As my contribution to Fuck Statues Week I post here my tale about fucking statues (which first appeared in Asimov’s in 2005). The pictures are of the first and maybe only municipal statue dedicated to the Devil, which is in Madrid.
Lover of Statues
So finally I was walking up a wide, tree-lined avenue in the enormous Parque del Retiro in Madrid, dwarfed by the alien which called itself “Lover of Statues.”
Lover of Statues was naked apart from a bandolier holding some small items of personal equipment — of unknown use, apart from the “key” to his spacecraft. Such an expanse of leathery brown skin, although no obvious sexual characteristics.
Must an alien’s sex be obvious? Just because he was humanoid? In my mind I kept defaulting to he because of his height of almost two and a half metres and his burliness. Kind of intimidating. After three weeks tour of the famous statues of Europe I was used to our visitor, though at first I had trembled inside. Fortunately, due to taking acting classes once upon a time, I knew how to simulate composure.
He asked me, “Mary, what meaning has Retiro?”
I was wired and in the limo that trailed after us colleagues were listening, but I needed no prompting on this one.
“A King used this park as a retreat, for rest and privacy. Later it was opened to the masses. People call this park the lungs of Madrid.”
Lover of Statues might be neuter or even an organic robot – one which therefore needed to feed and poo-pee. Designed or genetically engineered to tolerate hostile environments, surmised some scientists. He could seal his nose and ears – like dark sea anemones – and a membrane could cover his eyes. He only opened himself once a day to poo-pee — from an anus between his buttocks which bloomed open like a purple flower, then shut up tightly again. (Of course he was spied upon constantly.) Urine and solids combined.
Why did his sex matter so much to me? It was definitely to do with the way he gazed at statues, but I couldn’t yet put my finger on it — no more than Lover of Statues ever laid a finger on any statue. He merely circled and gazed. This, I understood – but there was something more than that.
The sun blazed down. A couple of our helicopters aloft were balls of silver and mercury. Temperature must have been in the high nineties. Banks of black clouds were rolling slowly from the south, threatening a thunderstorm, consequently the sky seemed divided between day and night. Among the trees flanking the roadway on either side twin lines of blue-uniformed police kept pace, seeming as much to be spectators as the crowds of sightseers and journalists whom they kept at a distance.
A hundred metres behind us rolled our black limo, windows opaque. Lover of Statues insisted on walking the final stretch to our various objectives, a bit like a pilgrim. If the heavens did open, the limo could save us from a soaking. A downpour mightn’t matter to the alien, but it did matter to me in my short-sleeved blouse and slacks. Maybe I should have brought an umbrella.
“If city has lungs,” enquired the alien, “has it also genitals?
This question rather threw me. It seemed almost telepathically prompted.
In reaction to my silence, Phil’s voice in my earphone suggested red-light district, or alternatively maternity hospital. A third suggestion came from Luis:
‘Hey, think cojones. Spanish balls. Best seen at a bullfight. Outside Madrid’s bull ring we have a fine statue of a matador being tossed by a beast that sneaked up behind him. The matador looks kinda triumphant hanging in mid-air with one arm raised, like he’s waving to the crowd — on his way to corrida heaven.’
You’ve been watching Predator too much, I sub-vocalised. Still, I could see where Luis was coming from. Lover of Statues did look like a fighter. He stomped rather than walked – on a mighty heel, short sole, and four massive claw-like toes apiece. (Although his hands were really dextrous.) His black eyes looked predatory, a hunter’s. And the sheer bulkiness of him.
He wasn’t behaving much like a predator, landing in Italy and requesting a tour of notable statues throughout Europe, hardly what anyone had ever expected from an alien visiting the Earth!
The TV programme I’d presented not long before, based on my book The Pygmalion Factor, was a principal reason for my being appointed as his cultural escort and tour guide – and I had no intention of messing up. Those bygone acting classes were good for TV, and now they were coming in useful again. Not to mention how acting helped when Jeremy deserted me, the shit — no, I still loved Jeremy, no I didn’t. At least I could behave as if I didn’t care a hoot. Lover of Statues came as a very welcome distraction to me in my sudden abandonment.
