“Your work is carved out of agony as a statue is carved out of marble.”
The scene opens on one of New Orleans’ most popular tourist destinations.
The site is filled with above-ground vaults and meretricious ornamentation–most prominently, statues. There are angels, there are soldiers. There are two almost identical men; the key difference is the hilt of a dagger jutting out of one’s side. There is a man lounging on a platform, as if he is far beyond the cares of the world. All contained within a stone wall, with two enormous pillars framing the entrance.
A pair of groundskeepers tend to the grass surrounding the central vault, but they pause in their work when they spot two caretakers enter through the gates. Graveyard office politics are not to be taken lightly.
Apart from those four, the area is quiet, calm, and oddly serene.
Suddenly, the sound of a guitar, piano and drums. An eerie sensation, evocative of a quiet menace. “Old Statues” by Other Lives.
Then, the skies open. The wind blows. The rain falls.
The madness begins.
Storms are a destructive force, but they also bring life in the form of nourishing rain. But if there’s one place where you don’t want life brought, it’s this one.
The obvious fear is that the bodies contained within start banging on their coffins, demanding to be released. Fortunately, this does not happen; the dead do not come to life.
But the statues…
With the scrape of stone and the crumbling of dust, the sculptures turn their heads and survey their surroundings. With sightless eyes, they regard each other…and they regard each other as threats.
The lounging man looks around idly and picks a fly out of the air.
One such statue looks at its hands, flexes its fingers, tests its movement. It knows not what dark miracle has caused this change. It also does not see the figure behind it, rising from the ground.
A statue falls to the ground and breaks, but stands up anyway, its movements jerky and its head lolling at an odd angle. It throws a shard of limestone that knocks down an avenging angel; another one picks up its sword and advances on the unholy effigy.
A warrior turns on its plinth, the ornate designs carved into the marble diverting the water that runs down its torso. It now faces its opposite number, a sentry roughly hewn from granite. No embellishments, no filigree, just a workmanlike simplicity and a quiet fortitude. The two guardians step down from their respective perches and march toward each other.
The groundskeepers unpack their bag, which is full of odd instruments–rope, metal hooks, clamps, and suchlike. The caretakers advance; they don’t know what’s going on, but they know it needs to be stopped.
The betrayer grabs the dagger and pulls it out of its counterpart, then walks toward the groundkeepers. The victim slumps down farther; something seems to be coming out of the wound, but it can’t, it can’t be…
The relaxed statue props itself on one elbow and looks up, and for the first time shows interests in the proceedings. Finally, a prey worth pursuing.
But he is seen as well.
There is a rumbling in the earth, as the enormous pillars at the gate start to move. The others look up and realize to their horror, that those are not pillars.
They are legs. And they are advancing.
The groundskeepers work in earnest, converting the lounging man’s platform into some kind of makeshift catapult. The lackadaisical figure barely raises a stone eyebrow as it is pulled closer to the ground.
The lone statue is turned by the hand of another, and looks into the monstrous face of a golem made not of stone, but of mud. Clumps of earth fall from its hands, but the monster is renewed by new mud that oozes into its feet and up its legs. The golem throws a haymaker at the statue; the punch still feels like stone.
The angel swings its terrible, swift sword, cutting the demon in half. The wicked grin never leaves the monster’s face, even as the top half falls to the ground and shatters. The angel stares in horror as the chunk with the grin hovers in the air, and the other pieces reform around it. The eternal struggle will not be won so easily.
The two gladiators ignore the fray around them as they trade strikes, punctuated by the crack of stone on stone. A fracture forms in the man of granite’s shoulder, and a golden light pours out. His blows become stronger, as does the man of marble’s when its face is broken open. They will find something greater than perfection, but must tear away what they are to reach it.
The groundskeepers have finished their work, and prepare to launch. The caretakers charge, tools in hand. One groundskeeper raises his shovel to deflect a crushing blow from a hammer; the other raises his overhead and swings downward–some might call the motion a “powerbomb”–but it is cut in half by the caretaker’s sickle.
An enormous foot crashes down, nearly crushing everything beneath it. From this distance, enemy and ally look the same.
The betrayer arrives, skirting the fight between the ones beneath it. It looks at the cocksure figure, still mostly disinterested even as it occupies a place of privilege. It looks at the dagger in its hand.
It raises the blade, and slashes the rope. The chosen one is launched high into the air, onward to glory that the betrayer felt long ago.
No sooner is the deed done, than the figure is tackled to the ground. The betrayer finds itself beneath its victim–stone eyes enraged, and blood impossibly pouring out of its wound.
The center of events cackles noiselessly as it flies through the air, splaying out its arms and legs to control its trajectory. Finally it lands on what appears to be a colossal stone nose.
The smaller figure sticks tight, then scrambles up to look the giant statue in the eyes. The titan’s face wrinkles in confusion, and then anger. It bellows, but the other is not shaken loose. Instead, it regards the enemy with cool disregard.
So different in stature, so similar in confidence.
Soon, very soon, one will be able to say with all certainty…
“I’m bigger than you.”