26 Feb I Made a Monster Out of Clay
“I Made a Monster Out of Clay”Written by Nathaniel Lewis Edited by Craig Groshek Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek Narrated by N/A
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available
⏰ ESTIMATED READING TIME — 17 minutes
My name is Mortimer Lipschitz. I know the name itself suggests otherwise, but I shit you not. That’s really my name. I used to wish it wasn’t. On all that’s holy, I wished it wasn’t. But I suppose that the name was never really the problem. The name was just the icing on a gluten-free cake with bad lungs and a high-pitched, lisping voice, whined out from a face that, I have been told, many times, makes you want to punch it on sight and break those stupid glasses.
“Hang in there, Shits! Those balls will drop one of these days, and then you’ll drive all the girls wild!” I tried to tell myself that there is some truth to this. I’d have my time, someday, so let them have theirs now.
But there’s not much you can say to reassure yourself when Brad Jenkins has your Star Wars undies hiked up past your belly button and everyone is laughing at you. That’s hard to come back from. And if you go crying to a teacher, it’s twice as bad the next time, and there’s always a next time when you’re in high school and your name is Mortimer Lipschitz and did I mention that I have an enormous birthmark splashed out across my face, like an island on a map that nobody wants to visit? My mother always said it makes me unique and beautiful; Brad always said it makes my face look like a literal asshole, and so it makes sense that I’m called Lip Shits.
Is it any wonder then that when I first read the story of Rabbi Eliyahu, who successfully created a creature out of clay to do his bidding for him, I started to get ideas of my own? I will say this from the start: I never meant to hurt anyone. Though in retrospect, I should have been aware that people getting hurt would be the most likely outcome of this.
* * * * * *
I bought the clay in $20 intervals each week. That was my allowance, and it bought me ten pounds off Amazon.
“Morty, what’s the deal with the clay?” my father asked one day. He had no qualms about opening packages addressed to me. It was his house, and he had a right to know what was going on in it.
“I’m building models of Star Wars ships since you never buy me the Lego ones when I ask.”
“It’s good to be thrifty,” admitted my father, “but foolish to indulge in fantasy. Space wizards won’t help you in real life, Morty. Learning useful skills will.” Always fair and wise, he added: “Though perhaps you can parlay all of this playing with clay into something useful at a later date. There is no shame in being a potter, as potters are needed no less in this world than doctors. Each plays his part, and so the world works.”
I started with the breasts. If I was going to craft a companion for myself, I figured I might as well swing for the fences (which, by the way, I never made it past tee-ball.) To put it plainly, in addition to feeling extremely lonely and helpless in the world, I was horny. So sue me.
I quickly learned that I had no innate ability as a sculptor. The breasts were misshapen, and one was much larger than the other. Still, they did the trick.
Week by week, I added what parts the blocks of clay afforded me. An arm here, an arm there, both of them screwy and out of proportion, but arms nevertheless. Each night, I put my creation in the closet, tucked away behind my button-up shirts. The next day, I would go to school to the usual merciless bullying, dreaming of a day when I could bring my friend to life.
I suppose that I never actually believed that I could bring her life. But even in her partially formed, decidedly lifeless state, she helped me. I pretended that she was alive, and my friend… my lover. “Those guys are stupid,” she’d say, her lumpy hand on my lap. “In 10 years, you’ll be CEO of a software company, and they’ll be pumping gas at the Irving. Now unzip your pants, my love.”
It helped. Brad still gave me swirlies on a near-daily basis, along with melvins and noogies, and everyone still laughed at me during the day… but when I got home, I had Shamira, my guardian. For though we did things together, she was first and foremost my protector against the world, and that’s what the name Shamira means. I suppose even the other thing was a part of that protection… burying myself in the soft folds of her flesh, where nobody could hurt me.
After many weeks of work, Shamira came to be complete. Standing back looking at her, there was no denying that I had done a truly awful job. A three-year-old child could have drawn a more convincing human body than I’d fashioned out of clay. But it didn’t matter. I had a friend.
