Two knocks sounded through the door, surprising Clara.
“Do you have much left?” said a female voice, “We’ve been waiting a while now.”
Clara stopped combing and with careful movements to not disturb her hair, she turned her head to the door.
“I'm almost done, only a few minutes more,” said Clara.
“OK,” answered the voice again, as the young woman returned to look at her reflection in the mirror.
Clara was a bit nervous. It was not the first time that she was doing this type of job, but was the first time that it was so... long.
She’d been modelling for 3 years. Initially she worked as a fashion model for little companies like clothing catalogues by mail, fashion parties in her city and boutiques, as a complement to her scholarship while she studied. But she began to like the work, and after a summer with a special contract in the big city, and a lot of money as pay, she decided to park her studies and take advantage of her beauty for a few years in the fashion world.
Initially she was fine, she knew many people and most jobs were fun, but after a year her career stagnated and she always had little money. Finally, tired of her situation, she talked with Sammy, her fashion agent, and asked if there were jobs with more money while she waited her great opportunity.
Sammy doubted, although finally found a well paying job for Clara. But it was a job that was very... special. Some of her partners in the agency had refused the job for being too weird. If she would accept the contract, she would be a living statue in a party, as a piece of decoration.
Clara had seen a type of work on TV, models that stood still on pedestals, moving only what was necessary, in weird and extravagant parties and art galleries of rich and bored people. Clara asked Sammy if that was the gig. The agent smiled and said that when she said a “statue,” she was being literal.
Apparently, a rich scientist had developed a formula that, under the exposition of a determined frequency of X-rays, could transform a living creature into some substance similar to stone while inducing a state of deep hibernation, with the metabolism almost frozen. And after any amount of time, and another specific frequency of radiation, the process could be reversed as if nothing had happened.
This technology was in development stage, mostly for the fields of medicine or astronautics. To help the research, the scientist used it for the enjoyment of a decadent club of millionaires. And now one of this rich wanted three “exclusive statues” to decorate the saloon in a business reunion at his mansion the next weekend. The scientist had two of the women from his usual sources, but he need another one, and as he knew Sammy and her
job, he contacted her.
Clara was surprised and immediately said “no,” but when Sammy said the amount of the pay, the model opened her eyes wide. Even factoring in Sammy’s finder’s fee and taxes, it was more than a year’s wages! The agent, seeing the face of her client, smiled and assured Clara than the process was completely safe and reversible. The scientist was a old friend from college, and she trusted him. And after Clara glanced again at her poor bank account,
and considered her trust in the agent after almost two years with her, Clara accepted the contract.
The day of the “petrification” she was scared to death. One of the two other girls was already a statue being transported toward her place with a wheelbarrow when she arrived to the mansion with Sammy, and if not for the
agent, Clara never would have known that this statue was a living girl only an hour before. She was extraordinarily realistic and beautiful. Sammy introduced Jack, her friend, to the model. Jack explained how his formula worked
with scientific info that Clara didn’t understand at all, but she nodded so she didn’t look silly. As a demonstration, they went to the lab, in a trailer of a truck, parked at the back of the mansion. In a shielded room behind a window, Clara could see how a pair of workers with lab coats helped a lovely brunette and nude girl up onto a pedestal. When she saw Clara and her companions, she waved and grinned a carefree smile. The model noticed that the
brunette had wet hair, and the scientist explained that the hair needed a wash in his formula to work. Then one of the workers gave the girl a glass with a grey liquid, and she drank it.
She posed and the workers left the room, leaving her alone. With a microphone, the scientist asked the woman if she was ready, and a short “yes” sounded in the room. Clara didn’t take her eyes off to the girl for even a
moment, and Jack began a countdown from ten. When the zero sounded, a flash illuminated the girl’s room, slightly blinding Clara, but she could still see how in seconds the skin, hair and eyes of the girl began to pale, until she was
only a white statue, as if she was made of marble, as was the other girl. The scientist and the agent smiled with a laugh to see the astonished face of of the model, although Sammy also had astonished eyes. This was the first time that she had seen the process live.
Jack, without losing his smile, opened the shielded door and invited Clara and Sammy to enter. Sammy started to examine the girl... sorry, the statue, nodding satisfied after a time, and again he invited to the two women to touch the frozen figure. With a light tremor, Clara put her hand on the hip of the statue. It was hot, as if she was alive, but the texture and the hardness was indisputably stone. The face of the statue had the same serenity that it held only a few minutes before. She was so quiet, so silent, so... beautiful. Clara was totally concentrating on the empty eyes of the living statue when was interrupted by Jack asking if she was ready to be next. The business reunion of the client and patron of the scientist would begin in under three hours, and they needed to put Clara and her partner in their places in the salon before the guests arrived.
