The Touch


(Edited by Dmuk)

My name is Midas. Some may better know me as the King of Phrygia, but, I suspect, the name of Midas is well known too across the world. I have heard, for much of my adult life, the exaggerations, half truths, and outright lies that have attached themselves to my good name. What I am about to tell you is the absolute truth, and I swear this before Zeus himself.

I have been graced (some might say) with a gift from the gods, bestowed upon me by the immortal prankster Bacchus himself. Of that make no mistake. I once did the celebrated sybarite a minor favor, saving him some embarrassment by minding one of his drunken fellow revelers for a few days. This was nothing, really, a trifle, yet Bacchus repaid this common passing courtesy with a truly extraordinary gift -- he granted me a wish. Anything I might desire.

In those former days the Land of Phrygia was not the splendid state you know of today. We were quite poor then, with a fine rich tradition in arts and letters but a treasury that was all but exhausted. My departed father had left me with a rather large court payroll, a rather small rag-tag militia and a shrinking merchant guild. This was the result having affairs with young ladies-in-waiting instead of minding the affairs of the kingdom. So when Bacchus granted me in his sweeping gesture of drunken largess the precious bequest, my first thought was only of my deserving subjects and Phrygia's depleted coffers.

Without any hesitation or contemplation (and no small amount of inebriation myself) I uttered my most fervent wish: that all upon which I lay my hand be turned to pure gold. Laughing so hard his stomach shook, Bacchus granted my wish. That alone should have raised my caution and curiosity.

Let me stop you right here, because I know what you are thinking; you've heard this story ad nauseum. How did I eat, how did I care for myself, what about my wife, my family, my own ladies in waiting? Well, I must admit, my first few attempts to eat were sadly futile: no sooner had I picked up a piece of fruit or a date than it turned into solid gold before reaching my lips. This became an instant amusement for all those at the grand banquet as I tried to continue my quaffing and nearly chipped a tooth. Bacchus found endless amusement in my predicament until one of the servants poured the wine directly into my mouth! However, as much as I began to regret my hasty response to Bacchus, I decided to make the best of a good thing.

The gift had not dimmed my powers of reason, so after recovering my senses I set about finding a way to live with my incredible new ability. Further experimentation proved that the power to transmute was peculiar to my hands only; touching ordinary objects with other parts of my anatomy produced no gold. Imagine if you will for a moment that particular series of experiments!

Soon enough, the humble -- seemingly obvious -- solution presented itself to me: Since only my hands produced the transformation why not simply wear gloves? For once something had already been transformed to gold by my touch, I couldn't very well turn it into gold again, could I? Of course not. Quickly summoning my royal tailor, I instructed him to fashion for me a pair of gloves crafted from the sheerest cloth. He rushed off to complete this task as I waited impatiently, contemplating my imminent groveling at Bacchus' hooves should this idea fail. The capricious, besotted god was no doubt enjoying my dilemma greatly.

The tailor soon returned with a pair of delicate silken gloves, so thin that light shone through them. He explained that he had found the perfect material in the costume of a dancing girl. Of course the gloves turned immediately to gold the moment I put them on; yet a combination of their flimsy construction and the malleability of the precious metal allowed them to remain adequately flexible even after the transmutation. I reached for an unsuspecting apple and by tasting its sweet juices found to my relief that the gloves served to insulate the world around me from the effects of my touch. For a time, my wits had prevailed. Bacchus, nevertheless, had not finished with his sport.

Court life quickly settled back into a semblance of normality, if you can call adding vast riches to the kingdom on a daily basis routine. Upon the strident advice of some of my wiser, more prescient ministers, I began to make smaller, more discrete, contributions to the royal treasury. Since large influxes of gold would only serve to undermine the metal's value locally and erase any long-term benefit to Phrygia, I was careful. So once every day, at the beginning of the public audience, I would turn a carefully measured amount of rocks, sand, or wood into gold. The spectacle proved immensely popular with my subjects and visitors from distant lands.

From time to time, it also pleased me to take the work of a local artisan, already rendered in bronze or stone, and transform it into purest gold. So metimes a small bird or reptile would be the subject of my golden Touch. These art objects and trinkets became gifts to visiting dignitaries or trade items, thus enhancing Phrygia's status and reputation as a trading partner throughout the Aegean. The news of my ability, of course, spread much further than that.

In time, I found it possible to eat and sleep and manage my personal life a dequately while wearing the protective gloves. When the weather was mild, I preferred to leave them off, especially during the hot summer. The thin golden mesh was still heavy and required no small effort to move in.

