The yellow orange ombre of the magazine was in fine contrast to the red block-letter Kärlek splashed across the top. Karl smiled at the depiction of himself with one of his latest masterpieces. He had come a long way from the first feature article, a simple story in the Pteetneet City Chronicle, about a modern-day high school genius who delicately and accurately sculpted the school’s warrior mascot in marble. From the soles of his boots to the tip of his pronged helmet, the twenty-foot statue still stood in the courtyard twenty-seven years later.
He picked the magazine up by the spine and swept the crumbs from the counter into his palm and flipped the trash can open with his foot, “How’s the work coming?”
“I think I’m finishing up now, Mr. Kärlek,” the repairman said, holstering his pliers.
“Just Karl, please,” he had never meant for the moniker to stick, he had just been simple Karl K. Brodrost before his first post-art school exhibit. He and his friends made a joke out of making himself seem extra bougie, accidentally adding a one name moniker while they were setting up the exhibit space.
“You can’t just go by Karl, that’s too plain. Brodrost is too forgettable. Karlk?” one friend recommended.
“Yeah, Kärlek, give us an accent, where are you from?” said another.
“Ummm,” Karl replied, forcing out an awkward accent, “I am from the northern highlands of Cartouche.”
“Hello boys,” boomed an unfamiliar voice, “I didn’t realize our resident artist was an exchange student. Welcome son! I’ve never heard of Cartouche.” The museum director put out his hand to shake.
“Oh, no, I…” Karl stammered.
“It’s an island, west of Australia,” his first friend jumped in, “Kärlek can be a little shy about it.”
“It’s not very well developed,” his second friend whispered from behind his palm.
“Nonsense,” said the director, “we embrace the diversity and are proud to host you.”
Next thing he knew the program listed Kärlek and, although he got through that show without incident, the sponsors and art critics really embraced his work from day one. The name stuck.
“Although, I have no idea why you would want to keep that old junker. You know there are much better models on the market, Mr. Kärlek,” the repairman pushed the lever on the antiqued-silver toaster, “and, no offense, but it doesn’t seem like you’re struggling here. Aren’t you working on some new art piece?”
The house was large and well-manicured but wasn’t extravagant. “Oh, I know, I know I’ve made a decent life. No offense taken. I’m taking a hiatus from the art world to focus on some personal projects and – I just really love that toaster!”
“Why the extension cord?”
The toaster was plugged into a yellow cord that hung over the counter and piled in a loop by the fridge.
“It’s a Ponzi toaster, a real antique, you don’t see many of these after around 1920, especially in perfect working condition?”
Karl nodded at the toast. The repairman took it out and took a bite from it, “yeah, that’s pretty decent toast.”
“It needed a special outlet and this 100-foot monster was the only available option.”
Karl escorted the repairman out the door. Once alone he went back to the kitchen and cradled the toaster, staring at his own shiny reflection, trailing his ring finger over the infinity symbol etched into the side.
“This toaster looks used,” he had said when they’d unwrapped the early wedding gift from her weird uncle Coyote, “it’s going in the dumpster.”
“Don’t get rid of the toaster,” Amelia said, snatching it from his hands, “it has an infinity symbol, just like our love. Plus, I bet it’s hardy. That new stuff breaks way too easy.”
“Now all I can see is the symbol of our love. This is going to be some running joke where we keep the toaster forever, isn’t it?”
He tipped the magazine up to read the subtitle, “Is the genius preparing for a return?”
They had seen the scaffolding go up in his garden. Occasional paparazzi had been hiding in his bushes with ladders and binoculars to get the best view through the atrium windows. Reporters had stalked him in the vegetable aisle of the grocery store to get the latest scoop. Three years had gone by and he wouldn’t give a single hint about his project. When it was almost done they noticed the change in the atmosphere as well as Karl’s demeanor.
