The sculpted folds of cloth were cool beneath his touch. “It’s a beautiful statue,” someone behind him said.

The elderly worshiper turned to see a young priestess watching him. “Beautiful,” he said with a wistful smile, “but still only a poor reflection of the divine, wouldn’t you say.”

“Your humility does you great credit, sir.”

“Ah.” A sigh. “His eminence has been telling stories, I see.”

“It’s an honor to meet you the sculptor who filled this temple with the most awe inspiring representations of the goddess,” the young woman said eagerly.

“It was my honor to work in her service,” the wizened artist replied. His hand still rested on the sculpted stone but it was his other hand the priestess now focused on: the black, deformed thing at his side.

“The high priest also told me about your . . . accident,” she said.

“A fallen stone,” he said, “of all things. I had finished my work, and the goddess claimed my hand forevermore.”

“Why not pray to her for healing? Surely she would answer such a devoted servant.”

A smile, radiant and sorrowful. “And have her return the greatest sacrifice I could possibly offer? What would that say about my devotion?”

* * *

Story by Gregory M. Fox

Photo by Peter Ivey-Hansen on Unsplash