Jen DeSantis’ Picture Choice: 1
Title: Porcelain Perfection
“Where do you want it?” a gruff voice called from the hall.
Matheson barely glanced up from his paperwork. “There is fine. I’ll unwrap it shortly.”
He walked from around his desk and out to the foyer. He surveyed the box carefully and nodded. He held out a fifty between two manicured fingers without looking at the delivery man.
“You’re done here,” he said.
“Thanks, man,” the delivery man said, unfolding the crisp bill and looking at it.
His tone was curt and final. The mover looked up, surprised at first, but Matheson wasn’t even looking at him. He was looking intently at the enormous box taking up most of his foyer. The delivery man muttered something under his breath before turning abruptly and letting himself out of the apartment.
“Now…” Matheson breathed. “Time to unwrap you.”
His demeanor changed the moment he was alone with the package. His crisp, clean features, so often cruel and calculating, took on the look of a boy on Christmas morning. Never taking his eyes off of the package, he reached into the hall desk drawer and pulled out a box cutter.
Carefully, making sure only to cut the tape and not the box, he went around the edges with the box cutter. When each square of tape had been cut, he set the cutters down with shaking finger and crossed his arms across his stomach, looking again at the box. He considered for several minutes before he decided which end to open first.
Working swiftly, but with great care, he began to open the side of the box. Inside, a large figure was wrapped in several layers of cellophane and packing paper. It’s vaguely human shape was clear, even within the dark of the box. Also, the head of the figure, unfettered by wrapping, was just barely visible. Once the side of the box was open, Matheson picked up the box cutters again and began to cut, with an almost surgical precision, the box surrounding his treasure.
It took nearly an hour of cutting and unwrapping before she was free of all her packing. When the process was finished, Matheson stood in front of the figure, a sheen of sweat across his brow and his slicked-back hair sticking out in several directions.
A mad light shone in his eyes as he surveyed the porcelain figure in front of him. He smiled thinly as his eyes took everything in.
The lifesize figurine stood upon a small, mirrored dias. Posed perfectly on her bare feet, only balls of her feet touched the ground. She stood, lithe and limber, the curve of her delicate legs achingly beautiful to Matheson’s skilled, collector’s eye. Her skin was milky white and without the faintest blemish.
Her cream colored skirt seemed to be caught in a gentle breeze, flitting out just above her knee and caught in a perfect ripple of movement. He followed the coltish line of her thigh up to the waist of her skirt. The pearl grey shirt lay flat against her stomach. Matheson licked his lips as he eyed the swell of her bosom and the way the sweater fell gently into the rise of her cleavage. Captured perfect and forever by the artist’s tools.
Her face was a study in delicacy. Pearlescent and sublime, her features were etched without any trace of flaw. Each one of her eyelashes were cast in a glittering moment of exquisiteness. Every single strand of her hair had been brushed and caught in the same breeze that captured her skirt.
“Oh,” Matheson murmured, reaching out a finger and holding it, shaking, just above the figure’s perfectly poised arm. “You are perfection incarnate. The sculptor has outdone himself this time.”
With a long, last look at his acquisition, he turned and walked toward a mirrored door. He swiped a card and the door’s lock made a soft click. Once inside, Matheson threw a switch and soft lights went on. Nine other porcelain masterpieces lined the long, mirrored room. An empty place at the end of the room stood waiting for his newest acquisition. Matheson smiled, looking at the place of honor. She was certainly fit for his most elite collection. He pulled the dolly out from the closet and wheeled it back out to where his newest figurine waited.
He took another look at her, a serene smile on his face. All at once, his smile fell and his brow furrowed. The tiniest crack had appeared right at the figure’s wrist. It spider-webbed out and up the forearm.
“No,” he whispered. “That wasn’t there just a moment ago.”
He quickly pulled a magnifying glass out from the desk drawer and started at the mannequin's feet. With painstaking precision, he examined her all the way up to her face. He was inches from her cheek, barely breathing with his intensity when he saw it.
In the corner of her eye, a single drop of water welled up. Matheson came in closer with his magnifier. The eyes were fixed, but the pupil dilated slightly.
Matheson recoiled slightly, frowning.
Another crack had developed at the edge of her lips. He frowned deeper, watching her face.
The lips had parted only a fraction of an inch. Matheson leaned in so that his ear almost touched the figure’s lips.
The word was barely a whisper, barely more audible than the sound a feather might make touching the ground. But it was there.
Matheson pulled back quickly, looking her up and down. His eyebrows knitted together in annoyance as he backed away from his purchase, his lips pursed in exasperation.
He pulled his phone out of his pocket and tapped the screen twice before bringing it to his ear.
“Yes. Hello?” he said as the line connected.
The voice on the other line greeted him, but he did away with pleasantries.
“Yes, it’s here,” he said, his voice dripping with exasperation. “You said it was cured, but it’s cracking. It spoke to me. It’s no good like this.”
The voice on the other end spoke rapidly, but Matheson cut him off.
“She’s not done, my friend… You’ve rushed it a tad, I’m afraid. You’ll have to come over and fix her up before I add her to my collection. I simply can’t have any cracks in my dolls.”
More rapid words came from the other end. Matheson nodded, looking at the figurine. The tear that had begun in her eye had rolled down the cheek. It left a wet, almost glittery trail along the curve of her face. It caught Matheson off guard, touched his heart in the same way that the flit of the girl’s skirt had moved him. He had to have it exactly that way.
“Yes, well, the cracks will have to go, but I want the tear to stay,” Matheson said, his smile returning. “That little addition is just perfection.” The voice crooned slowly. “Yes, I’m sure. See you in an hour.”
He hung up the phone and slipped it back in his pants. He pulled up a chair and sat staring at the figurine. Only one more crack began, just at the nape of her neck. No more tears fell and no more whispered pleas. When the sculptor arrived, he would fix the alabaster skin and Matheson’s perfect ten would be ready for his collection.
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Jennifer DeSantis is a Horror and Paranormal Author. She lives near Philly with her family. Tweet her at @JenD_Author