Billy’s search for answers (re-edit)

by Callum B. Downes

Between heaving breaths, he started muttering to himself. He pounded against the feet of the sculpture and began screaming for old man statue to show himself. Anger possessed him again and he wished more than anything that he could just disappear without anybody noticing. He looked up into the eyes of the first ANZAC and that’s when something remarkable happened. The statue winked at him.

Billy stood up quickly in fright.

“What’s the matter, Bill?” Asked a voice from behind him. “Never seen a winking statue before?”

Billy turned around and was quite relieved when he realised who the voice belonged to.

“Well, have you?” Asked old man statue, a second time.

“Of course I haven’t,” whimpered Billy nervously. “Is he a real person too?”

“Don’t ask me,” said old man statue, nodding his head behind Billy.

When Billy turned back around, he was utterly speechless.

“I’m as real as they come,” smiled the first soldier.

“Me too!” Yelled the second. “But the wounds to my head and chest are fake, thankfully.”

It was like he’d travelled back in time to the trenches of the Great War. Both of the ANZACs, whom just seconds ago were frozen solid, were now walking and talking, and the sun was still setting, and Billy was still catching his breath back, and, and, and…

“So why’d ya come back, Billy?” Asked old man statue calmly.

“How do you know my name?” Yelled Billy. He yelled because he didn’t trust this bearded stranger.

“We’ll get to that later. So as I was saying, what are ya doing back here? Searching for something? Maybe someone?”

“I want to know how you do it. How they do it.” Billy pointed at the young ANZACs, who were back in their usual position as statues.

“Well only you hold the answer to that question, kiddo.”

“What total non-sense!” Spat Billy.

Old man statue chuckled slowly for quite a while, stroking his beard and tucking his army shirt back into his trousers.

“Fine! If you won’t tell me, then I’m out of here. Dinner will be cold and Dave will be waiting to kill me when I get home, and…”

“You mean your Father?” The old man interrupted.

“What did you say?”

“You didn’t say my Father, you said Dave.”

“How do you know Dave Baker?” Asked Billy, his mistrust growing with every inquiry.

“I told you, we’ll get to all that later.” The old man paused briefly, as if to discover a greater wisdom from somewhere deep within, before speaking again. “So, do you believe me when I say you hold all the answers?”

Billy took a giant gulp. “Yes…”

“Good. What is your greatest fear? That one thing that sends your dreams into terrible, spiralling nightmares?”

Without a second thought Billy answered. “The ocean.”

“Well, there you have it,” the old man shouted. “That’s the answer. Every time you want to freeze completely still, think of the ocean. Whenever you wish to pose as a statue, imagine you are being dumped by terrible waves. You must harness your fear and use it as your greatest weapon.”

“But my teacher says love is my greatest weapon.”

“And he is right. But we’ll get to all that later.”

For the next thirty minutes or so, the old man explained the greatest secrets of every human statue to Billy in great detail. From maintaining your focus through ancient breathing techniques, to hiding costumes and body paint in secret spots near your performance space, Billy was given a beginners tutorial in the basics of the trade. Apparently there was an entire community of human statues out there, all mastering the art of stillness. Some, like old man statue, did it for money. Others, like the two ANZACS behind them, did it for therapeutic reasons, trying to overcome their inner demons. Whatever their reasons, there were millions more like them. In fact, most of the world’s statues are actually real people. Even Michelangelo’s sculpture of David is just a random naked guy, who replaced another naked guy who died a long time ago, who replaced another naked guy who died even longer before that, and so it goes for years and years. Centuries of freezing cold nakedness. That’s the other thing he learnt. Humans have been posing as statues for thousands of years. The earliest account of a human statue was recorded in 100 B.C. during the days of the Roman Empire, when a centurion soldier posed as a statue behind enemy lines to spy on them, before reporting back to his commanding officers with their plans of attack. The story goes that when he attempted the same espionage a second time, he let out an outrageous fart, alerting the enemy to his humanness and as a result he was tortured and hanged for his trickery.

The facts and figures seemed endless and by the time old man statue had finished talking, it was almost dark. Billy bid the bearded man farewell and left. Django was too tired to go on, so Billy swept him up into his arms and set off with the waning moonlight shining upon his back. The fleeting promise of his dreams was now a dull glow of fading purple light, haunting the horizon. Maybe it was time to reach for the stars instead?