In the lore, you’re supposed to etch a word into your golem, and say the appropriate prayer in Hebrew. I straightened out a paperclip, and wrote “FRIEND” on Shamira’s shoulder, and repeated the prayer from a book. Then I stood back and watched. I knew, in my mind, that nothing would happen, but still my heart hoped.
Shamira didn’t move. Of course, she didn’t, you idiot, I reprimanded myself. I sat staring at her in dejected silence for a long time. I couldn’t even bring myself to pretend that night. All I could think about was what a miserable, desperate loser I was, and always would be. There would be no future for me. The world belonged to Brad now, and it always would.
Finally, I was dragged out of my deep trance of self-pity by my father banging at my door. “Time for bed, Morty. Get those teeth brushed. What, you want to pay seven thousand dollars for a dentist to yank your molars out painfully because you couldn’t be bothered to do this simple task?”
I got up, sighed, and shoved my shameful and pathetic creation into the closet. Tomorrow, I’ll tear it apart into a thousand shapeless lumps of clay. Then throw it all in the trash where it belongs.
* * * * * *
The next morning, I awoke to find Shamira in bed next to me.
What in the actual fuck? I wondered. Must have gone sleepwalking again. Sleepwalking was one of my many night time problems. I still, at 15 years old, pissed myself on occasion in the middle of the night.
I groaned at how miserable I was. My subconscious wouldn’t let the fantasy go. I had gotten up in the middle of the night and dragged that thing into bed with me.
Then I felt something move, under the covers. Something was wrapping itself around my most private of parts. I looked, wide-eyed, at Shamira’s Picaso-esque face. It seemed to be donning a wide grin. I know I was.
* * * * * *
Shamira was alive. There was little doubt about that. Though there was some doubt. Perhaps I had finally broken completely with reality, the bright line between fact and fantasy having been eroded into dust by the crushing weight and grind of my desperation. Well, if that was the case, I was alright with that too.
My father was banging on the door again. “Time to get moving, Morty! Shake off your dreams and come meet the day.”
I collected myself. “I’ll be right along, father!” Then I turned to Shamira. “You need to stay in the closet,” I whispered. “I have to get to school now, but I’ll see you this afternoon. Do you understand?”
Shamira nodded, and swung a leg out from under the covers. She stood up, moving in unnatural fits and starts, wobbling, tottering, lumbering. I couldn’t believe it. She was actually moving, of her own accord. She put her hand on the closet knob and threw the door open, nearly taking it off the hinges. Then she stepped in and slammed the door behind her.
“What’s with that horrendous noise, Morty?” my father called.
“Sorry, father! Just dropped one of my school books!”
“Be careful with those! They contain priceless knowledge!”
I went about my morning routine in a giddy daze. It worked. She’s real. I have a friend.
My mother dropped me off at school. It was the last day before the holiday breaks, and it turned out to be absolutely miserable. First, because I longed, painfully, to be in my room, with Shamira. And second, because Brad and his friends sensed some measurement of happiness stirring within my soul, and so dished out the punishment twice as hot as usual. They had been making overtures all day and then, as I was walking to the cafeteria for lunch, they went for the kill.
Before I could process what was happening, I was yanked into the boys’ bathroom. Paul and Mack, two of Brad’s thuggish friends, held me by the arms as Brad looked me over. “What is it with you today, Lip Shit? You’ve had this shit-eating grin on your lips all day. You haven’t been eating shit again, have you, Mortimer? Have you been eating shit again? Answer me.”
A bit of boldness came over me, though, in retrospect, I should have squashed it immediately. “No,” I said. “I got a girlfriend, that’s all.”
Brad laughed. “Bullshit. Maybe a little boyfriend? I could see that. Is that what you meant, Lip Shit? Found a little boyfriend so you could eat the shit out of his asshole?”
Two and a half more hours. Then I’ll be with Shamira. “Okay, Brad. Sure.”
Brad laughed again; a vicious laugh, devoid of anything resembling good humor. “You guys hear this? Lip shit here loves smearing shit from his boyfriend’s asshole all over his lips.”
