Black Petals Issue #77 Fall, 2016

The Apsara
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The Apsara-Fiction by Jessie Johnson

Fiction by Jessie Johnson

apsara.jpg

The Apsara

 

  By Jessie Johnson

 

An idol idyll   

 

 

Devon Myers sat patiently at the auction waiting for the only item he wanted to come up for bid. His was no backwoods, small town auction, and the auctioneer was no fast-talking hick trying to pawn off Aunt Myrtle’s tea set in the shape of farm animals. This auction required a dress code and proof of finance. So far, Devon saw two Picassos, one Monet, a full suit of armor belonging to Phillip, Duke of Burgundy, a dagger owned by Giovanni Borgia, a lyre traced back to Aelius Dionysius, and an unpublished work by Sir Frances Bacon.

Even though all these items were very fine, none of them appealed to Devon. 

The auctioneer’s assistant, a pretty brunette, brought out a large box around 24 inches tall and 15 inches wide and set it down on the table. This was why he’d driven 150 miles. She opened the box, and inside the purple velvet interior sat the sandstone statue of a Hindu female frozen in a dance pose. 

 “Ladies and gentlemen, what we have for our last item is a 12th century Hindu Apsara. What makes this item so rare is that it is flawless. You will find no chips or abrasions. Bids will start at five thousand,” said the Auctioneer.

 Devon raised his hand and the bid rose to six. The bids kept coming and rising and Devon kept raising his hand each time someone else bid. At ten thousand the majority stopped.

 “Eighteen,” said Devon. Only Devon and two others remained in the bidding war. One called out for twenty-two thousand. The third dropped out. Bound and determined to own this piece, Devon called out for twenty-eight. There were a few murmurs in the crowd.

 “We have twenty-eight thousand. Do I have thirty? Twenty-nine? Sold to Mr. Devon Myers for twenty-eight thousand dollars.” He wrote a check for the full amount, and the assistant handed him the Apsara. “Thank you, Mr. Myers. It is always a pleasure to do business with you,” said the Auctioneer.

 “Likewise, good sir. Please keep me posted if you come across any other items that you believe I might be interested in. You know my tastes.”

 Over the years, Devon had gathered many acquisitions through this man and still did not know his name. No one did. To everyone who had dealings with him he was simply known as the Auctioneer. All of his auctions were private and by invitation only. Almost everything sold was done so illegally. The items purchased were all undocumented and belonged in museums.

 Devon owned a sprawling six-bedroom (though only used one), six-and-a-half bath home with five-car garage. He pulled into the last bay, grabbed the box, and went inside. His home resembled a museum curator’s wet dream. Every room held rare artifacts from all over the world, some in glass cases and others on pedestals.

 He placed the box on the coffee table and sat down. Grinning, he felt like a kid set loose in a Toys R Us. Opening the box, he admired his new prize. This he would place above all the others items he owned. His fingers brushed across the surface, and he quickly pulled his hand back and frowned. If he wasn’t mistaken it felt warm. Taking the statue out of the box, he found that it indeed felt almost flesh warm. Very strange, I’ve never felt anything like this before. Perhaps it’s the box. He set the statue down and checked the box. The inside was cool.

Not willing to let this strange experience cloud his good mood, Devon picked up the statue and placed it upon the mantel of his fireplace. Sitting back down on the couch, he stared at his newest addition, completely enraptured with it. He possessed other artifacts thousands of years older than this, such as Egyptian, Sumerian, Byzantine, Incan, yet he placed the Apsara above them all. Truth be told, he didn’t even know what an Apsara was. Devon had received a phone call from the Auctioneer who informed Devon of what he had. Not able to pass this up, Devon informed the Auctioneer that he would be there to bid. Glancing at his watch, he saw that it was really late and he had a meeting tomorrow morning…

 

 In his dream he lay in bed as this beautiful woman, wearing a loose, blue gossamer dress slit up one side to the thigh, walked in from his bathroom. The muted light from the bathroom, falling over her nut-brown skin and silky raven hair, threw her completely into the realm of the exotic. She gracefully sauntered to the side of the bed. Leaning over, she gently brushed the side of his face with her hand, leaned in close, and placed a light kiss upon his lips, then whispered in his ear, “Tuma mere ho.”

 She backed away slowly and begin to twist and turn and move her arms to a soft tune only she could hear. Devon was so mesmerized by this creature’s beauty that it seemed perfectly normal for her to be here. Too soon she faded away as the sound of his alarm brought him into the waking world.

