Statement of Deborah Mandaki regarding an adult art class she took in the spring of 2004, and her interactions with Gabriel, a fellow student.
There's a community center near Deborah's house that in the past few years has started offering adult education programs. These included things like a cheese making course and a fire-eating workshop. Deborah generally has her days to herself, so she signed up for a lot of the programs. The workshop schedule started listing a bi-weekly sculpting class and Deborah signed up for it.
The class was small because of the high material cost and early time, so there were only four other people: Mary, Bill, Ray Quinton, who was teaching the class, and a fourth man who Deborah didn't know. He introduced himself as "Gabriel" and was a short, squat man with knobbly bare arms that almost reached down to his knees. Deborah wasn't one to judge on appearances, so it wasn't his ugliness that set her against him. There was something about how he moved like he was always too close and in your personal space, until you looked again and he wasn't. When Gabriel came up to Deborah without warning and introduced himself, Deborah had to stop herself from obviously recoiling.
The first lessons were all very basic. The class just listened and watched Ray's demonstrations, except for Gabriel. He ignored their teacher and focused on the clay in front of him. His thick fingers were able to twist and shape the clay with ease. Deborah always found clay a difficult, heavy material to work with, but looking over at Gabriel made it seem like the clay was alive in his hands. During one of their earlier projects, they were supposed to make a fish, nice and simple. Ray had even made some of the armatures already. Deborah still struggled, and Mary and Bill had a good go at it, but Gabriel made something that wasn't a fish. It almost started out as a fish, but it kept going and looping through itself. After a half an hour, Deborah had almost forgotten about her work and just watched him make his serpentine structure. Every time Ray came over, he would just nod to himself and trade a few words with Gabriel, as if whatever he was making was in any way similar to the assignment.
At one part, Gabrial saw Deborah staring and walked over to her with the sculpture in hand and held it towards her face. He asked her for help because he was in a bit of a creative block, but Deborah could only think that he had the palest eyes she had ever seen. The clay in his hands started to move, coiling around through its face and flailed its long, distorted fins. It made a noise that sounded like a scream heard through water and stretched out to Deborah's mouth, which was hanging open in horror. Deborah fell back and screamed in horror, and is sure that if she didn't, the thing would have dived down her throat. Everyone else rushed over, but she could only watch as Gabriel made his way back to his bench. He said "What an excellent idea. An excellent direction indeed."
After that, Deborah quit the class, emailing Ray about it and making references to inappropriate behavior from another student. She continued on with her life and didn't give Gabriel another thought until she walked into her salsa class the following Thursday to see the room set up for sculpture. Deborah was taken back by the very significant scheduling issue until she checked the timetable of all of the classes to find that it seemed like sculpting had always been on Thursdays. Ray made a big show of her coming back, so she felt like she couldn't really leave. Bill gave a slightly pained smile, but when Deborah asked if he was alright, he shrugged and said he couldn't complain. There was no sign of Mary, and they still haven't found her.
Deborah started to work. Ray told the class that their lesson was on faces. Deborah put her hand up to say that faces seemed a bit advanced for where they were in the course, but Ray only responded by saying that they were a lot more talented than he had thought. He said that the key was faces were twisted, and all you had to do was reach into the deepest part of yourself and put that twisted on the outside of the clay, and as soon as you can scream you'll have your own face staring back at you. Deborah asked him to clarify, but Ray just repeated himself: soon as you can scream. He then glanced over to Gabriel, who gave him a big thumbs up, like it was a joke they were playing.
Deborah did her best, and she thinks she made a pretty good stab at it, given how unhelpful the instructions they were given were. The face Bill was working on looked like Mary, but he'd made her mouth much much too wide. Deborah heard a shuffling coming from the other side of the room and knew that it was Gabriel. He coughed gently, and Deborah thought it would have been rude not to look. The structure he held made her eyes hurt. Thin, sharp lines angled off of each other but they never seemed to actually connect with each other. The sculpture shifted, like the other one Deborah saw. She felt something jabbing at her skull like a migraine. Finally, the lines seemed to resolve into the clear shape of a door. Deborah asked if it was supposed to be a face, and Gabriel told her yes, that it was a good friend of his. She asked who, and he said that they didn't have a name, that having one would only confuse them. Deborah's head was still pounding. Ray was still nodding and smiling and Bill was shoveling fistfuls of the clay Mary into his mouth. Deborah doesn't remember any more of that lesson.
The last lesson was on Monday. It wasn't watercolors and never has been according to the schedule. Ray was in front, singing in a high tenor. When Deborah asked what they were doing, he just sang louder. Bill was there, but he was made of clay, his limbs being worked on by Gabriel. As soon as Deborah entered, Gabrial ran up to her, grabbing her hand and thanking her for being the best assistant he could have ever had and that he'd improved so much because of her. As he was saying that, his face shifted, pushing further and further from where it should have been. Behind his teeth and at the edges of his eyes, Deborah saw the dull red of clay shifting. His smile kept getting wider and where his fingers touched the back of her hand, Deborah could feel his fingerprints turning. The marks it left wouldn't come off afterward. She ran after that.
Deborah is convinced that it wasn't real, as she's seen Ray and Bill around. They don't like to make eye contact and Bill cries at church, but they're still there. She got a letter a week ago from Gabriel, inviting her to assist him in a new place called Sannikov land. Deborah looked it up and it doesn't exist. She doesn't think she should go, and decides that she won't go.
Jon Sims notes that Gabriel is the "Worker in Clay" from MAG 101, who took part in the Great Twisting, which Gertrude stopped at the cost of a single life. He still considers this great sacrifice to be unacceptable, and sad. He looked at Gertrude's notebook (found among the plastic explosives in MAG 113), but does not understand the contents: they are not encoded, but contain largely simple numbers and sentence fragments that mean little to anyone else. From staring at the notebook, he found this statement, but considers it of little use beyond as background and clues to how Gertrude formulated her counter-rituals.
Jon is worried about Melanie, who refuses to speak to him, and hopes that he was right to remove the bullet from her leg and was not "too late again". He mentions that a tape recorder was present when he sat down, and that whatever controls them, they are there for him and have proven useful. There were no tape recordings made during his absence.
He followed up on Debra Mandaki, who did not go to Sannikovland. This could have been because she decided not to, or because shortly after this statement was given, the body of one Mary Randall was found in her basement, and Mandaki has been incarcerated in Eastwood Park Prison ever since. Jon found no information about Randall's body, but can imagine what a sculptor's apprentice might be capable of--even an unwilling one.
Martin Blackwood hears a tape recorder click on, and begins to talk to it like a pet, remarking that it is back because Jon is back, and that he and the recorder both missed him. Peter Lukas appears and comments that this isn't a great sign; he and Martin argue over the necessity of total isolation for unspecified power. If they do not "pull this off", requiring Martin as "the only one who could possibly balance between the two" (presumably referring to the Eye and the Lonely?), it will be over for everyone, including Jon. Peter continues his cheerful petty manipulation: he insults Elias Bouchard for his lack of foresight in believing that he could complete the Watcher's Crown and thus eliminate all other problems, and Jon for his poor archival practices. He has found some old statements by Adelard Dekker, which should provide context for Martin.
Martin says that once everything is over, he will tell Jon everything; Peter replies that at that point, he will not want to, but everyone will be safe. He tries to look at Martin's employee schedule, but is extremely incompetent with the computer, and remarks that he has an assistant for this.