Monday, August 15, 2011

Tuesday Tales #2 - Museum

This is my second Tuesday Tales, where writers are invited to create a story based on a prompt. This week's prompt is "museum". My Tuesday Tales are part of a untitled serial. Make sure to read all back issues before reading this one. Below is my list of previous Tuesday Tales.  Enjoy!

Tuesday Tales #1 - Travel Agent

The Artifact
By Elizabeth Black

Chapter Two - Museum

Victoria tore through the boxes in the storage room. "If I don't find this piece before the exhibit opens I'm dead meat. It's holding the entire exhibit together and without it the show will fall like a load of bricks." She wiped nervous sweat from her forehead with the back of her hand. "Do you have any idea what could happen if the artifact gets in the wrong hands? It inspires love but also out-of-control lust. We must find it before it's too late!"

She shoved detritus around inside the box as if jostling the packing material would magically make it appear, a futile thought if she ever had one. "The artifact wasn't in the crate?"

"No. The crate was empty when I opened it." Rod Jenkins sounded like he swallowed his tongue. The poor man was far beyond embarrassment. He entered sheer-fright-over-losing-his-job territory. Victoria was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, but she knew the benefactors would not be as sympathetic.

She inspected the holes in the wood where the slats had been nailed together. "You got a magnifying glass? I need a closer look."

She held the glass close to the wood and noticed two large holes next to each other. The center slat also had two large holes similarly spaced apart.

"This box has been opened and resealed. The artifact was inside but removed by someone in this museum. We must find out by whom and why!" A sickening thought crossed her mind. "Has anything else been removed from the exhibit?"

All the color flowed out of Rod's face, leaving his skin the color of oatmeal, even with a tan. "I don't know... I don't think so. Want to make a sweep to be sure?"

"Yes. Follow me. Let's give the entire exhibit a walk-through."

They entered the exhibit beneath two tall trailing red rose bushes that reached the ceiling. Red roses, the flower that spoke of love in nearly all languages. Victoria passed by displays, counting her artifacts as she walked. An illuminated manuscript of the Song Of Solomon, the most sensuous book in the Bible. The Venus of Willendorf. The German stone phallus carved 28,000 years ago, the oldest such known depiction of a penis in history. Researchers were unsure how the phallus was used sexually - if it was used at all that way - but it was used to sharpen flints. Germany allowed the sculpture to leave the country for the museum's grand opening. 

A second display area revealed terra cotta Buddhas with enlarged bellies women rubbed in the superstitious hope they would become pregnant. Paintings, etchings, and frescos depicting various exotic sex positions filled the walls. A reproduction of a portion of the Kama Sutra took up an entire room. A greenhouse with live plants on display used as aphrodisiacs. A display of Sumatran love beetles, which when toasted and ground acted as an love potion that tasted like oranges. These beetles were used in Sumatra as far back as the 15th century to churn the sexual desires of men and women. Down another meandering hallway, Victoria found exotic "French letters" and turn-of-the-century vibrators used to treat women for "hysteria" by bringing them to orgasm. A steel male chastity belt dating back to 1860 sat in a lonely corner away from the electronic toys and framed ads of vibrators from American 1920s Sears catalogues.

She walked to the dead center of the exhibit and the place of honor of her grand display and chewed the corner of her lip. She stood before the velvet-covered pillar and squeezed her eyes shut, hoping that when she opened them her prized artifact would magically appear but she knew nothing of the sort would happen. Where the keystone of the exhibit should sit instead rested an empty bottle of her favorite champagne, Krug NV Grand Cuvee Brut. The message was obviously meant for her but she had no idea who left it or why. As far as she was concerned, there was nothing to celebrate. Whoever thought it would be amusing to remind her of the artifact's disappearance in such a crass manner would pay a price she would choose herself.

Where was her Aphrodite of Rhodes?

She saw the lovely marble statue in her mind's eye and her heart skipped a beat, enraptured by the warring memories of beauty and lust. Hewn of delicate marble that turned pink when wet, the Aphrodite of Rhodes stood only three feet tall. The buxom depiction of the goddess of love stretched across a bench, head thrown back, upturned face with eyes half closed and mouth half open in an expression of ecstasy. One arm rested behind her head and her other hand caressed her left breast, pinching the nipple.

