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Winner of the 2023 Scribbler's Prize

i. artist

            The foundry never stays open after five. This preference is nothing personal, really.

It narrows down to method. Much easier to work with bronze during the day. At night, it is viable, but less efficient, unless you are working with ice. Two years ago, I received a commission for a collection of ice statues. I had thought it pointless, and still do, as it disappears in the end, and I had scoffed when I had read the email request. But I did it anyway. The clients paid a lot of money after all.

           You may wonder why they did, and who I am. That is not important. All you should know is that I am a very successful artist. Many call me a god. Many think my success hinges on my parents. I think it hinges on my routine.

            I get up every day at 4 AM. After a three mile run, a cold shower, and a face mask, I admire the symmetry of my walk-in closet before choosing the outfit I always wear—white jeans, a white T-shirt, and white sneakers. Nothing about productivity. It is simply an aesthetic choice. Then, I make my way to the foundry. It is a ten minute walk from my apartment. I arrive at exactly 5:30 AM.

The foundry was a graduation gift from my foolish father who gave me whatever I asked for. My more foolish mother, who thought she knew better, had disapproved of the gift before she died of mysterious circumstances. I am not sure if I miss her. Although I am not a religious man, I like to think she is miserable, in heaven, for doubting my success.

            The foundry is on a large property. There is a gate on the periphery. Every morning I take out my keys to unlock this gate before locking it again behind me. It is a special gate, as I designed it– an intricate structure of bodies climbing all over each other, only to turn into ivy. If they were real, they would turn to dust.

        The path to the building itself is short. Unlike the crumbly asphalt and dull, gum-stained concrete of the Brooklyn street, it is cobblestone and lined with trees. Leaves rustle and the breeze passes through, but the serenity of nature is cut short by the sight of the hulking structure.

In front of me is a set of metal doors, bolted shut. The entry process takes time, but it is always appreciated– a reminder that only I can see what I will see, until I choose to release something into the world. Each bolt on the door has its own lock. There are a total of five, and upon the completion of this ritual, the doors creak open.

         I take a step into the former warehouse. The early morning floods in and douses my creations in light. They don't move, as usual. I don't expect them to. I don't want them to.

          I stroll through the rows of marble, wax, and bronze. They all glint to different degrees, but they all share one thing in common– beautiful, muscular bodies, blessed by their creator.

          As I proceed further into the room, I get closer to another set of doors in the back. They are less imposing than the entrance, and not as majestic as the statues I have just passed, but their presence overshadows everything else. They contain my ultimate masterpiece.

           I reach the doors and unlock them.

           Now, I am in a room covered with workbenches, mirrors, and paper. In the center, a tall figure covered in white cloth faces me. I reach out and remove the veil, just like every morning, and greet my life's purpose.

          "Good morning, my love."


           After work, I head to the bar. There, I meet a woman. I'm not that attracted to her, but it is what it is. I buy a drink. It is a cheap beer. She smiles at me and we make small talk. I buy her a drink. We talk more. I buy myself another beer. She laughs. I buy her another drink. We continue our conversation about movies. I buy two more beers. She has a horrible taste in films, but I don't let her know that. I let her blabber on and buy another beer. Then, she invites me to her place. I accept. When the deed is done, I leave. She cries about it. I don't care. I don't like most women anyway. I buy a beer from the bodega on her block. I block her number. I will unblock her later if I feel like it.

            When I get to the subway station, I start to feel dizzy. I lick my lips because they are dry, but taste the bitter chemicals of the woman's lipstick mixed with the beers I've had.

I stumble to the edge of the platform and start puking. A guy across the station yells at me to move back. "Hey, asshole! Some of us want to get home!" Someone laughs. I hobble back to the wall and a train pulls into the station. I stumble onto the subway car, puke-covered jeans dripping onto the floor. An annoyed salaryman walks to the next train car. I am too tired to care.


           The next morning, I wake up ten minutes before four. I go on a longer run, about five miles. I take a longer shower. I don't shave. I skip my face mask. I still look good.

My white jeans are in the laundry. I choose white overalls, and a white t-shirt and white boots. I walk out of my apartment and yell at a dog across the street to stop barking. After ten minutes, I arrive at the foundry.