“That’s fucking disgusting,” said Paul.
“Gross little freak,” said Mack. They both squeezed my arms a little tighter.
Why don’t they just leave me alone if they don’t like me? I wondered.
“Now, now,” said Brad. “This is a judgment-free zone. It’s a safe space. If Mortimer here wants to eat shit, we should respect that. I think you boys owe Shit Lips here an apology.”
“Sorry Shit Lips,” said Paul. “If you want to eat shit, that’s your lifestyle choice and it’s not my place to judge you for that.”
“I apologize,” said Mack. They squeezed me a little tighter. It hurt.
Don’t cry. It will only encourage them.
“An apology is fine,” said Brad, “but if you think about it, it’s just words. What good are words?”
“Hadn’t thought about it like that,” said Paul.
“Guess words aren’t worth much after all, now that you mention it,” said Mack.
Two and a half hours.
“As it so happens,” said Brad, “I would like to offer you a gift, Mortimer, to make up for the crassness of my associates here. A real, solid gift.”
“That’s a great idea,” said Paul.
“Nothing beats a gift,” said Mack. “A real, solid gift.”
“Do you know what it is, Shit Lips?” asked Brad.
I shook my head. I wanted to leave, so badly. Maybe I would, after this incident. I’d fake a stomach ache and have my mother come pick me up. It wouldn’t be the first time.
“There, in that stall,” said Brad, pointing behind me, “there is a fresh turd. Coach has me on a high fiber diet, so it’s a good one, I assure you. So… go ahead and eat it. It’s all yours. Since you love eating shit so much. I saved it for you.”
It took a moment for Brad’s words to fully hit the processing center of my brain. No. They’re not going to really make you eat a turd. They’re just trying to scare you. And if that was their intention, it was working. “Please…” I muttered.
Brad smiled. “I already said you could have it. You don’t have to beg.”
“I don’t want to. Please don’t make me do it. I’m sorry. Whatever I’ve done, I’m sorry.”
“Kind of disrespectful to refuse my gift,” said Brad, frowning now. “Is there something wrong with my shit?”
I realized that there was no way out. They were going to do with me as they pleased. I never had a chance. Then I did start sobbing, my asthmatic lungs constricting and making my breath come in jagged gasps. “Please don’t make me do it.”
Brad reached over and took off my glasses. I saw the blur of him reaching his fist back and slamming it into my nose. I heard a terrible crunch as pain spread out across my face, and inside of my head. “Next time,” he said, “the glasses stay on.” He put them back on me, and I saw him clearly then, alive with a burning, unstoppable cruelty.
“O–okay. I’ll do it.”
“That’s a good boy. Just one bite, really, is the polite thing to do. Let me know that my gift has some value to you.”
Paul and Mack spun me around and shoved me into the stall, and then there I was, face to face with Brad’s stinking turd. It was enormous, coiled up like a snake, with bits of it dissolving into the toilet water. My head was swimming in pain and fear and my heart was thudding in my ears. I did not want to do this. But I saw little choice in the matter. There was no escaping it.
I reached into the toilet and grabbed the turd, feeling it squish between my fingers. That was all it took. I let forth a torrent of vomit, all down my arm and into the bowl. Behind me, I could barely hear the three hyenas delighting in my pure misery; could barely hear them over the buzzing in my head.
“Oh God, he was gonna do it!” one of them said, in between a fit of laughter.
“He was actually gonna eat a piece of shit!”
Then I heard them walking away, out of the bathroom. I stood there in the stall, my arm covered in shit and puke, my face dripping with tears and blood, all alone. The lunch bell rang for the second time, indicating that the lunch period was over and done with, just as I finished cleaning up. That was just as well. I had lost my appetite.
* * * * * *
I went straight from the bathroom to the Nurse Henley’s office. There was little need to put on an Oscar-worthy performance; I had seen my reflection in the bathroom mirror, and I looked like an abandoned orphan tossed at Death’s front door. I felt that way, too. Even the promise of returning to my room and being with Shamira held little joy. All joy, in fact, had been beaten out of me, and I was humiliated. I had done nothing wrong that I could understand, other than having the audacity to be Mortimer Lipschitz.
