By Rotwang



Important note ! Please be aware that my old E-mail adress (Zardreth@cyberking.be) will soon no longer be in use. It will change in the near future. So if anyone mailed me on that one, please know that it has crashed and that I havenít had time to check it out lately. Please try the new address !!!

I will also make an important announcement soon ...

Sainte-Gonflante, a picturesque little town in the south of France in the foothills of the Massif Central, woke up to witness a strange spectacle.

During the night, many of the statues in town had vanished as had mannequins in shops and even characters in paintings and pictures.

It was Henri Cinglé, the milkman doing his tour who saw them all gathered in the town square. A quick phone call later and the Gendarmerie arrived at the spot and cordoned off the area.

The Marechal des logis Albert Ripoux was helping to put up a fence when a man arrived wearing a bathrobe, looking very distressed. He walked up to the officer and nervously greeted him.

"Euh ... Could you help me ?" He whispered.

"Certainement ! What can I do for you ?" Albert went saluting the man.

"Itís about that one over there ..." He pointed at the strange assembly.

"Which one ?" Albert turned around and looked.

"The one with the blonde hair ..." The main said nervously.

Standing between a statue of Joan of Arc and an abstract one made by a local artist he saw an inflatable doll.

"You mean ?" Albert went incredulously.

"Hélas oui." The man went, looking left and right.

"Iím sorry, but youíll have to wait until we have found out what is going on." Albert said.

A few early birds had noticed the commotion and went to see what was going on. The word spread and before the church bell could ring ten oíclock. The entire town was out to see what was going on.

People began to talk and discuss the vast collection of figures.

And then there was the question of the strangers in town ... Like the man in the bathrobe pacing up and down, looking shifty and nervous.

Nobody knew him. Of course the population was growing and new people were settling all the time, but nobody could tell who he was or where he came from.

And suddenly he jumped over the fences and picked up the inflatable doll. Some peopleís eyes popped wide, while others began to laugh.

But then something very unusual happened. As he carried it over the fence and put it down, it began to move and ran away from him.

Peopleís chinís dropped and even more eyes popped open as she dodged and ran to keep ahead of him.

"Excuse me my good man, but what is going on here ?" An English gentleman complete with umbrella and bowler hat went, just having stepped out of a Mini decorated with the Union Jack.

The bronze statue of Joan of Arc stirred to life and drew her sword. "Un Anglais !" She shouted in an outraged fashion and went after him.

Within moments the collection of statues and objects came alive !

A woman ran away in panic. A man ran back home to get his shotgun while both a man and a woman fainted.

Jean-Claude Lateigne was the first to realize what was going on, pointing at the posters hanging everywhere in town. "They announced this festival almost two months ago !"

Suddenly people realized what was going on. The figures, the strangers ... It was all a big show ! A modern street theatre festival and this must have been one of the troupes performing ! A spectacular midsummerdayís spectacle ...

Reassured people flocked to the cafes and enjoyed the strange, slightly surreal spectacle of living objects wandering around town. Most amusing was the hide and seek game between a bronze Joan of Arc and the Englishman.


Philippe Dutronc glanced occasionally through the window to see a living statue pass.

He stopped and saw something that made his heart beat faster. Dropping his chisel, he went to the door to get a better look.

Deeply weathered oak with the deep veins and patterns running across her body. Demure, almost angelic, she slowly walked through the street and seemed to take in the sights and smells through her delicately sculpted, but blank eyes. And for some reason, she looked familiar.

She stopped near a three and held her hand to it, as if to reaffirm her kinship with it.

For a long time, she became motionless and some people who had not seen her move wondered what the fuss was all about until she slowly began to move on, followed by a small crowd, some of them taking photographs.

Philippe watched her walk past his old house as their gazes crossed.

She stopped and turned her wooden head. He strained to hear the wood creak. She seemed to notice the wood chips on his apron and walked up to him.

Philippe found it hard to swallow and feared to blink. He stepped aside to let her walk into his workshop.

She moved with a slow elegance, almost naked but for sheet sculpted around her body, covering her intimate parts, but revealing her breasts. Philippe could see her long wooden locks cascading over her shoulders as she walked past him and took a long good look at his wooden sculptures.

Like Dryads emerging from the trunk of a tree, his sculptures were of beautiful women trapped inside the wood, only parts of their bodies revealed.

As she turned Philippe saw the play of light over her lacquered body and reached out to touch her, only to pull back his hand fearing it would feel soft like latex rubber, preferring to imagine she was truly animated wood.

She walked around his bench and took place among his sculptures. People had gathered by the windows and looked inside. Philippe let them inside and did a little tour.

After about half an hour and a sold sculpture later, she came back to life and walked away, resuming her journey through town.

As soon as she had walked out of the street, he closed the door behind him and followed her. His curiosity peeked to the limit. But she quickly lost her in the crowd ...


