Reading time: 8 min
The rain came down hard over the little mountainside village of Griagos, sending rivers of rainwater cascading down the winding layers of roads and stepped pavements towards the valley basin. The residents of Griagos were well-used to the heavy precipitation and remained shut up inside their homes and businesses, only venturing outside with the aid of thick coats and wide umbrellas to shelter them from the downpour.
Chrissy, however, was not so knowledgeable of the area, and found that her thin jacket and jeans simply weren’t going to do. Within seconds, her clothes had been soaked through, sticking to her skin, freezing her to the bone. She would have been better off back inside the car, half a mile up the road and the mountain, shut inside its cabin, waiting until the storm had passed before going for help, but it was too late for that now. No, she might as well finish her quest and search for help in the town. Or at the very least, somewhere she could shelter from the rain.
Finally, she thought she saw someone out on the streets, and was able to call out when she realised she was just looking at a statue. It seemed fitting somehow, a statue on the streets of Greece, the homeland of the arts, though on closer inspection she could see that the workmanship on this had nothing classical to it. It could only have been made by a machine, maybe 3D printed or vacuum formed, because its features were the perfect likeness of a human being. Not the close approximation of a talented artist, but the finely detailed work of a computer with an inhuman error margin, perfectly capturing the tiny wrinkles of this statue’s lips and the delicate folds on the skin of its finger joints. It was stunning, an absolute marvel, so much so that if Chrissy wasn’t already cold to the core from the rain she would have felt a chill run down her spine. The statue was uncanny. Too lifelike. She turned away.
There were lights on in most of the buildings around her, and in the thick downpour it was getting harder and harder to differentiate the signs on each business. She picked a door at random and went inside. There was the sharp ringing of a small bell and then the immediate satisfaction of escaping the weather. Chrissy let out a sigh of relief as she took in her surroundings. It was a small shop, filled with small charms, jewellery and an assortment of other knick knacks, though on close inspection they were all clearly handmade. There was another statue too, this time a man but just as detailed as the one outside. It looked serene, but still oddly realistic.
“Can I help you?” came a voice, in heavily accented English. Chrissy turned to see a woman in her late forties, tall and dressed in a floating, thin, floral, sleeved dress walking towards her from where she had been fixing something in the window. “Oh poor dear, you are soaked to the bone!”
“Yeah,” Chrissy stammered out. “It’s pretty chilly out there. May I stay in here for a few minutes? I love your jewellery.”
“Of course. Come, why don’t you come upstairs and dry yourself off.”
At first Chrissy was taken aback by the stranger’s kindness, but she was starting to worry about going hypothermic. “That would be great, thank you.”
“This way then, dear,” the woman said, leading Chrissy back towards a door, and then a set of wooden stairs beyond. “I am Chrisantha, by the way.”
“Oh! I’m Chrissy.”
Chrisantha chuckled. “Hahah, what a funny coincidence!”
She led Chrissy upstairs into a cosy, one-person apartment. It was decorated more sparsely than the shop below but in a similar style, with more charms and artefacts on the walls and shelving.
“What brings you to Griagos?”
“Oh, just sightseeing. I’ve always wanted to come to Greece. Finally got the chance, although it would’ve been nice to be able to come during the summer.”
“Fate works in mysterious ways,” Chrisantha mused, walking into her kitchenette. “Tea?”
“Ooh, yes please.” Chrissy sat down in a luxurious armchair and took in all the same idols and trinkets around her. There were several evil eyes, though these were purple instead of the usual azure blue she had become accustomed to. Others were shaped like symbols or figures, the lightning bolt of Zeus or the chalice of Ganymede, things Chrissy remembered from old children’s books of Greek legends. One of them was a small bust of the gorgon Medusa, snakes writhing in a fiendish halo around her head, and Chrissy’s mind suddenly jumped back to the statues she had seen before.
“Who made those statues?” Chrissy asked, just as Chrisantha came back in with two mugs of tea. “The one downstairs and the one outside. They’re amazing, so lifelike.”
“Oh, there is a sculptor in town. A wonderful creative mind.”
Chrissy took a big sip out of her tea. It tasted different, exotic, a little fruity. “Well, his eye for detail is just astonishing. If you’d said they were people wearing grey makeup, you’d have fooled me!”
Chrisantha smiled, a smile touched with a subtle shade of darkness that Chrissy barely picked up on, and found herself troubled by. “Her eye for detail. The sculptor is a woman. A modern Medusa.”
