• Glenn Whitlock

The Sculptor's Last Work


Photo by Ganapathy Kumar on Unsplash


Chris saw black trees whipping past the windshield, illuminated by the Corolla’s two headlights. It crashed into the guardrail. The impact threw him forward, and the seatbelt bit into his chest. It took a lot to faze Chris, but getting into a wreck on a deserted road, miles from civilization, did the trick. He took a few deep breaths and felt his heart rate decrease with each one.


Chris unbuckled his seatbelt and stepped out of the car. His leg buckled as he stepped into the snowbank. He shivered as the cold wind cut through his thin jacket and dragged its icy fingers across his face. He trained his phone’s flashlight onto the front end of his car and sighed. The guardrail had stopped the car, but the front end had crumpled when it struck one of the poles. Antifreeze leaked from the radiator, turning the snow a sickly green color.


“Shit,” he spat, as he opened a browser on his phone. No reception. Chris sighed in defeat and put his phone back in his pocket. This night was getting better and better.


He trudged out to the shoulder and shivered with each step he took. The way he had come was a dense forest devoid of any houses or buildings that would be open this late at night. That left only one way to go. He wasn’t headed towards anything resembling civilization. But he had a better shot of finding somewhere that at least had reception. Chris jammed his hands deep into his pockets and started walking.


After about an hour of walking, Chris felt no closer to town than he was back at the car. He checked his phone again. Still no reception. The skin on his face and ears throbbed from the arctic blasts gusting from the mountains. His hands were stiff and the tips of his fingers numb, despite having them shoved into his coat pockets. Worse, an excruciating pain radiated through his chest with every breath he took. He wondered if the seatbelt had broken a rib during the accident.


As he walked, the dense forest thinned. Funny, there wasn’t supposed to be anything besides trees on this part of the road. Puzzled, Chris crossed the road.


Past the few trees that were there, he could see a cast-iron fence, rusted from time and weather. The fence ended at a set of gates, rusted and almost falling off of their hinges. An arch above them announced, “Williamson Cemetery.” Beyond the gates, Chris could see a corona of light past the top of the low rise in the cemetery’s grounds. Chris didn’t remember this cemetery being here, let alone if a major road bordered its other side. But it wasn’t like he had anything to lose. Chris squeezed through the gap made by the open gate.


A deep blanket of snow covered the cemetery grounds. The moon had risen full and bright, and its light reflected off of the snow, making it easy to see his way through. Old headstones and dried weeds poked through the snow like dead bodies trying to break free from their graves. A frigid breeze swept through the trees, rustling the leafless branches. He trudged through the shin-deep snow, towards the top of the rise. Ahead, the light grew a little brighter with each step he took. He reached the top of the hill and sighed.


What he thought were lights from a street lamp or gas station was an old crypt. Whoever built it had set it in the side of a large hill in the back of the cemetery. The gray stone facade had a rusted, cast-iron gate in the middle of it, flanked by a pair of cylindrical columns. Each column had a lit brazier, adding to the warm glow bleeding out of the open entrance.


Chris hesitated in his approach to the crypt. Crypts in abandoned cemeteries don’t have signs of someone there. Could it be the cemetery’s caretaker? He didn’t remember seeing any kind of maintenance building. Plus, the state of the grounds said no one has looked after this place in decades. Brushing aside these concerns, he muttered “Well, maybe it’ll be warm inside.”


He reached the crypt’s entrance and looked up at the sign etched into the stone above: “Williamson.” Warmth poured out of the entrance, beckoning him to enter. Chris heard muffled voices coming from inside. They were indistinct, but the voices of people, nonetheless. As stepped inside, he wondered why he didn’t see any other footprints leading to the tomb.

The warm air of the tomb enveloped him as he entered. It invaded his nostrils, filling them with the smell of damp earth and mold and the putrid scent of death. He followed the shallow descent of the tunnel as it made its way into the bowels of the hill. Tarnished brass plates lined one side of the stone tunnel. They contained the names of the descendants of the original occupant of the crypt.