It was just such a scorching day when I came to realize the true power, and menace, of my gift.

One warm spring morning when my Touch was still a new experience, I accidentally turned young Anteia, one of my favorite dancers, into that beautiful statue that stands today in the center rotunda of the Reception Hall in my palace. As anyone who has ever seen her statue can tell you, Anteia was (and remains) stunning. The gilded golden figure in the Hall has a lean dancer's body, with small, firm breasts, muscular legs, and a face that bears the angular features common to her native Thrace. In life, Anteia was a charmingly attractive girl, with large deep green eyes and a long shimmering river of black hair cascading down her back almost to her firm buttocks. In motion she was graceful, catlike - the well-defined muscles of her calves and thighs standing out in smooth definition against her bronzed skin. Anteia was in life a true joy to behold; now she is preserved forever so generations yet unborn can look upon and delight in her classic beauty.

Many people still believe that it was my beloved daughter that I turned into a gold statue that fateful day; that I fell on my knees repeatedly before Bacchus, begging him to take back my auric power. So, the legend goes, Bacchus eventually rescinded his gift and in return gave me the ears of an ass (a donkey; stop snickering) as a reminder of my folly. Legends have always been flights of fancy, crafted to amuse the weak of mind; as any fool can see, my ears remain quite normal and my daughter had just born me my third grandson. There is, however, a nugget of truth to the fantastic tale. Truthfully, that mishap made me look at my gift in an entirely new and fascinating manner.

Early on one hazy morning after a long night of revels was when the incident happened. As I have related, it was one of the first days after I came to possess the Touch -- the idea of the gloves lay some time in my future. I was reclining on a low couch while a servant placed fruit into my mouth. Anteia strolled close by me, nude, a small towel looped around her waist, as was her teasing habit after completing her morning baths. As she passed, I casually stroked her breast, as was my habit. However, instead of the little girlish giggle that I was usually rewarded with, she gasped and then fell silent instantly -- when I opened my eyes she stood frozen, caught in mid stride -- while a look of indescribable pleasure spread across her lovely features. As she stood before me, I saw her entire body tremble as she began to moan deeply. My gift was acting upon her.

Where my ungloved hand had first touched her firm round breast, the skin had begun to glow a bright shiny yellow color, almost as if the morning sun had just fallen on that spot. Instantly (but, of course, much too late) I knew what was coming to pass and heard the echo of my own words to Bacchus: "All upon which I lay my hand will be turned into pure gold." My shouted "NO!" attracted the attention of everyone present; then they saw Anteia. The enchantment seemed to take quite a long time as I watched, aghast, but in reality only a few moments passed as that golden color spread rapidly through her entire being. Almost immediately the golden transmutation was complete; all trembling and sound ceased.

She stood glistening in the hazy sunlight, a statue, her eyes half closed, a look of unspeakable delight fixed eternally upon her golden face. For several moments no one spoke; the entire hall had become as silent and motionless as the beautiful golden woman who now stood before us. Awestruck, I stared at the gleaming statue that was moments before a living person. Curious, I reached out once more to touch her gilded body and found it still warm to my fingers. Her towel, untouched by me, slipped to the floor.

A crowd quickly gathered around Anteia's immobile figure. Every detail of her magnificent body was captured perfectly in golden splendor. Her nipples stood erect like gilded pebbles, her flesh glistened with a warm, yellow glow; every eyelash, every hair was rendered flawlessly in precious yellow metal. The muscles of her thighs were now sculpted forever in solid relief; the curly hairs of her sex had become a tangled golden cushion. She was caught, frozen in mid stride, yet her figure remained balanced, a perfect nude sculpture. In a way, she was my first work as an artist.

No one was surprised when I had Anteia's statue placed on a pedestal upon the exact spot in the palace where I transformed her that day. She became a constant warning to me of the power of my gift as well as a reminder that never again would I be able to run my ungloved hands over a woman's supple body, never feel her soft flesh with my fingertips. Or so I thought then.

* * *

Word of Anteia's golden fate spread quickly throughout Phrygia. There were many that saw her as a tragic figure; a young, beautiful woman dealt a cruel demise by the Fates. Others envied her. Understanding Bacchus as well as any mortal might know any god, I knew of his predilection towards strong drink and all sorts of exotic erotic debauchery. All too well I knew what manner of perverse raillery he found humorous, including the effects of my gift.

