Better the Whip-Hand than the Whip

Culture, red in tooth and claw.

Michael and Raphael circle the block of raw marble, chisels loose and dangling in their paws, eyes locked together. The high bright walls of the studio echo back the velvet pad of their feet, the soft susurrus of the rapt crowd, breathing. Signs flash among the spectators, sparking the rare scrape of chalk as each bet is tallied.
They draw closer, spiral tighter around the marble, slower, Michael’s lips drawn back in a grimace and Raphael’s brow heavy and beetled. One of the apprentices faints from the strain, and the paramedici carry him out. Patter of sweat in the sawdust.
Time and movement hang suspended.
And then they are fallen on the marble, chisels biting and gnawing into the stone, blood and spit pouring from their jaws onto the white rock. Six arms emerge, three heads; the gorgons, clinging together, the last gasp of sisterhood as their hearts shiver into snakehood.
A masterwork. Seamless and perfect.
Raphael falls. Michael lifts his shaggy head and bays triumph. The bookkeepers make their payments.