I don’t remember exactly how I fell, but my body won’t let me forget how much it hurts. My left arm is swollen and tender, painful to the touch. It throbs with each beat of my heart. I cradle it close to my chest and try to ignore the ache that races through the bone. My arm is the worst of it, though I can feel scrapes and cuts on my hands and knees. I try to stop shaking from either from the pain or the shock, but as my eyes strain to detect even the faintest light in this dark, vast place, I start feeling more and more helpless.
I can’t remember ever being in this much pain, just like I can’t recall how I ended up in this dark room. In fact, I struggle to remember anything. I try to muster a name for myself, but my lips tremble instead. Even after scouring my brain for the tiniest detail of how I came to be here, I recall…. nothing. It’s as though I merely sprang into existence in this dark, cavernous place, but of course, that can’t be the case. Perhaps if I can manage to get outside and retrace my steps, then some memory will come to me. It has to.
I’m trapped in a place as cold as it is big, and even after exploring along the corners of what feels like a warehouse, there is no way for me to escape. The doors I found are sealed shut and the walls are impossible for me to climb, especially with my injuries. No one has answered my screams, and I don’t know if I will get lucky enough for someone to stumble by.
Stretching out my good arm to detect any obstacles in this darkness, I’m shocked when my hand makes contact with what feels like stone. It’s much larger than I am with odd grooves and curves that don’t make sense to my fingers. I can’t tell what it is other than a big, misshapen rock. It’s warmer than the concrete walls, so I lean against it and sigh. At least I have one safe point in this huge, unknown place. I decide to spend the night there.
I try closing my eyes to sleep, but the darkness is the same whether my eyes are open or shut. So I just sit there. And stare at the void that I can feel staring me down as well. The thought runs through my mind that perhaps I’ve gone blind. I clasp my hands in desperate prayer, begging for that not to be true. I don’t know who I’m praying to, but I beg for mercy, nonetheless. I don’t know where I am or what’s going on, but I don’t want to feel any more helpless than I already do.
After sitting against that rock for what feels like eternity, I can see the room gradually begin to take form. Turns out there are high windows near the ceiling, and they just allow the dawn to peak over the walls and into the room. I take a long, deep breath. I am not blind. The layout of this room has started to reveal itself to my eyes. The light grows brighter and stronger as each minute passes, and I feel better as well. Maybe I can escape this place after all.
The sunlight hits reaches mid-morning, and I feel strong enough to stand and look around. The rock I had used for shelter is, in fact, not a rock. It is a large, reddish stone slab with carvings. The crude, yet familiar images are people with spears, horses with too many legs, and multiple rams in a herd. I trace them, finally discerning in the light what my fingers could not in the dark. The slab reminds me of ancient cultures, lost civilizations. But I do not recognize the style of art, or the origin of the rock. And why is it here? Looking around again, I see that the room is filled with such objects.
No, not objects. Statues. From here, I can see images of people in various poses, several animals, and other statues that do not have a recognizable shape. The statues fill the huge warehouse almost to the brim. They are lined neatly in rows that stretch beyond my line of sight. At the base of each are placards with words written on them. I look at a few, but I do not know the languages written there. I stare at the letters, attempting to force some meaning from them, but doing so gives me a headache. Eventually I give up and resume my initial task of escaping.
At what I assume to be the east side of the warehouse, given the rising sun, there is a door bolted from the outside. It does not budge when I shove it. I bang against it with my fists, clawing against the handle in a desperate attempt to escape. Panting, I feel my legs shaking from the effort. Even if I weren’t in such a weakened state, I doubt I could break it down. The other door is to the west. I discovered it last night when I groped helplessly along the sides of the walls. I walk to it, and after beating against it as well, I find the same result: locked shut.
All the hope I’d mustered with the morning light has dissipated into the air. There is no exit. The walls are flat and smooth, with no handholds to climb to the windows. It’s like being an insect trapped under a glass, wondering why it can’t escape. I tell myself that I’m screaming for help, but it’s fear that tears the screeches from my throat.