With his maidservant always in close attendance, I have seen him cavorting at intimate parties and at vast orgies satisfying a dozen mortal women at a time. He has been known to take notice of a particular woman, seduce her furiously into a savage sexual frenzy, and then deny her release, sometimes for days. The unfortunate lover would attempt anything to seek her relief, which only amused Bacchus more. Finally, he could induce such an incredible climax that several women have been known to be driven mad. Such is the fickle power of a god among mortals; he did not know, nor care, what effect his whims might have on the lesser beings that were his toys.

When he is feeling less cruel, he will bring a woman to absolute ecstasy with a word, a look, or a touch, and then leave her unsatisfied with any other sexual experience. Nothing was beyond his caprices; for his own carefree pleasure or the amusement of other guests. At one notable feast, Bacchus once caused milk to squirt from the breasts of the young wife of the governor of Etruria; her full, firm breasts and huge, constantly erect nipples had made her a favorite participant at orgies. As she stood there naked, spraying copious amounts of warm milk over the partygoers, she made the mistake of protesting her predicament too strongly to jolly Bacchus. He merely waved his hand and turned her into a marble statue, or more precisely, a fountain, now spraying water instead of milk. It took the governor many days of pleading (and another bacchanal) to have her turned back to flesh once more. To this day she cannot stand the sound of running water...

Then there was the story of one avaricious and vain woman who, at another orgy (Bacchus was there; no need to ask,) would favor a solitary partner all night, sharply rebuking any others daring to intrude on her public lovemaking. When Bacchus observed this, he rendered the woman completely paralyzed in a position laying on her back with her legs spread wide and mouth held rigidly open. Every man at the orgy was then invited and compelled to pleasure the immobile victim, leaving his ejaculate in her mouth. As the night went on, the seed of dozens of men filled and eventually overflowed from the mouth of this hapless woman. She was forced to become a piece of living furniture, unable to move but still fully conscious, her eyes widening in fear at each approaching donor.

Even the story of Bacchus' servant, a nameless automaton rendered in the form of a beautiful woman is a story rife with speculation. Whether she was once alive is unknown to me; all I can say is that the life- sized marionette appears crafted entirely from silver, gold, and copper -- except for two disks of amethyst which form her eyes. The figure always stands still and mute until Bacchus or one of his guests turns a large key attached securely to the doll's back. When so activated, she can move slowly and mechanically to obediently perform the god's bidding, be it grindingly mundane or blindingly sexual, for a few minutes before running down in mid-action and freezing in position until wound up again. Her voice, when he allows her to speak, is halting and without emotion but at the same time almost musical. The automaton always addresses Bacchus by the honorific "mas-ter". Several of us have contemplated, none too loudly, what some unfortunate girl could have possibly done to warrant such a judgment from the god of frivolity.

Bacchus has a truly inventive, perverse, and powerfully erotic sense of humor. He would naturally leave his distinctive mark on any gift to me; and so I knew that from the moment my hand touched her breast and forever afterward, inside the golden statue that she has become, Anteia is experiencing unspeakable sexual ecstasy until the end of time. Others guessed that conclusion as well. Indeed, they needed to look no further than to the assertion of pure rapture frozen on Anteia's golden visage.

* * *

About that same period, my reign over the kingdom turned very hectic. Phrygia was becoming more prosperous by the hour, court life was increasingly busy and petitioners were seemingly endless. Add to that the effect that the rumors and stories, not to mention the golden statue of Anteia, were having on my subjects. Every few minutes, it seemed someone would appear with another scheme to utilize or exploit my gift for his or her own gain. Many families came before me, hoping that I would merely Touch a rock or a pet. Others suggested I lay a hand on the head of an extra daughter or two, turning them into gold statues, thereby securing the family finances for generations (once these poor unloved girls had been melted down into ingots). I granted these greedy, misguided wretches only the lash for their troubles.

A surprising number of woman -- both young and old -- petitioned me at their own impetus and occasionally I would grant audiences to those who wished to be turned into statues. Their reasons varied; many sought to escape arranged marriages, husbands quick with the lash, indentured servitude, or lives of endless drudgery. A few others, the vain and the petty, saw their youth and beauty disappearing, melting away and, unwilling or unable to gracefully face the ravages of age, sought my Touch to preserve their beauty forever. These I counseled with all the wisdom I could summon before dismissing them, for I would never allow my gift to become simply an escape from reality.

