The statue rested in the grotto, the last remnant of a glorious past. Some pieces were missing, as time is no more kind to statuary than it is to man. The remaining fragments included two right feet, one larger and calloused, the other more delicate. Oddly, neither left foot was anywhere to be seen. Nor were most of the (presumed to once exist) legs and torsos. Most of a delicate arm held a lyre, with the fingers of a missing hand in the process of plucking a string. The arm was cloaked in vines, their orange fruit punctuating the grey stone of the statue and greens of the grotto itself. In the shadows, placed on a natural shelf, rested most of one of the heads, and expression of surprise on what remained of the features. The most striking were the eyes, where dark pigment remained deep in the holes drilled where the pupils would be. Contrasted with the pale grey stone, the effect was of a guardian staring down any would be thieves, while also mourning the loss of the rest of his figure.
Following his line of sight leads the eye to a second natural shelf, more open to the weather. A round boulder of white stone is all that remains of the head of the other figure. From its size, and the sizes of her foot and arm, she was obviously female. Though whether she was his wife, lover, daughter, or ward is lost to history.
The feet stand together on part of a stone plinth. The rest, along with the left feet, is missing. A stone tablet once leaned on the legs of the figures, possibly containing some clue to their identities. The largest remaining piece bears the word “Eternity”. No other pieces with writing are recognizable.
Beauty was her talent and mission
Diet, wardrobe her only thoughts
Prepared talents for pageants
Unhappy with losing
Sees only what helps
Win at all cost
If Beauty lost
Wants better stories
Many Beauties vying
Makes even better stories
Underdogs winning sells papers
Writer needs more than one contestant
This cage isn’t nearly large enough to hold two of us. Instinct drives us to destroy each other. Mutual aid is very much against the grain, even if it is also mutually beneficial. This is a weakness, perhaps.
Or perhaps not. One must win. One must lose.
Then again, if the cage continues to exist after I have defeated you, then I may be defeated by the cage.
There can only be one, but this may be a rare time when it is to my advantage to let you live, and to cooperate to remove the cage.
The cage limits us individually.
We barely know how to cooperate when we are free. How do we learn now, when we are bound?
The dilemma remains. Do we share strength to bend the bars, and do I risk that you betray me at a moment of vulnerability?
Or do I take advantage of the fact that you have to be within striking distance in order to help in a meaningful way?
The telephone has revolutionized the art of the big con. Once upon a time, a con man had to travel from place to place, then spend time to establish their identity and gain the confidence of some key figures in a community. All as the precursor to even beginning to think about starting a long con. It meant that a true long con really did take a long time to execute.
The telephone changed all that.
Suddenly it was possible to visit people in their homes or offices, almost without their even knowing they had invited you in.
Since a large part of the early effort is spent just to establish the trust needed to be invited in, the long con got significantly easier to play.
Of course, you still need to have a mark, a tale, and a payoff. And you probably can’t play it all solo.
But if you can master the art of sounding sincere on the phone, you can play the game without leaving your home.
You can even play more than one mark at a time, taking turns to advance each tale.
How could it ever get easier?
Then I got the letter.
“Dear most noble sir,” it began, “Greetings from the rightful heirs of the minister for imaginary trade outside of my country, who died unexpectedly in a most tragic and horrific fashion, with a sum of not less than ten million US dollars on deposit in an imaginary bank in your country. Which I know I can count on your help to return to its rightful owners. Accepting a generous fee for your services, naturally….”
I wonder what strange and wonderful technology will come next that advance the art of the con?