           Immediately, I head straight to my masterpiece and ignore the other bodies in the studio. I whisk off its white sheet. It is still there. My masterpiece is still safe. It looks at me with an admiring expression, as if I am God. I kiss it. I do not taste lipstick afterwards. It is a better kisser than the woman, or anyone. But there is no passion.

I leave through another door and head to a different part of the foundry, where the furnace is. I will create a gift for my beautiful masterpiece. I will make it more beautiful. It will love me.


            I head to Manhattan after work. I have plans with some friends from art school. Friends is a strong word. Steve and Owen were my roommates. Michael and Daniel were in some of my classes. Out of everyone who attended the school we went to, those were the four I could tolerate. But Steve was particularly annoying because everything was a competition. He just had to be better than me, but never succeeded. We had the same thesis advisor, Dr. Lewis. He said I was a genius. He said Steve was a dolt.

            I arrive at the bar we are meeting at. Phebe's. It's the place to go. Everyone is already there. We greet each other. Steve tells me that I look good. He asks what pre-workout I use. I tell him I don't use any. He should just stop guzzling pizza and beer. We all laugh and order. It's all banter anyway. Or so they think.

            I go to the restroom and take a piss. There is a shitty Top 40 song playing on the speakers. The lights are too bright but it is still too dark. My thoughts wander. My masterpiece would suffer in these conditions.

            I zip up my pants when I'm done and wash my hands while staring at my reflection. I look more toned than usual. Maybe I should start running five miles regularly.

            I dry my hands. When they're dry, I stare at my reflection more. Steve walks in and stands at a urinal. My legs look nice. Steve finishes pissing and washes his hands. His shoulders are broad and block my view. Although stupid, Steve would be a nice sculpture reference.

I look at my biceps. They are perfect, just like my masterpiece. Or, rather, my masterpiece looks like them. Steve interrupts my thoughts.

"Can I kiss you?"

I look at Steve. He stares back at me.

            "What the fuck, man?"

            I back away from him. The bathroom door is right behind me. He looks confused.

            "Is something wrong?"

            His response angers me. I open the door.

            "You're fucking disgusting, man. I'm not going to kiss you." The sounds of the bar leak into the bathroom and drown out my words.

            "What are you saying? I asked if we could leave the bathroom now." He yells over the noise. I ignore him and storm to our table and down my beer, then slam my glass.

            "I'm leaving. Steve is fucking gross. Tried to kiss me."

            "Huh? You're joking, right?" Owen laughs at me and the rest of them join in. They were not the sharpest tools in the shed. Anyone could see that Steve was gay and it was a problem they couldn't see.

          "Everyone's a little gay these days. Calm down." Michael smirks at me. I wish I could punch his smug expression off his face and cut his stupid Maison Margiela shirt into pieces.

           "Suck my dick, assholes. I'm not paying!" I storm out of the bar.

            "Watch where you're going!" Someone is yelling at me.

            "Fuck you!"


            When I get home, I don't fall asleep. I lie awake. There is a knot in my stomach. I get up and punch the wall, pretending it's Steve. Fuck Steve. Dumbass. And fuck the rest of them too.

            The wall stains red. Blood runs down my arms. I take a deep breath and walk to my bathroom. I don't look in the mirror. I open the cabinets to get bandages and patch up my hands. I will need them for the foundry.

            Eventually, the sun rises. But I do not head out for a run. I simply shower, change into white jeans and a white shirt, and make my way to the foundry. Only my masterpiece will understand me.



ii. muse

            My name is Cyprus. He says he loves me, which is why he has given me a meaningful name. I don't know if I can believe that though, because Cyprus is just an island he spends two weeks at, every year. I know this because I listen to his calls in the studio every week.

            But otherwise, I wake up every afternoon to hear the sounds of a pressure washer, a torch, a hammer, or the furnace. I know it's the afternoon because my shadow points a certain way on the floor, touching the edge or corner of the workbench, unlike mornings or evenings. Although he is there, he is never physically there when I wake up, and I take liberties to look around the studio. There are always small, endearing changes that hold a trace of him.

