But this is just a whimsical fancy, drawn by bored people driving by in climate-controlled cars and trying their best to avoid drowsiness caused by highway hypnosis. These old abandoned buildings all had a greater purpose at one time or another. They were the centers for homes, families, and farming businesses which went back for generations.
And then they died out. The people moved away, the land changed hands, and the buildings left over were simply forgotten. County inspectors come by every few years and check them out. The buildings are properly condemned for being unsafe, and signs are posted to warn travelers of the danger, but more often than not this is all that does happen. It would be a major undertaking to tear down every abandoned and condemned building along the sides of these Midwestern roads, and the states simply cannot afford the expense. So, the buildings remain, getting older and more dilapidated with each passing year.
No one would ever possibly notice, or really even care for that matter, if one of these antiquated structures had a visitor. Only a full-time observer too would notice if, say, a large motorhome drove up to one of these old barns, parked behind it, and then carefully moved inside after some minor preparations and repairs were made. A driver going by would not see the black butcher paper used to cover the cracks and openings from inside; the shadows would be too dark, and the cars fly by so quickly in any case. Any large open doors could be padlocked shut. Fences could be rewired and closed again to traffic.
A person going to such lengths could have all the privacy he wanted, at least for a while.
No one would notice anything odd at all.
* * * *
Lily couldn't help but stare up at the ramshackled ceiling above her as her strange captor carried her out of the motorhome. She couldn't move an inch. She couldn't even blink. She had been at home in her apartment getting ready to go to work, and she had heard a knock at the door. She opened it, and a bright light had flashed in her face. And she was paralyzed, just like that.
The barn's interior was just a big open space. All the wood and other furnishings had been moved out a long time ago, and the motorhome fit inside perfectly. Lily's captor, grunting like he was in pain, set her down on the bare earth floor and leaned her back against the motorhome. He took out a handkerchief and wiped his face. He was perspiring heavily.
But he was smiling, too.
Four other women had been taken out of the motorhome before Lily, and because they were still inside her limited field of vision she could see them all. The closest was a blonde girl, like Lily herself, with an expression of fear caught on her frozen face. Her eyes were as blank as a mannequin's; Lily could see no life in them. She wondered if her own eyes looked like that. Just beyond the blonde was a short brunette. She had been paralyzed in a bending down position, so Lily couldn't see her face. A redhead, standing bolt upright, was the last in the row.
They had all been stripped naked.
The fourth figure Lily wasn't sure was a real human being. Her abductor had moved her (it?) into the barn first. She too was a redhead, but her skin, if skin it was, was porcelain smooth and white, shiny in the reflected lights on top of the motorhome. She looked like a china doll; she was dressed in a short white toga, her long arms and legs exposed in fluid gracefulness, and she appeared to be dancing. Her eyes were opaque, totally without expression or feature.
A table from the motorhome had been set out just on the periphery of Lily's sight. On it was a white pile of clothes, and after a few minutes Lily recognized them as togas similar to what the porcelain statue was wearing.
Lily struggled to break the paralysis holding her. Perhaps if someone had looked carefully at her muscles they might have been seen to be quivering slightly. Please God, don't let him do this to me!
The man got up from where he was resting, breathed deeply, and put a hand to his sides grimacing. "Well, time's a-wastin,' " he then muttered and went back inside the motorhome for a moment. He came back out holding an open bag of what looked like spray cans. He set them down on the table and looked at the four women lined up against the vehicle.
Lily couldn't do anything but wait in horror.
"Melopomene," she finally thought she heard him say softly. She didn't understand what the word meant. He approached, and for a second Lily thought he was coming to her (No! No! she screamed mentally), but he went to the other blonde instead. "I'm sorry," he said to her as he lifted her apart from the others. "We were interrupted from before."
He set the woman down in a space he had spotlighted using the motorhome's own lights from on top. The man turned back to the table, took one of the cans from the bag, and set it down at his feet. "You were Anne's understudy, I understand, hmmm?" he said to her. He began adjusting her pose, putting her arms closer to the sides and adjusting the weight she carried on her feet. "Now you'll surpass her in divine quality." He stood back and appeared satisfied with his work.
He then picked up the spraycan and began spraying the woman's breasts.
Lily watched in disbelief. A heat welled up from inside her, and she tried to ignore it as much as possible. Where the spray touched the woman's flesh, a thin crystal veneer started forming. It was transparent, but very glossy, and it had the effect of bathing the woman's figure in a rainbow-hued glow, enhancing her physical attractiveness and making it seem more unearthly. The man sprayed her breasts, starting at the nipples and working in a circular pattern down the swell and onto her belly. The can gave out after about five minutes, and he went back and replaced it with another from the table.
He's turning her into a statue, Lily cried inside to herself. He's going to turn us all into statues! Again she struggled, but it was a totally useless thing. Her muscles were locked by a deep inhibition planted in her brain.
The second can ran out just as the man was finishing off her backside. He went back for some more. The places where he had sprayed looked like they were hardening. The crystal layers were increasing slowly, piling one thin glistening plate on top of another. The flesh beneath was turning pale, too . . . becoming more and more transparent, just like the crystal itself.