So, almost in a cloud and feeling fear in her stomach, Clara began to prepare for her petrification with the help of the workers and under the watchful eye of Sammy and Jack, and in a half hour she was ready to the process. The model could see how Sammy blinked an eye and moved her right hand to signal that everything was OK. As with the previous girl, one of the workers gave a glass with the grey liquid to Clara, the petrifying formula, and Clara, trying not to think on it, drank it in a single gulp. She was surprised for its taste, she imagined something unpleasant, as a medicine, but although the liquid wasn’t delicious, the taste was nice, like a soft version of ginger. And while she finished swallowing the rest of the taste in her mouth, the workers closed the shielded door and through the speakers Jack asked one single question: &”;Are you ready, Clara?”
She, knowing that if she thought too long about the thing that would happen her then maybe she would regret it, answered fast with a “Yes,” and the countdown began.
Her heart was beating at full speed, and the ten seconds seemed to her ten hours. She tried breathe more quietly to keep control and not ruin her pose, while the fear pushed her to shout “Stop,” but her professionalism won and when she heard the “Zero,” the same flash as before blinded her and she felt a chill.
A few seconds later the door was opened and Jack, Sammy and one of the workers entered into the room. Clara thought that something had gone bad, because she could feel her heart beat and... well, she was breathing, and statues don’t
breathe, but then she saw that although the lab coats of Jack and the worker were the same, the clothes on Sammy were different. And then she understood it. The time of the contract was over, and she wasn’t conscious for the duration of being a statue. From her point of view, time had stopped for almost three days.
Jack helped her to down off the pedestal, and Sammy accompanied her to a small cafe in the back of the trailer, in which the other two statue girls were talking with a smile in their faces, wearing only lab coats, while they drank coffee. The another worker showed up with another cup of coffee, and said to Clara that she needed to drink it, because in the coffee were components that would help to eliminate the rest of the petrifying formula. She obeyed and chatted with the other two women and Sammy. The two statue girls introduced themselves as Anna and Eva, and they told Clara that it was their fourth and sixth times respectively as living statues. An hour later, the model and the agent went to Sammy’s car and returned to their homes. During the journey Sammy showed photos of Clara as a statue, and she couldn’t help but be surprised, she looked great, beautiful. And although she didn’t want to acknowledge it, she loved it.
Clara threw herself on the couch. A few hours had passed since she recovered her human state, and for her, only a few minutes more since she was scared to become only a piece of stone, or the thing most near to the stone that was
possible, but the tension caused by that fear had been exhausting. She was ready to sleep all night on the couch when she sharply opened her eyes remembering one thing. She went to her room and took her laptop, and she connected to her bank. After to seeing the amount - the very big amount - in her account a smile formed on her face from ear to ear. She couldn’t believe it, for she, this morning she was near to being in the red, and now she didn’t need to worry about money for at least one year, with only three fucking days of a job that literally passed in a sigh. Fear or no fear, she could get used to it. And so started her career as a another type of model: a model of living statues.
The next day she talked with Sammy, and said that she would accept any job as a living statue that Jack proposed, and the agent, seeing the same easy money that her client did, didn’t put any snags in her way.
And thus, since that first petrification, one year ago, Clara had been a statue twenty times. Sometimes a piece of decoration in another business reunion for a few days, or in a party, other times as a statue in an art exhibition for a few weeks, one time even a month. The fear had disappeared a long time ago, for her the petrification was now only a phase, the most short, in her work.
But a week ago, an agent of another agency contacted with Clara by email. Initially she wasn’t interested, but by curiosity, she answered him. And she was surprised to see a very interesting job offer in a prestigious model agency
with great companies of the world of fashion and makeup. It was her dream hitting her face. She loved her job as a living statue, and Sammy had been very good with her, but this was an opportunity to participate in the “first
division.” With mixed feelings, she answered the offer with an ambiguous “I will think about it.” In the worst case the offer would be rejected and she’ continue with Sammy, and in the best the offer would be
returned with better conditions. In the second case she doubted she’d be ableto resist the temptation and she would say “bye” to Sammy.
