During a time of isolation, there were probably worse places to stay than a Parisian manor house, but a grand prison is still a prison. At least it was so for Sadie Branwurth. She had never truly liked the house or its grounds. The only reason she bought it was her need for a Paris base for when filming schedules necessitated long stays.
The statues out on the back patio disturbed her. They were too lifelike, she felt. In fact, the discomfort they gave her had been so great that she never allowed herself to observe them too closely or for too long. On the rare occasions when she thought she might be brave, she could only ever get as far as the doorway. Seeing those forms looming at the far end of the patio, standing stiff and angular in their various poses, sent a chill down her spine. So back inside she went.
The irony that she should be staying in Paris during a pandemic, and therefore forced to remain in the house, was not lost on her. To make matters worse, she had had to dismiss the entire staff, leaving herself completely alone. Apart from the occasional call for business purposes, Sadie had spent the last few weeks entirely on her own.
“What to do? What to do?” she wondered out loud to herself as she wandered the halls like a single guppy in a thirty-gallon aquarium. It was early evening. Seeing the orange glow that streamed in from a hallway window, Sadie suddenly had a strong urge to watch the sunset. It would be so beautiful, she thought, smiling to imagine it. Now, where would I have the best view?
Then, it hit her. The only side of the house that faced westward was the back---the side with the patio, and those uncanny statues. Sadie shuddered. No, no, she said to herself. Where else? There must be somewhere else? She went through a catalogue of possible viewing perches: the kitchen, the upstairs landing, the music room. Each one was carefully considered, and ultimately dismissed. All of these options had their flaws. The only place that would truly stand a chance at satisfying her was the patio. As the light from the window yellowed, she knew she would have to decide.
With slightly trembling, but determined hands, Sadie opened the patio door. There they were. There were three of them, each as tall as a strapping adult male, made taller still by the pedestals on which they stood. Each was the image of a man in motion: a discus thrower, a boxer, a runner. The setting sun had all but blacked out their faces and cast their shadows like giant claw marks onto the patio floor.
Sadie felt her heart thump faster. She sucked in a breath and released it through pursed lips. Was she shaking even more now? Yes, by God, she was!
“What is wrong with me?!” she demanded of herself out loud. “They’re statues! Rocks! Nothing else!”
She closed her eyes tightly, willing herself to believe the declaration. When she opened them again, there they were, all three statues right where she had left them. What was I expecting? she wondered. Did I think they would move? A smile broke over her face, followed closely by a tiny giggle. As her laughter grew, all the tension she’d felt began to slip away. The statues now looked less like men and more like ugly, leafless trees. She laughed even harder, and in minutes, her fear had completely dissolved.
The sun dipped lower and lower. Peace overtook Sadie. There was nothing to fear out here, she decided. She stepped closer. Before she knew it, she found herself at the edge of the patio, beside one of the statues.
He was the runner. For the first time, Sadie really allowed herself to observe him. His form was completely bare, a fine collection of rippling muscle, sculpted with stunning precision. The face was devilishly handsome, tightened into a expression of athletic determination. This was not what drew Sadie’s eyes the most, however. Between the figure’s legs, cast off to one side to give the feeling of motion, was the statue’s most intriguing part. She had known the statues were nudes, but never before had she really stopped to consider what this would mean.
From the look of things, whoever had modeled for this piece was a very lucky man, and so was the sculptor for his viewing privileges. At once, Sadie felt a wet heat pulsate between her thighs, and she hated herself for it. It’s a statue, she told herself, and yet she could not deny that it had been quite some time since she shared herself with a partner. All at once, a latent desire, stoked by weeks of isolation, flickered within her. Before she knew it, her hand was rising to touch the statue’s stony flesh. It was cold and smooth, but the shape was exactly right.
“Oh my,” Sadie said. “You’re rock hard, Mr. Runner.” She rubbed back and forth, making almost a game of it.
A moment later, self-consciousness set back in. She let her hand drop. Even though it was her own property, and no other living thing was in sight, her cheeks flamed with embarrassment. Just as she had the time before, she wrapped her shawl around herself and hurried inside.