After a few hours, I finally learn that there is no way to leave. At least not until a rescuer appears. I’ve resolved that the best course of action is to simply wait for one. Perhaps someone will find me. No, they will find me. I have to hope or else I have nothing left.
And so I decide to spend my time looking at the numerous statues that fill this vast warehouse. I start from the east, and make my way west, just like the sun in the sky. But looking across the room, I see statues upon statues upon statues. Far too many to count. I bet if I stared at one a day, it would take me many months to admire them all. And seeing as I will be locked in this warehouse for quite some time, it appears that there is little else to do. I gladly take the opportunity to distract myself from the situation.
At the eastern side, there is a common theme of nudity among the statues. I see many sculptures of naked men cut from smooth white stone, posing to show their impressive figures. I do my best to avert my eyes from their…. rather delicate areas, but of course I realize that is silly. It’s not as though the statues can see me. Their rippling muscles and broad chests look as though they just finished running in a field somewhere. There is even marbled sweat coating the neck of one such man; an intricate detail that stuns me. And the other statues are absolutely incredible. I study a bust of a veiled woman with flowers adorning her head. The sculptor made the stone look as soft as silk as the translucent veil reveals the fine features of the lady’s face. I’m hesitant to tear my eyes away from her melancholy visage, but there are more statues here than a person could enjoy in one lifetime. As I walk further west, there are other statues using different mediums such as metal, clay, and a hard, shiny material I don’t recognize. I walk for hours admiring them, but I do not come close to seeing them all.
There is no end to them in this warehouse. They are infinite. I feel as though I’m swimming in a sea of statues, and I’m sinking rapidly. The rows blur together in my eyes to form one massive wave of stone images, crashing down on me. My eyes feast on the endless images of anything and everything the human mind could conjure. Man, woman, child, beast, they go on and on for ages. It’s the statue of a bull that I last remember seeing before my knees hit the floor. It’s as though the string above my head is cut and my body tumbles to the hard concrete. There I lie as I try to gain my bearings. The hunger in my stomach and the thirst in my throat only fuel the wave of dizziness and nausea as I grapple with my own body to rise into a sitting position. My head feels light and cold, with a slight ringing in my ears. I am weak from injury and deprivation, so I choose the mercy of simply closing my eyes and letting sleep wash over me. When I wake, I still see the bull staring down at me, ready to charge. I sigh and pull myself to my feet. It was foolish to expend so much energy exploring. I should wait patiently sitting for help to arrive. No point in tiring myself when I have no food or water.
The day passes as I sit there. I’m tempted to set the warehouse ablaze for a bit of warmth; perhaps, then someone will be there to rescue me before the flames scorch my flesh. Because no matter how long I lie here on this cold, concrete floor, the spot beneath me retains no heat. It’s as though the stone leeches the warmth from my body and disperses it to the statues before me. They look more and more life-like as the hours pass. I find myself averting my gaze from them and studying the ceiling. The panels up there look big enough for a person to pass through. Perhaps that was how I got here. Maybe I was an art thief who sneaked into this warehouse to sell the statues to the fabulously wealthy. It would certainly explain my injured arm if I fell from that height. But wouldn’t I have died from a fall like that? I sigh. It doesn’t matter if I can’t remember.
I cannot sit on that hatefully frozen floor any longer and I move around once more. My joints are painfully stiff, and my balance is questionable as I wobble over to the other sculptures. I resume my admiration once more. I have to support my weight on some of them, but surely the statues don’t mind. I laugh weakly at the lame joke, but my voice sounds more like a wheeze than a giggle. I try not to think about it as I study the images.