John Williamson; Born 1859, Died 1927

Harold Williamson; Born 1831, Died 1903


The dates decreased as he went deeper into the crypt. At the end of the tunnel, he saw a heavy,

wooden door. The door did not bear a plate, only a name slashed into the wood:


L. Williamson


Chris touched the door. It felt hot, almost too hot to touch. He saw strange symbols carved along the border of the door. They shimmered as he ran his fingers along them. Without thinking, he worked the old-fashioned latch and swung the door open.


Torches lined both sides of the tunnel, casting it with a dim orange glow. Up ahead appeared to be an opening. The sounds of voices increased in volume, but not clarity.

“Hello?” He called out into the void.


No reply.


He crept towards the back of the tunnel. Sweat beaded on his forehead and dribbled down his back. He removed his coat. Jesus, it was getting hot. He reached the chamber in the back of the tunnel. His eyes adjusted to the dim light of the torches and he saw a large, stone altar in the center of the room. The altar and the wooden door had the same designs etched along their sides. Chris couldn’t tell what they were. Some ancient language, long forgotten?


Chris held his hand above the altar. He could feel a strange power surging from its surface. It grew in intensity as he lowered his hand towards the stone. Closer and closer he pushed his hand down, unable to stop. It felt as if he was pushing against some unseen force. He felt the tip of his middle finger graze the cool stone of the top and then felt nothing.


 

Lyle bolted straight up, almost knocking a stack of books off of the table. He looked around the cavernous room, wondering where he was. As he shook off the last vestiges of his inadvertent nap, the memories filtered into his consciousness. He was in the campus library and had been studying for midterms until he fell asleep. He rubbed his eyes and checked his phone. 12:21 A.M. Great, there goes a good three hours he could have spent studying. He stowed his books and laptop into his backpack and walked outside.


As he walked through the empty parking lot to his car, he tried to recall the strange dream he had been having. Something about an old cemetery. But, it felt like he was viewing things through someone else’s eyes. As if was a stowaway in someone else’s mind. He reached his battered Corolla and tossed his backpack on the backseat. He got into the driver’s seat and turned the key. Nothing.


“Goddamnit, don’t do this to me again,” Lyle said, turning the key again. He had just paid a friend of a friend a hundred dollars two weeks ago to get it fixed. He didn’t need this bullshit tonight. Not with him having to be at work in five hours and his first set of midterms immediately after. Lyle jumped at the sound of a knock on his window. A man was standing there and had his hands jammed into a thin, brown coat which was much too light, considering how cold it was. Lyle stared at him blankly for a second. The man said something unintelligible and motioned for him to roll his window down. Lyle worked the crank, and the window opened a crack.


“Need a hand?” The man said, smiling. He was older, mid-thirties, with sandy hair and piercing blue eyes.


“Yeah, please. It won’t start for some reason.”


“Pop the hood. I’ll take a look.”


Lyle reached down and pulled the handle, releasing the latch to the hood with a metallic clink. The stranger lifted the hood and rested it on the support arm. After fiddling with it for a moment, he shouted, “Give it a try!”


Lyle turned the key, and the Corolla grumbled to life. He exhaled and felt some of the stress release. The man closed the hood and walked over to the driver’s side, grinning.


“Oh my god, thank you so much!” Lyle said. “I don’t – .”


“It was no problem at all,” the man cut in. “Just a loose battery cable.”


“Even so, I appreciate it. Can I buy you a beer or something?”


“No, but thanks.” The man paused for a moment, then continued. “Actually, would you mind giving me a ride downtown? I’ve been waiting for this damn Uber for over an hour now, and it hasn’t shown up yet.”


“Done! Hop in,” he said, leaning over and unlocking the passenger door. The man walked over to the passenger side and got in.


“I’m Lyle, by the way,” he said, extending his hand.


The man smiled as he turned towards Lyle. A glint of light reflected off of something as metallic as the man reached for Lyle’s outstretched hand.


“Christian…but my friends call me Chris.”


 

Lyle woke up. A headache was throbbing in his temples as if the drum section of a marching band was inside his head. Chills set in; he was freezing. Where was he? He tried to look around, but his vision was blurry, and he couldn’t turn his head. As his vision refocused, he saw he was in a dim room with plastic sheeting hanging from the walls. Through the opaque plastic, he thought he could see a wall made of wood.