Night was now upon the house, and Sadie decided a soothing bath was in order. As she undressed and ran the water, the memory of desire she’d felt as she touched the statue came dancing back. She climbed into the tub and let the water caress her, reaching into all of her body’s most hidden places, inflaming and exciting them. Her hands wandered. Skin slid against skin. A moan escaped her lips as tension built. Stronger and stronger, her longing pulsed within her until….
A sudden strange noise pricked her ears. She opened her eyes and looked around the room. What had she heard? It was odd, yet familiar. Movement? Like a heavy footfall? Nothing in her field of vision could have made such a sound. Where had it come from? Downstairs?
She rose and pulled a towel around her. Relax, she told herself. You’re hearing things, normal things. House settling noises. Or maybe some kind of social sensory deprivation side effects you’ve never heard of. This thought calmed her. You can get on a cam call with your therapist tomorrow, she concluded.
All thoughts of the strange noise had fallen from Sadie’s mind as she dried her hair. She hummed an irregular tune to herself and smiled into the foggy mirror. It was during a gap in her humming that heard the sound again. She watched her smile drop in her own reflection. She had heard what she’d heard. It could not be denied.
Anxiety began to whir. Someone or something was making a noise in her home. What kinds of things could do that? Should she call someone? The police? Would they take her seriously? Where was her phone? In another room. The kitchen. Damn it. She would have to move through the house to get it, and whatever was making that noise would be out there with her. Did she dare risk it?
No matter what, she decided, she had to at least leave the bathroom. After that, the rest of her decisions could be made. Slowly, she opened the door and stepped into the darkened hallway. The corridor stretched out to the left and right of her. She swallowed hard, inched down the left side, and soon found herself standing at the top of the stairs leading down to the ground floor. All was silent. Nothing moved. From where Sadie stood, she could see the front door below her. The kitchen, she knew, was very nearby. Maybe it would be easy to creep downstairs, grab her phone, and run from the house before calling the police. She waited, listening to the darkness as if for an answer. None came.
Sadie took a ginger step down, then another, and another. At last, she reached the bottom, where she waited again. She pressed herself to the wall, hoping to be absorbed by a shadow should something come lurking around the corner. The kitchen doorway was within her sights. She wanted to make a run for it, but uncertainty rose like floodwaters. Who or what was down here that had made that sound? And where were they now?
The answer came in the form of a slow, rhythmic, and heavy thumping. Footsteps! They were coming from the back of the house! Again, she eyed the kitchen door. Maybe---just maybe---she could get there and out the door in time.
Before Sadie could change her mind, she sprinted for the kitchen and closed the door behind her. The intruder must have heard her, however, because the heavy footsteps suddenly increased in speed. Sadie’s heart raced as she surveyed the room. Where was her phone? She was sure she had left it here! The counter before her was bare. If she hadn’t left it there, then where?
The thuds were coming closer. It wouldn’t be long before this intruder found her. Sadie began wrenching drawers from their tracks and dumping their contents onto the floor. Her phone was nowhere in sight. In frustration and defeat, she dropped to her knees and buried her face in her hands. The footsteps came closer. Sadie looked up and blinked away the tears that had formed. That was when she saw it. Her phone, somehow, or other had ended up beneath the breakfast table.
She didn’t question this gift from God as she crawled over to it as fast as she could. With shaking hands, she had just enough time to dial 112 before the door swung open.
“What do the medics say?” one policeman asked the other as they explored the ground floor of the great house.
“They have no idea,” said the other. “The patient’s out cold, so she can’t say. Before that, she was mumbling about a breakin, but there’s no sign of forced entry. Everyone’s best guess is she fell somehow, hit her head among other things, but they’re also saying the damage is too extensive for that.”
“So her hips are broken?”
“Shattered, they think.” The police officer shook his head. “It’s a bad time for this kind of shit to happen, don’t you think?”
A third officer hurried into the room. “I found something outside,” he said. “You’re going to want to see this?”
A moment later, all three stood on the patio, staring in surprise at the statue of the runner. “What the hell?” one officer mumbled at the sight of the statue’s red smeared pelvis.
Written by Jdeschene