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Fiction by
Yuriy Tarnawsky
'Pex 2' by Ben Tyree

'Rock'  2008 Tom Wegrzynowski

Whether it was because of his first name -- Rock -- or in addition his last one -- Peterson, with the word "stone" at its core -- or because his life had not been easy, or for some other deeper, unfathomable reason, but as he grew older Rock Peterson found himself thinking more and more about stone. At first he grew fascinated with big rocks and the patterns of layers of magma undulating petrified through the angular shapes. Then small individual stones began to interest him, at first rounded ones, polished by water and glaciers, then sharp-edged, formed by some violent action and left unchanged. He admired their color, shape, always amazed at the harmonious co-occurrence of the two as in a flower, capable of examining some specimen literally for hours on end. He began to study geology, turned into a creditable petrologist and petrographer, but his interest in stone went beyond the intellectual. He was emotionally involved with stone and gradually grew more and more alienated from people and closer and closer to its world. He surrounded himself with rocks, at first a collection on shelves but eventually piles of them heaped on every available surface in his apartment, so that it looked like a quarry and was hard to move around in. There was some danger that its floor might collapse one day under the amassed weight. He went on extended days-long hikes in the mountains in hope of finding interesting stones as people travel to exotic lands to meet different people, would spend hours in quarries, among stones, communing with them as if with exciting strangers at cocktail parties, would lie in bed dreaming about the dense, hard, unchanging space inside rocks never disturbed by anything extraneous. In the end he found himself a large stone of comfortable shape which he kept in his bed and slept with his arms around it as if it were a woman, and even a small round rock which fitted tightly inside his mouth and with which he slept while embracing the big one. But none of this was enough. He wanted more, wanted to go all the way, to become a stone like all the others.

For a long time he thought this was impossible, that he would have to remain a person forever, but then one day realized that this wasn't quite true, that he could achieve something that was very close to the cherished goal -- he could unite with stone by being crushed by one. He became possessed by the idea, but couldn't find the right way to do it, a way that fitted in with his goal. He thought of suspending rocks in his apartment, cutting the ropes, and letting them fall on him, of finding a big rock up on a cliff and pulling it down onto himself with a rope, and so on, but all these solutions were clumsy, inelegant, and might not lead to the kind of clear unambiguous end to his life he wanted. But then one day he found the solution. He could barely contain himself with excitement when he thought of it. It was the following. Close by to where he lived was the headquarters of a large international corporation which had a sculpture garden in its grounds open to the public. Among the sculptures was an abstract one by a famous modern sculptor, consisting of a huge vertical monolith standing next to a stone slab partly hidden in the ground. Because of his obsession, since there were many stone sculptures in the garden, Rock Peterson visited it frequently and one day noticed that the vertical monolith was fastened to the slab in the ground with bolts. These could clearly be removed and the stone would then fall on top of the slab. This was a perfect solution -- he would die between two stones which moreover were interesting artistically! The question remained how he could achieve this. He clearly couldn't do it in the daytime, with people around, so would have to do it at night. He worried that he might not be able to get into the grounds then but found out that they were not completely surrounded by a fence and that he would have no trouble entering them. He studied the bolts carefully and concluded he could take them off with a suitable power tool. He learned that such a tool powered by a battery existed, and purchased one. He tried it out in his apartment and it worked beautifully. He was elated. Already he felt himself no longer part of the human race but of the hard, heavy shapes surrounding him, crowding around like close friends or members of his family, anxious for him to join them. The moment was not far off! He went through his apartment caressing his friends, talking to them in the silent language for communicating with them he had developed. It was only a matter of hours when he would be with them, when it got dark!

Finally it was night. Rock Peterson waited until it was late, so that there was less chance there might be someone in the garden. He took the tool, got in his car, drove to the headquarters of the corporation, and parked his car in a nearby street, close to the place he selected for entering the garden. The night was moonless but the sky clear so that the stars provided enough light for him to find his way to the sculpture. He found it without any trouble. In the distance stood the headquarters building, mostly glass, with a light shining inside it here and there. There were no lights in the garden. There was also no sign of anyone around.

Rock Peterson set to work. There were four bolts. He found them in the dark with his hands, tried the tool on one, and the bolt yielded quietly, without any resistance. The second one did the same, and then the other two. The tool made a loud noise but there was still no-one around, so he was in no danger of being discovered. He put away the tool and stood up, feeling his heart thumping loudly in his chest. He was almost there! He went up to the monolith, where it towered over the slab, and put his arms around it. It was some fifteen feet tall, but seemed much bigger, reaching almost to the stars. It was the friend he looked for all his life, who would take him home! He hugged it tightly, stepped back, pulled on it, and felt it follow him obediently, like a woman all too willing to join her enticer in bed. A wave of joy exploded in his chest and in a fit of passion he pulled the stone violently toward himself, falling backwards, with the giant mass following him silently shutting off more and more of the space above and around him, until he was almost horizontal and nearly completely shut off from the world. Then finally fear overcame him and he was unable to stifle the cry bursting out of his mouth, but at that instant felt the hardness of the stone permeate every cell of his body to stay with him forever.

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last update: February 29, 2008