And Clara continued think about the job offer when Sammy called her for a special job. One of the most regular clients of Jack, and especially of Clara, Will Doors, a dotcom millionaire, wanted Clara to decorate his office. It would be her sixth job with Doors, and she met him in her second contract, because he was impressed with her natural beauty. After that, all of his orders with Jack had the explicit order that except if she was occupied in other job, one of the
models should always be Clara. Initially the model thought this would be another job for a business reunion, but the “specialty” of this contract was that this time she would be the only model contracted, and the duration. Two years. Basically he wanted Clara as a semi-permanent piece of decoration in his office. And when she saw the amount of pay she became dizzy. Clara never thought that she could see so many zeros on a check in her name in all her life. After that she would not need think of the other job offer, or any job offer. If she wanted, she could buy an island and
retired as a new rich... forever. Even Sammy with her part could retire. But... it was two years. OK, for her it would look like a few seconds, but her family, her friends... all of them would remain on a “stand by” for any notice about her. Because one of the requirements was that only she and Sammy - and Jack and the client, of course - knew what would happen with her really. But it was so much money... and the temptation finally won.
The moment of truth finally came. Clara finished putting on her hair and left the bathroom only with a silk robe, a gift of Will Doors. The last hour she was preparing herself to be perfect, to be extremely beautiful as a nice statue for
the next two years.
This time Clara was not going to be petrified in the lab on the usual trailer, but directly in the office of Mr. Doors, in the place that she would occupy as an statue, over the bar, lying down. In the office were only Mr. Doors, Sammy,
Jack, and Jack’s assistant Michael. The scientist and his employee had more serious faces than usual. The model knew that Sammy and Jack had discussed about this job, mostly about the duration and the place of petrification. Jack was
very methodical at his job, and maybe he didn’t like leaving his mobile lab. Clara was a bit worried about that, but she trusted the scientist, and she knew that if there was any problem in the process, Jack wouldn’t do it. She imagined that he simply was concentrating in the job.
Mr. Doors approached to the model, took her hand and kissed it.
"In this moment, you’re simply perfect, Clara. It’s lucky and an honor to me that you acceded to my request. Any other model couldn’t take your place.” He smiled charmingly and Clara answered with her own smile. The businessman wasn’t Clara’s type, beginning with his age, he was in his mid 40’s,
but she had to recognize that he was really well preserved, and even without considerating his millions, in a few years he would be an interesting mature man. “In fact, I am beginning to think that I am not paying you
enough,” he continued. Clara kept her smile with professionalism, this wasn’t her first time with flatterer clients.
"You are very kind, William, but I think that my partners are ready to begin the... process, and after that you will have two years to enjoy me, an eternity, so itᰱs better if we don’t waste Sammy and Jack’s time.”
And Clara released her hand slowly and went next to her agent. She had a folder ready with a pen and three copies of the contract, as was usual, just in case the model should back down at the last moment. Next to Sammy was Jack with the
glass containing the formula that Clara knew so well.
When Clara took the pen to sign, for the first time since the model worked with him, the scientist stopped the hand of the girl and asked her: “Are you completely sure about this, Clara?” His tone was serious and there was a bit of concern in his eyes, and Sammy looked at him with anger. Clara hesitated a moment.
“Well... you said that this is safe, right Jack? Why do you ask me this?” she asked.
The agent narrowed her eyes and Jack return her the gaze. After a tense few seconds, Jack sighed, closing his eyes, and released the hand of the model.
&“Yeah, Clara, I'm sure it’s safe, I trust in my work,” answered the scientist. Only... only that it’s very long time... your life, your family and friends... I only want be sure that you are thinking this through.”
Clara smiled. “I appreciate your consideration and professionalism, Jack, but I am really sure. It’s a long-term job but... well, the reward is great, and remember that for me...” and Clara took the folder and signed in the copies of the contract, with an undisguised smile of happiness for Sammy. Afterward, the model took the glass from the hand of the scientist. “...It will only be a moment.”
And she drank in one single gulp the grey formula.
After that, with the help of Jack while Mr. Doors and Sammy looked, Clara climbed up to the place over the bar in which she would be the next two years and took off the silk robe, showing her nude body. Jack took the robe with him, and the
model lay down over the noble wood. The surface was cold, and she got goose bumps. After some last touches to her hair, she posed, with the sexy gaze that knew that Will loved.
“I am ready, Jack. Let’s do it!”
Jack nodded with resignation and gave a sign to the others. They went behind a shielded removable screen that Jack had brought from his trailer as a protection, an anti-radiation shield for the viewers. The lights of the x-ray machine came alive and buzzed. Before the scientist went behind the screen, he looked deeply again at the model.
"Goodbye, Clara,” he said. The girl lost her gaze a moment to wink an eye, and said, “I will see in a few seconds, people.” The man went and hid from the eyes ofClara behind the screen with the others, but his voice continued to sound in the office with the countdown.
“Ten.” Clara recovered her sensual face and breathed deeply.
“Nine.” The fans of the x-ray machine started to accelerate.
