Graham Graft – The Stone Man

When I was born, both my big toes were deformed — they were short, bent, and curved inwards. This turned out to be an early sign of FOP: fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva, commonly known as stone man syndrome. I never learned to crawl, I just sort of shuffled around on my bottom. Walking wasn’t easy, either, and I never got my gait quite right. My folks — God bless ‘em — thought I was lazy, when in fact, my bones were fusing together.

By the time I started second school, I had a rock solid six pack and chiseled abs, and I didn’t even need to work out. All natural, baby. I had no problem finding a girlfriend. Her name was Jean, and she had the shiniest hair you’ve ever seen. We used to walk around the playing field holding hands. That’s when it really started to hurt, my whole body, like someone was squeezing and twisting my muscles. I couldn’t have sex — too painful — so Jean moved on, while I was having a hard time moving at all.

At first they thought it was something called fibrosis. Cancer came up at one point. I was twenty-five when they officially diagnosed me with FOP. The condition meant my muscles and ligaments, tissues and tendons, would become ossified. I was turning to stone and being slowly imprisoned by my own skeleton. By the time I turned thirty, I was effectively motionless, bed-ridden, consumed by fantasies of Jean, and my wildest dreams of gene therapy.

Then one sunny day, my folks put me on the back of a milk van. I couldn’t ask what was happening as my mouth had locked shut, but I knew my days of home discomforts were over. They drove me into the village of Threekingham, via Hall Lane, past the remains of a moated manor house, where you could see mounds of earth and stone raised over a dozen or so graves. My final resting place would be the parish church dedicated to Saint Peter in Chains. I was erected on a plinth in the church garden where I would stand, statuesque, for the rest of time. Mercifully, my eyes still opened.

Locals came to see me. Some prayed at my feet, by my freakishly big toes, while others busked and begged. The odd hoodlum would desecrate my outer wall — my skin — with graffiti. This one time, a drunk man defecated on me, but don’t worry, my folks were nearby to clean up any mess. I was, after all, their immortal memorial made of mineral matter.

Jean came to the church one Sunday, having lost her locks to terminal cancer. We reminisced and missed each other terribly. The kiss she planted on my weathered lips helped to ease our own agonising pains. When I finally stopped blinking, my eyes watered for about a week after, and so did Jean’s on the day I died, as she really loved the bones of me.

In terms of tourist numbers, I ranked right up there with the Passion in Jerusalem, the Marriage at Cana in Galilee, Mount Tabor, Our Lady of Lourdes, of Guadalupe, the Vatican, Mecca, Machu Picchu, and not to forget Stonehenge. The church became a major pilgrimage site. They came from far and wide to see me in all my glory, and to pay their respects to my best friend, Jean, buried a stone’s throw from this blessed bone idol.