Gods of Stone
by Jeff Samson
What… what’s going on? Where am I?
Whoa, take it easy.
Why can’t I move?
Just take it easy.
Where am I, I say!
If you’d just settle down.
Who… who are you… where are you… why can’t I move?
What do you mean, where are you? I’m standing right in front of you.
I said, I’m standing…
I see no one.
…right in front…
Enough of your games. There is not but a statue before me. I say again, show yourself!
But I am showing myself. That statue’s me, you fool.
That statue’s me.
Hah! It is you who is the fool if you think I can be taken with your petty trickery.
Statues are not alive.
But of course not.
They cannot talk.
That is truth.
Truth indeed… and yet we live.
Damn you, man!
Damn you and your… wait… what do you mean… we?
My friend, do you not remember?
Give it time… it will come.
I say, remember what?
How can I put this delicately… well… it’s like this… you’re stone.
Stone! You’ve been turned to stone!
If I lie, then move. Brandish your sword. Reduce me to rubble.
By the gods, I will… I would… I just…
What? Can’t move?
Damn you! Why can’t I move?
I’ve already told you why.
Well, let’s see… how might a man become stone?
I don’t know.
A man cannot become stone. It is impossible. It is… this is a dream. That’s what this is. A horrible dream.
This is… by the gods. By the gods, I remember. I remember!
There you are… always takes a few moments for it to return.
I’m in her lair. We came to her lair. To take her head… to cut it off and bring it back to Joppa.
And that you have.
Well, no, not you. Clearly you didn’t fare so well, you and a few others in your group. Not that I’m criticizing, as I’m certainly in no position to talk. But that champion you were with, he did indeed leave with her head.
Perseus was triumphant?
In a manner of speaking, yes.
Oh, praise the gods! Perseus, my friend, I knew it in my heart you would prevail.
Ah, yes, a brave one, that one.
If a bit rash.
I’m sorry, what was that?
Look, far be it from me to take away a man’s bravery. You’d have to be pretty damn brave to take on the Gorgon, and a warrior without peer to best her. And we know that better than most, eh? But…
I just think he could have tried a more… civilized approach. You know? Maybe tried to negotiate with her first.
Civilized? Negotiate? With the Gorgon!
Hey, you never know. If his wits were as quick as his blade he might have cut a deal instead.
Cut a deal? Are you mad?
You’re the one talking to a statue.
She was the Gorgon! She wasn’t cutting any deals.
You know, she was a lovely young lady once. Still was from the neck down. Perhaps all she needed was a compliment… a pretty flower… or a flattering verse or two. Not much. A trifling romantic gesture. But I guess we’ll never know.
You are mad if you think she could be romanced. And even if she could, what good would that have done us?
Who knows. Maybe she’d have turned us back. Set us free. That manner of thing.
What? She… she had the power to turn us back?
But of course she did.
But… Perseus he… he’s…
Yes… I know… hence our present dilemma.
Well, can’t she still turn us back… I mean if he brings back her head?
Hrm. That’s a good question. Can he reattach it to her body? Bring her back to life?
Well… no, I would think not.
Then I too would think not.
But that means…
Ah, indeed. Now you see why I felt his method to be, what was it I’d said, ah yes… rash.
I’m afraid yes.
But, you don’t understand… I can’t be stone! I… I have a life. A wife. A family.
Oh now, there’s not much sense fretting about such things. And you never know… perhaps they’ll find you some day. I’m sure you’d make a lovely addition to their garden.
I’m serious damn you!
I know, I know… I shouldn’t joke.
How long am I going to be like this? How long before it wears off? It does wear off doesn’t it?
Hrm. I don’t think so. But I don’t really know.
So you’re not sure? So it might wear off in time then?
In time? Perhaps. But some of us have been here for quite a long time.
Well, it’s awful hard to keep track of time down here, what with never seeing the light of day and all… not with any degree of accuracy. You have to judge instead by the shape we’re in.
What do you mean?
Well, take a look… oh, ha ha… you can’t take a look, can you. In fact, you can’t see much at all, can you? You’re in a rather bad spot, my friend. But if you could take a look behind you, you’d see Calamaties, bright as marble, much like yourself. So he’s here, give or take, half a year. I, Xanthus, as you can see, have a rather lovely patina about me, albeit marred here and there with some wear, so I’m guessing it’s around a millennium for me. Longinus has lost his nose and most of his fingers, which puts him near fifteen to sixteen centuries.
As for old Oz… that fallen head over there resting beside that bodiless foot… your guess is as good as mine.
Nice enough guy, though he tends to keep to himself these days.
Well… give or take.
Please, gods, if you can hear me. I’ll do anything. Anything! Just please set me free!
I’m sorry, my friend. But I don’t think they’re listening.
But I can’t spend my eternity like this.
Oh come now, it could be worse. At least she caught you in a flattering pose, chest out, foot forward, sword drawn. You could have ended up like Theiodamas over there to your right… spending time everlasting prone, ass way up in the air like a dog in heat… ha ha… I must say, it looks as if he’s…
I can’t do it. I’ll go mad!
Or Maeandrus all tangled up in the ruin of that footbridge to your left. Poor soldier’s been suspended upside down for centuries… and he’s afraid of heights!
This is agony.
Ha! You don’t know agony until you’ve spent four hundred years with a wayward arrow, shaft as wide as a thumb, through your temples. You can’t begin to know what that feels like!
This is hell.
The slithering bitch only just retrieved it last week.
By the gods, this is hell!
When the hadal winds blow up from the depths my head howls like a battle horn!
Please, Xanthus… you have to help me end this. You have to… kill me. Yes… kill me.
I see. And how would you suggest I do that?
Please, I cannot live like this… I want you to kill me.
Hrm. Perhaps I could… stone you do death.
Damn you, man, do you not understand?
Oh come on now, that was a good one.
I want to die!
My friend… you say that now. But wait ‘til you get an itch.
About the Author
Jeff Samson makes a living as a copywriter with an ad agency in NYC. He brews Irish stout when he’s not writing science fiction, and often drinks it when he is. He lives in New Jersey with his wife and no cats.
About the Narrator
Graeme Dunlop is a Software Solution Architect. Despite his somewhat mixed accent, he was born in Australia. He loves the spoken word and believes it has the ability to lift the printed word above and beyond cold words on a page. He and Barry J. Northern founded Cast of Wonders in 2011 and can be found narrating or hosting the occasional episode, or working on projects behind the scenes. He has read stories for all of Escape Artists podcasts. Graeme lives in Melbourne, Australia with his wife Amanda, and crazy boy dog, Jake. Follow him on Twitter.