Perhaps all children growing, that is, all children, like to play with their nails, to imagine them long and sharp, and dangerous, powerful with some weight to them, white like milk-fortified bone, while, at the same time, translucent, or even invisible, made of energy, electrically charged.
Matilda, if that is really her name, was one of those children. She imagined her nails black as the night with tiny white spots like stars, and when she stroke her beastly paws through thin air, she would rip the very fabric of space and time, and she would try to peer into these rips, but they never lasted long enough for her eyes to adjust to the seemingly light-less interior, or, in this case, exterior, perhaps. What was that? Space? The Nothing behind it all? She always wanted to know, but never did.
Eli, in its own way, preferred its pink nails to not slash anything open, it would be better if not. Not because it would hurt something, but because nails were not made for that, they were not made for anything in particular, they just were. So why not make them as beautiful as they could get? That seemed more interesting, not to say more promising.
However they used to imagine their nails before, it was not how they were now. And, by now, what is meant is the moment after the embrace of said hands, one cold as ennobled marble, the other as warm as fresh pavement during sun season.
“It’s always good to make business with you, ochibi-chan.” Said Matilda.
“And with you, too, Tara Morgana.” Said Eli.
“Where did you find this one?”
“It’s actually mine.” Said someone else.
“And who are you, o great artisan?”
“Well, I don’t know about great. I am the sculptor of some of these pieces string-lined by a theme, a series, to be more exact, a thematic entanglement I’ve been developing around a concept, which, in its own way, is itself a subversion of…”
While the young prospect artist summarized the complex web of intentions and hopes behind his masterful work and the many others to come, Matilda, with a calm smile and eyes of quiet and patient perversion, signaled with two fingers to a bulky figure in the corner behind many other pieces, particularly close was a high solitary pillar, which he was hiding behind, close to a classic fountain where the water was replaced by a mucosal substance that even seemed to flow better than water, but that more resembled a residue of something else rather than a pure thing in-itself like water, and where the little complimentary statues of winged babies bathing joyfully were either drawn over – grimaces, glasses, tattoos, gang signs, the ephemeral represented in the stone’s flesh with permanent markers – or replaced by plastic-looking mutants not even like baby demons, but altogether otherworldly in their blank stare looking nowhere, but, nevertheless, not blind – perhaps seeing something beyond the nowhere which they seemingly stared at so intently. The bulky figure quickly understood the sign and disappeared behind the pillar without a noise of crumpling leaves or smooched moist mossy grass.
Eli tried to hint away the floating mouth to stop moving by itself when Matilda finally said “What about the price? Name yours.”
“Oh, we usually passively wait for the bidder to open negotiations.”
“I know. But look around, what do you see?”
“I… I see an experiment, a big one, a huge one, indeed, a magnanimous work of art in itself that I… would love to see mine as a part of.”
“You see a corpse.”
“Here we go again.” Said Eli.
“This, my fellow artist, is not a garden. An experiment, yes, maybe, but art? What even is art? No offense, I loved your work here. But are you one of those artists, the general type that comes here?”
“How, what type?”
“The type to say that art is alive, that creating art is like breathing life into something that wasn’t, like having a baby.”
“Yes, you. Are you willing to sell this child, your child, this life you natured and nurtured, for just a quantity? Or anything else, for that matter. Even after seeing this place, this labyrinth of abandonment?”
“When you put it like that…”
“So, name your price.”
The young man loosened his tie and swallowed dry – it was a weird place, very, in fact, and it seemed endless, how big could this property be? He heard these lands stretched long, ever bigger than some countries, some yet undiscovered or undisclosed sites. But he had many an immaterial mouth to feed, maybe this was his chance, a shadow buyer of this caliber, a patron, and he landed that so early, that was beyond unexpected. Yes, this sounds fucked-up, but that was it, that was art, it would kickstart his career with just one piece of the many he had done or planned to do. That was it.
“Fifty thousand for your child.”
“One hundred and fifty thousand!”
“Too late.” Said Eli.
“My associate is arriving with the legal formalities, the deposit was preset. I need a non-disclosure, are you comfortable with that?”
That was it, he thought, he got it. Maybe he could get more, but that was already more than he would ever dream for the first of his big sales. He looked one more time at the sculpture. What a masterpiece. Indeed, how talented he was. What an addition she would be to that weirdly lovely garden, exquisite, look at her perfectly shaped lips – my chthonic muse, the goddess-to-come, the sight of the future bleeding into the present, the ideal of more than just beauty, and that she was. What an astonishing two meters of woman.
“Here he comes.”
“Hey, what is that big hammer for?”
“Again this one?” Said Eli. “Already saw this too many times.”
“If you want new, win.” Said Matilda.
Her smirk almost came alive, slowly drifting off from her face into the air.
“Sign here, sir.” Said the bulky figure that had come back with the papers and a big-but-fashionable hammer.
The young artist looked not-so-confused at their faces, Tilda, Eli, the bulk holding the papers and, ultimately, his goddess. What was that? A trace of melancholy in her unperturbed, almost tyrannical, expression of virtue? Hesitantly, he grabbed the pen.
“All done. Do you want copies, sir?”
“Ahm, no, no need.”
“Sir, you are legally obliged to receive and maintain copies of these.”
He looked one more time to Tilda’s face. “Ok.” He said. She quickly proceeded to pick up the hammer, getting into position. “What are you doing?”
“Oh, you know. You already knew.”
“I thought it was a test, you know… an experiment… for your project. I saw the cameras…”
“My project? I’m no artist. The cameras are for security reasons.”
“Then it is how I told you. This is my corpse, and your life here is already beginning to infest it.”
Too late. The blow landed perfectly, severing the poor image’s head a little below the neck – it always crumbled. The head fell right next to the rest by some meters, head a body, but not together.
“Do not pick it up.”
“Let the grass around this piece grow until I say so.”
“That will be all.”
“Always a pleasure making business with talented young prospects like you. You can see how I pride myself a kind of curator. And I see a bright future ahead of you, you are brilliant.”
“Maybe too brilliant, let some of that dank for us, too.” Said Eli.
“He will show you the way, follow him.”
Then the young artist, following the man, also disappeared behind the lone white stone pillar, but not before checking his bank account with his phone. They could not see his reaction.
“And I lose again.”
“You always have the next time.”
“Put it in my tab.”
Mirabella Magno lives in the region of Cariri, a liminal space and natural reserve in Brazil. She works as a nomad-like type of linguist and does metaphysical research at the Federal University of Cariri. She is part, along with her surname-sharing accomplice, of the AF arts collective.