Magnum Opus (A Chuck Wendig Challenge)

Posted: August 11, 2015 in chuck wendig challenge, Fiction, horror
Tags: , , , , , ,

This week the challenge was a pop culture mash-up, the old X meets Y of fiction. I drew Hellraiser meets Terminator, and I’ll be the first to comment that this is way more the former than the latter. And yes, this would probably get a fairly hard R rating. You’ve been warned.

“Are you working on your project again tonight?” Shannon asked as she scooped a second helping of mashed potatoes onto her plate.

“Mmm-hmm,” her husband, Alan, replied around a mouthful of fried chicken, not looking up from his notebook.

“Can’t you put that away during dinner?” Shannon banged the bowl on the table, little bits of potato flying around.

Alan signed and looked up, closing the notebook and pushing it to one side. “Fine. Happy?”

“I’ll be happier when you’re done. That damn thing’s been sitting in our garage for the past month.”

Alan sighed, pushing is glasses back up his nose. “And I’ll be done faster if I work on it tonight, all right? I need to get it done in time for the exhibition.”

“Fine. Be careful? No trip to the ER tonight?”

Alan smiled. “Wasn’t on my list of things to get done.” He tapped his fingers against the notebook. He pushed away his cleared plate and finished the water in his glass. “If I’m going to get anything done, I better go out now.”

“Yeah, yeah. Who am I to keep the artist from his masterpiece? I think you spend more time with it than you do with me.”

Collecting his notebook, Alan got up from the table, walked around, and gave Shannon a kiss on top her head. “It’ll be done soon, okay?”

“Yeah, yeah. That’s what you said about the last project too, remember?” Shannon’s words were punctuated by the screen door slamming closed. Sighing, she set about finishing her dinner, staring across the table at Alan’s empty seat.

Alan stopped at his pick-up truck, lifting a heavy box out of the bed. Lugging it into the garage, he set it down, then pulled the chain. Light flooded the space, all of it centered on a hulking steel monstrosity. It possessed the general shape of a person, with identifiable limbs, head and torso, the steel and iron skeleton of a giant. Chains draped off the torso, ending in repurposed meat hooks. He’d fixed butcher knives in the place of fingers. Screws and nails had been implanted as teeth. Alan had spray-painted the entire structure gun metal grey. The full structure, if it stood up right, would be twelve feet tall, but it sat crouched, head bowed, as if it was waiting.

Alan opened the box. He’d had it shipped to him from work, an object he’d found browsing the web. The website claimed to be a purveyor of the esoteric, but Alan could give a damn about the supposed occult properties. All he knew was when he saw then, he wanted them for this piece. Grabbing a box cutter, he opened the box. With care of handling a newborn, he lifted the smoked quartz crystals out, set them into the structure as the sculpture’s eyes. Geometric  shapes danced under the surface  of the crystal, gleaming silver and red in the light. Staring at his creation, he felt as if he could see fire dancing behind the lenses. Alan smiled into the eyes of his creation.

But.

It wasn’t finished, was it?

No.

Still one more step to take, one more piece of the puzzle.

Stripping out of his clothes, shedding his workaday life, Alan stepped closer to the metal construction. He ducked down, slipping his body into the rib cage, placing him at the very heart of his art. He strapped his legs into the leather straps, bare soles on the cold metal bar to support his weight. He secured his right wrist into another restraint, then slipped his neck through the leather collar. He grimaced, working his hand into the left wrist restraint.

But.

Still not right, was it? Still not fully secure, not finished. The structure couldn’t stand upright. And Alan couldn’t position it and be inside of it at the same time. He couldn’t even finish securing himself to the structure.

“Fuck,” he spat.

He pulled on the right restraint. His wrist refused to move. He looked over to see the strap pulled tight.

“How’d that happen?”

Hearing the sound of metal on metal, on metal on concrete, Alan looked around, eyes widening in terror. The chains dragged across the floor, and the structure began to rattle, groaning against unoiled joints.

“Shannon? Come on Shannon, this isn’t funny.” Even as Alan spoke, he knew it wasn’t Shannon. She knew he hated it when she came into the garage when he was working, and she always respected their space even when she resented the time it took away from her.

The sculpture shuddered and jerked, pulling itself to its feet. Alan felt the impact when its head collided with the ceiling, felt the ripples through his body as the metal giant took one shuddering step then another, and him still trapped inside. He pulled hard on the restraints, but they refused to move. The sculpture dragged itself outside, raised itself to its full height. It opened its mouth wide in a silent scream to the stars, then its jaws clanged shut. Its head swiveled back and forth. Alan craned his neck up, saw the smoky quartz crystals now blazed with a light of their own.

“Too long have I slept.” The voice pierced Alan’s thoughts like a hot knife. “Too long have I waited. And you, tiny creature, have given me a glorious body. And now I thirst, but you shall bear witness to my rebirth.”

“No, oh God no,” Alan whimpered as the monster of steel and iron swung its head toward his house, moving fast and hard. He opened his mouth to yell but a chain forced its way between his teeth, pulling tight.

Alan watched, powerless, as the heavy chains whipped through the air, the hooks biting deep into the door frame. The metal monster pulled, ripping the side of the house away. Shannon stood there, a glass of wine in her hand, a look of horror on her face. A blur of movement, and the monster impaled her on its claws. It lifted her up, bit deep into her body, the blood spraying down over Alan. He couldn’t scream, couldn’t look away as his creation destroyed his wife. Tears spilled from his eyes as it discarded her body like a broken toy.

“Good,” the voice pierced into his thoughts as well. “But not enough. Never enough.” The monstrosity swiveled its head, taking in the other houses in the neighborhood, at the lights in the windows.

“But it is a start.”

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