And then there were those women who took pleasure from being desired by many lovers, from seeing a look of uncontrollable animal lust in a man's eyes. Women who wanted nothing more than to be admired from afar -- women who saw themselves as living art. For them my Touch would only formalize the existing arrangement. Others, the honest ones, wanted only to experience the eternal, inexpressible pleasure of being transformed from a living human into a golden statue. Some sidestepped the formality of a private audience by leaping from the public audience dais and throwing themselves at my hands -- willing to abandon their whole lives for eternal ecstasy. They too were turned away unfulfilled (though some sought, and received, Bacchus' creative "guidance".)

From time to time, my planned judgments faltered, for I am only a mortal human. On rare occasions a woman of incredible beauty and poise would ask me to bestow my Touch on her. Of these, I would consider only the most exquisite. However, sheer pulchritude alone was not enough to sway me; these ladies had to touch my heart as well as catch my eye, gain my respect and even love. As a result very few women were granted my Touch, but after all is said and done, I was then and still am a great patron of the arts, as well as an artist with a truly unique style. Of course, the only true work of art is a beautiful woman; to take the most beautiful of all women and preserve them forever, then placing them on display for the pleasure of everyone, is truly a noble act. Let no one say that Midas was not a noble ruler.

When at last a subject was selected to be illuminated -- to be turned into a golden sculpture - various artisans would be summoned to consult on how to pose the soon-to-be statue to her best advantage. It should be no surprise to you that every one of the women that I Touched were revealed as nudes. To hide their splendid physiques under any clothing would be to waste a precious gift. The artists would render sketches and experiment with a variety of poses to determine how to best display the young lady. Often her body would be gilded in gold paint, prior to her actual final transformation, allowing the sculptors and artists (and the Artist) to see how she would appear forever afterward. What these women thought or felt as they were posed and painted and fussed over I cannot imagine. Yet they all seemed to anticipate their being Touched with a combination of sexual arousal and anxious anticipation.

It is a rare woman indeed whose body is perfect in all regards. Often, the chosen one would spend weeks of strenuous physical training with Greek athletes in my service, allowing her to further sculpt and harden her body, allowing me to freeze her at the height of physical perfection. You need only to look around the palace and view the many ravishing golden sculptures to know they succeeded in attaining that goal.

Of these singularly beautiful women, the most perfect to me was Vespa. As she approached the court to petition me I knew, before she said a word -- no matter what her reason -- I would grant her my Touch and golden immortality. Vespa was the most incredible female that I had ever seen and I wanted nothing more than to see her standing before me as a statue, forever perfect. I was smitten with love and could not exist without her in my sight. Her face lit up like a little girl when she heard my swift decree: She would receive my Touch that very afternoon.

* * *

Vespa was given a cup of wine, to calm her as we made final preparations for her gilding. She glanced around the enormous hall, taking in the courtesans, the gathering crowd and the elegance of the palace, breathing her last breaths of sweet Phrygian air. Vespa stepped up without hesitation onto her pedestal, a simple block of chiseled pale marble were she would spend eternity. A servant girl approached her as she assumed her previously arranged pose and, with the gentle touch of a feather, teased her nipples, hardening them. I watched as her brown nipples stood erect on her breasts, hearing her moan with pleasure at each pass of the feather - I looked into her eyes and saw a smoldering mix of arousal and fear. I gestured to the court sculptor and he approached to guide Vespa into the final pose, adjusting the tilt of her head, the sweep of her arms, coaxing a gentle smile onto her lovely face.

Out of all of the ladies that I have graced with my touch, all chosen for the absolute perfection of their bodies, none were as perfect as Vespa. As she stood motionless on the low pedestal, waiting, I admired the wisdom of the artisans who had chosen her pose. I felt my loins stir as she paused there, unmoving, seemingly already a statue rendered in flesh. She graced that pedestal with her physique; long, muscular legs held slightly apart, shoulders and torso creating a line that led one's eyes upward along her neck to the vision of joy that was her face. A river of brown hair cascading down her back provided counterpoint. It was a moment that would now last forever.

When I Touched Vespa, I knew that I had unveiled an art object of incomparable beauty as the sunny glow of pure gold spread across her form.

Bacchus himself concurred the moment he laid eyes on the gleaming, flowing sculpture she had become that day. A true masterpiece of feminine pulchritude he said, no small complement from one that has known and loved so many women through the eons. Raising a goblet of wine to his lips from thin air the god exhorted me to reflect on Vespa as an inspiration and not the finale to my elegant artistic diversions. Spread your wings, he decreed; explore every aspect of your golden gift. Because, he concluded ominously, someday it might vanish like the wind. Such is the will of the gods.