The scaffolding had been removed, but a barrier shroud remained in place to keep out prying eyes. Karl pulled the sheet away to view his masterpiece. There she stood, Amelia, on an infinity-shaped pedestal surrounded by the rest of the garden menagerie of fantasy woodland creatures ranging from squirrels and foxes to a bear and a full-sized unicorn.
She wore a billowing gown, tied loose at the bulging bosom, and clutched a bouquet of fern, sunflower, and columbine. Her hair flowed down her back in loose curls, weaved and adorned with a thinly flowing headdress of more finely detailed begonia, lavender, marigold, and dandelion. Her eyes were half closed and dreamy; she was a maiden emerging from a field of wheat. The gold stylolite veining in the Loptr marble only enhanced the reality of each perfectly chiseled striation in her hands and face making it appear as if she were in golden sunlight. If you got close you could almost see the fine hairs on her ears.
“Tonight, my sweet, you will be real,” he cupped her face, “not just my desire.”
Real, living, women had never interested Karl. He tried dating but one after the other they got fat, wanted to get a job, asked for him to “respect pronouns.” Why didn’t women just want to be housewives anymore? He grew tired of searching for “the one,” since he knew no woman would ever be great enough to be more of a number one than him. Then he found the slab of marble and he saw her inside of it. If real women couldn’t behave appropriately then he would make his own. It would be his greatest work yet!
He spoke to the stone as he chiseled it down and one day it spoke back. He started taking all his meals in the atrium with it and when she was nearly out of the stone he knelt down on one knee and proposed. She said yes. He carefully chiseled a ring onto its finger.
He wasn’t so delusional that he wasn’t aware she was made of stone, but he could also feel her soul buried in the rock. Deep down in his stomach he knew she was there waiting to be released. He had started researching magic and the occult while working on some early commissions and put in a call to the wealthy client, “Hey, Charlie, it’s Kärlek. Do you remember The Spanish Stamp?”
Barely listening to Charlie’s response, he continued, “Yeah, the black guy and his albino twin owned the place, a 24-Hour Hoodoo and Dildo Shoppe in Miami.”
Bowling over any words Charlie could utter, he continued, “The dudes you watched bring a bowl of fruit to life.”
“The place with the good margaritas?”
“Yeah, you did say they had good margaritas! I’m going to need that information.”
His instructions were straightforward, in a bulleted list, on the back of a shiny business card.
Brache and Kamlesh Presents:
The Spanish Stamp
You’re only 24-Hour Hoodoo and Dildo Shoppe
Spell# 1400: To Give Life to the Object of Your Desire
- In sight of full moonlight.
- Empty thyself of food and drink.
- Shed your clothing and baubles.
- Repeat chant threefold:
- Anansi lete buibui wakos,
- Amua gharama ya kutoa.
- Loki ge mig denna onskan,
- Ge livet foremalet for min onskan.
The brothers had explained it to be an ancient ritual developed by alchemists deep in the heart of the Yukon.
That night, the sky crisp and clear, Karl disrobed and approached his beloved. The full moon light crested over the atrium windows and lit Amelia’s figure. Her beauty was so stunning that, to him, she was basically alive already. He brought his hands to her face and kissed her, gliding the full force of his tongue slowly from one corner of her lip to the other.
Then he chanted, “Anansi lete buibui wakos, Amua gharamaya kutoa. Loki ge mig denna onskan, ge livet foremalet for min onskan.”
The moonlight tinted a deeper shade of blue. The crickets stopped chirping and left only an eerie silence. A low growl bellowed through Karl’s stomach; he was getting hungry.
Again, “Anansi lete buibui wakos, Amua gharamaya kutoa. Loki ge mig denna onskan, ge livet foremalet for min onskan.”
The atmosphere grew thick and moist as fog rose from the hydrangeas. The stone path below his feet shook and cracked. When he was done he was going to have Amelia make him a really good sandwich.
“ANANSI LETE BUIBUI WAKOS!”