The most interesting so far is the metal statue of a woman with an owl perched on her arm. The artist must’ve been a genius; even though she is made of dark bronze, I can practically see her muscles flexing to keep the bird balanced. The stern woman carries a large spear in her other hand as she watches imaginary enemies somewhere in the distant horizon. I can tell she was built to be in the sun, perhaps a lush garden somewhere. Her bronze skin would be a glory in the light, not a dull glow here in the dark. The warehouse is slowly becoming a hellhole of nothingness again, where my eyes have no use. I use the last of the light to admire the warrior woman, and dream about when help arrives and I can escape.
The next morning after another night of nothing, I can feel my motivation drip away like the tears that run down my cheeks. Each doubt that plagues me hammers away at my head as an ache that won’t leave. I start to wonder what will happen if no one comes along to help me. Will my body rot away in this warehouse? Will I even be buried or will vermin find its way to my corpse? I sob harder at each thought.
I may not remember how I came to be in this place, but I curse myself or whoever put me here for doing so. This wretched warehouse may become my tomb. Who even puts all these statues in one place without someone to maintain them? That thought gives me a little hope. Someone will have to come to check on the statues. After all, art is expensive and it serves no one sitting in this room with no one to look at it but me.
My eyes are inevitably drawn to the statues yet again. I’ve been staring at them for so long, I struggle to imagine what a real human looks like. In their legs, I can see the shadows and indentation of muscle and bone. It doesn’t feel like they were carved of stone; I’d believe it if the sculptor simply covered people in plaster and froze them in time. But these cold, heartless statues…. they viciously mock me with their silhouettes, teasing me out of the corner of my eyes. I imagine at any second one of them will be a person who can help me, but I’m fooled every time. Some barely reach my knees while others tower over me like ancient giants. And even if I managed to start a fire, these cursed statues would probably survive and I would not.
I walk up to several statues of men and women staring to the west. I touch their arms and entwine my hands with theirs. Their hands have veins like mine. Their palms have lines like mine. Their fingers are even curled like mine. But they’re hard and cold to the touch. I feel nothing when I hold them. They’re frozen in time, locked in one moment, one pose forever. And while I can barely move, at least I still can. Their eyes focus on a single point far off in the distance, some place I can’t see. I imagine standing on their pedestals for all eternity, never blinking or sneezing. It would be worse torture than even the endless night of nothing.
I’ve given up trying to walk. Each time I try, the black spots in my vision grow larger. I feel weaker than ever before. I make one last effort to shuffle to the right, but my legs will not support my weight. I curse the weakness in my flesh. There is no hope left for escape. After uselessly sobbing a bit more, I look to the statues and I curse them too. They stand there uncaring and unconcerned with the woman dying next to them. Their eyes cannot see me.
I finally stumble onto a cream-colored pillar with snakes carved in a circle. It reaches the top of my hips as I lay down across it. Hopefully it will make a good final resting place. I already feel weaker and weaker by the second. The cold stone is hard and unforgiving against my body and I accept that this is the end. As life leeches from my form, my eyes rest on the placard that lies beneath the pillar. Surprisingly, I can read it. It says, Iodame Lives and Demands Fire. I feel a chill race over my skin. Then I notice the traces of blood on the floor next to the pillar and the drops leading to the stone slab of runes. I finally start to remember before I feel my bones crack and my flesh hardens.
The next morning, two servicemen unlock the doors to the cold warehouse and wheel in a dolly cart. They hoist a statue of a young woman on top of it, and make their way to the exit.
“Is it true?” The younger man asks.
“Is what true?” The older man replies.
“That the statues come alive at night, screaming to be set free?”
The older serviceman scratches his beard and scoffs. “How about you ask that question again but this time listen to yourself first.”
“Okay, okay, guess it was just a rumor.” The young man sighs and shakes his shaggy head. He won’t worry about it again.
The two make their way to the exit, but as they leave, only the older man pauses to notice the new set of scratches on the inside of the door. And shrugs. He makes a mental note to call the repairman the next day. Then he carefully bolts the door shut from the outside and leaves.