He looked down and saw that he was naked and laying on a metal table. He tried to get up, but some unseen force kept him from moving. It was as if he were a visitor in someone else’s body; unable to feel, or control, anything. Then, excruciating pain brought him back to reality. It started as a little trickle; mostly pins and needles like his arms and legs had fallen asleep. Then, it transformed into a tsunami, drowning him in agony. He tried to scream, but the anguish was like a vice grip on his throat, preventing him from making any sound.


He heard a rustling in the plastic, and he saw someone enter the room out of the corner of his eye.


“Ah, you’re awake,” the man crooned. It was the man he had offered a ride downtown after he helped fix his car. The memories came back. He was trying to start his car, and this man – Chris was his name – offered to help him start it. Then he saw the reflection of something shiny as the man extended his hand…


Chris no longer wore the thin coat and khaki pants he was earlier. Now he wore a set of white plastic coveralls, like the ones worn by HAZMAT workers.


Lyle tried to ask a question but found the words still wouldn’t come.


“Don’t try to speak. You’ll find that you cannot.”


Lyle blinked. He felt a tingle of pain inside of his mouth, which blossomed into yet another layer of excruciating pain. He tried to turn his head, but he could only turn it a fraction of an inch. Chris walked out of his field of view for a moment. Lyle heard sounds like metal in metal clinks coming from somewhere he couldn’t see. Lyle panicked, trying to trash his body and break free of whatever restrained him.


“I gave you an injection of a powerful sedative,” Chris explained. He sounded like a doctor describing their treatment to a patient. “It’s keeping you from being able to feel anything, or move. But it’s wearing off, as you can tell. You should be able to move soon.”


Lyle tried turning his head and could move it enough to see what Chris was doing. He was arranging metal instruments on a table. Sweat beaded on his forehead, despite the cold. His heart raced. He needed to get out of here; away from this lunatic. But how? He tried to lift his head, but it was much too heavy. He tried to reach over with his arm, but nothing happened.

Lyle heard a rustle of plastic sheeting as Chris left the room again. Seconds later, he heard a scraping sound. Like Chris was dragging something across the floor.


“Let me prop up you up a bit so you can see my latest creation,” Chris said walking back to Lyle. Chris lifted him and put something behind his back to keep him upright.


“It’s not every day I get to share my creations in person, but I thought you might appreciate this.” Chris rolled something into Lyle’s view.


Lyle gaped at the sight of Chris’s “creation.” It was a mosaic of some sort but made of human flesh. The head belonged to an older man with long gray hair and beard. The skin on one side of his face was gray and saggy. The other part of the face was different; beardless. It was as if someone else’s face was stitched to it; someone who had smooth, brownish skin.


The left side of the torso had a large, sagging breast, shiny and gray in the dim light. The right side belonged to yet another person. Chest hairs still clung to a misshapen right pectoral. The bottom half of the torso was yet another skin tone. Light brown, with an intricate tribal tattoo around a malformed navel.


Lyle felt a dull, throbbing pain blossoming in his mouth. Bile bubbled up in the back of his throat; his eyes transfixed by Chris’s abomination. He trained his gaze on the rest of it, wanting to look away from the patchwork quilt of human skin but unable to do so. He saw a familiar-looking tattoo on the left arm. A fiery skull with a sword thrust into the top of its head. It looked like -.

Pain erupted from his left arm as whatever Chris had injected him with continued to wear off. Not wanting to look, not wanting to believe, he forced his gaze down to his arm. It was missing; cut just above the elbow and tied off with a length of nylon strap. He tried to scream, but could only make gurgling noises.


“I’m afraid you won’t be able to speak,” Chris apologized, holding something red in his gloved hand. “Especially without this.” Chris laid something on Lyle’s chest; a long, red piece of meat, bloody at one end. It was his tongue. “As you can see, I’m missing a few more pieces before I can present it to the public.” Chris gestured towards the bottom half of the display; there was a leg missing. “I think you could provide that one last piece.”


