15. Crazed Immortality

The Mask of Sorrow from Magdan


The sculpture raised itself up into the air and people looked and shook their heads. The author had sold all his goods and lost his family through his madness and still he doggedly spent to raise the sculpture up from the ground. Why? people asked him as they met him in the street pale and white from stress and hardship. To be remembered he would say and move on. People chortled as the slabs of cut stone arrived to add to the folly of one. Ozymandais is what they started to call him in the local press as the sculpture grew more austere in the light. The author nodded and said nothing. The stroke hit him when the sculpture was nearly 95% done. It left him partly paralyzed and short on funds due to medical expences. He went without medicine and completed the sculpture dying the following summer where he was then buried in crypt he had built in the sculpture. The radio interviewer who questioned him shortly before his death had just one simple question. Why?

The author gave this answer. To be remembered. To say that I was on this earth and I left my mark. That this will stand as a reminder to all that I was someone who existed. That people will remember my work be it this or my writing. So I can tell myself on deathbed that I mattered. At the base of the sculpture the author had three simple words carved into the stone. I WAS HERE. The sculpture itself stood in the ground and gazed out impassively.

And then the people came. They bought his books and asked questions about the author.  What type of man did this? Was there a different meaning here? The people also changed their minds. They sold his books and told fond stories of him. The family made money from both and then to the amusement of all they put another statue of him in the town. As legacies went it was not a bad one.

One man in the village was not happy. He shook his head and said nothing. When the pilgrims came and chatted in the bars and cafes he could be heard mutering 'Yes but was it a life well lived?' On occasion after a night of strong spiritis and heady talk he would walk to the staute and shout at it. He never did remember what he said the next morning but he always had the feeling it was important. He too began to become pale and gaunt. After much badgering by his children he went to the doctors who diagnosed pancratic cancer. The bile in his body was killing him. One night he close to his death he went missing and was found by his grandson near the base of the statue weeping and cursing. The medication he was on making him wozy and forgetful. Waking the next day he called his grandson into his room and asked what he had said. The grandson hesitated then spoke up. You were punching the base of the staute were it said 'I was here' and shouting 'So was I'. The old man nodded to his grandson and thanked him for his honesty. He died that night.

With the writers family consent they buried the old man in the grounds of the statue and placed a simple gravestone over him. The words 'So am I' was engraved in granite on the slab. The pilgrims who passed through also paid homage to the old man. They also looked at the statue differently. What before had being a light hearted look at personal eccentricity had somehow changed. The stautue always astere now seemed to frown upon the pilgrims as if asking questions. What have you done with your life? Why are you here? Will you be remembered? The attendance at the statue went down except for a devoted few who seemed to always come back and look at the statue. You could see them frowning looking up at the face all asking the same question in their minds. What have I done to be remembered?

The silence from the statue answered their question.