From the moment Marcus’s trowel struck the hard surface of the mosaic all else in his perfectly ordered life dwindled to the rank of unimportance. The mundane things, such as maintaining his meagre social life and the paying of his hugely inflated utility bills promptly fell away until all he could think of was his first ‘real’ find as a fully-fledged archaeologist– the sacred temple mosaic of Alectrona, Grecian goddess of the sun.
It lay beneath several feet of hard packed soil which he painstakingly removed over many months, slaving away beneath the burning summer sun. Other excavations were going on around the site, but Alectrona was his, and his alone. He felt proud.
The mosaic was huge and he hadn’t even uncovered it all yet. The top third still remained hidden concealing what he predicted to be a representation of the deity. It took him by surprise just how prideful and possessive he felt, to the point of insisting that all the photographic records be taken by him. But he reasoned inwardly that he had every reason to be, as never before had an intact mosaic been found bearing her likeness. Little wonder then that when he had first stumbled across her name inscribed in three and a half inch gold lettering, he could hardly wait to set eyes on her and would scarcely allow anyone else near. Often in the early hours of the morning he found himself wide awake fantasizing about what she might look like, the expression on her face and what she may or may not be wearing. Never once did it occur to him that his obsession might be getting a little out of control.
The dreams came the night after he uncovered her left leg. At that stage the only visible part of the fresco had been a horticultural scene depicting a farming community picking olives and harvesting sun ripened wheat out in the open fields. But Marcus was certain that Alectrona dominated the Mediterranean sky above them. He could hardly wait to find out.
His pulse quickened upon uncovering her perfectly formed toes, the subtle arch of her foot and the ball of her heel. After a quick lunch of tuna nicoise and a crusty bread roll washed down with half a bottle of warm water he began to lovingly brush away the dirt from her ankle.
Her bone structure was flawless as were her muscle tone and golden skin. Every detail was captured in stone with a realism that generally belongs to living breathing things – to the extent that Marcus had to continually fight the urge to reach out and wrap his fingers around her divine limb in order to draw her to him.
Just as he painstakingly uncovered the top of her shapely naked thigh, the light started to fade and bats began to flit through the dusky blood red sky emitting their high pitched squeaks. It was time to shut down for the night and say goodnight to his equally work weary colleagues.
The young man’s thoughts were in conflict as he started up his vintage turquoise moped, turning on the lights in preparation for the ten mile ride home. Part of him knew that to achieve a good standard of work he needed to rest – yet he was afraid to leave in case anything should befall his precious site.
Anything was possible. An earthquake. A flash flood. Vandals. It didn’t bear thinking about. He was an ardent lover indeed. They were at a very crucial stage now. He was sorely tempted to stay behind and work non-stop in order to uncover every inch of her – even if it meant doing without sleep or food. Maybe he could set up a few floodlights or something? he mused. The anticipation was building within him but he wouldn’t allow it to cloud his judgement. That’s how career destroying mistakes were made. He shook his head and pulled on his helmet fastening the straps loosely beneath his chin.
Once in bed, sleep enveloped his dog tired body in minutes. His dreams were filled with her. Her glory. Her beneficent light.
The warmth that flowed from her penetrated the ground, making the plants flourish and the vineyards groan with delicious nectar sweet grapes much to the delight of her human subjects. In his dreams everyone adored her but Marcus was the one blessed with the task of revealing her to the world once again and for that she was eternally grateful to him. In fact she made it clear without equivocation.
In his dreams she looked down upon him, smiling as she held him captive with rapturous cerulean blue eyes. Her eyes were wise and gentle. All knowing yet somehow full of mirth and unbridled joy. There was a fire there too, a spark that threatened to devour him leaving him a spent heap of ashes to be dispersed by the coastal wind.
Alectrona was supremely beautiful and strong. Gently she reached down and pulled him upwards through the wispy layers of cottony cumulus cloud, her body wrapping itself around him like ivy growing on a tree trunk. Her lips scorched his, taking away his breath while her tongue explored him carefully, sensuously flicking over his skin like a flame escaped from the cooking hearths of ancient times. Pressed together with her silky golden tresses flowing over his muscular arms they were headed towards a heart stopping melt down–at least they were until his alarm went off, cruelly wrenching him from his dreams.
Lying on his back he gazed up at the ceiling marvelling at how convincing his dreams were. Alectrona felt and tasted more real than his old girlfriend Shauna ever had – and he’d been with Shauna for six years. It was very strange. He reached over the side of the bed pulling out his notes from his backpack.