Chris caressed Lyle’s upper thigh with his gloved hands. He put up the hood to his coveralls and donned a plastic face mask. “Sorry, this will be excruciating. The medication I gave you has worn off by now, judging by your look of discomfort.” He pulled out what looked to be an electric saw and thumbed a switch. The blade hummed to life, letting off a high-pitched whirring sound.

Chris held the handle of the saw with his other hands and held the blade over Lyle’s upper thigh. Lyle felt the hairs on the back of his neck rise as he felt the wind from the saw on his leg hairs. Chris lowered the blade towards a line drawn in black marker on Lyle’s thigh. He saw the vibrating saw blade cut into his skin before he felt the pain. Lyle tried to struggle, to get off of the table, but he still couldn’t move. He tried to scream as the blade cut deep into the muscles of his thigh, but he only made gurgling and grunting sounds. Lyle lost control of his bladder and bowels as the blade churned against the bone.


 

Chris regained consciousness and found himself on the floor of the chamber. His head was killing him, distracting him from the pain in his chest from the car wreck. He saw blood on the edge of the altar. The last thing he remembered was coming into this room and touching the altar…

No, it wasn’t all he remembered. He had a vivid dream about the guy who offered him a ride downtown. Lyle. Except it didn’t feel like a dream. It felt like he actually experienced Lyle’s last moments alive through his own eyes. He saw everything he saw, felt everything he felt. Pain. Fear. It wasn’t the first time Chris felt pain; he felt that every day growing up. But fear was a new one. The kind of fear known only by those whose life is about to come to a bloody and screeching halt, and they’re helpless to stop it. Chris felt his mouth water right before he wretched. Bile filled the back of his throat, but he had nothing to throw up. He couldn’t even remember when was the last time he ate.


“So, how did it feel?” Chris heard a voice ask from the other side of the altar. He turned and saw a figure standing in the shadows. It appeared to be a man of medium height, wearing a simple black suit coat and pants and a white shirt. Shadows concealed the man’s face.


“What the fuck was that?” Chris spat. Logic told him it was impossible for whoever this was to have planted those memories, that dream. Yet, his blood boiled in fury towards the man. Yes, he could feel it in his bones. He, or it, was responsible for this.


“Oh, that was no dream, Chris,” the stranger. Chris blinked at the sound of his name coming from the unknown figure. How did he know his name?


“I know everything about you. I know your past, your disgusting hopes, your fucked up dreams. Everything.” The man stepped forward, out of the shadows. Chris’s eyes grew wide at the sight of him. Fair, but with slightly more wrinkled skin than he remembered. His hair was a little grayer than he remembered but still cut in that familiar Caesar hairstyle. There was no doubt about it; it was his father. Except for those shining blue eyes.


“You’re supposed to be dead,” Chris said; his voice belied the anxiety he felt.


His father chuckled. “Well, you should know. You are the one who killed me.”


Chris stared at the man in stunned silence. There’s no way he could have possibly known that let alone be his father. Chris was a kid, 16 years old. Everyone believed him when he said that his house burned down on accident. It wasn’t beyond the stretch of anyone’s imagination that his father passed out drunk, with a lit cigarette in his mouth. His shock and distraught were so convincing. The tears were a nice touch, and how he held his face in his hands as he sobbed. The same hands he used to strangle the life from his dad.


“You’re wondering how I know that, aren’t you?” The stranger asked; any hint of joviality gone from his voice.


“You tell me,” Chris replied, working his way through the shock. “You’re the fucking mind reader.”


The man sneered. The stranger crossed the room, stopping between Chris and the altar. He glided upon the altar and sat cross-legged. “True,” he said, his eyes boring into Chris. “You’re wondering what I want from you. Which is weird, since what could you have to offer that I would want?”

Chris shrugged, regaining his composure. “I’m sure you didn’t go through all the effort to impersonate a man twenty years in the grave to chat with me about all the people I killed.”

The stranger grinned. “You’re smart. My master was right about you.”

Chris smiled back. “And who’s that? God? Satan?”