* * *

Phrasia was tall and resplendent, with large, heavy breasts, long golden blonde hair shining as if the gilding had already been done, and flawless skin bronzed from long afternoons working in the sun. She stood before me quivering, not from fear but with excitement. Her nipples stood out proudly from her firm round breasts, erect peaks almost half my thumb high. Sweet nectar flowed from between her legs and the scent of her arousal was unmistakable. She looked directly into my eyes, silently begging me to consummate our arrangement; to give her the Touch that would freeze her beautiful body for all time, free at last for all to see. Her most secret wish, which she confided to me as the justification for receiving my Touch, was that men for all time would never again be able to touch her warm flesh and only be able to gaze upon her luscious body in awe.

She explained that she had spent most of her young, orphaned, life as the f leshly plaything of a cruel family; enduring nightly conjugal visits from her foster father or any number of her seven step-brothers and sisters, singly or in groups. At any sign of resistance, Phrasia was whipped; the only blemishes on her perfect skin were the thin scars of the lashings she had endured for so long. She had finally run away in this, her nineteenth year, vowing that she would never again be taken sexually against her will. Hearing the rumors of my singular gift and artistic dabblings from a caravan storyteller, she journeyed to my palace from far to the north, traveling the roads only in darkness, disguising her considerable beauty under dirt and ashes and the rough sacking of a leper. This was how and why she came to stand before me and it was out of pure compassion that I granted her my Touch.

She had been posed seductively, her left hand cupping her breast, as if offering it to a lover; her right leg bent slightly, her other hand lightly touching her sex. As I stood eye to eye with her, I could see her arousal building, I could see her hand teasing herself and I was sure that given any more delay on my part, she would have pleasured herself in front of all of us. Without any further hesitation, I reached for her sex, slipping my ungloved fingers as deeply as I could inside of her.

She gasped, wide-eyed, and cried out; a proclamation of bliss that I am certain has never before issued forth from any mortal human. It was an indescribably lovely sound, a wail of pure joy of such exquisite sensuality that the crowd of onlookers in the Public Hall gasped, several women fell to their knees. Deep inside, I felt her sex begin to transmute around my fingers -- changing in one moment from hot, wet flesh to warm, smooth metal. As the transformation spread, as each part of her lovely body became pure gold, her heavenly cry of rapture increased to a climactic crescendo. Finally, tragically, it ceased, an echo remaining in the still air for seconds like a siren's song. She had solidified completely. A collective sigh went up from the audience; not for her, but for everyone else, for we knew that never again in all of our miserable mortal lives would we hear as lovely a sound as came by this beautiful statue in her last instant of animation. Anyone who heard that sound could never again be the same. Her face was radiant, almost beatific, in its loveliness and I knew that surely if had she not turned to gold she would have been driven mad by the everlasting waves of pleasure that I knew continued to surge through her motionless golden figure.

In one way Phrasia had her fondest and final wish realized, for six months after her statue had been placed in the public square a man appeared. He stood gazing at her gleaming, perfect, unreachable beauty for almost a sun-span before crying out in anguish and then falling upon his sword. As the story unfolded, the dead man had been Phrasia's stepfather whose final words were that he would not live knowing he could never make love to her again.

* * *

A young couple came to me one day, deeply in love, yet both had been committed to arranged marriages with others. Their families had forbidden any contact at all between the two and even as they stood in audience before me, their parents were scouring the city looking for them; keenly aware that they were together and wished to remain that way. The vast love these two shared was obvious to any onlooker; knowing what would happen when they were discovered prompted a quick judgment on my behalf. They wished to be transformed as they made love, consummating their union at the moment of climax. I envied them. -- To be so committed to one another as to spend eternity frozen in each other's embrace. My decision was easy, really.

One of my servants led the two of them to my private chamber, showed them in, and offered the lovers any delicacy in the royal reserves. Blushing, they asked only for a carafe of wine and another of scented massage oil. I waited patiently, my guards posted outside the door so that they might enjoy their last few minutes together as flesh and blood. They soon called for me; entering the chambers I saw them coupled in my bed, she on top of him rocking, his member buried deep within her.