Though not fully awake yet he thumbed through the pages examining the numerous notations and photographs. Once again he noticed the ancient numerals tucked away in the bottom left hand corner of the mosaic and wondered what they were. Perhaps it was about time he sought a little input from his colleagues he mused. Quickly he banished that thought and headed purposefully for the shower.
As usual he was the first to arrive on site. He signalled left and swept into the improvised car park choking a little on the clouds of dust his moped threw up. The sun was already splitting the stones and he cursed himself for leaving his water bottle on the kitchen worktop for the second day running. Thankfully there was a tap nearby that supplied fresh drinking water so he hurriedly swallowed a few mouthfuls before setting off in search of Alectrona.
He bypassed the remains of several ruined houses situated in front of the temple area, stealing a quick glance at their ancient courtyards still visible through the crumbling archways. These too had their own mosaics, but none as fine as his, he thought with a stab of pride.
Marcus breathed a long held sigh of relief when he found her just as he had left her. Today he would work extra hard, he promised.
“You’ve waited too long my love,” he said, taking out his brushes.
He threw down his backpack and jumped down into the pit startling a small lizard that had been basking in the morning sun. When the others began to arrive an hour later they found him hard at work and already soaked in sweat. None of them looked in the least bit surprised.
“You want a slice of walnut bread Marcus?” called Zoe. “I have some going spare.”
“No thanks,” he said, not even turning around.
“I bet you haven’t even eaten yet have you?” She said disparagingly. “God, you’re obsessed!”
She stood still for a minute or two watching him work, admiring his dedication – amongst other things. It really irked her that he hadn’t even turned round. She’d worn those tight shorts for him. But Zoe wasn’t about to give up.
“How about I bring you one of my water bottles? It’s hot as hell out here and you’ve got no shade,” she said smiling sweetly.
“Look!” he said a little crossly. “I’m fine. I’m at a really crucial stage here though and I don’t want to be rude or anything but you’re breaking my concentration.”
“Oh. Sorry,” she mumbled, flushing with embarrassment. “I’ll leave you to it then.”
He grunted and brushed away a fly from the back of his neck.
“She looks great by the way…” she called glumly over her shoulder.
“Yeah, she does doesn’t she,” grinned Marcus, surveying both of Alectrona’s legs and the bottom half of her torso.
He felt deeply grateful that the ancient Greeks weren’t bashful when it came to nakedness. The dream he’d had the night before suddenly came flooding back spurring him on to even greater activity and speed.
Three hours later he’d teased away the earth from her fulsome breasts and throat and was now ready to start work on her face. His hands shook unsteadily with an odd mixture of desire and excitement but rest was not an option. He couldn’t quit now. Not even for a minute.
At the worst possible moment the guy he liked the least on the team, utterly arrogant Simon came swaggering over to help the seemingly incompetent newbie. In his view Marcus knew next to nothing and should not have been granted what appeared to be a free reign over such an important project.
“You need a hand down there partner?” he said condescendingly. He crouched down in the dirt as though addressing a little child.
“No thanks. I’m good,” Marcus replied, wiping away the sweat.
“Hm…looks like you’re almost there anyhow,” he smirked. running his eye over her in a most unprofessional manner.
Marcus regarded him with unease and silently waited for him to leave before continuing. Problem was he looked to be in no particular hurry. Instead he took a series of long gulps from his water bottle. Then he gazed idly down at the excavation below.
“Those ancient Greeks sure did love their pussy didn’t they?” he laughed suddenly. As he laughed water sprayed out of his mouth all over Alectrona.
Marcus was incensed. In just one bound he leapt up and out of the trench, grabbing Simon by the throat.
“You think you know fucking everything don’t you?” he bellowed. “Well you don’t! You leave Alectrona to me.”
Simon lay in the dirt looking up at him with wide eyes and flaring nostrils. He hadn’t expected that.
“Go on! Get back to your own find instead of trying to take over mine,” growled Marcus.
Simon blinked in surprise then got up and walked away brushing himself off.
“Asshole!” he muttered.
Marcus ignored him and turned his attention back to the job in hand. Taking out his camera he took a few snapshots just for the record and then examined them in the view screen on the back. Initially he was pleased with them until he saw that the pictures were a little dark. Perhaps he needed to fiddle with the settings a little more, he thought. He tried but nothing seemed to work.
Then he glanced upwards realising that the problem was not with the camera but the light source itself. Half expecting to see a cloud obscuring the sun his mouth fell open as he witnessed the rare sight of the planet Venus moving in to create a full blown eclipse. Knowing the danger it posed to his eyesight he instantly looked away. But the after image burned in his vision for several minutes afterwards and he was afraid the damage may have already been done.