"Bonjour !" She went with a cute smile.

She was a young woman with a boyish build and a short haircut, wearing jeans and a t-shirt.

"Bonjour ..." Philippe replied.

"Iím with the circus ... The statues didnít bother you ?"

"As a matter of fact, one of them helped me sell one of mine."

"Great ! Iím in charge of making sure that everything is fine ... Tough job !" She had a talkie walkie slung over her shoulder.

"Itís all very impressive ..."

"Yeah, weíve got some very good artists who do all our designs."

"What is the general idea ?"

"The founder had the idea in í89 ... For the bicentennial of the Revolution." She said. "He had this idea and began to work on a kind of surreal pageant, having all the statues in a town come alive." She explained.

"Unsual idea." Philippe said.

She smiled. "The original idea was to make exact replicas of statues from a specific town, but that turned out to be much too hard. So now we concentrate on one statue."

"And which one did you copy ?"

"Thatís for you to find out !" She said and walked on with a determined pace.

Philippe wandered through town. He saw the robed man, trying to cull the lovedoll back to his bed, an artist trying to finish his statue of an unidentifiable soccer star and a set of disparate mannequins having a little fashion show in the town square.

He got squirted on by the statue of a woman taking water from a fountain, leaving him weary of anything that looked like a statue.

That afternoon, he spotted the young woman again and walked up to her.

"Ah ! Youíre the sculptor !" She went, closing a cell phone.

"How are things going ?" He asked.

"Itís a madhouse !" She sighed. "Some imbeciles roughhoused with an abstract sculpture. They almost dislocated her shoulder. Fortunately a statue of General Leclerc noticed it and called the Gendarmerie."

"Thatís too bad !" Philippe went.

"Weíve got too few minders. The prefect and the mayor promised us people to help out, but they didnít show up and the prefect isnít at home ..."

"What about the mayor ?" Philippe asked.

"Heís supposed to be here somewhere, but every time I go to the mairie, heís not there ... And there is a rumor going round that we might not get paid !" She said.

"Perhaps I could help ?"

"Itís really boring ... You have to be with someone and keep an eye out so that the public doesnít harass them."

"Iíve got nothing whatsoever to do ...."

"Youíre too kind, monsieur ... ?"

"Dutronc, Philippe Dutronc ..." He said.

"Sophie Laforet ..." She replied with that nice smile of hers. A cute girlish redhead with unusually soft deep brown eyes that would have made her look like a doll if she didnít look that punkish.

"Just wait here." She suddenly said and rushed to help Joan of Arc who stumbled into the tent. The girl inside was completely drenched. Sophie reached for one of the dozens of bottles of Vittel water on hand and gave it to the exhausted girl.

Sophie returned with a walkie-talkie "Take this Philippe, now we can stay in touch ..."

Philippe took it and clipped it to his belt. "Who do I keep an eye on ?"

"Just about everybody you can see. Stay near a crossroads, there is about one or two performers entered around those areas. You can check them on the map over here."


"Mais monsieur ! It is my right to have her in my bed !" The man in the robe told a spectator. "I even blew her up myself !"

He and the lovedoll were discussing their problems, with the public as a jury.

"But now that I have a choice ? What if I love another man ?" She went, all Latex-faced. "Why not you ?" She turned to a laughing young man who looked a bit embarrassed. "Are you a good lover ?" She said and began to flirt.

"Ah non !" The man went. "I paid for you, and I take you in my bed right now !" He went over to her.

"Leave her alone !" One woman in the public said.

"Mais madame ! What if you have things doing whatever pleases them ? Would you like your toaster to start broadcasting radio programs ? Or your heater deciding to cool things down instead of heating them ? And what if the TV only wants to show soaps ?" He said. "Just imagine if you programmed your VCR for a soccer match and it has decided to tape a discussion about Rumanian poetry from the 17th century instead ?"

"I want to make love, but not with you ..." She said.

"And why not ?" He went, frowning.

"Youíre too ugly !" She replied. "Youíre bald, your breath smells ... "


The evening brought a fresh wind and Philippe listened to the loud chirping of the thousands of crickets and cicadas.

Sainte-Gonflable was an old medieval town, all done in sandy colors, hunched up on a hill. Fifty years ago it had about three inhabitants, but a steady influx of young people brought life back to the small town. It had most the facilities and amenities of modern life, but life still was much more leisurely than in the larger cities like Toulon and Marseilles.

Philippe originally came from Brittany, but had fallen in love with this place. He lived in an old carpenterís house and made a living with carpentry and woodcarving. The festival suddenly inspired him a set of new Sentons, small figurines that were very popular with Nativity scenes around Christmas in the South of France.

A movement made him glance and he noticed the wooden statue peeking at him from behind a tree. He walked up to her and held his hand onto his walkie-talkie in a very business-like manner.

"Looks like Iíve been drafted." he said.

