written and illustrated by Iron Eater
When Nur took the job with the Mietz Foundation they had talked a lot about the cultural importance of the pieces the organization restored, with a side helping of preserving the past for the sake of the future. That alone would have been enough, but the soupçon of appealing to her inner (and sometimes outer) raging feminist by mentioning how crucial it was that depictions of women throughout antiquity be made more public was enough to seal the deal. The benefits were good, the people were lovely, and there were even plentiful chances to work with the caliber of artifacts she’d only dreamed of seeing when she was just a baby curator.
The problem, of course, was that it was boring.
Actually traveling across the globe and dealing with people the world over wasn’t the boring part. Nur always counted down the days until her next flight and carefully scheduled her work around every possible chance to visit local museums, photograph everything, and eat whatever regional cuisine people would offer her — at least until her guts inevitably cried out for the fruits of her homeland and she spent the last few days of each assignment gorging on Chee-tos in her hotel room. She’d seen enough fascinating artwork to last a lifetime, and there was still more out there waiting to be appreciated. No, what actually enabled the globetrotting in the first place involved a lot of long, monotonous hours of staring at progress bars and making sure nothing happened to the pieces during scans.
Art restoration had advanced by leaps and bounds beyond how it was in her grandmother’s day, back when cleaning paintings required delicate touches and even more delicate chemicals and bringing sculptures back to their former glory was even less of an option, but that didn’t make running tests on whether or not statuary could survive repairs any more exciting.
Today Nur had been left twiddling her thumbs for two whole hours as her more bureaucracy-minded colleagues hashed out a deal with the pinch-faced men from Kuala Lumpur who had sponsored the foundation’s visit to Malaysia in the first place. She hadn’t been told the details, but the bits Nur was able to piece together implied that there had been quite a lot of illegally-obtained artworks seized from someone’s–they were always careful never to say whose–estate. There was something about undiscovered wats plundered for their treasures in there somewhere. It all sounded like something from a pulp adventure novel, which was, in Nur’s opinion, why she was waiting for permission to start filling out spreadsheets instead of running through trapped ruins with a golden idol in her hand.
She was about to start her second pot of hotplate tea for the day when she finally received the go-ahead. About time, she thought as workers wheeled a heavily-padded crate into her lab. Just because we’re working on something carved out of stone doesn’t mean everything else should work at a geologic pace, too.
The contents of the crate, according to the packet she’d received all the way back in the States, were composed of a wall segment from the as-of-yet-unnamed wat that the equally-nameless rich asshole had converted into status symbols. The photos showed a dancing female figure in stylized jewelry. It reminded Nur of the apsaras she’d seen on her visit to Cambodia, though given that it was said to be from a temple somewhere on the Malay Peninsula she wasn’t sure if that was the right term. There were quite a lot of pictures from various angles. Nur paused on a page featuring a close-up of the figure’s serenely smiling face a little longer than she needed to. Usually she appreciated the artwork on a strictly aesthetic level, but the hint of knowing mischief about the figure’s eyes caught her eye. Modern celebrities could learn a thing or two from the past.
Shame she’s not flesh and blood, she thought. I wouldn’t kick her out of bed for eating crackers.
Once the workers had fully unpacked the statue and put away all the bits that had protected it during its trip, Nur was left alone with her work. She fired up a few of the longer-running integrity-estimation programs based on her packet contents before taking a closer look at the artifact.
It–she, Nur found herself thinking–was taller than an actual person and didn’t quite match any particular style Nur had encountered before in her career, but she was beautifully made: long necklaces and flower garlands that the preliminary tests claimed bore traces of ancient paint, bangles so delicate Nur could almost hear them clatter together, and the breasts almost the size of Nur’s head didn’t hurt her appreciation any. The statue was meant to look artful rather than realistic, and in Nur’s opinion it was a good move on the sculptor’s part. She could have admired it for hours, easily, but there was work to be done; with a sigh, Nur pulled herself away from her reverie and began going over her checklist.
She followed procedure to the letter as she recorded every measurement she took and every time she interacted with the statue directly. It matched the dimensions she’d been provided, as well as the approximate description. Most notably–and most distressing, from a professional standpoint–the figure was in a different position than the reference photos showed, with her arms stretched over her head instead of arranged demurely before her.
Nur groaned; she’d had to handle artifact mix-ups in the past and it had never been a pleasant experience. She squinted at the materials packet, hunting for any sign that someone had simply transposed a few serial numbers, when she noticed something even more peculiar than the swapped statue: every other detail, from the wear on the rock to a faint discolored patch to the jagged edges where the segment had been pried from its original wall, was a perfect match. Had someone Photoshopped the prep images? Was one of the techs just playing a prank on her?
Out of the corner of her eye, she could have sworn she saw the figure twitch in place.
It was impossible, of course, but the nice, predictable job had already gotten a little bit strange, and Nur’s mind was happy to entertain the most illogical of concepts. She backed up to get a full view of the figure again, and to much less surprise than she would have expected the statue’s arms were no longer over her head. The dancing woman now had her hands behind her neck with her fingers laced against the nape. That wasn’t a pose in the photos, either.
