Diana was flying. She was soaring over a lush grove of trees nestled in a shallow valley. It was a familiar place for her. She had first visited it as a child, and her wanderlust had taken her from trodding barefoot through the mist, in sweet silence on a carpet of moss, to riding a brilliant stallion among the trees and glens, and, sometimes, to riding the winds above the treetops. It was in this place that she had forged her hopes, imagined her future lovers, found refuge in times of pain, and solace from the slow suffocation of ordinary life. Flying was particularly special for her here. In her younger years she darted among the branches and clouds, hand in hand with fairies, pegusi, wizards, enchantresses, and princes. She dreamt of wonders and creatures wholly her own; unnamed and each with a character and meaning she would never be able to put into words. Sometimes she even dreamt simply of kindred spirits, fellow dwellers in this land of fantasy and wonder. As she grew older and wiser, she slowly lost the ability to take to the clouds. By her preteen years she could leap and drift a short distance, but had somehow lost that feeling of looking up, reaching out, and becoming one with the wind. She grieved for this loss for many years before finally drawing a line against the advancing tide of pragmatism, function, and routine that maturity imposed upon her. She preserved this place into her adult years, and when others of her years were losing their dreams to an unremembered cacophony of images and feeling, she came back to the grove and reclaimed her wings. It was a hard journey to be both aware of her spirit and possess it, and flight became a symbol for victory in her life – something of her soul she had not lost to the world.
She moaned deeply and turned her eyes to the light playing across a rich down comforter; the sounds of traffic outside murmuring gently through the tall windows in the bedroom. This was not her home. She shot up in bed and gathered the covers in tight against her as waves of disjointed memories and powerful emotions fought to assemble themselves into some sort of consciousness. She remembered fear – the night- her hands. Quickly she let go of the covers, brushed her long matted curls out of her eyes and looked down at her outstretched hands, forcing her sluggish mind to function; to wake up; to take stock and to make sense of the memories racing through her mind. She at first doubted, then slowly accepted that her hands were completely normal. She felt suddenly very silly to have done that, but couldn't quite take the next mental step and laugh at herself for being so afraid of the wild dreams she most certainly had – imagining the previous night's impossibly bizarre events.
“Okay, get a hold of yourself. You had too much to drink, went home with some guy, and had some really strange dreams. Just get dressed and get out of here, and sort it all out later.”
“Bravo.” his voice boomed out, startling her from the hallway just outside her room. “And to think you'd learned.” he taunted as he turned away, leaving her in agonizing solitude. She shriveled in a sickening fear, mixed with her own self-loathing at the OTHER memories of the night before. It was then that she noticed that she could still feel him in her mind, lurking and mocking from the corners of her awareness. She began to weep again, exhausted and anguished at the memory of what had happened to her and the horrible knowledge that it had not yet ended.
She shook and sobbed pitifully in the large platform bed, afraid to otherwise speak or move. In time her tears ran their full course, and she arose to find herself naked. She sat up reluctantly and gathered a sheet around her, preparing herself to face him. She trudged through the hallway like an animal to slaughter. When; how could she escape?
She saw the rug again as she entered the room. He was seated in a nearby chair, waiting patiently for her approach. She found the awkwardness of the moment to be more disquieting that having the will taken from her, her mind invaded, or being turned into a featureless, unmoving sex object. She appeared utterly forlorn in this moment; her eyes puffy and red; her pouting, swollen lips quivering as she wondered what he would do to her next. But where her tenuous grasp on reality could not take her, her anger rose forth to inspire action.
“Who are you and what have you done to me?” she finally forced out with a shaking voice.
Compassion quickly compelled him and he arose, releasing the tension of the moment by taking her in his arms. She nestled into his chest and sobbed anew, confusion and fear giving way to the comfort she so desperately wanted, even from him. She felt somehow that his love was genuine, and although she might have thought him to be mocking her again, that he was actually moved by her suffering. He held her for a long time, rocking gently back and forth, whispering with the gentleness, compassion, and genuine concern of a husband helplessly watching his wife undergo the pain of childbirth.
“Be still.” he cooed, over and over, brushing back her brilliant ruby locks and wiping away her tears. “I know it is painful, but I know you can make the journey. It is within you. You don't realize how special you are.”
“What journey?” she begged. “What are you doing to me?”