Reaching over, he turned off the alarm and flopped back onto the bed. His mouth felt Sahara dry and his eyes felt as if he washed them in sand. Devon swore he was more tired now than when he went to bed. Sleep or no sleep, he had a meeting. Just because he owned the company didn’t mean he could slack off. Getting out of bed he groaned. Even his muscles were sore. On his way to the kitchen he stopped to take a quick look at his Apsara. No matter how hard he tried, he could not get that woman in his dreams out of his head. After a glass of orange juice and a shower he was off to work.

 

Devon’s secretary welcomed him with a cheery good morning, and in returned he mumbled a half intelligible morning. Closing the office door, he sat down in his chair, leaned back, and, within three minutes, fell asleep. 

“Devon, Devon. Come on man, wake up!”

Devon quickly sat up. “Huh? What? Oh, it’s you.”

“Yeah, it’s me. We have a meeting in five minutes, remember?” said Paul. Devon’s brow furrowed as he looked at his project manager trying to process what he was saying.

“Corrigan-Schoffer account, remember?”

“Right, the lawyers. New office building.”

“Yeah, you going to be ok?”

“I’ll be fine.” Devon rubbed his eyes, then stood up.

 Even though the meeting ended with a signed contract, it was a grueling two hours for Devon. It took everything he had to keep his eyes open and his mind on the meeting and not on the dream girl. They walked back to Devon’s office. Normally after a meeting that ended with a contract signing Devon would slap Paul on the back and pour two glasses of celebratory wine. Instead, he collapsed into his chair and Paul took a seat.

 “Devon, you coming down with something? You really are out of it today.” He and Paul had been friends since college. If he could talk to anyone it would be Paul.

“Have you ever had one of those dreams that, no matter how hard you tried, you just couldn’t get it out of your head and shake it off?”

“No, I can’t say that I have. What did you dream of last night?”

“This very exotic girl walked out of my bathroom wearing some type of sheer dress. She came up to me while I was lying in bed, bent over, and kissed—”

“Wait,” Paul held up his hands, “I don’t need to hear about your nighttime exploits in dreamland.”

“No, nothing like that. She whispered something in my ear—don’t know what—then started dancing in the bedroom.”

“That’s it? You’re all bent out of shape because some girl whispers in your ear and does a jig in your room?”

“Well, when you put it that way.”

“Go home and get some rest.”

“Good idea. I think I’ll do that.”

When Devon arrived home he got as far as the couch. Leaning back, he stared at the Apsara. He couldn’t take his eyes off it. He was fully obsessed and didn’t care. His whole house could burn down and yet, as long as he saved the Apsara, he would be fine with that. Devon’s eyes grew heavy and he heard light lilting laughter. A hand ran lightly through his hair; lips caressed his cheek. A soft voice whispered in his ear. “Tuma mere ho.”

Opening his eyes, he saw his exotic beauty beside him. “What is that you said?”

Tilting her head slightly to the side, she smiled. With feline grace she backed away from the couch and twirled into a dance, her blue gossamer dress flying around her. He could not believe such a beautiful creature could exist.

“What was it that you said?”

“Tuma mere ho.”

“I don’t understand.”

“You will.”

“You can speak English?”

“I can speak many of your languages.”

“You are so beautiful. Too bad this is just a dream.”

“Is it?”

She straddled his lap, took his face in both of her hands, and kissed him deeply. His arms wrapped around her and he brought her in closer. Breaking the kiss, she stood and swayed back and forth in a slow hypnotic rhythm.

Trying to get up, he found that he was too weak. All he could do was follow her with his eyes and let the rhythm wash over him. Slowly she begin to fade.

“Wait, where are you going? Please, don’t go.” She smiled and disappeared.

The noise of his alarm clock brought him awake. He rolled over to turn it off, then remembered that he had been on the couch. How had he gotten to his bed? Crawling out of bed was a Herculean feat. Trying to stand up sent him falling back onto the bed. What the hell? Using the nightstand to help brace himself, he made it up on shaking legs. I must be coming down with something. As he walked his legs grew a little stronger. In the bathroom mirror he saw that the bottoms of his eyes were dark and his sclera bloodshot. His cell phone began to ring. Going back to the nightstand he picked up his phone. The caller ID said it was Paul.

“Hey, Paul, what’s up?”

“Just wondering if you’re going to make it into work today”

“Yeah, of course. Why wouldn’t I?”

“We have the Japanese delegation coming in at two and, since you didn’t make it in yesterday, I was wondering if you’re going to be able to make it today. If not, I can handle it; it’s ok.”

What the hell is Paul talking about? I was at work yesterday. We signed the contract for those lawyers.

“Paul, you do realize I took off yesterday, right?”