No one knew who carved it but most scholars believed it to be Greek in origin. The design was much more erotic than was common for the time. The earliest known owner of the statue was Alexander the Great. Since then, Aphrodite had seduced Julius Caesar and (quite fitting) Caligula. King Louis XIV presented Aphrodite to his Marie Antoinette on their wedding day. After the French revolution, the statue was returned to Greece where it was displayed for the world to see. The Grecian government agreed to loan the statue to the Caribbean Museum of Natural History for its grand opening show Love And Sex Throughout The Ages.

Rumors of the statue's power to inspire lust and love existed ever since she owned Alexander the Great. Acquiring the statue, even for a short period of time, brought lovers closer together. One story went that an assistant spent an evening cleaning Aphrodite before attending a party and reported two days later that for the first time in her life she went home with four men ... and two women! She had taken two days off out of sheer exhaustion. Merely coming in contact with this seductress hewn in marble inspired fevered gropings, wet kisses, and heavy-duty baby making.

And now she was missing. Damn the lax security in paradise!

"Victoria? You have a phone call." A lab assistant she didn't know walked into the exhibit behind her. "It's the Museum of Greek Antiquities."

Oh, great. I'm in for it now. She nodded and raced to her office. Skin crawling with mortification, she answered the phone. 

"Victoria Crenshaw." Her mouth was so dry the words stuck to her cheeks like peanut butter.

"Ms. Crenshaw, this is Ari Mavromihalis. I'm checking on the condition of our package."

"It arrived this morning, Mr. Mavromihalis."

"She's a thing of beauty, is she not?"

"Yes, she is." Too bad I didn't get to see her in person. "She will be the crown jewel of the exhibition. Thank you so much for allowing us to showcase her."

"She hasn't been out of the country in many years and I knew this exhibit would be an ideal reintroduction for her. We've decided to allow her to go on tour with our rarest antiquities. A world tour. Once you return her to us she will leave our lovely shores again."

"Thank you for giving us the opportunity to show her to the world." Too bad all the world will see is an empty champagne bottle. Victoria wanted to cry, the anguish and fear tearing at her very being threatened to spill over to her phone call. Stalling for time, she wished the man would hang up and let her get back to worrying herself to a dozen ulcers. 

"You know of her charms, her ability to inspire lust and love in all who come in contact with her?"

"Yes, I'm aware of them."

"Don't let her out of your sight. The Greek government can't be held responsible for any crimes of passion or other passionate events."

Oh, where, where, where is that damned statue? To hell with the legends. Her only concern was finding it and preventing herself and the museum from being sued.

"I must ring off now, Ms. Crenshaw. We shall speak soon. In person. I shall arrive in Nassau in three days, when your exhibition opens. A pleasant surprise, no?"

A pleasant surprise? No! "I look forward to it Mr. Mavromihalis. I must ring off. I want this exhibition to be the best ever. People will talk about it for years to come." Oh, they'll talk about it, alright. The exhibit that makes world news for losing one of the most infamous sculptures in existence.

She slipped the phone into its receiver and leaned against her desk, shoulders slumped and head hanging in shame and terror. I'm not going to find her, am I? She wallowed in her misery with so much abandon she didn't hear the footsteps behind her as someone walked into her office.

"Vic, it's good to see you, although I wish it were under better circumstances."

Her skin tingled at the familiar voice. She straightened her body, every nerve alert, every hair standing on end, every beat of her heart thundering in her ears. No, it couldn't be. Not after eight years. She had not seen his name on the work roster for the exhibition. If she had, she would have demanded he be removed from it and sent as far away from her as possible. Heart pounding in her throat so hard she couldn't swallow, she slowly turned to face her greatest regret.

Standing before her as drop-dead gorgeous and as smug as he had been the day he walked out on her was her ex-husband. 

"Julian Archer, you son of a bitch! What the hell are you doing here, and where is my artifact?"


  1. Great postl, Elizabeth. Can't wait for next week. I want this staue. Where can I get one?

  2. Oh my! The missing love-inspiring artifact has me on the edge of my seat. What a great story! Can't wait to read more next week. Superb.

  3. Glad you both like it. The touch-it-it-makes-you-horny aspect of the statue came to me while I was writing this chapter. Wait until next week - the prompt is "kiss". Is it getting hot in here? :)

    I want one of these statue's too. The turns-pink-when-wet aspect is real. The steps of the Museum Of Natural History at the Smithsonian do that. Also, every artifact I described except for the beetles is real. :D

  4. This is so good... I'm curious to know what happens next week, and I really, really, really want to know where that statue went...

    ...and if anything else in the collection might come into play. :)