The Natatorium

An emporium of oddities from around the world, complete with somewhat informative plaques that almost never match the item they are meant to be describing.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Installment #18: Curiosity

While Hades and Hypnos were outside, I took advantage of my time alone in Hypnos’ house and decided to more closely examine the statue that had previously caught my attention. I rose from my seat and left the room the way I had entered, through the open wall opposite the black door. I was surprised to find, once I had entered the room, that there were actually two open doorways, on opposite walls, each leading to a different cushioned chamber. I looked from one to the other, trying to remember which way I had turned when I had entered the last sitting room. I remembered following Hades to the right, so now I turned left into a room lined with purple. I vaguely remembered running through it, hopping over stray cushions and weaving through the maze of purple furniture. The purple room led directly into a bright blue one, which I also remembered, but to my dismay, the blue room led to both a yellow and an orange room, and the two colors were so similar in my memory that I could not remember which one I had passed through before. I had been running, trying to catch up with Hades, and I had been concentrating on catching glimpses of the back of his head or the corner of his robe as he quickly rounded corners. I could not remember if I had entered the blue room from the right or from the left. After lingering a moment, I veered left into the yellow room, which also left me at a crossroads between two possible choices: bright light green, or orchid pink. I had no memory of this junction either, and, growing frustrated, decided to simply follow my instinct and move quickly through the rooms until I found the statue again. The house had seemed very large from the outside, but not so big that I would not be able to make my way through it in a relatively short amount of time. I chose orchid, then turquoise, then peach, then ivory, then brown, then gold, then white, then black, and found myself in a place I knew I had not been before. The black room was not another cushioned sitting room like all the others; it was very large, with high ceilings and wide expanses of black marble floors. The walls were hung with deep burgundy velvet curtains. I wondered, briefly, if there were windows behind them, but if there were, no light penetrated the heavy fabric. There were silver sconces on the walls, much like in Hades’ palace, each holding one of those silent, languid flames that I had only seen in the underworld. Unlike Hades’ lamps, however, these flames were not blue but the color of wine. They were a few shades brighter than the curtains, but the effect was a deep reddish-purplish glow that made the black floors, walls, and ceilings seem even darker. A chandelier hung in the center of the room, balancing at least twenty of the wine-colored flames in its arms. On the opposite side of the room there was a black staircase of finely worked wrought iron that twisted up into the darkness above the chandelier. I looked to the left and saw an enormous black door, which I suddenly realized must lead to the outside. The design of this room mirrored that of Hypnos’ large white front room, and I finally understood where I was. This was the entryway to Thanatos’ half of the house. There was a grouping of burgundy chairs in one corner, but aside from that the only thing in the room was a black pedestal which supported another astonishing sculpture.

She lay in the center of the room, and from where I stood to the side I could see only the soles of her feet and the curve of her bottom. I walked around to see her from front, the great door to my back, seeing her as anyone entering Thanatos’ house would see her, should he ever have visitors. I was not under the impression that he ever did. She was beautiful, of course, but more than that she was intriguing. I had never seen a woman, mortal or immortal, with features like hers. Her skin was dark, dark, brown, much darker than even Leta’s, and her thick, textured hair was cut close to her head. I wondered if her hair was so short because it was more comfortable that way, or so none of the beauty of her face would be shielded by unnecessarily long hair. I had never seen a woman with hair so short, but the lines of her face were so strange and wonderful that I was glad the artist had left them unobstructed. Her lips were full, her nose slightly wide, similar to Leta’s, her jaw strong. She looked like a woman from The South, like Leta, but there was something about her that seemed so foreign and wonderful that for a moment I forgot that she was made of stone, or something like it. Her skin shone as if it were real, as if it had life pulsing beneath it. She was draped in burgundy as well, and the contrast with her skin was perfect. Her wrists and ankles were laden with silver bangles. I wanted to reach out and touch her skin, her robe, her hair, to try and discern how they were made, but feared the illusion would be ruined if I prodded it. I stood there, gazing at her in wonder, for several moments. Her lips were slightly parted, and I stared at her for so long that I began to imagine I could hear the faintest whisper of air passing through them. I also began to imagine I could hear her faint, slow heartbeat pounding out a defiant rhythm. She glowed in the middle of the dark room, and I felt myself being drawn into her, as the rest of the world faded away. My mind began to create a voice for her, as if she were speaking to me. She greeted me, wordlessly, with blessings, and I smiled, feeling her love envelop me. Then I felt, strangely, that she was crying out to me, begging me for help, asking me to free her. I shook my head, trying to clear it of these absurd and troubling thoughts, then stopped. What if I was not imagining it? I approached the sculpture, extending my hand, and began to lean toward her when I voice behind me caused me to nearly jump out of my skin.

“Got lost, did we?” said Hypnos.

I jerked around to face him, snapping my hand back to my side. “Perhaps,” I said. “But I found what I was looking for. What are these sculptures made of? Why do they look so real?”

Hypnos grinned, a slightly cruel, bemused grin. “What makes you think they’re sculptures?” he asked.

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