When my body acted a role, by and large my mind adopted the attitudes of that role. If I posed as brave, genuinely I felt somewhat braver. The configurations of the body can influence the circuits of the brain. Maybe I ought to have persevered and become a professional actress. However, I wanted to look rather than to be looked at. Art history beckoned, which especially involves looking.
As I argued in my book, statues are at once the most invulnerable of representations of the human body as well as the most vulnerable. The vulnerability isn’t often remarked upon. Yet a statue shares the same space that we do – and it can’t move an inch. You can walk around a statue, peer as closely as you like. You can caress him or her. That’s quite unlike a painting of a nude – even though in her setting she appears to be more realistic. The painting allows voyeurism, whereas the statue exists in a tangible slave market. That’s why the hedonistic Greeks and Romans painted their statues with flesh tones and lipstick. What we admire as white marble was once otherwise. Pygmalion, the sculptor who yearned for his statue of Galatea to come to life, enshrines this truth.
We wrongly imagine that Goya’s Venus is more approachable – potentially — than a marble Aphrodite.
The planning of the alien’s itinerary was done in Rome. That was because Lover of Statues’ ship had landed at Fiumicino Airport, a sensible place to land although rather disconcerting to air traffic control – not because the starship was large but because it was a vessel from the stars at all.
Curiously box-shaped and black it was, the size of an average house. A house without windows. Lover of Statues stayed on board until the tour he requested could be arranged – of the best statuary of the continent of Europe. The alien arrived fairly au fait with our world, and semi-fluent in English. Based on broadcasts? These, travelling away from Earth at the speed of light, detectable by advanced alien technology? This seemed the best bet, thus it was probably wrong, and it scarcely explained why our first ever alien visitor should be an art connoiseur, maybe even an artist in his own right.
I was invited – in some haste — to be the alien’s guide because the Italians as hosts couldn’t agree on anything very quickly, and the other European nations were applying urgent pressure. A compromise was needed. I was Irish, which always seems neutral and unbiassed as well as enthusiastically European – even though I lived in London, where I’d met Jeremy at a private view of the student show at the Royal College of Art. Despite shrill protests on this occasion, England was no more a part of the “continent” than was Ireland; so that was okay. Thanks to my TV programme aired in quite a few countries, I was fresh in people’s minds. I possessed cred — and grace and loveliness, according to Paolo of the Art Faculty of the University of Rome. Paolo coined a neat news headline: “Beauty will guide the Beast.” Romeo University, more like. Paolo certainly wasn’t getting my knickers off.
By the time I arrived in Rome, a committee had arranged the high points of the tour – which I was pleased to realize roughly reflected the spirit of my book. Maybe the only way to finalise the list was to choose me as guide. Many national egos – or should I say superegos? — were jostling. If France rated five best statues, Spain must rate five as well. Italy should count as ten because Vatican City is a separate entity. Et cetera.
While the alien and I were looking at the naked Capitoline Venus, one hand hiding her cunt, the other about to conceal a breast, I asked him whether he himself was a sculptor. I was supposed to ask him a lot of questions. Questions posed directly by scientists, he answered in his own guttural language, claiming that the concepts couldn’t be translated clearly – a clever way of cheating. Linguists were trying to decode his utterances with reference to the questions asked, a fairly fruitless approach.
“I yam lover of statues,” he told me. So was he an art historian like me? A collector, even? Maybe he could record holographically merely by looking. Oughtn’t we to be charging a royalty for each peep, if Earth’s main attraction was its art? (And why shouldn’t that be so?)
The general hope seemed to be that he would give us something freely, of inestimable value. If a god arrives, you don’t haggle.
In the Galleria Borghese he quickly turned his back on Bernini’s famous Rape of Prosperpina.
“Two figures — too many,” he informed me.
So: only solo figures from now on. By implication that ruled out any solo figure on horseback.
In Florence he paid great attention to Michelangelo’s David – then, accompanied by entourage, off we went to France.