“Eight.” Clara swallowed. The taste of the potion lingered in her mouth yet.
“Seven.” A cough from Jack’s worker startled her for a fraction of second, but she kept her pose and expression.
“Six.” The cold surface of the wood had begin to warm, and the goose bumps in Clara’s hip and leg disappeared.
“Five.” A small shiver of nervousness toured the spine of Clara. It didn’t matter how many times she did this, she continued to feel nervous during the countdown.
“Four.” The model breathed slowly. Only a bit more and she would be rich. Sammy assured her that she would take care of her home and possessions. Maybe in this exact moment the workers were packing her things until she
returned. Although some things she would be able to buy more and better of after the heap of money that she would win.
“Three.” The worker of Jack’s coughed again, but Clara ignored it completely, focused on staying totally still, as if the petrification would have happened already.
“Two.” A thought crossed Clara’s mind. It was curious how the ten seconds of the countdown became longer for her than all of the duration of the contract. She wanted to smile, but again her professionalism endured and the seductive expression didn’t flinch.
“One.” A very low “Sorry,” almost a whisper, followed the number in the tone of voice of the scientist and reached Clara’s ears, but she didn’t understand it and held her breath, ready for the key moment of her job, ready in flesh, blood and soul for the petrification that she signed for.
"Now!”. As in the previous contracts, a flash blinded Clara, and her body and her mind froze and were again only a lovely statue, a decorative piece in the office of a millionaire.
The fans of the radiation machine reduced their speed, and the four people left the back of the mobile screen. Before their eyes the figure of Clara paled and lost its colour, her skin acquired a grey tone and her hair was turned into a
solid block but conserving her curls and tufts. The green eyes of the model disappeared in a beautiful sexy face without pupils, and in only the time needed for one sigh, the model was a nice decorative statue.
A loud laugh from Sammy surprised the other viewers, and she placed her hand over the shoulder of Mr. Doors. The businessman had a gaze of excitement and happiness like a child after the morning of Christmas seeing his most longed-for
“I told you! She NEVER read her contracts!” said the agent. “She always trusted me with them!”
The millionaire approached the grey figure of Clara and stroked her chest and the curls of her hair. Obviously, as in other previous contracts, she stayed immobile and completely unconscious of that.
“I can’t believe it...” said the man. He took the chin of the model and placed his own face front of the face of the statue. “So beautiful, so frozen... eternal and without getting older. Oh god, I have awaited this moment since I saw her so perfectly posed in that business meeting... And at last she is... mine.”
A cough from Sammy interrupted the statue lover’s dreams, but neither of them lost their smiles. Conversely, Jack and his worker were collecting the machine and the screen with faces more appropriate for a funeral.
“Well... yours... exactly yours... not. Only if you pay the contract. And the... extension of it,” said Sammy with mischief. “And, according to the contract, I have the authority to negotiate in the name of Clara any
extension of duration without any limit during the first ten minutes of the petrification
“True!” answered the millionaire. A expression of dislike formed on Jack’s face while he heard the two people talk about Clara as if she were a business, a commodity. “The initial contract was two millions for two years, a million per year, right? So... what do you think about fifty years, and fifty... millions? One third for you, my spiteful agent, one third for our disgruntled scientist for his research...”
Jack growled at being mentioned. He really needed funds for his research, he was in a deadlock, and when Sammy and Will had explained their plan to him, they made him feel sick, but the money... the money was very tempting... and necessary.
”..And the last part will go to the bank for when our nice statue awakens out of her stone dream. Of course, I take care of organizing the disappearance before her family and friends. In fact I have a man working on that right now,” and Mr. Doors put his hand on Clara’s hip. He really enjoyed of this, and Sammy thought of what he could do when he and the living statue were alone. But business was business, and she felt that Clara had betrayed her when she had not refused the rival agency’s offer immediately.
“Oh, that sounds really good. In fact, I am so in agreement with those fifty years...” and she began to write the new terms in the contract. “...That I'm going to give you one hundred and fifty years more for this amount. This way, your great-great-grandchildren will enjoy so exquisite a decoration from their ancestor, and we can relax without worrying that Clara might retaliate when we are older. Meanwhile, you and your descendants will be obligated to care of Clara and avoid any type of danger or damage to her, as previously required by the contract,” and she handed the contract to the man.
&that Clara might retaliate;Mmmm..., I agree,” answered Mr. Doors, and quickly he signed the papers.
And already it was done. During the next 200 years, Clara would be the property of Will Doors and his family.
Jack couldn’t avoid showing a disgusted face. He knew very well that both of them had talked and negotiated the amount of pay and the time of the contract. This... pantomime gave him gags, but he didn’t say anything. After all, he was as guilty of the conversion of Clara into a... thing as were the spiteful agent and the capricious millionaire.
