She is the eighth. She appears in a swirl of dust, and he scrutinizes the lace around her neck. It flowers out from her prominent collarbones, clinging to her frail neck, wrapping around her bony shoulders. The rest of the dress clings tight to her anorexic angles, and her weary left eye—the only one visible past a curtain of dark hair—stares as if he were her savior. Not into his eyes, though. They never do.
Yes, he thinks. Beautiful. How he has wished for someone this glorious!
He raises his hand and brushes back the thin hair from her cheek. As the shadow lifts from her face, he recoils and realizes the blemish. The disfiguration is hideous to behold. That eye socket is healed over, puckered and concave, as if the eye were removed and the lid sewn shut.
He shakes his head, and the eighth vanishes. Something inside him laments his inability to create perfection—but he knows it is not his place to create perfection. That would be His place. All he wishes is someone good enough.
So he tries again, taking a seat on the ground, his bare chest glistening with perspiration. He closes his eyes and imagines.
It is not long before another the ninth springs into existence, this one even more waiflike than the last. She is small, corpse-thin, her knees jutting out in thick knobs from her meatless thighs. This girl is clad in white shorts and a black t-shirt that swallows her torso.
She observes him. His beautiful eyes intimidate her, electric blue and piercing to the bone. There is hardly any distance from her skin to the bone, but his eyes pierce nonetheless.
"Yes," he mutters, rising gracefully to his feet. She cringes back from his tall body, her lips parting slightly as she stares him in the eye. He is taken by surprise.
This one is different. She looks at him as though they were equals, making eye contact and holding it. No matter that she looks afraid—the creation is always afraid of its creator. But it is to be noted that she dares to meet his gaze.
He lifts his hand to her cheek. The soft contact makes her stiffen, her jaw setting in stubbornness. She has green eyes, wild untamable green eyes, and he smiles.
Against her will, she is taken by his beauty. Awe strikes her, but she does not let it show.
He traces his fingers down her side, over the jutting bone of her hip. Her size fills him with satisfaction—the most beautiful size, purged of all evil, purged of all humanity, leaving only the soul. This one’s soul glares out from her face in sharp relief. This is the one. This is the one he was born to build.
He leans down to kiss her, but she smacks her bony hands onto his chest and shoves him back.
His eyes snap open and he glares, open-mouthed and shocked by her insolence.
She glares back, venom pervading her expression. There is a minute of ringing silence between them.
Perhaps he was wrong.
He comes closer again, more aggressively this time, but she catches his face in her hands and says, "No."
He is rooted in place by the word. She should not speak. He did not create her to speak.
But he fears cancelling her. She is physical glory like he has never managed.
So he stares, and waits, and debates, his chin wrapped in her cold, strong fingers, his eyes mystified.
Eventually her joints uncurl from his face, and he takes a small step back. Far enough that she lowers her hand. Still close enough that he could lean in and taste her breath. "You speak," he says.
"I do." Her voice is high, clear, and strong. It is a voice that could go for miles.
"What do you wish?"
She lowers her eyelids once, slowly, before answering. Her spindly eyelashes stretch shadows across her hollow face. "I wish that you may perceive not your thoughts but your needs."
His cheeks redden. His skin seems to glow gold with fervor as he replies. "You presume much."
"And what, pray, do I presume, Alion?"
Alion clenches his jaw. He does not know how she knows his name. "You presume that I care to be advised by your ilk. You presume that I take stock in that which I have already, and with reason, suppressed."
"And you have suppressed me?" Her deep green eyes sparkle with impish daring, and she slides her fingers down his sweaty chest. She can feel his heart beating faster under her touch. Stepping closer, she wraps an arm around his back, leaning her cheek against his torso. "Why have you suppressed me?" He can feel her throat vibrating against him, can feel the whisper of her lips against his slick skin.
"Why, Alion?" There is a dark smile in her voice, a filthy smile.
"Siren!" Flustered, he forces her away. "I must not admit to my attraction. Suppression is the natural consequence."
She reads his pause. "…and yet…"
"And yet," he says, looking her up and down, "there is always some flaw, Galatea."
Alion shakes his head, his dark hair sticking to his forehead. He is too aware of the shape of her, too aware of the knowledge in her eyes, too aware that he wants her—"Your voice."
"Perhaps." He swallows, forcing his eyes away. This one is too much trouble. This one cannot be stood. This one questions where she should not.
"Consider the challenge," Galatea says, licking her dry lips. "Appreciate how I compensate for all that you take from my body." She looks down at her bonelike calves, at her skeletal arms. "Appreciate how I compensate for your weakness."
He meets her eyes, and there is some understanding between them. He knows she is right. She knows she is right. Most of all, she knows he is too cowardly to care.
She closes her eyes as he cancels her.
Alion sits down and tries again. Number ten is missing an arm. Number eleven is missing a leg. Number twelve is missing a nose.
Number thirteen is a carbon copy of Galatea. And she does not speak.
Alion rejoices and moves to kiss her.
But he has hardly touched his lips to hers before he recoils. She is cold, hard stone. She is soulless, voiceless, and as he stares into her eyes he cannot call her Galatea. And neither can she.
(Author's note: I kept the name Galatea because it's beautiful, but I shortened Pygmalion of legend (who fell in love with his own creation) to simply 'Alion'. I thought it lent an appropriate sort of bizarro feel to the work.)