Politicians and religious dignitaries tried to capitalise upon Lover of Statues’ presence, but the audience with the Pope had proved deeply unsatisfactory when the alien stood in attentive silence throughout, himself being the audience. Definitely this was an artistic visit, and no other sort.
One trouble with Jeremy was that he wanted to possess me utterly. During our three years as lovers I tried to educate him that I was a sovereign person. All his phone calls to say that he loved me, him wondering exactly where I was at any moment of the day — how endearing, because I adored Jeremy. If I had left him, I suppose he might have turned into a stalker. However, during the final year of our relationship, unbeknownst to me he was preoccupied with another woman too. I simply never guessed until that afternoon in Kensington Gardens when Jeremy confided that he must alas break my heart, he must disappoint me. He so wished to let me down gently. What happened was not gentle, although Jeremy may have salved his own conscience. Within about twenty seconds, from the first dawning suspicion to the coup de grace at the end of a rather long sentence, I became emptied out utterly. For a further five minutes Jeremy soft-tongued me nobly and sadly while I tried numbly to analyse what he was saying, then I simply walked away. Because he couldn’t possess me utterly and make me a shadow of himself, he had found another woman to play this part, gladly so, I presumed – Jeremy was very good in bed. He ran a textile design agency, so you might say that duvets and beds were second nature to him.
While I wandered about aimlessly in the wake of his confession, the thought arrived that finally I was free of his phone calls. Free. And I had been becoming unfree. But I didn’t feel free. I was a faithful family dog abandoned by the roadside with a handful of biscuits to chew on. Jeremy had done his charismatic best to remould my life, and now he was remoulding someone else’s. Ought I to find a plinth and stand upon it like a statue?
I do wish Jeremy hadn’t forced upon me, as though this was some kind of consolation or adequate explanation, who the other woman was, and why. Jeremy had begun to mention her name and circumstances often enough in an innocent, casual way – she was one of his designers. In his mind he was laying the ground, as I saw in retrospect. He wasn’t exactly taking me by surprise, was he? The hypocrisy of it.
Lover of Statues came as a great relief. His solidity occupied my emptiness.
And all this while we were approaching closer to the only statue of Satan in the whole wide world. This would be my first sight of the Fallen Angel in the – no, not in the flesh, but in the bronze. Oddly, I had never been to Madrid before. But I had seen photos of this statue in the Parque del Retiro.
“Gays cruise here at night,” Luis remarked in my ear.
I heard gaze. For the alien and I had paused to gaze.
“It’s a notorious pick-up place, this avenue.”
Now was not night-time Sunlight drenched us, though more than a third of the sky was black, tumid with rain, intermittently a-flicker with electricity.
The crowds in the woods, the cops, the limo following us, the choppers in the sky! Despite all these onlookers, Lover of Statues and I seemed to be almost alone as we approached the fountain from which the statue of Satan rose. It was as if the alien and I were enclosed within a sort of mobile bubble – its glassy wall made of expectation and mounting intensity. This isolated us together, me and the unknowable alien. The trees, the onlookers to right and left, appeared blurred.
The wide road divided around the low white walls of the fountain and pool, which were further surrounded by neatly trimmed hedge no more than a foot high, and bedding plants in bloom, then a further fringe of hedge fenced by a low hooped railing, all very municipal park style.
Wicked, impish gargoyles sprayed water into the pool from their toothy mouths – whilst clutching with clawed hands at writhing reptiles as though those were their food, or perhaps their children. A demon-gargoyle guarded each soaring face of the high octagonal plinth, on top of which naked muscular Satan fell forever backwards.
Mouth open in a silent hiss, a serpent coiled around Satan’s upper thigh – thus serving to hide any genitals – and around the calf of his other leg, and around the wrist of his right arm, its hand clenched in a fist. The serpent infested and dragged Satan downward. Later on, in the Garden of Eden, that snake might become Satan’s tame assistant, but right now I was put in mind of the Turkish punishment for adultery – the erring woman tied up in a sack with a venomous snake and thrown into the Bosphorus, to drown while being bitten agonisingly. Thus does power punish… I suppose one might say the exercise of free will, of freedom of spirit.