“Be still.” he implored, taking her hands in his and pulling them in toward his chest. “I know your pain and your fear, better than you can imagine, but I also know what hides beyond. An hour ago, you were in a place – a special place, a wondrous place.” She recoiled at this revelation, that he had invaded her very dreams. He pulled her tightly back in toward him, his eyes filled with desperation, “A place you fought to preserve and won!”
Now it was her turn to stare into his eyes. Here was this man, this godlike thing, begging and pleading with her. For what? A dream?!
“You must trust me, please.” he said solemnly. Despite the firestorm of doubt and fear that raged in her heart, she responded sincerely, looking him directly in the eyes.
He lowered her arms and resumed his air of appraisal and authority. He gently lifted the sheet from her shoulders and let it drop to the floor, and she stood a thing of heart rending beauty, Venus born before him. She gently led her to a great arching window overlooking a nearby park. Although still of her own volition, modesty seemed a pale concern before the importance she sensed in him and between them.
Gesturing widely to the open blue sky beyond, he began to speak in serious tones, “You have always found solace in the grandeur of the natural world, but you still don't truly know the source of the comfort you derive from it. Indeed, there is much you do not understand. There is truth in this moment; in every moment. Each breath is a lifetime of experience and wonder, if only you learn to see it. And you can only see these moments when you learn to be still”.
She was caught in a gaze of wonderment and thought, considering his words. Suddenly, immobility took her, locking the staggering beauty of the expression as she felt a crushing tightness in her midsection. It felt as if everything around her was imploding into her belly and she thought surely that she was being squeezed in half. Somewhat prepared this time for the impact of the experience, she rode the wave of confusing and completely new sensations, trying, as she had promised, to trust him. This was so new and almost painful, however, as she felt her muscles clench impossibly tight and then felt as if she were caving in. This was replaced by a sense of complete centeredness, strength, density, and stability as the sensation moved away from her core, upward through her chest and down through her thighs. She felt weight crushing onto her feet before the change reached them, too. Her feet were the only parts of her touching something as the change came over, and it was there that she felt herself solidify against the surface of the floor. She could still see a reflection of herself in the glass, and could just make out that her body was gradually changing color; darkening to the rich, deep grey of granite. When the change began to progress through her chest, she realized that this change would be much more extreme than the last one. Her breathing ceased as her living lungs turned to unyielding stone, and her heart was entombed briefly before succumbing to the unstoppable force of the change. As it sped across her shoulders, taking her arms and snaking up the back of her head, she first began to feel her humanity being painted into this shrinking corner of her flesh. She felt her head encased in a cocoon of stone which had been her hair, and felt stark, impossible hardness at the edges of her face and saw it in the edges of her vision, overcoming her retreat into those parts of herself still human. As the change concluded, the light in her eyes faded into pupiless stone orbs. Her nose, the very last spot of flesh she once possessed, smoothed quietly over to lifeless gray, completing the statue where she once stood.
It was the first time in her life she had been utterly inhuman. Her senses exploded into chaos as the squeezing she had felt at the wave of the change through her body reached its climax, and her soul seemed to rebound back along the path of its retreat, down through her petrified chest; pulled, as if by her own now considerable mass back to her center. Her sense of location, of hands, feet, arms was completely gone, and replaced by a sense of herself she couldn't have found the words to describe. No longer needing to constantly work the thousands of muscles throughout her body to maintain its position, she poured back into herself like a liquid, held utterly by her stiff, unchanging form. The sense of letting go, of falling back within herself without the slightest effort was deeply comfortable and profoundly relaxing. She was unsure, confused, and afraid, but she was centered within herself as never before in her life. Though her eyes were gone, she was still aware of her surroundings in some way beyond sight. The rug behind her, the steps leading up to the window on which she stood, the window; her reflection, and the people outside were all within the range of her “vision”. The things she had taken for granted about the way she used her now petrified eyes; range of vision, field of view, even the way she perceived color and depth were gone. She could still sense them; the buildings in the distance, the brilliant orange of the leaves falling gently in the park, but she was “seeing” anew, with the unsteady eyes of a newborn, entranced with the most subtle and mundane detail. The detail that affixed her attention was the reflection of a granite statue staring with an expression of wonder and enchantment into the world beyond the window. Unlike her earlier transformation, every detail was preserved – the gentle raising of her skin on her areolas, her slightly protruding nipples; the narrow, soft patch of hair nestled in the triangle of her femininity; even the details of her fingernails and eyelashes were exquisitely visible.