She watched him with her blank eyes and sat down on a nearby bench.

Philippe followed her, with nobody around he decided to strike up a conversation.

"How are you doing ?" He asked.

She merely stared at him.

"You donít have to keep in character if you donít want to ..." He said. "Nobody around."

He waited for a reaction from her, but she seemed a bit shy and lowered her head.

"Thanks for helping me out this morning." He said.

She looked very happy and smiled at him.

"So how did you get involved ?"

Her response was to put her hand on his lap.

"I really like your outfit, makes you very mysterious." He said.

She leaned over to him and puckered her lovely lips.

Unable to resist this, he bowed towards her and felt her lips against his. Their touch was soft as finely polished wood and much harder than he expected.

Within moments they were caught in a tender embrace ... Philippe ran his hands over her body and felt its strange hardness, almost like real wood.

Fireworks celebrated the end of the first day of the festival ...


The next day, the statues, mannequins and images all returned to their original spots.

Philippe had woke up with a bad back on the bench and looked for the girl. Instead he saw Sophie standing next to him.

"I need the radio." She said. "Showís over."

"Whereís the girl ?"

"What girl ?"

"The wooden statue, almost naked with long hair."

Sophie frowned. "Doesnít ring a bell ..."

"Sure, a delicate wooden statue of a naked woman with long hair."

"We do have one of those artistís mannequins ..." Sophie went.

"But she was here and we made ..." He stopped.

"Look, I donít know how much you celebrated last night, but we have nobody that matches your description." Sophie went.

"But I saw her ! People saw her !"

"We have nobody like that in our troupe !" Sophie went. "Iím very sorry !"

For the rest of the day, Philippe wandered and felt confused.

"Is there a problem, mon fils ?"

Philippe turned his head. It was Father Camillo, the townís priest, a tall man with a somewhat horselike face.

"Iím looking for somebody ... Or should I say something ..."

"Perhaps I can help ?" Camillo said, with his fully flavored southern French accent.

"Er ... It must sound foolish, but I met this wooden statue ..."

Camillo stopped for a moment. "A wooden statue you say ? Beautiful woman ?"

"Yes ?" Philippe replied.

Camillo grabbed him and dragged him back to the small church.

"Perhaps you can explain something to me ..." Camillo said and stopped by the choir.

Philippe was completely stunned to see the statue !!!

"I donít know how, but somebody carved out Eve and then replaced her !" Camillo went.

Philippe suddenly remembered having made a quick study of her when he had first come to this town a few years ago her and had all but forgotten about her ! He took a better glance and suddenly noticed some marks, left by his own fingernails !

Although they vanished behind what was undeniably solid wood ...

Startled, he walked out of the church.


As he went home, he saw a girl sit on his doorstep.

"Salut !" Sophie went and smiled.

"Bonjour." Philippe replied.

"I donít know why, but I really wanted to see you ..." Sophie said while her eyes sparkled.

Philippe noticed this.

"I got a set of pictures from the official photographer." She said. "I got one of the wooden girl."

"And ?"

"Sheís not one of ours ..." Sophie went.

Philippe smiled. "Itís all a joke, right ?"

"No ! itís not a joke !" Sophie got up and dusted her patent leather pants. "Iíve never seen her before !"

"This is impossible !" Philippe went. "I just found her in the church !"

"Who is it ?"

"Better ask what is it !"

"Now Iím confused." Sophie replied.

"Itís a wooden statue !" Philippe replied. "Itís an integral part of the choir !"

"Youíre kidding !"

"Come and see !"


Sophie put up an unbelieving smile. "Surely this canít be real !"

"Either this is a very elaborate joke with a meaning that eludes me or ..." Philippe walked her through the quiet winding streets as almost everybody was at the ball in the town square.

"No ?" She was still incredulous about this affair.

"It is midsummer night ..." He said.

"This is not Shakespeare." Sophie laughed and jumped a few steps.

Philippe shrugged and took her to his place.

While Sophie looked at this works, he searched his papers and found his drawings of the statues ...

"Here ..." He showed them to her.

"Good drawing." Was the first thing she said and had a careful look.

"What is this ?"

"Those are markings of some kind ... Donít know what they mean."

"They remind me of something." Sophie was thinking hard. "Something to do with ... Templars !"

"Templars ?"

"You do know about that religious order of knights that fought in the crusades."

"Yeah, didnít the kind of France have them all put to death ?"

"Uh-huh ... And those are typical Templar markings. Iím pretty sure of that !"

Philippe thought for a moment. "Hey, perhaps itís a sign leading to their treasure !"

"But what was that treasure actually ?"

"Thatís a mystery ... Could be a huge pile of gold, religious texts, the Grail or even the body of Christ Himself !"

Sophie began to laugh. "Yeah, right !"

"Hey ! Who knows ?"

"But what has it to do with a living statue ?"

"A lot !" Said a sudden voice ...

To be continued