Didn’t Satan love God, as well as, ultimately, defying him? I hadn’t defied Jeremy much. I’d only tried to preserve the core of my identity while surrendering so much else of myself to him. Yet he had cast me out of the heaven of absolute obedience. God is a benevolent tyrant, and in Jeremy’s case at least, as I now realized, a man is a miniature god.
I remembered so well my emotional and physical surrenders to Jeremy, as though I were melting in his arms, romantic cliché. But usually after our love-making, while Jeremy revelled in what he had wrought – namely adoration — a small secret part of me had resisted. Resisted what exactly? The reprogramming of me from the freedom I’d formerly taken for granted. The equality, the ability to debate and say yes or no.
Thus, perhaps, with God and Satan. To begin with, democratic equality existed among senior angels, but God wanted everything. Only omnipotence would ever satisfy His creativity. Jeremy was not himself creative – he manipulated people who were creative. Which was Jeremy’s artistry.
Eve was created from Adam. Woman is created from man, from his gaze and then from his touch, as a statue is created. Previously she’s full of potential. Then she descends into actuality, and is frozen thus. Fulfilled. Completed. No further possibilities. Oh of course she moves around and does things and has babies. In fact she does so many things that her mind is fully occupied and she forgets that previous time of potential and possibility when she could have become anything, or even manything, a word which ought to exist and perhaps could exist in a language of women. Oh, Mary does manything. She’s multi-tasking all the time. Man is more focused, and enforces a particular way, a particular interpretation.
“What’s going on?” Phil’s voice buzzed in my ear like an irritating fly.
Why should something absolute and definite be going on all the time? Why not nothing and manything at the same time?
We’re looking at the statue. Shhh.
We’re contemplating, the alien and I. Isn’t that what art is about?
I thought these things but somehow I couldn’t utter them.
One wing was still high, the other buckled and low. Satan’s left arm crooked upward, his hand seeming to shelter his ear and eyes either from an enormous noise or from a blinding radiance, or from both. He stared upward either resolutely or desperately and his mouth was open in a shout. Either he was still defiant whilst tumbling from heaven or he was in torment that he might miss the last glimpse.
Lover of Statues was trembling. That massive alien body was shivering. He seemed affected by this particular piece of statuary as by none so far – except maybe, to a much lesser degree, Michelangelo’s David in Florence.
“What signify?” he asked.
For a few moments I was hard put to say, so much had my own interpretation of the statue infected my objectivity.
I found that I could address the alien clearly enough:
“In our myth,” I replied, “a supreme being known as God creates the world. The officers of God are called angels. The chief angel, noble and beautiful, is named Satan. The angels live in a blessed place, or state of existence, called Heaven. (As me, with Jeremy.) Satan doesn’t regard God as completely almighty. So God throws Satan angrily out of Heaven. Afterwards Satan becomes evil and he lives in a place or condition of horror called Hell, and he tries to sabotage God’s creation. Here you see Satan, still noble and beautiful, being thrown out of Heaven – together with a snake. The snake embodies evil, and Satan will use the snake to seduce the first woman, called Eve. In a sense Satan and the snake become the same.”
“Evil and Eve is same word?”
“Only in English.”
“God makes Satan evil? God is goodness? Puts evil part into Satan?”
Keep it simple! “The myth has many versions. Some versions contradict others.”
And according to the Bible Satan was still doing jobs for God when the time came to tempt Job, something which happened quite a while after that business in the Garden of Eden…
“In higher dimensions,” Lover of Statues said, “contradictions reconcile.”
“Yo!” Phil said in my ear. “At last an actual statement about physics.”
Or about metaphysics. I was thinking about higher dimensions of myth, whatever that or those might be.
“Beautiful,” said Lover of Statues. He trembled, as one should tremble in the presence of God, perhaps of Satan likewise.