Chrissy’s mind instinctively flipped back to the little Medusa bust, and she found her eyes momentarily drawn to it. Chrisantha noticed. “Yes, that’s the one. We have so many legends here, but everyone knows Medusa first and foremost. I cannot say I blame people, for there is such excitement to her tale. You have felt it, yes? Thinking of Perseus, and all those who went before him who failed their task. What became of them…”
“Well they all became statues.” Chrissy started finding Chrisantha’s demeanour a little unsettling, but the last thing she wanted to do now was leave. Her instincts were at war, and she had no choice but to keep drinking her tea and listen.
“Exactly. Eternal testaments to their ultimate failure. Imagine it; a quest where success would make your name live forever, but failure would transform you into a monument of your own shame. Imagine the thrill of it, the risk involved. You understand it, don’t you?”
Almost before she had time to think, Chrissy said, “Yes.”
Chrisantha’s darker edge returned, but Chrissy had no intention of leaving. “It is a different age now, but we have learned so much from the past. Not just from the Medusa. We have so many legends, and so many secrets passed down from them. How was your tea?”
Alarm bells started to ring in Chrissy’s head, but she could do nothing about them. The tea had taken effect, and her attention was focused purely on Chrisantha. “It was lovely.”
“Such a sweet dear. I think we had better begin. Let’s dry you off. You would like that, wouldn’t you?”
“Good, then disrobe.”
Chrissy stood up and, enraptured by the tea’s herbs, began removing her wet clothes there and then, simply leaving them all in uneven piles around her.
“Oh, you poor thing. Soaked to the bone. Soon you won’t have to worry about that. Follow me.”
And she did. Chrissy simply followed Chrisantha out of the room and into another, where the shelves were lined with herbs, precious stones, and small treasure boxes.
And statues. Two more of them. One was male, in his thirties, completely naked but carved into a position of terror. Another was female, pirouetting like a ballerina, but fear was etched into its face. Her face. Chrissy began to understand, but strangely did not care. Her mind was not her own, and she simply did as Chrisantha bade her.
“Alas I cannot make these two into public displays, not with these…sickly grimaces. You will be different, won’t you? You will be good for me?”
“I knew you were a good little dear. Now why don’t you pose for me? Choose something you like.”
And she did. Chrissy raised both of her arms, one straight and the other bending horizontally over her head. Her back was slightly arched, one leg straight the other bent, delicately putting her weight onto the former, and looking at Chrisantha with a subtle smile. “How is this?”
“Beautiful, Chrissy. Just beautiful.”
Deep down, Chrissy knew what was about to happen. It was impossible, but it was true, and part of her knew it. It feared it. But her body and waking mind would not comply. They were simply there to do what Chrisantha directed, unable and unwilling to listen to the ravings of a tiny subconscious fear.
Chrisantha went to one of her little boxes, and when she turned back around, she was gently removing a wand from it. It was a short, wooden, gnarled thing, white ash with a handle of smooth oak, but it was unmistakeably a wand. Christantha looked at Chrissy with an almost hungry gaze, and wordlessly traced the tip of the wand over Chrissy’s bare chest.
Almost instantly, it began. Dark, tanned skin began to turn pale, its smooth surface taking on a granular finish. Chrissy felt a bubble of worry began to grow in her mind, but it was too late now. Her face could not distort into fear or confusion, for as the greyness moved over her body, locking each and every muscle into its final position, it was no longer her face. How could it be? These were the features of Chrisantha’s latest statue, her most recent beautiful work of art. The transformation lasted seconds, leaving Chrisantha alone with her latest creation.
Carefully, she replaced the delicate wand, then turned back to the statue and smiled. Yes, this would be a wonderful asset to Griagos’ beauty.
The sun beat down like a blanket of fire, making Tatti feel like her pale skin was going to suddenly ignite any second. From the sweat dripping down Robb’s face and neck as he drove them down the mountainside, she could tell she wasn’t alone. Greece was such a beautiful country, but they picked a bad day to enjoy it in a convertible.
Eventually, they reached the small village they had booked an Airbnb in, and as Tatti got out of the car, she sighed heavily at the huge red patches on her arms. From the look on Robb’s face, her own face was likely just as reddened.
They both took a look around. Their GPS had gotten itself turned around half a mile back, so they would need to ask exactly where their lodgings were. They were parked outside a small cafe. Perfect!
As the two tourists headed inside to ask for directions, Tatti jumped, thinking she had almost idly walked into someone, only to realise it was just a statue. A very well-made, lifelike statue of a woman, arms up like she was enjoying feeling a summer breeze over her stone skin. Tatti thought back to the website she had first seen this village on, a place with a long history of crafting the most amazing statues to line its streets and other local sites.
One blog had even jokingly referred to Griagos as “the Gorgon’s Nest.” Tatti chuckled, then felt a slight chill despite the blazing sun. After all, the statue was very lifelike.
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