The nurse hung up the phone and shook her head. “Nobody’s answering. Is there another number we can try?”
I thought about having her call my father. I would never hear the end of it, nor would my mother. It’s not that my father was abusive*.* He just had very, very specific and unyielding ideas about how life should be conducted, and calling a man away from important business because you have a little tummy ache was something that you didn’t do. He would lecture me, on and on, and begin to place extra scrutiny on me. He would search thoroughly for bad influences in my life, and almost certainly find out about Shamira. As bad as I felt in that moment, calling my father would provide little relief, and would only serve to make things worse.
I shook my head. “Let’s try again in a couple of minutes. Is it okay if I stay here while I wait?”
“Of course, dear,” said Nurse Henley. “You look due for some rest. I have some paperwork to file with the front office. You just sit here and then when I come back, we can try again.”
I sat and looked out the window at the wretched world. They were having gym class outside today… dodgeball. I was glad I wasn’t there. I saw Brad palm one of the rubber balls, lift his arm up high, and absolutely wing the thing at Henry Gladwell. Henry, like me, was a weakling. He toppled over onto his ass and sat there with a stunned look on his face.
I sighed and looked down at my shoes.
Then back outside.
Off in the distance, beyond the athletic field, I saw some movement. Something was coming. It moved in fits and starts, sometimes stopping and then seeming somehow to grow larger as it stood there. I blinked my eyes hard and shook my head. The blow from Brad must have rattled me even worse than I thought.
The thing was still there, getting closer, and growing larger. It was red. It was…
No. Can’t be.
It was close enough now that there was no mistaking it. One enormous, lopsided breast, bounced higher than the other, which was quite a bit smaller. It was Shamira. And as she got closer, I saw what she was doing. She was reaching down and pulling up a handful of earth, then slapping it on her body. Her body absorbed it, adding to its mass, making my friend grow larger and larger.
Henry saw her first. He was sitting on the bench when he reached out an arm to point and started shouting something. One by one, heads turned in Shamira’s direction and then, when the eyes conveyed the message to the brain, extended horizontally in slack-jawed amazement. Nobody had ever seen anything like it. What was it?
Shamira was, by then, twice as tall as the gym teacher, who was blowing his whistle and pointing at the side door to the school. He was yelling. “Inside!” I could hear it through the window. “Everybody get inside!”
The crowd didn’t need all that much convincing. I witnessed feats of athleticism that the gym teacher wouldn’t have been able to coax out of those students in a hundred years. People were sprinting, elbowing each other, leaping over each other, moving with a single-minded purpose: to get away from the thing that, even now, was taking a scoop out of the 50-yard line and patting those spoils to the side of its monstrous head, making it bigger and even more monstrous.
Shamira, I thought. Can you hear me?
Yes, friend. I hear.
Please don’t hurt anybody.
They hurt you. Friend.
Shamira took a massive step forward, going from the 50 to the 40-yard line in one stride. Mack was standing in the end zone, transfixed. His friends were pulling at his arms, trying to get him to move, but he seemed to be in a state of shock. Finally, they gave up on him and ran with all of their might.
They did. But that doesn’t mean that we should hurt them now. Nothing is gained by perpetuating the cycle of violence. Leave them be. I’ll meet you at home.
They hurt you. Friend.
Finally, Mack’s brain seemed to awaken, and he made a desperate move to run. It was far too late. Shamira stood towering over him, and even after he had made it a few yards away, all she had to do was sweep her arm out, which she did. The impact of the back of her hand upon Mack’s body sent him catapulting through the air, like a wayward dodgeball.
Stop, Shamira. Please.
They hurt you.
Shamira pivoted her body to face Mack’s. He was lying on the ground, rocking back and forth in pain. She reached out and plucked him up in one hand.