In his eyes was this the leading candidate for best statue in Europe? Not a piece by Michelangelo or Canova or anyone famous, but the creation of – oh God, what was the man’s name? – ah, Ricardo, Ricardo Bellver. Who won first prize for his creation in a national exhibition some time in the late Eighteen-Hundreds.
“Unique,” the alien said.
Definitely unique. The only statue of Satan.
The Fallen Angel certainly had power. Maybe the bronze was influenced by the Laocoön group in the Vatican – Laocoön and his two sons being crushed to death by serpents because he had pissed off a god, Apollo. Not a very smooth statue, this Fallen Angel — there was a roughness to its muscularity. Maybe this aspect especially appealed to a tough, leathery-skinned alien.
Since Satan was falling backwards, this moment of his fall seemed even more frozen and suspended than the stance of most statues. Tongues of dark cloud drifting high above – forerunner of the storm — lent him a slight illusion of motion, at the same time as the remaining hot brightness of the sky contradicted that frozenness. Satan must be quite warm to the touch from all the blazing sunshine hitherto today. I imagined him continuing to fall – tumbling absurdly into the shallow pool, or else burning his way through the tarmac down to the hellish bowels of the Earth.
“Four minutes thirty seconds,” commented Phil.
The time spent in admiration by the alien, a new way to rank masterpieces, should more alien tourists follow in his wake. The star guide to art.
What happened next was witnessed by many, and filmed of course, yet still it seems unbelievable.
A-tremble, Lover of Statues elevated his arms.
And the Fallen Angel moved.
An illusion, caused by the motion of cloud in the sky!
No, not an illusion at all. The angel had turned his head to look down at the alien. The statue had turned its head.
Lover of Statues’ flesh was rippling, as if worms or muscles were moving under his skin. He began to moan like a tom-cat crossed with a didgeridoo, an eerie wail that grew louder, a summons, a summoning, a sound that I felt might be able to transform the target of his alien serenade even more fully. Shivers ran up my spine, and I too was trembling from sheer proximity to Lover of Statues. Should I run away? I couldn’t. We were together in this strange bubble which excluded the rest of the world, yet which now also comprised the statue of Satan high on his plinth above the pool.
“Mary, what’s that noise?”
I tried to say: He’s singing to the statue, Phil. Singing to it. Charming it. But I couldn’t voice the words, not to someone outside of the bubble.
Oh but I realized now in my very nerves the meaning of the alien’s name, and what was – impossibly – about to happen. My alien was not an admirer of statues, not in the aesthetic sense. He was literally a lover, not of mundane bodies, but of statues — statues that he would bring to life.
Slowly, with that hand held by a coil of snake, the Fallen Angel gripped the spur of bronze rock which supported him – and he thrust himself upright.
“Hey Mary, the statue’s moving! Like it’s alive!”
What power rendered the metal mobile? What spirit infused the sculpted Satan? Surely some paranormal capacity of the alien, surely nothing inherent within the statue! A statue couldn’t possibly have become what it represented!
What had Lover of Statues meant about higher dimensions? That he had direct access to these, like a magician? That a statue was like a three-dimensional slice through some higher reality, and now he was summoning the higher reality, millions of versions of this same statue in alternate universes – whereby he could animate the statue by superimposing all the frames within which the statue existed statically here and elsewhere?
Lightning flickered fiercely, as if summoned by Lover of Statues. The storm front of black clouds swallowed the sun, dimming and cooling the park considerably. How I shivered in my slacks and blouse. A vague yellow light played upon the gargoyles spouting their arcs of water, and I realized that the limo’s headlights had come on. Was a fork of lightning about to flash blindingly from the clouds and strike Satan?
No – but Satan was beginning to shine luminously. Lucifer, the bearer of light.
There Satan stood, larger than life, almost the size of Lover of Statues, his wings outspread, gazing down at he who was summoning him.
The serpent dropped away towards the pool. Despite the noise which the alien was making I distinctly heard a sizzle as the snake met the water — to became rigid again?
“Mary, get out of there!”
