Please find my short story below and feel free to check out my work on Amazon. Thank you.
Keith Adam Luethke
The Corpse Artist
By: Keith Adam Luethke
Clay is earth and earth is flesh. These are the words which Kyle Masterson has come to call his own. It was the first of November, the day after Halloween, when he decided that the material make up of clay held no use for him as it once did. He sat in his cramped studio apartment pounding a block of gray matter with his fists. The clay was soft and wet, quickly slipping beneath his ceaseless hammering and falling onto the concrete floor. Kyle sighed in frustration and put his dirty hands over his sleep deprived eyes. With only seven hours till his exclusive showcase downtown he simply didn’t know what to do.
The clang of a metal rail breaking small bones caught his attention. The trap under the table had worked. Another dead rat within two days, maybe he’d have the studio free of them by the end of the month. Wiping a bead of sweat from his brow Kyle left his workbench. He stood back to view his works of art. Four in all, they stood on a windowsill overlooking Old Gray’s Cemetery. His works was titled A Collection of the Macabre by the Knoxville News Sentinel. He couldn’t help but to take a deep breath and look to the black poster covering his unpainted wall. Come see the minions of Kyle Masterson was written in red below a twisted shape of a gluttonous man with broken beer bottles jutting from every orifice. He tried not to snicker. The audience who’d showed up tomorrow would probably have never seen or even read the article, as it lay hidden in the far corner of the newspaper where prying eyes could barely spot his obstruction of nature.
Kyle stared at his works. The first one which caught his eye rested at a slanted position from a mishap in his firing kennel. But Kyle was happy with the work, its’ off balance gave a certain amount of originally to the sculpted scarecrow. A bit of straw still clung to its carrot like nose and protruded out the spine.
“And that’s what people want isn’t it?” He asked himself. “People need something interesting to look at. They want to feel the pain of the sculpture. To become the work until the pain is almost reality.”
The roaring engine from an eighteen-wheeler rolled by his studio, making his clay sculptures come to life with sudden shakes and erratic jitters. Kyle grabbed one of his favorite pieces: a head-less and leg-less women before she plummeted off the windowsill and to her doom.
“Dammit,” Kyle cursed above the overpowering engine.
The eighteen wheeler rolled on. He hoped it drove into a brick wall.
Carefully placing the limbless women back on his sill, Kyle caught sight of a shadow darting beyond a row of cracked tombstones. Was he seeing things? Kyle rubbed his eyes and gave a second look. Nothing was there. He stared at his watch and exhausted a lung full of air through his nose. It was one o’clock in the morning.
“Only six hours and thirty minutes to go,” he sighed, slumping back in his hardwood chair and staring at his workbench.
The table was empty.
“The clay,” he mumbled.
The memory of it slapping against the floor came flashing back to him. What was his fascination with clay? Why was it so important? Kyle scratched his head. He had always liked the soft feel of cold clay beneath his eager fingers. Even as a child he just loved the way it smelled and how it could be molded into his most vivid nightmares, as though the clay itself was alive. Kyle shook his head. He was getting sleepy. Bending down, he took the fallen clay into his hands; it came away with a sharp POP, still wet and slippery, but different, warm to the touch and gooey like vegetable soup. Without a care, Kyle closed his eyes and brought the chunk of clay to his workbench. This was the way he always worked. Eyes closed, breathing deep and slow. He easily opened his mind to dreams and let his imagination take control. Under his strength the clay was given form and life. All other sounds were drowned out in this state. Even the trucks passing by could not deter Kyle’s skilled craftsmanship. Hand and mind had joined together, folding and pressing until the final images of his nightmares were wrought.
He dreamed of a creature older than time. For centuries it had roamed the night cemetery, indifferent to man. But tonight, Kyle would bring the monster to life through sheer will and clay. Its hands were sharp like jagged razors waiting to rend flesh and bone. A demonic head fitted with two protruding horns and leathery wings to match, it was a vile creation that would stand alone in his showcase by the first light of dawn, a truly monstrous figure.
When Kyle Masterson opened his eyes to the creation he had given form, his heart beat loudly in his ears. He had not used any of the clay on the floor, for it was still there. The material Kyle had transformed was half of the dead rat, and it stared back at him with two beady eyes. Kyle’s bloody hand covered his mouth. It was his best piece ever. The rat’s flesh was turned inside out, dark and rich with tiny roped veins. Kyle was dumbfounded. The creation mimicked his nightmare’s image of the creature perfectly. He went to the sink and washed the blood from his hands. His mind reeled with questions. Why didn’t he realize what he was doing? The rat’s flesh was different from that of clay? Kyle rubbed his eyes. He looked at his watch. He had five hours till the show. He stood up and placed the new masterpiece on the window sill. It was then he saw the graveyard outside for seemingly the first time in years. Watching the cloudy night sky unfurl before him a grim smile spread across his chapped lips. He reached behind his storage file for a shovel and went outside.
The mouths of countless audience members hung open as Kyle released a switch that illuminated his grisly new works. The critics were stunned. The police were called, and Kyle Masterson couldn’t help but laugh. His corpse sculptures were a great success. He would be headline news this time!
When the police pried about the cemetery they discovered four graves had been unearthed and emptied. When questioned about his crimes against humanity Kyle’s only response was, “clay is earth and earth is flesh.”