She lifted him up into the air so that his small, terrified eyes were level with her giant, enraged eyes. Then she tightened her grip.
No. Stop. I’m begging you. Commanding you.
They hurt you.
The unrestricted parts of Mack’s body began thrashing violently around… in a vain attempt at escape, or in an expression of agony, I don’t know. Most likely both.
Next door, in the front office, there was an explosion of panicked shouting. The students were pouring in the side door, screaming in terror.
Outside, Mack did not thrash around for very long, and when he stopped, it was clear that he would never thrash again. Shamira dropped his corpse to the ground, a flood of intestines rushing out of his ruptured stomach.
Shamira bent down, scooped up an enormous handful of earth, and packed it onto her body. She repeated this action, able to add on more mass to her body the larger she grew, so that she grew exponentially.
The principal’s voice boomed out over the speakers. “If I may have your attention: All students and faculty are to remain inside the school building, in the safest place that you can find. I… just hide under a desk if you can find one. This is not a drill. We have an… we are in the midst of an active situation. The police have been notified, and are en route. Everything… we’re going to be okay. Please just don’t go outside. If you pray, then pray.”
Shamira slammed her fist through the side of the building. A moment later, she was pulling Paul out. He was pinched between her giant fingers. She held him aloft, and then reached inside the school again with her unoccupied hand to pull out Brad. My tormentors’ faces looked, for the first time, like mine usually looked: vulnerable and terrified.
I stood up and ran through the front office, through the headless pandemonium, and out the hole in the side of the building. Shamira looked down at me.
“Stop this!” I shouted. “Let them go! You’ve frightened them. Let that be enough.”
She flicked one of her free fingers and Paul’s head went sailing through the air, all the way across the football field, and through the goalpost on the other side. The rest of Paul was dropped unceremoniously and splattered apart on impact with the ground, flecking me with blood and bits of gore.
“HELP!” screamed Brad. “MORTY! PLEASE HELP ME! I’LL DO ANYTHING!”
I should have known. I should have known from the legends. They all end the same way. They all… and then I had the answer. I ran over to Shamira’s foot and began clawing my way up her leg. She didn’t notice, as far as I could tell; she had forgotten all about me, and was now a being of mindless destruction. When I tried to communicate with her in my mind, there was only a harsh static.
“MORTY! I’M SO SORRY FOR EVERYTHING! I WAS ONLY JOKING!”
I scurried up her side, past that special fold that I knew so well. It was now as large as my entire body. I kept climbing, beyond exhausted from the effort. I looked up, beyond the twin mountains that served as her breasts, to see her lift Brad to her mouth. She bit him in half, swallowing the bottom half, and setting the top half down, very gently, on the field.
Brad was still alive, jagged strings of organs spurting blood and other fluids out of his torn torso. He was screaming so loudly that it hurt my ears. I kept climbing, grasping onto a nipple and hauling myself up.
Please don’t kill me, I thought.
Shamira punched another opening into the school, this time on the second floor. Standing perched on her shoulder, I was looking right in on Mr. Peterson’s AP English class: two dozen shocked and terrified faces, staring at something that defied rational thought.
I clambered down Shamira’s shoulder a bit until I reached it. I dug my fingernails in with all of my strength, furiously, tearing away at first the “F” and then the “R” and, finally, the “I,” sending handfuls of clay flying through the sky.
Then it was over. “END”. Shamira went immediately slack, and began collapsing on herself. I scrambled in a mindless frenzy of terror to stay on her highest point as she fell, knowing that if I landed in the wrong place, that would be it… the end for me as well.
I hit the ground and everything went black.
* * * * * *
I woke up in the hospital with my father sitting by my bedside.
“You created a golem,” he said.
“Yes. I did.” I lifted my head painfully. “Where is mother? Is she… is she okay?”
“Your mother is fine. The golem locked her in the basement, but she was unharmed. The same can’t be said for some of your classmates.” My father coughed. “Nobody knows that it was you. Nobody knows what happened, frankly. There is talk that somebody spiked the school water supply with a hallucinogen. That everybody went temporarily mad, and that the whole affair ought to be kept under wraps until a proper cause can be found. A perpetrator. Somebody to blame.”