Breathless, blushing, the two young lovers thanked me deeply and asked then for my Touch to bind them together forever as one. I nodded, then hesitated, waiting for the right moment as they resumed making love. The girl moved with a timeless rhythm, panting in bliss. Her lover soon began to moan loudly. It was then, as his back arched and he cried out her name, I Touched him first and the golden wave swept over his body. The girl's pace never slowed as she watched her lover turn quickly into gold beneath and inside her. The transformation had not affected her, yet. She continued to make love to the statue, kissing him passionately as she rode his golden member, unabashedly taking her pleasure to a climax. At a moment when she arched her own back and began to cry out, I Touched her shapely bottom, freezing her in her orgasm as a golden statue forever. Once again the moan of eternal ecstasy rang through the room as the two lovers fused into one gleaming masterpiece. The erotic sculpture remains on display in the Shrine of Persephone, a favorite haunt of lovers. * * *

Then there is the story of the exquisite statue that graces the Baths. A lovely young woman -- a dancer -- one of the sort that dances for the coins that men throw at her in the one of the many taverns that line the quays, approached me one day. By now I had come to understand the basic motivation of the many woman seeking my Touch. Chyron's story was but an extreme example of a saying I had heard many times before. The gift of my golden Touch enabled me to understand a fundamental truth: Women are essentially exhibitionists and men are essentially voyeurs.

Chyron was the ultimate exhibitionist, her sexual gratification came chiefly from dancing nude for men, the more the better, the louder and more frenzied they became the more aroused she was. She confided in me that she felt sex with only one partner was trivial and boring. She longed to become an object of lust for all who glimpsed her or touched her magnificent physique.

As her long blue-black hair shimmered in the late afternoon sun, Chyron pre sented an intriguing proposition. She wished to become a sculpture and be placed on display in the men's public Baths, posed as suggestively as possible, in the act of making love to herself. She asked that her mouth be open, posed in a spasm of self pleasure for the convenience of any man so moved by her beauty who would choose to relieve his seed into her accessible golden orifice.

I must admit that her eloquence was intriguing and the though of her frozen into a statue in that manner was highly stimulating -- being a man, I too am a voyeur. Immediately I agreed to grant Chyron my Touch and watched in delighted surprise as her cloak dropped from her lissome shoulders, revealing her stunning figure. Without another word she immediately lay down before me and began to masturbate. One hand sped to a blur as she rubbed her innermost sex, the other massaged first one breast and then the other. Enraptured by her actions, she moaned with pleasure, oblivious to the gathering crowd of men and woman staring at this public spectacle of rampant, intense, self-love. Ever patient, I watched as the crescendo of her autoerotic symphony increased. I planned, as with my other artworks, to transform Chyron at the moment of her greatest pleasure. Very soon that moment arrived; her slim body tensed, her moans rose into a cry as a look of sheer delight spread across her face, even before my hand brushed her sex. It was there that I touched her, freezing her forever in that singular moment of ecstasy. Her last gasp of bliss ended with her mouth held wide as she had hoped.

From behind me, I heard the sound of solitary applause. Turning, I saw that it was Bacchus; he chided me lightly for not inviting him while I was being "artistic" and then congratulated me on Chyron's gilding. Strolling around her immobilized golden body the god truly seemed impressed. Placing his hands on her hardened breasts, he slid his satyr's torso up against her exposed sex while flicking his long tongue into her open mouth. I thought that I heard the girl's faint voice in the wind, whispering "Yes - oh, yes - please do not stop" just before he pulled away from the rigid statue.

I had not dreamed this; Bacchus concluded that an endless moment of ecstasy was not enough to satisfy her cravings, so he arranged in his own way for the statue of Chyron to feel any touch of others upon her golden body and for her thoughts to flow back in return. I had heard that lyrical sound as well. As a final gesture, he touched the tip of each of her breasts with his finger and a stream of heated water issued forth. What was more fitting, he asked, than to have a fountain in the bathhouse?

Honoring her impassioned wish, I had the glistening figure moved to the baths and mounted upon a slender pedestal so all who were interested could approach the golden girl as closely as desired. It is said that late at night the songs of angels can be heard among the darkened pools.

* * *

Reflecting back upon my gift, I can say that its effects have brought more joy than sorrow, created everlasting beauty, and inspired wonder throughout my humble kingdom. Over the years, I have chosen fewer subjects to receive my golden gift yet the number and variety of magnificent female sculptures throughout the city is already unprecedented, even compared to the likes of Alexandria's riches.

Bacchus continues to be my nemesis and muse. Recently I have embarked upon a dauntingly ambitious work; a tableau of golden statues which will increase in number and complexity as more figures are added. Four frozen women appear now, posed as if bathing in a natural spring pool. Another is pondering how and when she will join the grouping. Some days she appears there in her cloak of gilding paint, moving slowly from one location to another, listening to the comments of the constant onlookers. One day she will decide -- my Touch is ready whenever queen Dora is...