The trees swayed and the clouds thickened, but the moon only seemed to grow larger and brighter. The marble menagerie began to groan as little cracks began to open. The pops and groans made the creatures appear to move, blink, breathe. A single crack at the base of Amelia began to pop and grow, moving along a pathway up her leg and splintering. Extending like roots in a tree they billowed out, covering her arms and extending across her face, but she held firmly standing.
“AMUA GHARAMAYA KUTOA!”
Spindly legs stretched from the cracks and with a sudden bang of cloudy mist various spiders burst through every cracked seam in the menagerie. They streamed out, their bodies entwining as they crawled up and over each other in an inky spill of black. Before long every inch of every surface, even Karl himself, was covered in a velvety heaving mass of spiders. They undulated in waves as they began a nearly inaudible echo, “utatoanini, uta, uta, toa, toa, nini, nini, uta, uta, toa, toa, nini, nini, uta, toa, nini.”
Karl held his hands up, spiders falling from silky lines across his body, laughing and basking in his godslike glory. This experience had to be so much more intense than a fucking bowl of fruit and, as hundreds of millions of eyes watched him, he realized he was true power! He was one of the gods!
“LOKI GE MIG DENNA ONSKAN!”
Amelia’s statue exploded in a cloud of smoke as the spiders scattered over the atrium walls leaving Karl to spit out dangling stragglers while he finished the chant,
“GE LIVET FOREMALET FOR MIN ONSKAN!”
The moon returned to normal and the crickets chirped freely. The wind began to blow through the trees, swishing and swirling over the atrium walls as the cloud of marble smoke began to clear up.
A woman’s shadow could be seen emerging from the smoke.
Karl rubbed the smoke out of his eyes and, for just a brief second, could’ve sworn it was a black pronged shadow with red eyes. He blinked several times.
The cloud settled and there was his statue, worn down to a cracked and crumbled nub towering over a marble gravel pit. Karl collapsed to the ground. The ritual hadn’t worked; he’d lost three years of his life’s work.
Karl didn’t waste time mourning his loss, it was probably her fault anyway. He kicked at the marble, “what a bitch.”
He had the power of the gods at his disposal. Figuring out his next moves would require a sandwich and a warm bath. After pulling on his robe and starting the hot water in his bath, he moved into the kitchen and pulled some ingredients out of the fridge. Mayonnaise, mustard, lettuce, tomato, and a knife from the drawer. He opened the cupboard to look for the bread. White or wheat? White or wheat…?
“Karl,” came a sultry voice from behind him. He turned but couldn’t see anyone.
His stomach gurgled a little louder and he patted it and belched.
He popped two slices of artisanal sourdough into the toaster, pushed the lever down, then walked the short hallway from the kitchen to the bathroom to check on the water. Steam tickled his nostrils as he sat on the lip of the tub and dipped two fingers into the water. It was just right.
“Amelia, is that you?” He turned a little too quickly, catching his foot in the robe belt, and slipped into the tub.
“Oh Karl, are you okay? I didn’t mean to startle you,” it was the sultry voice from before, but with a hint of singsong added, “I wanted to make sure I got your toast just right.”
Karl pulled himself up into a sitting position and rubbed the water from his eyes, “Amelia, you are alive!”
There was no one there, but the toaster sat in the middle of the bathroom floor. The yellow extension cord curled around the doorframe. Two pieces of perfectly toasted sourdough jutted from the top.
“Is someone there?”
“Karl, I know exactly how you like your toast, baby,” the lever on the toaster wiggled with a little giggle, “and it’s ready.”
“What the…” Karl slipped back into the tub with a splash.
“It’s so slippery in here. Silly boy, look at us, having our first slapstick moment as a couple!” came the voice with a giggle, “I might just slip right in with you! Oopsie!”
About the Creator
I'm Jeff Carter; I wanted a unique & personal pen name. Writing offers an opportunity to create and heal. These stories in the bizarre, horror, and magic realism help inspire me to move forward with novel writing. Thank you for reading.