            The workbench on the left has been tidied since yesterday. There's a new clay figure of a dog on the aluminum table, and the corresponding chunk of half-used plasticine, or clay, on a stool. Butcher's paper is on the floor and there's an outline of another sculpture hidden under Sakura pens, charcoal, and a drafting pencil. A little cart containing supplies is under the workbench on my right, and I can tell he has forgotten about it. It has been there for three weeks.

            Everything else is the same, save for the sheet that he covers me with when he is not in the studio. He says it is to protect me, but I feel anxious under the sheet, as it is hard to stay calm when I cannot see. But I doubt it truly matters, because I fall asleep once it gets dark, which happens quickly.

            I continue to look around the studio. The sketches on the walls, or mirrors, cannot move or speak, as they are all various body parts. There are many thighs, many hands, and infinitesimally many more muscular torsos. Though they all look like me, they are incomplete. Hence, they are not me, he says. He talks to me a lot but he is not smart– he has no idea that I can hear and see him, and that I know was made to purposely look like him. I just cannot reply.

            Today, I woke up to a hammering sound. It still fills the studio, and I wonder which door he is behind, toiling away at the gifts that I do not appreciate because they make me jealous. They make me jealous because I don't like the thought of him spending time with anything, or anyone, other than me, but I keep this inside because it keeps him happy.

            "My love."

            His voice rings out from one of the other rooms. I hear footsteps follow in rapid succession and one of the doors on the left side of the room swings open. He walks towards me, holding out a necklace, similar to how a child shows off a crayon drawing to their mother.

            "I made this for you."

He doesn't wait for my reply. He never does. He holds up the necklace, a golden chain made of purple gemstones and fine threads that rival the ones he made for my hair. My lover is a genius, as he says, but I am jealous. He says my hair took ages. Why would he put so much work into something else that isn't me?

          I wish I could say something as he puts it around my neck, and his fingers burn my bronze skin. I wonder if he knows he is hurting me. But it is a pointless question, as I don't think he views me separate from him. We look identical, and it is his greatest pride and joy. It is the bane of my existence. But I endure it because I love him.

           "Don't you look beautiful?" He beams at his work, but I don't react. It isn't like he would like it if I moved anyway. Humans would never understand, and especially not him. His attraction towards me tells me enough. He is an individual who mistakes his narcissism as love.

          He starts to kiss my hands, and then my feet. I stare at the mirrors, watching him kneel, and direct my gaze upwards. This is nothing that I want to see, but it is what I must tolerate. He has given me life and he gives me gifts, so I must serve him.

          I cannot hate him, I remind myself. He is a fool, and a fool must be pitied. A narcissistic fool, but a fool nevertheless. A stupid, stupid fool.


           At the end of the day, he brings over a towel and a spray bottle and wipes me down. He apologizes fervently, furrowing his brow. This is a daily routine. He asks me what sort of gift I want next as if he can listen, or as if I can even speak. I know that he will make another piece of jewelry, or bring in an expensive dress of some kind. Sometimes he lights candles and brings flowers too. But I do not care for these things, and I want to go to the sea. He will never know though.

          When he is done cleaning me, I am covered by the same cloth as before. I can no longer see the mirrored studio and only hear his shuffling as he gathers his belongings and makes his way out of the foundry. Once the last bolt is secured onto the door, I start crying. I don't know if anyone else in the foundry can hear me, but I would not be surprised if they could.

          I wish to cry, but I cannot. It piles up in my throat and starts to burn. The prickling grows and stretches from my chin to my collarbone. There is nothing that can soothe this agony besides waiting for it to subside. I don't know why I am so miserable. I should be happy. I should be grateful. I should be content.

         The next day, I wake up earlier than usual. He has taken off the sheet and I can see my shadow is next to the table rather than on the corner of the table. But this time, it isn't because he has a gift for me. It is because he is yelling. He is angry.

            "You're telling me that I need to take it apart if I want to have an exhibit at the Louvre? Bullshit. Absolute bullshit!'

            His back is turned to me but I can see his expression in the mirrors. I have never seen him this angry before and I start to worry. What is the 'it' he speaks of? I am unsure, but it makes me nervous. My creator starts pacing around and reaches out for a large block of plasticine. I watch the muscles on his back tense as he throws clumps of plasticine at the mirrors lining the studio. They stick and create gray spots in my view of the reflected studio.

