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Galatea descends

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You come around a corner, away from the noise of the opening.

There is only one exhibit. She stands in the spotlight, with her back to you: a sweep of pale hair on paler skin, a column of emerald silk that ends in a pool at her feet. She might be the model in a perfume ad; the trophy wife at a formal gathering; one of the guests at this very opening, standing on an empty pedestal in some ironic act of artistic deconstruction --

You hesitate, about to turn away. Her hand balls into a fist.

"They told me you were coming."

The Gallery's End
Unlit, except for the single spotlight; unfurnished, except for the defining swath of black velvet. And a placard on a little stand.

On the pedestal is Galatea.

>read placard
Large cream letters on a black ground.

47. Galatea

White Thasos marble. Non-commissioned work by the late Pygmalion of Cyprus. (The artist has since committed suicide.)

Originally not an animate. The waking of this piece from its natural state remains unexplained.

>ask galatea about mortality
A pause. "Mine? Or yours?"

Before you can answer, she lifts one shoulder in a delicate shrug. "It doesn't matter which you mean, since I know nothing about either. You will go your way when the time comes; and I-- Who can die who is not alive?"

>ask galatea about orpheus
"He was the son of a muse, a poet and musician, the greatest to ever play the lyre. My artist told of his adventuring with the Argonauts, although he also said people liked to make up stories about their favorite heroes travelling with them when they grew tired of retelling old stories. He knew for a fact though that Orpheus was married to Eurydice, she was bitten by a viper and died, and gods were so touched by his mournful song that they told him to go to the Underworld and retrieve her. Hades, Persephone and even Cerberus were swayed by his music as well and he was allowed to take her back on the condition that he not look back until he left the Underworld. Unfortunately, he did so right before the exit."

>galatea, pray to hades
"I never saw my artist pray to him or offer any black sheep, and what reason would I have to pray to him? I'm not afraid of him being angry with me for failing to pay homage."

>tell galatea about suicide
"The artist," you say gently. "It says on the placard that he has committed suicide."

Her head moves -- as though she were going to turn and look at you properly -- but then she thinks better of it. Time passes, but she doesn't move. You just stand there, looking uselessly at the back of her head and wishing that she'd turn around.

"I don't know," she says in a strained voice, "what I am supposed to do now. I only exist because of him, for his sake--"

You bite back a remark on the virtues of modern feminism.

"No wonder," she says quietly. "I still hear him screaming when I wake up at night. It is his ghost that screams at me."

>ask galatea about mortality
"I wish I could die," she says. "I wish I had been born an ordinary woman, and could depart as ordinary women do, and follow him.

"But he made me -- does it say this too, on that placard? -- he made me of marble of Thasos, the hardest kind. He told me often enough: he made me to endure."

She's silent for a long time. "But after all--" she whispers, her voice speculative. "What do I owe him? To endure in the heart, or only as he made me?"

You shiver in a sudden blast of air conditioning.

You watch, bemused, wondering what sort of stunt this is.

>galatea, pray to demeter
"She might let me into the Underworld, but if my artist killed himself because of me, perhaps he won't want to see me."

>galatea, pray to demeter
"I would like to say goodbye. But I have so many other questions first! And I'd be miserable if I didn't at least try."

"Io, Demeter, hear my prayer! Open up the earth, grant me access to the realm of your daughter, so I too am not forever separate from one of its inhabitants!"

The curtains separate, revealing a tunnel. You're certain that wasn't there before. Galatea steps down, and enters. The curtains close, and on examination cover nothing but a wall. Although you know this gallery well enough not to bother, you knock on the wall anyway, confirming there is no way for a tunnel to hide behind it.

You head home feeling quite privileged as a critic. Often you can recommend ways to get the most interesting behaviors from animates (friendship with artists like Komininsky has its perks), but no one else will ever get to experience that.