The man had plenty of cans.
The spraying went on all afternoon.
* * * *
The sign on the window outside simply said 'Clock Repair.' Hiram, though, had been assured that the little shop was the best of its kind in three states. He walked in, and a little chime attached to the door rang sweetly.
"Yes, can I help you?" A middle-aged, slightly portly fellow stood behind a counter. He was wearing a green visor over his eyes, and he had on thick, magnifying-lenses quality glasses. A watch sat exposed on a felt cloth in front of him. The walls of the shop, gray-paneled, were hung full of clocks, cuckoo clocks, and other mechanical timekeepers. A row of large and elegant grandfather clocks stood in a row along one wall. Hiram liked the atmosphere.
The sound of ticking was everywhere.
"I hope so," he said approaching the counter. The detective had out a small sketchbook, and he laid this out on the table in front of the repairman. "I want to know if something is possible, and if so, if you can do it."
He showed him several hand-drawn designs. Hiram had lifted them long ago.
The repairman put his tools down and looked carefully through the book, leafing back and forth across the thin and yellowed pages. He frowned and asked Hiram some questions. The detective answered as best he could.
Finally, the repairman started shaking his head. He said, "It's possible, I guess, but I'd have to take a look at the real thing before knowing for sure. It's a funny request, though, if you don't me saying so."
Hiram said, nodding, "Yeah, I know, but it has to do with a case I'm on." He raised his left hand and tapped the side of his head lightly. His eyes began to slowly rotate and glow. The repairman gasped and almost fell off his chair before a peaceful, soothing expression formed on his face. "It'd really help me out if you could do it."
The two talked for a few more minutes, then both walked behind the counter and into the repair room beyond.
The shop closed early that day.
* * * *
"Melopomene" was finished in the evening.
The spraying had done more than just coat her in crystal. It had actually turned her into crystal. She stood in the same pose the man had put her in before, only now she gleamed like a huge, multifaceted diamond. Her hair, her cheeks, the upturned curve of her breasts and thighs, they all glimmered like a collection of pearl-white gems. The lights shown so brightly off of the crystallized woman, it was hard for Lily to actually see her anymore. The expression on her face was perceivable now only in terms of shadow, impressions only hinted at on a hardened, angular surface. The man, upon finishing, had clothed her again with one of the togas. He had also carefully balanced a white mask in one of the woman's outstretched palms, a caricature of a frowning man.
"Wonderful," the man said, gazing at his creation. "Splendid. A much better choice for a goddess."
He checked his watch. He debated with himself .. . . do I have time for another? he seemed to be asking.
Lily desperately hoped that he didn't. But then he began nodding his head. "The next one is quicker anyway," he said to himself.
He approached Lily.
No! No! She struggled inside, tried with all her might to pull away from his touch, but looking at her no one would have noticed any change. He picked her up and carried her away from the side of the motorhome. His fingers brushed against her sex as he held her thighs, and Lily was ashamed at herself for the growing dampness she felt there, and the heat.
The man set her down and began posing her. Getting a firm hold, he widened her stance and bent her right leg forward, stretching out her left leg behind her. He patted her on the butt, and Lily shuddered inside in mixed revulsion and, dare she say it, attraction. He lifted her arms up and arranged them in front of her chest, outward. He tilted her head, and, with his thumbs, pursed her lips somewhat in a pouting expression.
He stood back. If he didn't know better, he would swear she was caught in the middle of an erotic dance.
Lily lost sight of him. She could only stare forward. Her muscles were locked, her motion frozen. The mien of her face and body were completely at odds with the feelings she had inside.
Then, suddenly, there was a cold sensation at the tip of the extended left foot behind her. Oh my God, ohmigod! she could almost be heard to mutter. It was not what she had expected. It felt . . it felt . . . it felt good!
A heaviness filled Lily's limbs. A growing wave of icy heat spread from her foot and on up her leg . . . a boiling ecstasy of sensory inputs. A little pain, but an overwhelming sense of pleasure at the same time, and all of it charged with electrical coldness. Lily would have gasped at she had been able. The sensation passed through her lower body, down her other leg, and up into her torso and head. Oh . . oh my . . . oh my . . . it's taking me, it's taking me, It's Taking Me!
Another shudder passed through Lily, only no longer was it a shudder of revulsion.
Tony watched as the small metal sphere he put on Terpischore's foot melted in. The liquid metal flew up her figure like lightning, and within seconds she was shiny, silvery, and metallic, totally converted.
He looked up at the ceiling, closed his eyes, and breathed a thank you at the stars beyond.
When he looked back the transformation was complete. Where Lily Hordendale had been a moment before, now there was only Terpischore, Muse of the Dance, captured forever in alloyed loveliness.
An Art incarnate.
Tony sat down at the edge of the table. Polyhymnia, a fellow dancer, pranced eternally to one side, and Melopomene, patron of tragedy, stood crystallized to the other. Terpischore stood in the middle. She wasn't dressed yet, but he thought he might wait until morning to do that.
He was tired.
He looked briefly at the two remaining women leaning against the motorhome.
And he had so much more work to do.
. . . to be continued
Read, "The Arts, Part Eight"!
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