Oh Phil had no idea. I felt that I could fly. Not flee, which was impossible, but fly. If I reached up my arms and jumped upward, I would become an angel!
For a moment I thought that the head of the snake and some of its body had remained behind, caught between Satan’s thighs, but then I realized in astonishment that what I was seeing was Satan’s penis, swollen erect. At this very moment Satan jumped and glided down towards us, his gaze intent.
Lover of Statues was opening up to Satan — I can think of no other way to describe the strange metamorphosis, the unfolding of the alien’s previously blank groin to welcome Satan’s erection as the Fallen Angel collided with the alien, who engulfed the glowing Satan in his arms.
One of the angel’s wings wrapped itself around the alien’s back, but the other wing caught hold of me by its tip and pulled me up against the alien’s side as the living statue and Lover of Statues copulated. Within moments I myself experienced an orgasm so intense that I almost convulsed.
Could all the spectators see this? Could they understand?
The wing no longer held me. Unable to stand, I half-swooned. Stumbling sideways, I fell upon the ground where I was too dazed to concentrate and focus. Rain suddenly sluiced down, soaking me in an instant, further blinding my eyes.
Courageously (I suppose) Phil and Luis had run to raise me and bear me away. I did my best to stagger back to the limo and not be a limp sack.
Wrapped in a blanket, I was far from coherent but I did know that I needed a brandy from the cocktail cabinet in the car — and also a change of clothes to be brought to me double-quick because I certainly wasn’t leaving the park. I heard Luis phone, but didn’t understand his Spanish. Meanwhile — view through wipers — the alien continued clutching Satan in the downpour. Maybe fifteen minutes passed before she laid Satan down. The blurred Satan seemed to be a statue once more.
Jeans and a sweater arrived surprisingly soon. Later I learned that those were bought from somebody in the vicinity exorbitantly for hundreds of Euros, compensation for the donor being reduced to his or her underwear. Half an hour after the performance had begun, Lover of Statues finally stomped back towards us.
The last I saw of the Fallen Angel, it lay rigid on the tarmac apparently in much the same configuration as originally. If Satan were to be repositioned on his plinth — rather than sawn apart by scientists searching for clues — and if somehow the snake could be softened and recoiled around him, forever after it must seem that Satan was staring up not at the light of God and of heaven, but into the night sky, seeking some distant star from which his lover had descended.
The next day, I accompanied Lover of Statues back to Rome. She had achieved consummation and had no further need to remain on our world. In our world. I say in because she demonstrated herself to be so different in body, in mind, in desires, in motives from what we can perhaps understand. Had she fertilised herself by this strange sexual act? Were the words he and she totally irrelevant?
Had she passed a test? Had she carried off a trophy? I was told that no trace remained of Satan’s penis, which I had seen. That resided, I’m sure, within Lover of Statues after her groin became blank again. How lucky for some representative of mankind that she did not come to Earth seeking some human hunk as a lover.
Alien Fucks Statue of Satan was the headline around the world in certain lurid tabloids. More discreet variations thereon were plentiful. The Pope certainly wouldn’t be offering a farewell audience. In fact, Lover of Statues lifted off from Fiumicino airport in her black house of alien technology within twenty-four hours.
Jeremy phoned me in my hotel room in Rome. I hadn’t changed my mobile number because I never dreamed that he would dare.
“Mary, will you forgive me? I made a terrible mistake. I admire you so very much.”
Damn it, but part of me ached to hear his voice. This was an ache of pain, not of yearning — oh I don’t know which it was. I would need to be stern with myself.
“I feel nothing for you,” I told him.
“Mary, I love you very deeply.” It was as if he were uttering a code phrase, the key to my lock.
I had been close to power, to awesome power. I’d been too close for Jeremy not to yearn to take the power from me.
So I switched off my mobile.
How far away was Lover of Statues by now? A hundred million miles? Written within me was the memory of that orgasm, which was perhaps only a side-effect, a spill-over. How much more intense must the experience have been for the alien! Sufficiently so as to come from the stars to seek it.