“Neither. You wouldn’t have heard of them. Your species doesn’t have the mental capacity to comprehend the idea of them.” He inspected the backs of his hands absentmindedly as he continued. “You can only come up with vague ideas about some father figure living among the clouds. Some celestial commanding obedience and judging your every action. ‘Thou shalt not be an asshole to each other.” Or, ‘thou shalt not fuck thy neighbor’s wife.’ Or, my personal favorite, ‘thou shalt not kill.’ Fucked that one up, huh, Chris.”


Chris shrugged. “I’ve never been a religious person. Or a huge fan of society’s rules, for that matter.”


“Well, lucky for you, society as you know it is a bunch of bullshit. A way to keep the masses toiling away until you die.”


Chris smiled. “You’re a…man…after my own heart. Still doesn’t explain what you want from me, though.”


“What you’ve always craved, but could never get enough of,” he paused. “Power. I can offer you the power to shape worlds, universes, as you see fit. More power than you could ever get here, in this shithole of a world, slicing up these meat puppets. More power than you could ever imagine. Although, I do have to say that I’m a great admirer of your work.” The stranger waved his hand, and Chris’s “sculptures” appeared from thin air. All five of them, four that the police have found throughout his “career,” and the one that had yet to be discovered.


Chris looked upon them, horrified at their sudden appearance. He stared at them, but with none of the past admiration that he had for them. They were grotesque displays, rendered from pieces of his numerous victims. The realization bubbled up to the surface from deep within his mind. All those people he had killed, and he felt nothing. But what was he feeling now? It was what he imagined when hearing remorse or shame described, but stronger. His body began to tremble. The pain in his head and chest intensified, becoming excruciating. His eyes began to burn and tears flowed down his cheeks.


“Sorrow. Regret. Guilt. Shame. First time experiencing those emotions, huh?” The man asked, giving him a sympathetic look. “Join us, and I’ll make them go away. With the snap of my fingers, you’ll be back to your carefree, murderous self.”


Chris stared at him through swollen eyes, blurry with tears. He tried to get up, but he couldn’t move. Just like Lyle.


The man shifted in his seat and scratched his chin. “But, if you refuse, you’ll just keep on living out your life.” He paused for a second and fished out a cigarette from a pack in his coat pocket. He took a puff, and the cherry flashed for a brief second, sparking to life. “But you’ll get to live with all of these emotions. I don’t think you’ll last much longer, though. You don’t seem to be dealing with these emotions very well. I wouldn’t be surprised if you killed yourself shortly after you leave here.” The man took a drag from his cigarette, blowing the acrid smoke into Chris’s face. The smell burned his nostrils and heightened his nausea.


“And, if you don’t, it’s only a matter of time before your caught. You’re smart, Chris, but you’re getting sloppy. Seriously, driving your last victim’s car around. What were you thinking?” The man paused to take another drag. “I bet the cops are on their way to your place out in the woods as we speak. That last kid’s roommate reported him missing, you know. And guess whose picture the cops have from the security cams in the library parking lot – “


“Fine!” Chris shouted. “Fine, I accept. I’ll do whatever you want. Just make this fucking shit go away.”


The man smiled and took a small, blue card the size of a business card from his jacket pocket. Chris felt the anguish he felt disappear. The pain in his head and chest dulled and then dissipated as well.


“That’s what I like to hear. Here, take this.” The man held the card out with the tips of his fingers as Chris regained the energy to stand. He stared at the card, mesmerized by the design. A bluish-black background with what appeared to be a galaxy. Not the Milky Way, though. The stars appeared to be moving.


“Go on, take it.”


Chris reached for the card, as a voice inside his head screamed for him to stop. But he couldn’t resist. He had to have that card. He had no control of his hand as it moved toward the card. His fingers grazed the slick surface, and he could feel the warmth from it on his fingertips. Chris grabbed the card and felt his arm go numb. As if it had disappeared.


The man said, with a smirk, “I lied.”


