculptor struggled to move backward, but could not go anywhere with the shattered statues around him.

“I am earth, and fire, and water,” The Woman said, her voice low. “I am many things, and none of them are yours.”

She dropped the chisel; it clattered loudly on the ground. She turned away, and did not look back. She walked through the broken creations, seeming unbothered by the sharp edges on her bare feet.

The Woman stepped outside. For a moment, under the moonlight, her skin looked like ivory once again, but it was not. It was something much stronger.

The Woman smiled, and began to make her way up the path, to the world.