“I figured you probably took an extra day to rest.”

“No, I was at work yesterday and then took off after the meeting with the lawyers.”

“I’m afraid not, Devon. That was Monday. Today is Wednesday.”

That can’t be right. He looked at his watch. It read Wednesday. That’s not right; it can’t be.

“You coming in?”

“Yeah, Paul. I’ll be there.”

“Hey look, if you’re not feeling good…”

“No, I’m fine. I’ll be there.” Devon hung up. He shook his head. No. This can’t be right. I’ve been out for two days? That’s just not possible. It must be some bug, maybe the flu. Still trying to wrap his head around losing a whole day, he got ready for work.

 

Throughout the morning, Devon fought his fatigue, but kept losing by dozing off and on. At ten minutes till the meeting Paul came in to let him know that the Japanese entourage was in meeting room 305 and ready to start. Everything was set to begin.

“Jesus, Devon, you look like crap! You sure you’re ready for this?”

“Yes.”

“I mean if you’re not feeling well I can handle this. This will give us our first foothold for international contracts.”

“I said I got this.”

But Devon didn’t have it, not by a long shot. Halfway through the presentation, not only did Devon fall asleep, but also began to snore. Paul did his best to work around this but that just was not possible. He apologized profusely and tried to reschedule the meeting, explaining that Devon had not been feeling very well the past couple of days and that he had been working really hard for this. No matter what Paul said, the Japanese businessmen would not accept his apology. Very offended, they said that since Mr. Devon did not think that their time was valuable enough to stay awake, they would seek someone else who would appreciate having them as clients. Paul wanted to wake Devon up and throttle the hell out of him.

Five months of work on a multimillion dollar contract are down the drain because the bastard didn’t take this seriously. Yeah, it might be his company and he can do what the hell he wants, but when those actions start affecting our names that’s a whole different story.

Paul left Devon where he was and walked out for fear that if he stayed in the same room with him any longer he would knock the hell out of him and not give one damn bit about his status as friend and boss.

 

Devon woke up with a start to an empty meeting room. Hasn’t the meeting started yet? He looked at his watch and it said 4:30 pm. Oh hell! He got up and walked over to Paul’s office.

“Hey,” said Devon. Paul looked up from his desk and went back to the papers there and typed on his computer, completely ignoring his boss.

“I take it the meeting didn’t go so well.”

“You think? And what gave you that impression? How could the owner of the company falling asleep during the most important meeting of the company’s history not have impressed the clients? What the hell were you thinking? You insulted them and blew our multimillion dollar chance. Do you have any idea what you have done? Not only have you caused irreparable damage to this firm, because, believe me, word will spread about how the owner likes to nap through meetings with clients, you’ve hurt my reputation as well. What the hell were you thinking?”

“Hey, hold on now. I may not have been feeling good, but I did attempt it. You’re the Projects Manager here. If you think you’re all that good, why didn’t you save this project?”

“God himself couldn’t have saved that contract.”

They stared at each other, neither one giving ground. Paul was furious with Devon and his erratic behavior. Devon was on the verge of telling Paul to get the hell out; friend or not, he would fire him. No one, absolutely no one under his employment should address him in such a manner. This was his company, not Paul’s.

“So I guess you’re going to fire me now.”

“I should. We’ve known each other for a very long time, Paul. But that does not give you the right to talk to me like that. I’m still the owner of this company, which means I’m still your boss, regardless of what happened or what I do or don’t do. I’ll overlook this one outburst, but only because of the great work you’ve done for this company in the past. Don’t let it happen again.” He picked up Paul’s desk phone and called his secretary.

“Tamara, I am leaving for the day.” He hung up and walked out without another word.

 

Devon tried to put Paul’s outburst behind him, but couldn’t. It didn’t matter how good Paul was, he should have fired him for insubordination. Lucky no one outside the office had overheard, or he would have fired him on the spot. Having others hear that and not do anything about it would have sent a message to everyone else that he was weak and others would start to think they could get away with things. Devon ran a tight ship. He expected everyone to perform at their best, all the way down to the janitorial staff, and they were all well paid with the best benefits he could find.

But Devon wasn’t performing at his best and knew it. That was another reason he didn’t fire Paul. He would have set a double standard. Do as I say, not as I do. Even if no one heard it, others would have seen Paul taking all his stuff home. Questions would be asked, and there was a good chance that Paul would have answered them. Paul might be a friend, but was becoming a risk using friendship as a crutch to get away with that outburst. What else might he do? Yes, it’s time for Paul to go, but not on Paul’s terms. It will be of my time and choosing. I’ll have to figure out something that will not reflect on me and my company, and make it look as if it’s all Paul’s fault.