Feeling returned to his hand, and the earlier warmth turned into a burning sensation. The hand touching the card disintegrated, and the millions of tiny particles swirled down into the picture of the galaxy. The agony consumed the rest of his arm. Then, his shoulder, chest, right leg. He watched as his whole body disintegrated and twisted into the card, like leaves caught in a breeze. “They can never resist,” Chris heard the man say as the galaxy took his head.


 

Detective Kincade pulled up to the scene of the accident and came to a shuddering stop. She had gotten the call from her partner, Jenkins, about an hour ago. “Got that fucking prick. Get out to Williamson Road.”


Until this morning, they hadn’t known who was behind the murders which had plagued the city for the past fifteen years. The press named him “The Sculptor,” because of the gruesome spectacles which would turn up once every few years. A patchwork of body parts stitched together over some unlucky victim’s body.


She stepped out of her car and walked towards Jenkins. He was standing near a wrecked Toyota Corolla. He was talking to one of the uniformed officers and scribbling in his notebook.


“Morning, Jenk,” she said, handing him a cup of coffee.


“Hey, morning, Lisa,” he said, taking the cup from her as if she just handed him a jeweled chalice. “Thanks,” he followed up, after taking a sip. “Freezing my nuts off out here.”


“So, what do we got?”


“Driver’s identified as Christian Adcock; white male, 36 years old. Looks like he hit some black ice a thirty yards north of here, spun out, hit the guard rail here.” Jenk pointed his pen at the crushed railing. Broken glass, plastic, and bits of metal littered the area.


Lisa took a sip of her coffee as she looked at the car. “Toyota Corolla. Didn’t…”


“Yup,” Jenk cut her off. “Car is registered to Lyle Hanscom, the college student who went missing a few days ago. Jenks flipped through his notes and continued. “Security camera footage from the parking lot of BU’s library picked him up the same evening that his roommate last saw him.” Jenks paused for effect. “Along with Christian Adcock here.”


Kincade thought about what Jenkins had said as she looked at the car. She shook her head in disbelief. “Jesus Christ, after all this time, this is how it ends? It’s like someone wrapped this case up and handed it to us.”


Jenks nodded. “We still have a lot of loose ends to tie up, but yeah the case pretty much solved itself.”


“What other loose ends?”


“Adcock has a cabin about ten miles northeast of here, up in the mountains. State Police are up there right now, cordoning it off. We’re headed there next.”


“So, where’s Adcock?” She asked. The guard rail had crumpled the front end of the car, and there was a gaping, blood-speckled hole in the windshield.


“He’s over here. Follow me.” Jenks threw a thin, lanky leg over the guardrail, and Kincade followed him. Her feet crunched in the mixture of grayish snow and salt. After a few paces past the guardrail, she saw him.


“Adcock wasn’t wearing his seatbelt. So, after he hit the guardrail, he was thrown through the windshield, and landed here.”


Jenks pointed to Adcock’s body. The prolific serial killer, who has been murdering people for all this time had met a grisly end himself. A thick branch from a fallen tree held his lifeless body a few feet of the ground. It had torn a bloody, ragged hole in his back as it impaled him. Blood and bits of flesh were everywhere. Some had splattered onto the tree. The rest had dripped from the massive wounds in his chest and back onto the snow.


“Goddamn, what a way to go,” Lisa said, with a mixture of awe and horror.


“No shit. Hope it was painful, fucking asshole,” Jenks said, not a drop of sympathy in his voice.

Kincade crept closer to the body. She was careful not to disturb the scene before the lab techs had a chance to collect samples. Adcock’s right hand was stretched out in front of his body, and it was holding some a blue card. Kincade got about as close as she was willing to get a better look at it.


“What do you see?” Jenks asked.


“I dunno. Some kind of a blue card. Looks like it has a picture of a galaxy on it.”


“Business card?” Jenks offered.


“Maybe,” she replied, standing back up. “It’s weird how his hand is holding it out…” Lisa trailed off, then immediately collected her thoughts. “Let’s finish up here and get to that cabin. Let the medical examiner get in here and do their thing.” She turned to trudge through the snow back to the road. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw something. It looked like the picture of the galaxy on the card had rotated. Lisa felt a chill crawl up her spine and shook it off. She needed to get more coffee.

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