Panicking, he stumbled away from the site to seek out his colleagues. But darkness was moving in fast. Before he could get close, the sun was blotted out entirely leaving him waving his arms about like a blind man.
His hand brushed against masonry much to his relief and he sagged against it, breathing heavily. To be in utter darkness was frightening but now he had the reassurance of something solid against his back he felt a lot better.
In front of him a brilliant light came into being revealing that he was standing between the archway of the ruined houses. But the courtyard before him was dramatically different. Now fully restored, a magnificent fountain now gushed at its centre, while flowers of bougainvillea, oleander and almond filled the atrium with their scent, nodding their heads in the gentle breeze.
Marcus glanced behind him and shrank from the sunless nether world. He took two or three steps forward towards the sunny courtyard then stopped dead at the sound of weeping. There on the steps surrounding the Corinthian fountain Alectrona sat, tears spilling unchecked upon her face.
Marcus was astonished. But his heart and loins helped him rally quickly. Alectrona in the flesh, he thought doing his best to swallow his surprise. Something leapt inside of him like a bolt of lightning aimed at his groin.
“You’re here!” he blurted.
She looked up and he almost passed out.
“Yes,” she sniffed.
“Are you alright?” he asked.
She jumped up and threw her peach skin soft arms around his neck, her warm breath somehow finding its way beneath his collar and setting his chest hairs fluttering.
“I am conquered!” she sobbed. “Driven from the sky.”
Her lithe yet curvaceous body was too much of a distraction. Pressed up against his it was hard to think straight. He felt intoxicated.
“Surely it is temporary?” he murmured, his mouth almost touching her ear lobe.
Her hair caressed his face and he inhaled deeply. He thought he heard her breath catch in her throat. But he couldn’t be sure. Taking a huge gamble he endeavoured to cast aside all doubt by hoisting her up into his arms in order to remind himself that she was his.
Looking her straight in the eye he kissed her with toe curling abandon as he told her with his eyes what he wanted to do. She surrendered to him and wilted like a flower groaning and writhing with lust.
Suddenly, though, she was struggling to be free. He put her down, feeling confused.
“It is temporary,” she said, removing the golden clips from her hair. It tumbled loosely over her shoulders reminding him of his dream.
“Every time there is an eclipse I lose my place in the celestial realm,” she said. “My banishment only lasts for a short time. But I’m sure you can appreciate that it is eminently humiliating for one as powerful as I. There are however compensations, in that I can find comfort with whomever I choose.”
Marcus gaped at her completely speechless as she took a step towards him, her seductively draped robes falling to her feet and pooling at her ankles.
“So how long do you have exactly?” he said suddenly coming to life.
“Oh…about six minutes,” she said casually.
“So, no time for foreplay,” she whispered.
“Hm…We’ll see about that…” answered Marcus, already shucking down his dusty trousers.
Marcus! Maarcuus…” called a voice.
His eyes felt like lead and something was nipping at his arm. Opening his eyes was too much like hard work. They’d have to call back later, whoever they were. He fell asleep again for a little while but the voice was annoyingly persistent.
“Come on. Open your eyes,” it said.
Marcus frowned and tried to swallow but someone had replaced his throat with a scrunched up ball of parchment.
“Hey!” the voice shouted impatiently. “We’ve got work to do. Yeah. That’s right. Come on. Open your eyes.”
Simon sat at the edge of his bed grinning like the village idiot.
“Alectrona’s waiting for you, buddy. So you need to get in shape.”
Marcus stared. So it hadn’t been a dream after all. He looked down at the drip in his arm and winced.
“What happened to me?” he asked.
“Too much sun and not enough water. That’s about the size of it. You were hallucinating like a schizo,” replied Simon without preamble.
“You mean Alectrona didn’t become mortal during the eclipse? And…” suddenly Marcus trailed off. He stopped realising how ridiculous he sounded.
“And what?” asked Simon, looking at him pityingly.
“Well…I guess she didn’t really seduce me.”
Simon shook his head sadly.
“Nurse!” he shouted, to the woman just passing the door.
She put her head through to see what the problem was.
“I think we’re gonna need some more meds here,”said Simon, jabbing his thumb at Marcus.
“Ok. But I’m going to have to ask you to leave the room,” she said.
“Shit! How long is this going to take?” Simon asked the stunningly beautiful blonde nurse.
She fixed her bewitching cerulean blue eyes on Marcus and smiled warmly like a ray of golden sunshine.
“Oh, about six minutes,” she said brightly. “Give or take a few hours…”