For the first time in days Devon was energized, thanks to the anger he felt. But all that would change. As soon as he arrived home, the first thing he did was grab the Apsara. Instantly, his pent up energy drained away, leaving him weak and weary. The last thing he thought when he sat upon the couch was how much warmer the statue felt than it had before. He opened his eyes to the sweet kisses and caresses of his mysterious woman.

“Tume mere ho.”

“What does that mean? You keep saying that, but I don’t understand what it means.”

“Very soon you will. Then I will tell you. I promise.”

 

“Devon, Devon, wake up! Come on man, snap out of it.”

Devon moaned and began to rouse. His head lolled side to side. He didn’t want to wake. Who is that? That voice. It’s not my beautiful woman. His eyes begin to flutter. Vision blurred, but soon his surroundings came into focus. He pushed away the hands that shook and lightly slapped at his face.

Paul? What the hell’s he doing here? I just left the office. Why is he not at work?

“Come on, that’s it. Come on, Devon.”

“What are you doing here?” asked Devon.

“I came by to check on you. Damn, look at you. You’re still in the same clothes. You look like you haven’t eaten in a week.”

Devon’s face was sallow, dark circles under his eyes, suit hanging on him like it was two sizes too big.

“Of course I am. I just got home from work. Remember me telling you I was leaving because, if I stuck around, I might flat out fire you right then and there?”

“That was a week ago, Devon.”  

What? A week ago? No, he must be crazy. I just got home maybe an hour ago. It can’t be.

“Are you insane? Are you looking for a reason to get fired ‘cause if you are…?”

“Devon, look at your watch. You tell me.” Devon took a look at his watch. Indeed, it had been a week. He could not believe it, but the truth was right there on his wrist.

“Devon, you need to see a doctor.”

“No, there’s nothing wrong with me.” He tried to get up, but fell back onto the couch, too weak to stand. He hung his head in defeat. Paul reached down to help him up.

“Come on. Let’s get you a doctor.”

Devon pulled back and waved him away. “No, it’s not me. It’s her.”

“Her who?”

Devon pointed up at the statue on the mantel. Paul turned to look. “Her. She comes to me at night or whenever I’m sleeping.”

Paul could not understand what Devon was talking about. Devon actually thinks that this statue comes to life and visits him in his dreams? He must be a lot sicker than I thought, and not in a physical sense either.

Devon could tell that Paul did not believe him. “Touch it if you don’t believe me. It’s warm. Yeah, that’s right. It’s warm, like you and me.”

Paul looked at his friend in great doubt. Devon motioned for him to touch the statue. Paul turned and placed his hand upon the stone. The stone was cold. He turned back to Devon.

“The statue is cold, Devon. It’s just a stone statue, nothing more. Look, I think maybe you’ve become a little too obsessed with this thing and it’s clouding your judgement. Let’s just take it down and put it away somewhere.”

Before Paul could pick up the Apsara, Devon found the strength not only to stand but grab Paul and push him away from his most prized possession. “Stay away from her! Don’t you dare take her down! She’s not yours; she’s mine.”

Paul could not believe what he was hearing. Devon was placing this stupid rock statue above his own health and company. This was insane. “Look, if we could just place this in another room…”

“GET OUT! Who the hell are you to come into my house uninvited, and tell me where I can put my own stuff; so you just get the hell out of my house and, matter of fact, you're fired.”

Later that evening, despite feeling so weak, Devon managed to make it upstairs and collapsed onto the bed. Maybe there was something wrong with him, but who the hell did Paul think he was to come into his house and tell him what he should and shouldn’t do? At least he didn’t have to worry about that anymore. Should have fired him a long time ago. And the nerve of him to try and take down my Apsara. He was jealous. Yes, that was what it was. Paul wanted the Apsara all to himself.

Devon figured he just needed to get some rest and would be as good as new in the morning. He closed his eyes and began to drift off when he heard music. Faint exotic melodies from a zither, sarangi, tabla, and flutes could be heard, but still sounded far away. Devon opened his eyes to see light spilling from his bathroom? Who in the hell is in my house? If it’s Paul I am going to beat the hell out of him. Due to his weakness, it took Devon a little time to get out of bed. He took off the suit jacket he still wore and tossed it onto the floor. Carefully, he approached the open bathroom door, looked inside, and gasped. His mouth hung open and his eyes grew wide. The bathroom sink, tub, shower, toilet were still there, but that was where the familiar bathroom stopped. The rose-colored, granite-tiled floor had been replaced by a thick carpet of grass. Green vines hung down the wall and flowed across the ceiling. The back wall was an opening that led into a jungle. The music was coming from there. What the hell is a jungle doing in my bathroom?

