Petra Eterna


Doubt finally creeps in as I stand naked on the marble pedestal at the front of the university lecture hall, my dress and other clothes in an unceremonious heap on the floor. Admittedly, it’s a bit late for second thoughts, but not too late until the incantations begin. I can still call it off. I just need to—

“Immobilus totalus!” exclaims the professor, his wand directed toward me.

His words catch me off-guard as my body locks into its classic pose. I need more time to consider my decision, but my lips fail to respond. If cast with sufficient skill, the immobilization spell is impossible to resist. And the professor has enough talent to render me in perfect stillness.

Panic grips me from within my apparent serenity, the neutral expression on my face belying the terror within. I struggle to recall why I volunteered for this. Love of art? Fascination with the unknown? Or was it simply pride? The awe from my fellow students as I confidently raised my hand? Perhaps the admiration of the professor whose approval I long to secure.

There’s nothing especially meaningful about my decision. Another student asked about a rare and challenging spell. The professor requested a volunteer for a demonstration—just an impromptu lesson for the class. It’s not even part of the curriculum for Spellcraft 324.

“Petra eterna!” the professor cries, his wand aimed squarely at my chest.

I’m now beyond the point of no return. I feel a heaviness within my heart, almost imperceptible at first but steadily growing and radiating outward through my torso and limbs. A numbness in my feet slowly ascends to my calves. I cannot look down to see what’s happening, but I already know. The change has begun. The numbness is not simply a loss of feeling but my gradual conversion into solid stone.

The transmutation will be permanent and irreversible. No magic exists that can undo what is now underway. As the reality of that sinks in, the full weight of my decision settles upon me.

While the professor explains the nuances of the petrification process, several students raise their hands to ask questions. Sure, now they’re raising their hands. Where were they five minutes ago? I want to roll my eyes, but they’re fixed upon the professor as he gestures in my direction. He’s leading a spirited discussion of my conversion to marble, referring to me in the detached manner reserved for an object. That is, of course, what I’m becoming. An object. An impressive and realistic work of art.

The wave of stone reaches my thighs and flows upward over my loins. As the transformation ascends my abdomen, something strange happens. Terror and doubt melt away, replaced by firm resolve. I embrace my newfound destiny and the privilege of this rare experience.

My classmates watch my chest and upper back calcify. A final breath rattles in my solidifying lungs while my heart beats once more before turning to stone. The change reaches my shoulders and spills down both arms, rendering them in marble. I should be frantic, but I’m perfectly calm. The transmutation climbs over my chin and envelops my mouth and nose. The professor’s commentary on my petrification fades to silence as the stone claims my ears. His animated gestures dim to blackness as my eyes become blank orbs of marble. The wave crests my head and flows through my tangled locks until my transformation is complete.

I’m alone with my thoughts now. They’re slowing down as my brain solidifies. My consciousness is an ember rising from an extinguished fire, carried on the breeze and burning brightly until—

Copyright 2023 Olivia Quinn

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

Story notes

Turning somebody to stone is a big deal. But what if it wasn’t? What if there was a magic school where petrifying a volunteer was a routine classroom demonstration? I imagined such a place and wrote this little story.

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Olivia Zoe Quinn lives in Ohio with her dog and two cats, who mostly get along. She is pursuing her BA in Creative Writing while working part-time in a lingerie shop. She may be found after hours standing motionless among the mannequins. Olivia is the Editor-in-Chief of Stone Cold Stories and an Associate Editor at Rock Hard Press and GAZMYK Magazine. Olivia is the author of the upcoming sci-fi erotica novel, StoneSport Chronicles: Volume 1, due out in the fall of 2024.

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