Nur reached out and brushed her fingertips across the statue’s thigh. It certainly felt like stone, smooth and cool as a piece of marble, but when Nur exerted the slightest amount of pressure the surface gave as easily as flesh. She looked at her hand in puzzlement. There wasn’t even a hint of dust on her fingers, and given how long the statue had stood in the elements there should have been at least something there before the evaluation process had cleared it for cleaning. She narrowed her eyes and pursed her lips in thought. It couldn’t be that her glasses were dirty, since she’d polished them just that morning on the tail of her shirt, and it couldn’t be a trick of the light, since the lab used some of the harshest bulbs imaginable to ensure no smudge went unpunished during the process itself. She huffed in frustration. “This is really weird.”
“It’s certainly a change for me, too,” said the statue in a pleasant contralto.
Nur froze. “Wuhf?” she replied. She had never been much of a wordsmith at the best of times, and having audio hallucinations on the job made it no easier. Maybe she’d mixed up a bad pot of tea that morning? Who knew what they put in these local blends…
“It’s not every day I’m put in a box and taken out somewhere else entirely,” said the statue. “And it’s been simply years since a young woman laid hands on me. I don’t mind, of course.” Her distant smile warmed and the corners of her eyes crinkled. It was like sunlight breaking through the trees. There was meaning behind that smile that Nur had learned to spot over the course of the many false starts and missed signals that made up her college years. She broke out in a nervous sweat as she became intensely aware of how long it had been since she’d ironed her shirt and how many days she’d been wearing the same pair of work slacks.
Well, maybe there was some way to salvage this. Nur took a few steps back to give the statue a little more personal space. “Sorry! I’m sorry. I wasn’t expecting you to, uh, talk.” She cleared her throat and tried not to look directly at the statue’s nipples; given how they were at eye level, this wasn’t as easy as it sounded. “My name’s Nur. I was supposed to be figuring out the proper way to…” How to explain art restoration to a piece of talking architecture? “…to clean you and your wall without hurting you. Um. What should I call you, exactly?”
The statue laughed, causing a truly astonishing reaction in her torso region; Nur’s back ached in sympathy even as she found it hard to look anywhere else. Her voice was like smoked honey. “You little ones have so many words for us. Why don’t you choose one?”
“You mean you’re really an apsara?”
“Perhaps not the way you think, but it is as good a name as any. Call me Apsara, then, my dear Nur.”
Nur pushed her glasses up the bridge of her nose and fidgeted. None of her professional journals ever mentioned anything about being maybe-flirted-with by an object of archaeological import. How was someone expected to act in this situation? Were you supposed to make offerings to them first? Maybe ask them out to dinner? Did thousand-year-old statues even understand the concept of “dinner” in the first place?
Apsara must have had more experience with this sort of thing than Nur did, because she crossed her arms under her breasts and arched her back meaningfully. “Don’t be shy, dear one. You may look all you like.” Her eyes glittered. “And touch, if you so choose.”
This was not where Nur had expected to see herself when she’d woken up that morning. At least she didn’t have to worry about the parts of an encounter that revolved around figuring out whether or not the woman she was currently crushing on was queer enough to reciprocate.
“You’re gorgeous,” she breathed. Apsara’s amazing rack–which was still very distracting–was only one part of the picture, after all, and focusing solely on it would be to ignore her wide hips, or the graceful lines of her neck, or the way that her sculptor–assuming she’d actually had one in the first place–had given her stomach just enough fullness to look invitingly soft. Nur took a step closer. Might as well get right to the point, especially since who knew when one of her co-workers might drop by to check on her progress. “Would you mind if I did more than just touch?” she asked, craning her neck up to meet Apsara’s irisless gaze.
Apsara chuckled. “I would be delighted.”
It had been a long work trip. Nur didn’t need to be told twice.
Apsara was sculpted with loving detail, and as Nur brushed away the stony skirts draped from Apsara’s belt she found proof that the craftsmanship went above and beyond the petals on the flowers; the gentle swell of Apsara’s mons was lined with the subtle contours of carved curls, and Nur could even make out a hint of hooded clit peeking out from between Apsara’s legs. She looked up again, this time more nervously, but Apsara did nothing but give her a nod. Nur reached out and gently parted Apsara’s lips with her finger. This, too, felt more like cool marble than a person, but the soft sound Apsara made was familiar enough. Emboldened, Nur continued.
Her hand toyed with Apsara’s labia, pulling them further open before she ran her thumb along their inside, and when her fingers came away moist Nur learned the answer to the question of whether or not a woman made of rock could get wet. She touched them to her tongue and was rewarded with a taste that was completely unlike anything she’d tried before, somewhere between the expected feminine juices and licking a battery. How exactly a statue produced lubricant was not something she cared to think about too much. Much like the rest of the situation, it was weird, but not unpleasant. Nur crooked her index finger and went exploring again.
It had been entirely too long since Nur had been in agreeable company, but fingering another woman was more or less like riding a bicycle, sans the risk of skinned knees. First one digit, then two, then a quick kiss on the clit before adding a third. Usually a bed or couch was involved in this sort of thing, but Apsara’s being so tall helped keep it from being too uncomfortable.