He set one foot upon the grassy path and could feel the dirt below. Scents and colors of jasmine, marigold, lotus, and orchids flowed around him. A few more steps took him past the wall. A vast thick jungle expanded to either side of him. Stepping a little further he could see a full moon above. Looking back, Devon could see his bathroom and his bedroom beyond. It did not disappear like he feared it would. Light from the full moon gave him plenty of illumination to see his way along the path. Intrigued, he walked along the path, following the sound of music further into the jungle. Soon he could hear what sounded like a small waterfall. Continuing on, the winding path led to a large opening with a few torches scattered about. This is where the soft flowing music was coming from, but he saw no one playing the instruments. The path ended at a pool being fed by water flowing down from a mountain wall at the back. Standing in the middle of the pool was his mysterious woman. She smiled at him and, as she approached, he saw that she was completely naked.

Never had he seen such a beautiful, sensual form on a woman before. She placed her wet lips against his, and then smiled as she begin to remove his shirt and pants and underwear. Taking him by the hand, she led him into the pool. The cool water felt good on his skin. She wrapped her arms around him. Devon pulled her into a tight embrace and kissed her deeply. He had no idea how long he stood there with her. Time in this place held no meaning. This was the Apsara’s domain.

“Tume mere ho. You are mine,” she whispered.

After some time she led him out of the pool and they lay down on the grass where, for the first time, they made love. And he finally realized the true meaning behind you are mine as he grew weaker and weaker. It became too hard to focus. Simultaneously, he felt fear and an intoxicating lust. I should never have purchased that damn statue, should have let Paul take it away. How had he not seen past his own obsession? All he wanted to do was escape the Apsara now that it was too late. The fullness of her fiery desire held him fast and would completely drain him; despite his mind trying its best to rebel against this creature’s lust, a part of him didn’t want to. And it was that part that won out as he slowly faded away.

 

It had been a month since Paul had any contact with Devon. Even though Devon had fired him, there was no official paperwork done, so he continued to do not only his job but Devon’s as well. He couldn’t just let the company go down. Too many people with families to support needed their jobs; therefore, Paul continued to work, taking on the responsibilities of running the company. The front door to Devon’s house was still unlocked. Letting himself in, he called out to Devon and received no answer. Despite their fight, Devon was still a friend, a friend who was in some kind of trouble. Paul was determined to do what he could to help him through this. To placate the many questions arising from Devon’s absence at work, he lied and told them that Devon was sick—not a lie, but for morale they didn’t need to know the details to Devon’s illness. Truthfully, even Paul didn’t quite know what Devon’s sickness was either. He saw that the Apsara, this thing that Devon was so obsessed with, still sat upon the mantel. How could one person become so obsessed with an object that he would allow it total consuming control of his entire life?

Checking the entire downstairs and finding no one there, Paul went upstairs. He had never been upstairs in Devon’s house before, but the only door open was the one at the end of the hall. Paul walked into Devon’s bedroom. The door to the bathroom was open. He saw nothing out of place. But, what he saw on the bed sent a cold chill through Paul. Lying on his back on the bed was his friend Devon, or what was left of him. It looked more like a mummy wearing a suit. The flesh of his face was pulled tight around his skull. Lips were shriveled, revealing a rictus grin. Cheeks were deeply sunken. Devon’s eyes were all dried out and papery.

Paul quickly covered his mouth and nose. What if Devon had a strange physical illness that affected his normal outlook and made him start acting crazy? Was it contagious? Paul decided to get out of there before he became infected too. On his way to the front door, he stopped beside the mantel for some reason he could not explain. It was as if he saw the Apsara in a new light. It really is a beautiful piece of work. What was it that Devon said? When he touched it, it felt warm.

Slowly, he raised a hand and placed it upon the statue. Sure enough, there was a warm sensation to it. How could this be? Paul had not felt this sensation last time he’d touched it…or…perhaps, he did but because of the awkward situation between him and Devon, he just hadn’t noticed it then. But he sure did notice it now. Without thinking, he took the statue down and tucked it under his arm. He could always call the police later, but right now he had to get the Apsara home.

 

The End

 

 

Jessie Johnson, jessiejohnson@gmail.com, of San Antonio, Texas, wrote BP #77’s “The Apsara.” He lives in San Antonio, TX with his wife and two kids, two cats, and a snapping turtle. While not working the dull everyday job he is working on his writing. He writes both fiction and nonfiction.

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