He regarded her in awe. Petrification was a personal, magnificent moment, where a single instant of life is captured in a monument to even the most insignificant expressions of personality and spirit. The gentle curve of the abdomen; the arch of her back, even the angle of the bend of a single finger beckoned with a treasure of intimate knowledge about who she was and what she was thinking. He wept at her beauty. She was making such progress. He reached gently out to caress her unmoving bosom.
His touch was electric. Literally. She saw a spiderweb of alternating light and dark, centered at the point of his touch and radiating outward in quivering streaks, framing the shape of her breast in a diffuse area, and outlining the shape of his fingers' contact in blue flame with flickering edges. She heard a chorus of millions of crystals tinkling and reverberating in waves through her hardened body. She felt every detail of his hand, as she had felt nothing before, and she vibrated and swirled in the orgy of completely new and wonderful sensation she experienced in this new form.
He pulled in close to Diana's statue, nestling one hand in the small of her back and caressing her cheek with the other. The pleasure of her love for him echoed through her form at each tiny instant of his touch and movement, regardless of where the touch came. As his hand infinitesimally caught and dragged on the granular surface of what had been her skin, tiny explosions of sensation, light, sound, and sexual pleasure rang through her body. The resultant waves coursing through her being could be poorly described as a reverberating full body orgasm, but much would be lost in the translation of her experience to something a human would understand. He then caressed her exposed vaginal opening. No longer a living human, this touch was no different, and no more or less pleasurable, than if he had caressed the elbow of her statue. As she swam in the novelty of her change, she found this fact almost humorous.
“What does he think he's doing? Stone is stone. He may as well put his finger up my nose, it doesn't matter now.”
But this lavicious touch reminded her of her humanity, again stolen from her. She was reminded that she was in a prison of stone, and that the hopelessness of escape was beyond that of the most dejected and forgotten prisoner in the history of the world. There was indeed nothing of her that could escape. It wasn't simply that there was no escape. She was the prison. She wasn't just submission. She was oblivion.
He chose this moment to leave her there. Reverently, he stepped away, relishing the now familiar battle she was fighting with herself and the aching open wound of desire it left in her tattered soul. She was surprised to see the shockwave of his having closed the door, however gently, as a burst of light, transmitting outward to the metal frame of the building, downward into the ground below, and dissipating into the distance below the feet of the humans playing in the park. Her sorrow at being left alone joined quietly with her hopelessness, and she was surprised to find the emotions poetically beautiful. It seemed almost right to feel them fade and fall slowly away.
Time passed oddly for Diana. She was aware of a slow but inevitable joining with her surroundings. She felt less and less a part of the world of living, caring, and breathing humans and more and more at one with the chairs, the bricks, the glass of the windowpanes, the Earth outside, and the other inanimate objects that surrounded her. She would later realize that this was the experience of her statue cooling to the temperature of the room. Were she a living thing, this would have felt as if she were dying, and it would have disturbed and frightened her. As it happened, however, she didn't seem to care to give up her fears, the agony of her imprisonment, or the constant deafening buzz that was her human inability to stop and simply exist in a single moment in time. Even her boiling desire cooled and coalesced into a profound and eternal sense of peace. Humans, like all animals, are never truly at peace; driven by the desire to acquire and expend energy and to desperately avoid the cessation that would mean death for them. As her cooling process leveled off, her sense of time faded because there was no change relative to her environment with which to measure it. Boredom, hunger, and fatigue had all passed from her, wafting off into the oblivion of her surroundings with what remained of her body heat.
Cooling had changed her senses. A constant background hum and fog passed with her heat, and in so doing made her aware of it for the first time. At one with her surroundings, she found that the sense of anything disturbing them became more acute. People passing on the sidewalk below glowed as if they were on fire. Phosphorescent flares seemed to lick forth from their bodies, up into the surrounding air, and the left little fading spots of fire marking the ground on which they stepped. When they did step, ripples seemed to issue forth across the earth as the shockwaves went down through the concrete of the sidewalk, through the earth beneath, and into the bedrock far below. She began to notice networks of tubing and tunnels in the reflected shockwaves of the stepping humans – the bowels of the city below the streets. Occasionally, a more intense shockwave would come from a distant source – someone dropping something heavy onto a hard floor, explosions from a construction site many miles away, or the angry flickering of jackhammers biting into hard pavement and concrete, and would illuminate much larger features in the earth below. The steps of the humans were like fireflies, barely illuminating a leaf, but these other events were like lightning arcing through the sky, illuminating entire forests as night turned to day for a brief instant. Sometimes the Earth itself would move and she could make out the entire globe in one awesome moment.