My father sat silent for a moment, rubbing his coarse black beard with one hand. “The truth is important, son. So tell me. Why did you do it? Was it for power? An expression of rage? Simply out of too much idleness, perhaps?”
I propped myself up on an elbow, while the machines beeped all around me. “I just wanted a friend.” I bit my lip, trying to fight back the tears. It didn’t work.
“Friend,” my father repeated, clearly weighing the word over in his mind. “Yes. Yes, I suppose that a friend is a fine thing to have. These boys that died… they weren’t your friends, were they?”
“Did you want them dead? Be truthful.”
“No. I tried to stop Sh… the golem. I didn’t want her… it, to kill them.”
“Be truthful, son.”
I closed my eyes and searched my mind. Had I wanted Brad and his friends to die? “Maybe there was a passing moment,” I said slowly, “when I wished that they weren’t here anymore. When they were trying to get me to eat shit.”
I heard my father cough. “Do you mean that literally, son? They tried to make you eat shit?”
I opened my eyes. “Yes. A literal turd.”
“Hmmm,” said my father. He fell back into stroking his beard. He started clicking his tongue against the roof of his mouth. Between that, and the beeping of the hospital equipment, there was a strange rhythm in that room. As of a world, part human, part mechanical, in proper working order. At last, my father pronounced his judgment.
“Life is hard, and harder still when you are alone in the world. It is hard beyond hard when you are actively persecuted, though you have committed no wrong through your actions. During such trials, we grow desperate, and cling to whatever comfort is available. In your case, son, you sought comfort by creating a golem. That is understandable, but you ought to have thought further of the consequences of your actions. The golem went on to grow monstrously large, and murderous. It’s not the first time that this has happened, according to the books. It is important to pay heed to the lessons that have already been learned by those who came before us. That is why we pass them from generation to generation. You did wrong, son, though less wrong than you could have, and for justifiable reasons. As an appropriate punishment, I am canceling your participation in Hanukkah this year.”
I thought it over. It seemed fair enough. After all, worse things can happen. “Hanukkah is canceled,” I said.
My father nodded. “Well. I really should be getting back to the office now. I am glad that you are well, Mortimer. You’ll be back home before you know it.”
My father stood up and left without further ceremony. I was alone again. The machines kept beeping. “Ah, Shamira,” I muttered. “Why’d you have to go and kill them?”
I looked up. They must have me on some powerful drugs, I thought, because this isn’t happening.
“I don’t know if you know me, but I’m Jessica Farley. I, uh, used to date Brad.”
The beeping machines started to beep faster. “Ah, yes, I’ve seen you around.” Oy vey, was she gorgeous.
“So, uh, everybody’s pretending that they didn’t see a giant monster attack our school. They’re pretending that they didn’t see you climb up that beast and stop it. But I saw it.”
“That is congruous with my recollection,” I said.
“I’m not dumb, you know. I know what you just said. You probably think I’m dumb just because I was with Brad.”
“If I thought you were dumb, it was as a self-defense mechanism, because I knew that I never had a chance with you. It was easier to put the blame on you than it was to put it on myself.” Huh. What the fuck is in this IV drip anyway? Something good, that’s for sure.
“What if I told you that you had a chance with me? Would you still think that I was dumb?”
My asthmatic lungs pushed out a wheeze that was meant to serve as laughter. “I’d think that you thought that I was dumb.”
“Well, I don’t. And you do.” She pressed a piece of paper into my palm. The machines started beeping even faster. It sounded like they were on the verge of exploding. “When you get out of here, give me a call, okay?”
Jessica left and I laid there for a long time, not moving, the paper with her number on it crumpled up in my hand, getting damp with sweat. Mortimer Lipschitz, I thought. That’s my name. There’s nothing wrong with it.
🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None AvailableNathaniel Lewis Edited by Craig Groshek Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek Narrated by N/A