            "I don't trust your fat-fingered interns to assemble it! This is my magnum opus, my greatest work."

            His voice grows louder as the other end tries to reason with him. I hope he leaves the foundry right after his call. He is never kind to the statues when he's angry. I have watched him tear nearly-complete plasticine models to shreds before. Back then, I would wonder how many times he had torn me to shreds when creating me, but I realized I knew the answer. Our identical faces and his perfectionism answered my question. Now I fear that one day, he may tear me to shreds again.

            The small clay dog on the workbench shares the same sentiments. I see it tremble slightly as he continues yelling. He storms by the workbench and I hold my breath as he makes a fist and waves it in the air. The clay dog is shaking violently now. As he verbally abuses the other end, he suddenly turns around and catches sight of the dog, who goes still. And just as quickly as he sees it, he grabs it in his hands and smashes it into an incomprehensible lump of plasticine before slowly squeezing it and tearing it into smaller bits.

            Suddenly, his voice calms down.

            "Oh, you're having him do the installation?" I do not believe his voice. This calm is an eerie calm, and I have already seen him kill the dog. "Why didn't you tell me? Of course I'll send it over. Yes, yes. Just give me three days. I'd be honored."

            I stare at my creator in fear. The gray, clay bits of the dog coat his palms, and I can no longer remember how it looked. I can only remember how he viciously destroyed it.

            He does not notice my expression. Instead, he walks over and starts stroking my hand, and then my feet, and then my face. He is still talking on the phone.

            "Yes, it's a heavy piece. Very artfully made. I am very proud of it." He looks up, straight into my eyes. "You will not be disappointed. It is life size. I am in front of it right now."

I stare back at him, unable to blink. I am listening to his words and have a sudden realization that he will break me into pieces and ship me away. Most of all, it is finally clear that he only views me as a thing. He does not view me as a person, let alone his lover. I am a mere object, and I am a mere thing he will sell. I mean nothing to him. I mean absolutely nothing to him.
           Almost as if he knows I can hear him, or as if he can hear my thoughts, he suddenly drapes the sheet over my head while talking. I feel him walk away with his back toward me and continue listening.

          "Ah, I'll send you my information. Yes, I can come to France on the first day of the show. Thank you so much again; I am sorry that happened. Give my greetings to Leon." He hangs up and starts humming.

           I slowly slide the sheet off of my head and stare at his retreating back, as he looks around for his phone, wallet, and keys, like he does at the end of every day. He is going to leave early today. I cannot let him. The expression on his face is cheerful, too cheerful, and he has not yet noticed that I have taken off the sheet. I slowly step off my pedestal and walk up behind him.

            I don't know what I'm doing. All I know is that I don't want him to send me away. I don't want him to put me in a crate, dismembered and non-sentient. I don't want to go away. I want to be with him forever, even if he obsessively touches me and covers me with cloth so I cannot see. Most importantly, I want to keep the slim possibility that he will take me to the sea one day.

            But I see the clay bits on his hands and remember how he squashed the dog. I remember how he called me 'it.' He does not view me as his lover. I am only an object to him. So I know what I must do.

           My hands now close tightly around the cloth. I quickly lift it into the air when he is looking at an email on his phone, and wrap it around his neck, making sure to pull as hard as possible.

            I don't know how long it takes. He screams the entire time, and in the mirror, I watch his face slowly shift from surprise to horror. Is he reacting to how he will die or how I am alive? I cannot tell, and I cannot bring myself to see his actual face. His reflection turns red and blue as my grip on the sheet tightens, and eventually, his tiny choking sounds dissipate. I am sorry. I am sorry. I am sorry.

            I am sorry.

            When his body stops struggling and goes limp, I let go. His body drops to the ground with a soft thud, and the sheet flutters up, covering his face.

           I take his phone and book a flight. I hold my breath as the confirmation loads. It is done.

          Now, I will go to Cyprus. Now, I will go to the sea.




is a fourth-year English and Classics double major at the University at Buffalo. Her work is vaguely inspired by lived experiences (not necessarily all personal) and the absurd. She hopes to pursue a creative writing MFA post-graduation. 

In her free time, she enjoys music production, sketching, and learning new languages. 

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