Foggy clouds had blocked out the sun for many days. Fast falling, eventide was chilly and the brisk ocean winds howling on the streets had shivered the bodies. The ensuing darkness engulfed the entire universe as if centuries had passed and the sun had never appeared. Rounded bright lamps, hanging on poles, just like the boobs of chaste women, were shimmering in the gloaming. Those were trying to defeat the endless darkness of the night.

On the hilltop, in the corner of a flower meadow, was the Temple, dedicated to the goddess Venus. Throughout the day, the sacrificers have remained busy making offerings, and the worshippers have shown reverence and adoration for the deity. With the falling dusk, the crowd of people treading on the tracks leading to the temple was gaining strength. It seemed the entire city had arrived to be at the temple. Accompanied by maenads and satyrs, virgins wearing robes of light glaucous green colour were dancing and playing the tambourine and circumambulating the temple. The robes fell like scarfs; a narrow slit which opened and closed at each step alone revealed the soft, glowy thighs and hips. There were some among them whose dishabille was their only costume. The loveliness of stunning beauties was the object of tender contemplation and admiration. Hither and yon, an idle throng, much more than the active crowd, covered the roads. Every sensualist was going crazy to get a glimpse of them.

Streets were thronged with devotees, pilgrims, merchants, sailors, nobles, and ignoble. Everybody was there to bow the head before the immortal goddess and make love with the mortal goddesses, the courtesans.

Who was he?

Each person knew he was the soul of rashness, the strongest in this universe. He was The Man. As soon as he appeared, every living thing seemed terrified. There were no dreadful trumpets, chariots rumble, the hissing sound of whips, growling orders of moving aside, but everybody clung to the walls and left his path clear. He had a strong, well-developed body with large and manly limbs. Bristles covering the chin and black curly hair, thick and unruly, on the back of his neck were adding elegance to his immaculately dressed, attractive body. His big black eyes, with long dark lashes, did not stay anywhere for a while. The heaviness of intoxicated eyebrows was enhancing the beauty of the eyes. Four elements: the flame of youth, radiance of beauty, warmth of love, and tipsiness by liquid fire had inflamed his passions. On this perishable earth, there could be no one equal to him in beauty. The gods living on Mount Olympus would have felt a twinge of envy for him.

Intoxicated with sexual excitement, messing with maidens, sacred courtesans, concubines, and holy untouchables; touching their soft, fur-like hair, embezzling the colour of lips, and pressing full breasts, ample thighs, and hips, he was on his way to the temple. Whoever he touched screamed with a pang and excitement.

When he reached the main entrance, a maid washed his face with her muslin robe. A virgin wiped his feet with a mass of hair, which was deep and dazzling, and wet because of the dew of love and lustrous, moist perfume oils.

Leaving them, he mounted the steps of the temple and fell into ecstasy before the statue. There was a mixture of awe and love in the eyes of temple inhabitants.

Standing tall on a golden plinth was a naked statue of goddess Venus, made of Parian marble, with her delicate face and elegant curves, a vision of grace and beauty, right hand raised just above the shoulder, waving towards devotees. With her left arm across the lower torso; she grasps the sheer silk drapery slipping off her body. Its diagonal folds furrowed that little of her figure, which could be seen through the sheer yellow linen. Surrounded with offerings of all sorts of naturalia; sweet-scented herbs and flowers, the goddess, laden with pendent treasures, seemed to be a dynamic immortal being.

The chief priest was standing on the right side of the goddess with a golden tray in his hand receiving tithes, sacrifices, and small votive objects; besides money, jewels, and gold ornaments.

He tugged off his precious necklace, put it at the feet of the Goddess, and said, ‘O divine beauty, O transfigured one, this admirer of you, your devotee, wants to sacrifice himself on this high-altar. O Goddess of Beauty, Love, and lust, which is the greatest human passion, I am also your lover, like mortal Anchises and Adonis. Today, this daredevil is seeking your love with the same passion. I wish to embrace you, let me be your consort.’

While taking stumbling steps on the offerings, he climbed on the platform with the help of her calves.

A deafening silence fell upon the temple.

His hands ran above her glistening naked body possessively, kissed her half-opened lips, and shouted, ‘The temple shall be emptied. Today, I will copulate with the goddess.

