Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Ruff Draft

No one told Daniel the danger. He hadn’t understood that part of it.

People had been standing on a plinth in town. Anyone could apply to do so. It was an art piece. People got dressed up. Some people didn’t and just stood there as if waiting for the train home. Some protested. Some shouted poetry. Some preached. Some just sat and read a book.

But no one had told Daniel of the danger.

Part of the art of the piece was that at some point it would finish without warning and whoever was standing there at the time would become one with the plinth. That is, their skin would turn to bronze; they would become a statue. No one knew when this would happen, not even the artist who had conceived the idea. This was all on the application forms, but Daniel never read these things properly, he just signed where it asked him to.

He had applied under a false identity. He applied to stand on the plinth to imagine how it would be to be a statue. Not an important one - a forgotten statue blended in with everyone’s day to day. He decided for anonymity. So he applied under the false identity, and when it came to it, he wore a mask of unremarkable features to cover his face and wore everyday clothes. He planned to appear as boring as possible so that no one would pay attention to him. And so, a few months after he had applied, Daniel was standing on the plinth in the main square of the town. He stood as still as possible, head slightly tilted so that he could see the passers by below.

At first there were a lot of people stopping to stare, waiting to see what this new arrival would be doing. As the day went on, and Daniel didn’t show any signs of doing anything entertaining, less people paid attention. Daniel started to feel the beginnings of success in his intensions. He looked at the heads of the people passing below, the buses stopping and starting at the various stops, cars shuffling around the traffic lights.

A pigeon landed on his head at one point, cooing gently. Daniel didn’t do anything to discourage the pigeon. He stopped focusing on one thing in particular, but tried to absorb everything around him. He breathed in deeply, the traffic fumes, the breath of the city, filling his nostrils. The white noise of the constant movement all around washed through him. He felt the flow of everything - the rise and fall of the rush. He was so absorbed in everything that he lost consciousness of time. He didn’t think anything of the sun going down, had no measure of time between the sky going dark and becoming light again.

It was the next morning , near the end of rush hour. No one at all looked at Daniel now. As the hubbub below began to slow a little, it suddenly occurred to Daniel that he had been standing on the plinth all night.

As his body tried to move, he felt his skin begin to harden. At first he thought it might just be the affect of having stood in the same position for so long. But looking at his hands, he saw that they had turned the colour of bronze.

Alarmed, Daniel tried to move again. His mind ran in circles. It was like his brain had forgotten how to send commands out to his body.

He strained to call out, but not only could he not open his mouth, he failed to make any sounds inside. In fact, he wasn’t even breathing.

There was nothing he could do. He wondered how long it would be before the organisers would realize and rescue him. If they could. But no one came. Well, they did, but only for journalists to take photos and point television cameras at him. After that, no one really paid him much attention. He was left with his thoughts. Which often returned to the story of the Happy Prince. But he had no gold leaf. And none of the pigeons that perched on his shoulders and did their business on him seemed to be wanting to make conversation.

After a few months, verging on insanity, he decided it would be best to just give up and absorb the general goings on around him, become one with the flow of the town, leave conscious thought as far away as he could.

So Daniel felt the wind blowing past him, the cycle of the days and sounds below becoming a song, endless variations repeated day after day after day. Time passes. A lot of it. Years. He stands on the plinth, weathered and forgotten. People sometimes stop and look up at him. They wonder who he is meant to be, this ordinary looking man. He is no one that they recognise. They shrug inwardly and slip back into the stream that surrounds them.

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