Her prison came to feel like a throne from which to take in the wonders of the world around her. It seemed there was little difference between a captive in her prison of stone and being a goddess ensconced in a temple. At this she laughed within herself. If she had lost her human fear, desire for freedom, and loneliness, how was it that she could be so filled with wonderment? How was it that without desire, she was able to feel such pleasure? It seemed her human experience failed her in describing fulfillment and happiness in terms other than she had known – as matters of wanting and having.
She could see the arc of sunlight moving across the floor as the day passed, and in its course the light fell upon the stone of what had once been her body. As it marched upward from her toes and up her legs, the haze returned, but in a strange way. The sun amply heated the dark grey of her exposed granite figure, creating an amazing temperature differential between the parts of her in sunshine and shade. This filled her awareness with the image of the front of her statue, its curves and contours expressed in 3 dimensional relief by the temperature differences. Freed of her human insecurities, she was able to truly behold her own physical beauty, and she reveled in it.
She looked into her eyes with the same sort of profound and dispassionate appraisal as he would have. “What sort of woman are you, anyway?”, she said within herself. “Have you even figured any of this out yet? Just what is happening to you and how are you reacting to it? How do you really feel about him?” She asked the questions devoid of pride, her own fears and doubt, and in the same sort of cold directness she felt seeing other humans scurry about below on the street. The answers, therefore, came quickly and easily to her, now that she had no reason to lie to herself. She loved him, obviously, and it suddenly seemed very silly for her to act any other way. She decided that although she didn't know what was happening, it began to answer an inner question she'd had all her life, and for which she'd ultimately protected her dreamland grove in the hope of an answer. Is this all there is? Is there only birth and dying, waking and sleeping; going about our days in search of everything we don't need, ignoring what we already have?
Her left leg began to diffuse and disappear. The sun was beginning to set, and the statue was falling into shadow. Her features lost definition and faded as less and less of the sun's heat reached her stone surface. Lights began to pulse and flicker in the street below. A human ascended the small stairway leading to the apartment she was in. She felt happiness at his return. She saw the door frame shudder, illuminating the metal frame of the building, including an abandoned freight elevator shaft now used as a closet in his loft apartment. He skittered about in the apartment for a moment. He had greeted and caressed her upon entering, but her sense of time made the experience almost imperceptible, but for a powerful burst of love and sensuality. In her new perspective, she detected in him a powerful concern for herself. He was focused on her; consumed with her, not simply because he was in love with her (a fact she accepted as she had her own love for him, completely and easily), but for some deeper reason and purpose. Given the ancientness of his mind and the breadth of his experience and knowledge, she found this to be extremely flattering.
He had just completed the preparations for their meal. Immortality had its perks, and one of these was a honing culinary skills that would be the envy of any gourmet. For this occasion, he had chosen a delicious baked seafood recipe originating from one of the cultures annihilated by Genghis Khan in the 13th century. It was one among many lost dishes he knew, for which he looked for every chance to resurrect. The ingredients were easy enough for him to manifest, but he always insisted on manually preparing the meal. He had felt her mind through the day, and their separation had been agonizing for him. He wanted to do something for her that was not only special, but would be more familiar to the life she had known. He hoped a romantic dinner would be appropriate. He approached her statue with anticipation. He could tell her mind was deep in what he liked to call stonebliss, and that because she had lost all sense of time, coming back would be rough. Still, the peace she attained in the experience was considerable, and he expected she would tolerate the transition well, at least mentally. He couldn't help but think of his own training in moments like this. His own first restoration had been a violently hilarious event indeed! He gathered the bed sheet she had worn into the room that morning and replaced it about her shoulders. He grasped her forearms, ready to catch her weight, and gently began to warm her. When she reached a normal human body temperature, he willed her back to flesh and bone.
This change was much faster than her petrification because she wasn't subconsciously fighting it. Her eyes and face changed first, then it swept quickly downward. She sprung up slightly as the flesh of her feet reacted to her sudden loss of mass, then completely collapsed into his arms. None of her limbs seemed to work right. He settled onto the floor with her, cradling her head. She blinked, and sighed out the breath she had taken 12 hours before. She looked into his eyes and smiled warmly.
“Samuel” she moaned, just before losing consciousness.
To Be Continued...