When you’re a broke actor, you’ll take any job thrown your way.
I was one of those broke actors. I hadn’t caught my ‘big break’ yet. I’d go to every audition, and throw my heart and soul into each part. But the most I got out of it was a few plays and almost a commercial, if I hadn’t gotten appendicitis two days before we began shooting. I was immediately replaced and they didn’t attempt to make contact again.
So I was broke, the landlord was banging down my door, and I was going to cry if I didn’t nail something soon.
Celia was my neighbor and fellow actor. She had bouncy blonde curls and a chipper attitude that couldn’t be let down, no matter how many times she was turned down. She kept me going really, while we ate dinners of cheap ramen noodles and searched the internet for more work.
‘We’ll get our big breaks! Just wait!’
Then she told me about a modeling job that she’d gotten both of us.
I’m not much of a model. It just wasn’t a route I intended on going, besides, I was starting to bald prematurely. But she insisted that she’d gotten it for both of us, and that it would pay great cash as long as we showed up and posed.
I admit it, I was ready for it. So after I got on my nicest clothes and made sure to shave, we got on the bus and headed to the place.
It was a studio on the nicer side of town, and the door was answered by a man with a thick accent and a very white smile that stood out sharply with his dark tan. “Welcome! Welcome! Come on in, make yourselves comfortable.”
Celia was handed an envelope and the man shook her hand. “Thank you once again, Celia. Don’t worry, ah, Andy was it? I’ve just worked with Celia before, don’t worry, you’ll be paid after you’re finished. Just take a seat by the others and get comfortable.”
I was one of maybe three male models, the other six being women. I took my seat besides identical brunettes, one with her hair hanging past her shoulders and the other with her hair in a messy bun. “I’m Andy,” I said.
The one with her hair in the bun giggled. “I’m Gwen. This is my twin sister, Gertie. Who referred you?”
“Friend.” I eyed the table in front of us, with grapes and fruit. “… Are we allowed to eat those or…”
Gwen laughed. “I mean, he said just do what’s natural, so,” She picked up a bunch of the grapes and held one up to my lips, “Say ahhh…”
Once I loosened up, things really got fun. The other models were having fun. The man, apparently a photographer, broke out the camera and just started taking shots. We weren’t called to do anything really specific, maybe adjust our bodies so we faced the camera more or smiled more. It was a great time, I knew not every job would be like this but perhaps I should take up modeling more often.
When the photos were done, Celia got up. She’d been having a great time chatting up one of the guys but now she looked ill. “Um, Andy? I’m gonna wait outside, I don’t feel so good.”
“Eat something bad?” I guessed. I mean, we did just gorge ourselves on fruit and wine, maybe it just wasn’t sitting in her stomach.
Celia grimaced. “I think it’s… just nerves or something. I’ll feed your cat,” She said before walking outside.
Feed my cat? I’d be back tonight.
I didn’t get much time to think about it when the photographer returned with a woman from the back room. I hadn’t seen her when I came in, then again, I really couldn’t make out her face, she was wearing a black hood.
“Everyone? Strike a final pose, please!”
After being told to do so all day, it only became natural, even though he hadn’t gotten the camera out.
The woman removed her hood.
I can’t really describe the sensation of being slowly petrified. I suppose it’s similar to that static feeling in your legs when they fall asleep, except over your entire body. My cheeks went numb, my eyes went dry and my eyelids refused to close. My lips parted but only for a second, to permanently stay.
I was stone.
I couldn’t move.
The woman stepped forward, her hair crawling and writhing around her shoulders. Her slitted eyes danced across the statues. Then she smiled, her fangs glinting in the photo lights of the room.
“My love, Alex. You have done so well.”
The man put on sunglasses before he turned and placed a kiss on her scaly green cheek. “Demetra, my dearest. It’s not hard to find those desperate for cash. I just had to make them relax before I could let you at them.”
Demetra nodded before she paced around the room, examining each statue she had created. “Oh, do not fret, darling! You have your art as well. I would never intervene with it, it’s almost as charming as my gift.” She paused by me and cocked her head. “… I rather like this one, we can keep him.”
“But he’s so plain!” Alex proclaimed in shock.
Demetra giggled and ran her clawed fingers over my cheek.
“But that’s why I want him, Alex. He’s plain, yes, but there’s a uniqueness about him. The curve of his nose, maybe. Or his eyes. They’re so full of soul!” She wrapped her arms around me and her hair crawled over me, its soft tongues buzzing against my stone skin. I wanted to scream, to run, but I couldn’t even twitch.
Alex sighed. “Fine, I’ll place him over in the corner.”
The two of them picked me up and left me sitting to face the others. I could see each one now. Gwen was still gripping a wine glass, which had turned to stone. Her eyebrows were slightly raised, questioning what the situation was. Gertie wasn’t so slow to react. Her face was twisted in horror, her hands raised in defense from something she could not defend.
Demetra hummed, examining each one. “I think we can get a lot of money out of most of these… except for her.” She sneered at Gertie. “She ruined it, damn her soul.” Demetra strode over to the corner, shedding her hooded coat. I could make out tattoos crawling over her back and shoulders, thick, black, and tribal in design. “I’ll dispose of her. It would give me great pleasure to do so.”
She walked back into my line of sight with a sledgehammer.
I screamed as she lifted it and took it down on Gertie’s head. The statue shattered, pieces flying across the floor and dust rising in the air. I wanted to scream at least. All I could do was stare.
Demetra smiled. “Clean it up, Alex. Then put these ones up for sale.” She dropped the sledgehammer and strode back over to me, kneeling down and stroking my chest.
“You are lucky, you know.” Her dry lips pecked my cheek as I continued to stare blankly at the models in front of me.
“I don’t keep many of my statues.”