Sergei’s People

Date: 28th January, 2019
Edited: 1st February, 2019

Written at the Writers Cafe
Prompt: Take a news article and spin a story from it. I chose this.

A cozy living room. Warm yellow lights. Old, worn, yet comfortable armchairs. This was the scene that greeted me when Sergei welcomed me into his humble 1-bedroom apartment. To be honest, I was expecting his choice of home decor to be a lot more…eccentric given his art.

I initially emailed Sergei back in March when i first saw his works. I thought getting his er…unique…thoughts would make a good story to cover on my blog. He hasn’t replied until a week ago. It was then I found out that he had just moved into the city where I currently live in. He not only agreed to answer my questions, but he also agreed to be interviewed. In person.

“So, Mr Sergei-”

“Bah. Just Sergei.” His accent was strong. European. Not French. Not Spanish. Something vaguely Eastern. “You make me sound old with…ah…mister.”

“Sergei then,” I relented easily with my best people-pleaser smile, “ What brings you to XXXXX?”

“The mannequins,” the certainly old and balding man replied.

Of course. It had to be the mannequins. His entire Facebook gallery could be summarized and labeled with the word “MANNEQUINS”- filled with thousands of pictures of pale plastic skinned people with lifeless expressions in various states of dress and undress. They weren’t even crappy photos. They were taken methodically, from different angles, using different lenses and filters and settings to bring out different effects in the images. Everything around the mannequins looked fantastic, sharpened to extreme detail or brushed over with the blur or gaussian tool to create washes of color that resembled that of watercolor paintings.

But then, there were the mannequins in the photos.

Cold. Frozen. Lifeless.

Greyed out like statues fading from existence but somehow, commanding the attention of the onlooker. To notice them. To look at them. Look them straight in the eye…or where they’re supposed to have eyes and finally acknowledge their existence.

I found the entire thing unnerving. And I wasn’t the only one with these feelings online.

“Why the mannequins, Sergei?” I asked the old artist, my smile unchanging.

“Because they are lonely,” he answered, lacing old spotty sinewy fingers together.

I was not expecting the sentimental angle from him.

“Why do you say so?”

“Because…I…I was lonely,” he smiled back at me, “I understand mannequins. They speak to Sergei. I help them be noticed. They help me. No more lonely.”

It was then I looked around the living room again. The walls were devoid of picture frames. There were no shelves bearing knickknacks collected over the years. Just these two comfy armchairs, some cushions and a coffee table. And on that coffee table, was a single photo in a beat up wooden frame. A colored photograph with a slightly younger looking Sergei posing for the picture with an old woman wearing a striking purple dress.

Oh.

“Come,” he suddenly said, standing up, “I help you understand. Then, you let people understand. Yes?”

I stood up and followed in his tottering footsteps into a side room. Sergei turned on the lights. All the mannequins, in various states of dress and undress, and one wearing a striking purple dress, stared back.

6th February, 2019
Writer’s Notes:

Writing this piece was both incredibly fun for me but also very conflicting. The news article (linked above in the prompt) put me through a sequence of feelings. First I was creeped out, then I became even more unnerved, and then, it suddenly made me feel bad about being creeped out. The artist in the article was really passionate and earnest about the message he’s trying to send to whoever looks at his art pieces. I can totally relate to that. I write a bunch of weird things and have a lot of weird ideas and I’m scared about people judging them (even though I really shouldn’t be!). So yes, I felt bad.

I respect the artist and his passion but the bottom line is- I still am creeped out by mannequins. I can’t help it!

So this is what this story became, the twists and turns of my feelings translated into fiction and personified in the journalist character. As for that ending… I still love meself some supernatural horror. 🙂

I might continue this in the future so look out for more from this Journalist fellow!

Until next time,
The Writing Borb

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