Everybody, out!’

They all rushed out.

The plate present in the chief priest’s hand fell down. Diamonds, and jewels scattered far and wide. The priest shook his head in amazement and said, ‘Dost thou not know? The goddess is a stone.’

He spoke angrily, looking at the priest, ‘No—don’t tell me. I don’t care.

The goddess will become a woman, the deity will now become a doxy. I have brought mystical herbs with me. It will metamorphose her.’

He tied the small collection present in his hand to the goddess’s arm.

‘The goddess will modify herself for the lover. She will come in flesh and bone form.’

The lustful, drunken youth was kissing the statue excitedly.

The chief priest came forward.

‘It’s not possible. Here are better options. You can order virgins, who are a symbol of beauty and have never seen a man. Even their costumes are unaware of concealed body treasures. These consecrated maidens own such delicate, glowing, pliant bodies that many kings and princes have destroyed their kingdoms to spend a night with them. Even gods have come down upon the earth to love those fey girls.’

The priest pointed out, and dozens of vestal virgins and sacred priestesses came in front of him. He didn’t even bother to have a glimpse.

The priest rolled the dice again and offered, ‘Experienced prostitutes, can also be presented, the most celebrated, who know the art of love, its every rhythm and subtlety. These debauched ladies know the strange techniques to hug and kiss. While getting acquainted with the realities of their love, thousands of crazy people have dissipated their patrimony and have gone penniless.’

Many zonahs, courtesans, and qedeshahs were presented before him. But he was not ready to accept this offer, as well. Fully intoxicated, with closed eyes, he did not bother to look at anyone and continued kissing the goddess.

The helpless priest emphasized, ‘The goddess is a stone. You may have noticed that her lips are ice-cold. Why are you banging your head against a brick wall?’

After a pause, he pleaded again,

‘This idol, made of marble, goddess of infallibility, is a blessing for all. She is also the personification of beauty and love, the embodiment of chastity, the guardian of purity and piety.’

He took off the shawl of the goddess to strip her naked and threw it away. While slapping her hip and thighs, touching her arse, he spoke with a touch of cool insolence, ‘The guardian of purity, maybe! The goddess of beauty is just a woman. You may consider her virtuous. She’s just a sex toy for me.’

Mystical herbs started their action. Changes appeared in the sculpture. The lifeless limbs throbbed. Her splendor shone like the sun, lit up the temple hall with the glow of her flawless body. On getting movement, her feet detached themselves from the plinth.

He took the goddess in his arms like a newborn baby and came down. Gradually, all the colors of life shone on the goddess. He hugged Venus close to him and kissed her. She groaned for a while, swayed her head, then quickly got out of his grip.

She shouted, ‘O, master of the defiled body, you are not worthy to touch this pure soul, the noblewoman.’

He ran towards her madly and grabbed her with all his might. Venus pushed him away. With a single jerk of hers, he stumbled and fell to the ground.

The infuriated goddess roared out, ‘O, Man, you may be more powerful than Hercules, but with this poisoned force, can’t catch me, abuse me, I’m not a love-struck teenager. You are accustomed to deceiving young, innocent girls. I am a modern woman. Thanks to your rejuvenating, revivifying herb, this woman of the soft body is as hard as a stone. Open your eyes and see who am I? The modern woman, the goddess of infallibility, the blessed goddess, not of stone but just like stone. Long live the modern woman. You stupid man! Your time is over. You are really just candles in the wind, which will extinguish in a while.’

The harsh words of the goddess distressed him. The drunken man did not have enough strength to see her. He tried to move his lips and gesticulated frantically without result.

He was too enervated to resist; lids, leaden with the burden of sins, were closing. She stepped forward, pulled out long serpent-like gold pins from her hair, and inserted those into the drunken eyes.

Walking back, she started singing hymns in a calm tone and addressed the womenfolk, ‘O, my daughters, the dark age has passed, soon the new sun will rise. The pink light rays will shine in the dewdrops, the rainbow will enlighten the entire world, and the soulful colors of eminent change will illuminate the planet. Look! It’s the dawn of a new morning after the long foggy dark nights.’

On reaching her plinth, she maintained her upright position and metamorphosed to stone.

Syed Mohammad Zahid

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