If Nur was rusty then Apsara didn’t seem to care, given the satisfied sounds she kept making, but hands alone felt to Nur like she just wasn’t trying. There was also the matter of how soft and enticing the breasts overhead looked. She craned her neck. Reaching Apsara’s nipples was possible, but would involve some standing on tiptoe if she wanted to do anything other than tweak them. How irritating. Nur opted instead to redouble her efforts with her hands, grouping her fingers together like a little hand puppet before working her way into Apsara’s cool, but no less inviting, pussy. This got a startled-but-happy “oh!” out of the statue, which soon became a chorus of little vowel sounds as Nur put her lips over Apsara’s clit. While she was focused mostly on the matter at hand (and mouth), Nur noticed how Apsara’s hands clawed up with pleasure, and how the wall ruffled like bedsheets at her touch. She only had a few moments to be smug before Apsara came.
Later on nobody would really be sure what had caused the brief earthquake that rattled the lab, but save for a few chipped coffee cups and the demise of a potted plant left too close to the edge of a cabinet, there was no lasting damage. Nur would brush it off and say something about being glad the statue wasn’t damaged. It wasn’t even technically a lie.
Figuring out how Apsara could return the favor was a little tricky, given certain limitations of the parties involved.
“Apsara? Do we have to do this standing up?”
“I cannot leave my wall any more than you can step out of your own skin, I fear. Do you still want to?”
“Of course I do! I just don’t know if you could, uh, reach. How does that work, anyway?”
“I can embrace you, and nudge your legs with my own, but most of me must remain touching the bricks. Perhaps there is some other method we could try?”
“I am not doing a handstand.”
She ended up wheeling her office chair over so she could kneel on something while Apsara went to work, Nur snuggled up against her and clinging as best she could to someone partially attached to a chunk of rock. Hands that had distorted stone caressed Nur’s body and cradled her face with such delicate touches that she might have forgotten Apsara was a statue. Actually having her clit stroked was electrifying. Apsara took her time teasing and half-touching, and it wasn’t until Nur whined at yet another near-miss that Apsara slid a finger inside her.
It was such a soft, distinctive feeling as the cool stone pressed up and into her rhythmically; based on how effective the results were, she suspected that at least one of her personal toys was going to start being kept in a baggie in the fridge. Apsara’s other hand undid the pins keeping Nur’s bun in place, letting her dark hair brush against her shoulders as Apsara ran her fingers through it. It sent a shiver down Nur’s spine each time. There was just enough variation between the hand on her hair and the hand in her pussy to make things frustratingly, wonderfully uneven.
“You are a beautiful woman, little Nur,” said Apsara in her ear. “You do not hide yourself, nor do you try to be someone you are not. My kind have always looked fondly on thinkers and dreamers, and you are delightfully both. Had you lived in my day, I am certain you would have been a fine priestess.”
Sure, it might have been at the tail end of a drought, and sure, she might have been a little overawed by a towering and quite literally statuesque woman offering carnal favors, but Nur had to admit it was some of the best sex she’d had in her life.
Nur leaned against Apsara’s chest as she felt herself closing in on an orgasm and let herself melt into Apsara’s breasts. She’d never been the sort to be loud when she came, and this time was no different, though she certainly felt her face screw up in concentration as Apsara coaxed a few breathy squeaks out of her. The earth might not have moved for anyone else, but as far as Nur was concerned she’d been at the epicenter of a truly magnificent quake.
Later on, after she’d fixed her hair and tucked her shirt back in, Nur leaned back in her chair and looked up at Apsara with clipboard in hand.
“That was amazing, Apsara, it really was, but I do have to do my job,” she said, sheepishly.
“And what might that be?”
Nur chewed on the end of her pen. “Evaluating you to make sure we restore you to your proper glory. Seeing if your stone reacts badly to any chemicals we’d use. Checking for what colors you were painted. That sort of thing.” She had more than a few questions of her own–why Apsara was alive, what wat she was actually from, why she could speak English, how she knew Nur was a lesbian–but those wouldn’t make progress towards Nur’s paycheck.
Apsara laughed. “Is that all? My dear little Nur, you are far too used to artifacts that don’t talk back.” Nur couldn’t argue with that.
Later on, Alice from PR (fresh from wrangling the pinch-faced men from Kuala Lumpur again) stopped by the lab.
“Knock knock,” she said, not bothering to knock. “How’re the tests coming along?”
“Fantastic,” said Nur. She was staring at a progress bar in fascination while twiddling an empty test tube between her fingers.
Alice raised her eyebrows. “Fantastic already? Great to hear! What do I tell the suits, though?”
Nur pushed up her glasses with determined enthusiasm. “If my readings are correct, I might be able to recreate the pigments used to color the statue back in its prime, and we could restore this work of art to something the whole foundation would be proud of! I’ll have to run more tests, of course, so I’ve already scheduled more time using the lab,” she said.
And next time, she thought to herself, I’m bringing a stepladder.