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by Gheorghe Săsărman

Translated from the Romanian by Monica Cure

—We created you! Without us, you never would have existed, the Hellenes yelled, scattering among the gleaming statues supporting the azure dome.

More fiercely than the others, Phidias raised his arms toward the heavens:

—With these hands of mine I chiseled you, with these calloused fingers I uncovered your eyes from Parian and Pentelic marble!

—That is true, the crowd agreed in unison.

They had gathered here, at the foot of Olympus[1], all the most illustrious men of Greek antiquity. Smiling and cold, the gods showed themselves completely indifferent to the insolence of the rebels. Unmoved, their countless white forms looked like gigantic pillars in the infinite temple of the Universe.

—I fear we are making a mistake, Plato thought to himself. These statues are, perhaps, our creation, that of Phidias and Praxiteles, of Scopas and others. But they are only the pale children of the true, eternal gods, their shadows, the only accessible image to us of the ideal of immortality.

However, fearing the raging mob, the wise man vociferated together with the others, playing along.

—I can destroy you whenever I want, because I gave you life and I will take it back when I wish, Phidias continued his taunt, to the acclamation of the demos.

The peak wrapped itself in a halo of fog. A slight breeze started from off the mountain. The people did not notice the first signs of the approaching storm.

—I fear we are making a mistake, Aristotle thought to himself. These pillars of the eternal city are, perhaps, the gods themselves, we are not the ones who created them. But our entire history is nothing more than a moment in their lives without beginning or end, and it is only natural that their persons seem motionless to us.

—We defeated even the Persians, exclaimed Pericles, heatedly. Must we now fear our gods, our very own gods?

Hundreds of warriors cheered him on.

—Let us smash them, Phidias roared, tearing a lance out of the hands of a soldier.

The sunlight grew pale. Black clouds rolled over the blue cupola of the city, darkening it. The foreheads of the gods disappeared in the gloom.

—They are challenging us, the people yelled, losing their minds.

Instead of terrifying them, the threat of the storm goaded them. Armed with lances and swords, with axes and iron bars, they descended onto the statues, to whose ankles they could not even reach. In that moment, the attackers froze in the aggressive positions of a crazed destructive fury. They remained like that for a while, stock still, as white as the gods.

Then, from Zeus’s uplifted fist, lightening flared, and the flood burst forth from the entire firmament. The paralyzed bodies of the people slowly dissipated under the torrents of water. The rain washed away the crown of their heads and their shoulders, it dissolved their fragile phalanges. Their weapons fell from their hands, with a clang. Soon the crowd had vanished as if in a dream. The whiteness of the frozen bodies had proven to be the deceptive and ephemeral whiteness of salt.

When the rain died down and the blue of the sky widened again until it reached the horizon, among the white marble torsos of the gods, all that remained was a barrel full of brine, in which floated the extinguished wick of a candle.

[1] Not to be confused with the ancient city of Olympia, in Elis, renowned for the athletic competitions held here every four years and for the statue of Zeus made from gold and ivory, the work of Phidias, considered at the time one of the seven wonders of the world.