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I still recall precisely how I first saw her. The image is burned into my mind, seared like the after-image of the sun itself. I believe that image will be with me until my last breath.

She was almost entirely invisible; hidden behind vines and creepers which fell across her niche like a curtain, but something drew me towards that section of the ruin. The faint glimmer of my failing torch danced across the smooth black stone of her fingers, protruding from the foliage, and I stepped forward to pull aside the vines, to draw aside the curtain and reveal what Nature had hidden.

And so, in imperfect light I first beheld her perfect form; her beautiful face, unmarked by the passage of centuries, gazing solemnly out into the darkness; her hand outstretched towards me.

A better man would have merely documented the existence of this enticing statue; would have recorded it for posterity and left it untouched, but I was greedy. My mind was filled with thoughts of fame, of the acclaim of my peers when I presented to them this unprecedented beauty, and like the grave-robbers who looted the Pyramids, I wrenched her from her resting place and carried her into the light. At that moment, I felt that the world had to see her.

I brought her into my civilised world and presented her to my colleagues. She was installed in a prestigious museum while I basked in her glory. But soon the glory faded. A man’s reputation, it seems, can only stand on his recent achivements, and after her there was nothing.

She haunted my every moment. When I slept, I saw her face, and when awake I was drawn inexorably towards her, like a moth to a flame. I stood before her daily, content merely to be in her presence.

Eventually I lost my position at the museum, and was forced to pay the entrance fee in order to enter into her sublime presence. I did so willingly, in essence throwing my dollars at her feet in humble sacrifice, until my bank balance was utterly dry.

Still she would not leave me be.

I sold my home to fund my addiction to her, but I had to face the inevitable truth. Simply gazing at her was no longer enough. Her commands were clear, and I had to do her bidding.

My plan was simple in both form and execution. I observed the guards carefully, watching their routes and routines until I identified a suitable hiding place. Then, I merely had to wait until the museum was closed.

I held her in my hands once more, the black stone of her flesh cool against my skin. Together we travelled, making the arduous journey back to her home.

This is where my journey ends. I am penniless, homeless, jobless. I have nothing, yet even as I stand before her, in her rightful place once more, I have everything.

© Kari Fay

(Author’s Note – This story is vaguely inspired by the song “Magdalena” by A Perfect Circle. )