“Excellent!” Sammy said, and took a copy of the contract and gave it to Mr. Doors, who folded and stored it under his jacket. “Well, I suppose that you are anxious to enjoy your acquisition in private, so if Jack and his man have finished packing up the equipment, we can leave your office. Personally, I want to go out and celebrate.”
The scientist finished packing the x-ray machine in big metallic briefcases, while her worker did the same with the portable screen and put the objects onto a wheelbarrow. The two men approached to enter the office without looking to Mr. Doors and Sammy, hoping to finish this as soon as possible. When Jack passed by the bar, where the petrified model lay, he whispered a words.
"I'm sorry Clara, but I was weak. Bye.” And he left the room.
That was when Sammy went next to her stone client and took Clara’s chin softly, approaching her own face to the model.
“I know that you can’t hear me, but... as I will not be around to say it in two hundred years, I’ll say it now,” said the agent. “I was very angry with you, the betrayal is a thing that pisses me off so much... After the time that we have spent together, you should have answered that email and refused the offer immediately. In fact, when my source informed me, I couldn’t believe that that you didn’t. But, after the amount of money you made me win... well, I forgive you.” She released the statue and smiled with sadism in her eyes. “Goodbye, sweetheart,” and she left the office too, followed by Mr. Doors, who closed the doors behind him.
And the statue stayed alone in the room, doing exactly what she would do for the next two hundred years, being a nice decorative piece. Maybe the time of the contract would pass very fast to Clara, but looked like the long-term contract would be really, really long.
“Oh my... Anna! Anna! Come here!”
In the hall a young man stared at a statue and called to his wife. She appeared a few seconds later with another woman, one of the guides of the the auction exhibition.
“Look at this wonderful statue, Anna,” he said “It’s perfect for the pool of the beach house.”
“Yeah,” confirmed his wife. “It’s elegant and beautiful. Diana
and Marty would envy it. A great work of the sculptor, indeed.”
“In fact,” she was interrupted by the guide, “she isn’t a work
of a sculptor. If you read the info in the expositor, you will see that this piece is a living statue. A petrified model for the enjoyment of neither more nor less than Will Doors himself.”
"Oh, that’s even better!” said the woman. “Living statues are very rare since the government banned the contracts for them years ago. So she is exclusive and unique then! Oh my... now I really want it!”.
“Two hundred years!? Wow!” exclaimed the man. “What is her story? I can’t imagine why someone would want be a statue so long.”
"She belongs to the first generation of living statues, when the petrification technology was beginning,” answered the guide. “In those times the contracts were more... flexible, before the government started to
regulate them, and as you say, later banned them, although luckily for you, not retroactively. Mr. Doors became infatuated with her and the contract allowed an expansion of the duration of the contract without confirmation from the model. As you know, Mr. Doors died twelve years ago from a heart attack. And eight years ago his family lost a lot of his fortune in the crisis of the third generation of Internet, when cerebral chips replaced smartphones, and they sold Clara’s contract (that is her name, by the way), and our company bought her. So... here she is.”
"Clara... nice name,” said the couple. “And what is her price?” asked the woman. “If she has been property of Will Doors, I really want her. I can imagine the Diana and Marty’s faces when they see her.
Their new apartment in Paris will not be so awesome, dirty envious...”
“Well, legally, we can’t sell her,” cut her the guide. “After the new government regulations, we only can rent her until the end of her contract, which is still very far away, as you can see. Our options begin at six months up to ten years, with possibility to an extension, of course. If you are interested, we can go to my office and talk about the terms of the contract.”
“Mmmm... No one has to know that she is rented...” said the woman, and her husband agreed. “But is it safe? Nobody is going to come for her to reverse the process?”
“About the only advantage of the new regulation is that the old contracts are now unbreakable, fortunately. She belongs to the first generation of the process of petrification which makes it impossible to
revert before nine-tenths of the programmed time, approximately. So, up to 158 years. I think that you can rest easy.”
The married couple looked to each other and assented.
“I think that we’re interested in a rental for five years. For now,” said the man. And the guide smiled and indicated to both that they follow her.
“Excellent choice,” said the guide. “Please, come with me to my office and we can speak about the conditions and the unpleasant but necessary affair of the money.”
And they left Clara alone again, while they planned her future, completely unconscious of it, and doing her job as well as the first day, being a beautiful and immobile statue. A job that only needed 178 years more to end. Although when Clara awoke from it, maybe she would have a nasty surprise. Maybe enough to prefer her existence as a statue to being a human.