What you have to understand about Gina Galloway is that she felt unloved, alone in the world, ignored by everyone and everything. She had a lousy dead-end job as a secretary, no friends, no living relatives to speak of, and she came home every night to lousy television programs and the realization that tomorrow it’d all begin again. Gina turned twenty-six on May 16, 2002, and she celebrated her birthday by buying a cake (she didn’t even ask them to put "Happy Birthday" on it), going home, eating a piece, and putting the rest in the refrigerator. Gina was moderately attractive but she didn’t date, for she was afraid of people, afraid of the world, and just making it through each day was a challenge. She was doing her ironing one evening when the apartment’s buzzer sounded.
They were two men in business suits, and at first she wasn’t certain what they were selling. They only asked her, "Is your name Gina Galloway?" She said yes. And then they explained that they were from some organization she’d never heard of, some corporation or government agency. They didn’t hide the fact that their computers had chosen her from hundreds of thousands of names after evaluating credit ratings, internet sites and newsgroups visited, what she’d ordered from catalogues over the years (she hated shopping in stores when she could avoid it), and all sorts of personal data that Gina had always thought was supposed to be confidential in one way or another. But Gina was just another cipher in a vast global machine, and they had pieced together her soul.
They knew that she would volunteer.
There was an island in the Aegean Sea, submerged for over three thousand years by all the archaeologists’ estimates, and undersea volcanic action had recently returned it to the surface. The press was calling it part of "the lost civilization of Atlantis", though the historians remained skeptical. Teams of archaeologists had unearthed finds undreamed of according to all conventional historical understanding of the period. There were artifacts that no one could quite identify, though they were assumed to have religious significance. And then there was the cave.
The entrance had been unearthed almost by accident during one of the excavations, and the symbols on the walls of the tunnel had taken many aback. Pictures of women with snaky hair. Strange iconography that seemed to have nothing to do with Greek mythology. One of the symbols almost resembled a crucifix, though the scholarly opinion was that it was a larger symbol partially erased by time. Scholars had begun to examine the strange, unknown language written on the cave’s entrance-tunnel, but it didn’t fit the known language patterns of the period either. The first linguist, an American, to "decipher" it was laughed out of the project for claiming that it was English with different symbols and a few redundant characters. His findings were never seriously examined. When a French linguist, who hadn’t been informed that a predecessor had examined the writing, remarked, "If I didn’t know better, I could swear it bears an uncanny resemblance to French…" he too was instantly dismissed. But then someone re-examined the first linguist’s findings and, almost on a lark, deciphered one wall of writings on his assumptions. It read:
Woo passess walll the innr furst cursd bee with lyfe nott lyfe
The harumphing of the archaeologists could have collapsed the cave, it was so loud. But when an examination of the inner wall of the cave, carved again with those words and pictures of women with snaky hair, showed that it could be swiveled for entrance into an inner chamber, everyone seemed conspicuous in their insistences that they were busy with some other project. And so the men who’d come to Gina’s door had decided to choose someone, a total outsider, to be the first to enter the chamber. At first there seemed to be some confusion between them as to the exact reason, with one hinting that it was a way of playfully shaming the archaeologists, and with another hinting that their own employer was somewhat superstitious. But whatever the reason, Gina knew that a cipher had been chosen from countless other ciphers. For once in her life, she had been singled out. And so she agreed, signing all the forms they gave her.
And only once she’d signed everything did they explain exactly what they wanted her to do. And her jaw fell.
* * *
The archaeologists argued outside the cave entrance with the suited men as Gina ran through her mind what she was supposed to do once she got into the cave. Technicians demanded that she explain once again in detail the procedure for setting up the videotape equipment at the proper angles. Off in the distance, the head of the archaeological team was ranting and raving as he realized that Gina’s employers had either the clout or the might to enforce their position. And Gina watched as all but five of the most respected archaeologists were herded into helicopters and escorted from the island for the day. No one but Gina would be allowed into the cave at all today either. One of the suited men called it a precaution, and the scholars laughed.
Gina wheeled the heavy cart into the cave and down the tunnel, and when she came to the inner wall she looked for the spot they’d described to swivel it. She pushed and the wall spun, allowing her access. Gina pushed the cart through and found herself in a small cavern, undecorated by symbols of any kind and indeed seemingly untouched by man except that a natural pool of water in the center of the room had a circular marble ring erected around it. Gina thought that the style of that ring looked vaguely Greek, but she wasn’t an expert. She unpacked the industrial lights from the cart and set them up around the room. She set up the videocameras, all six, in a circle around the edges of the cavern. And then she stood there for a moment.
She sat down on the marble ring, centered between the cameras, and said, "Autofocus. All right, I’m in this cavern of yours. My instructions are to spend the night here. Beyond that, I’m not exactly certain what I’m supposed to do. I guess I’m supposed to use a little common sense. Should I drink from the pool? Should I swim in it?" Her employers didn’t have all the answers, since none of them had (she’d been told) been in here yet, so what if that ancient water was full of germs or something? What if it killed her?
Considering everything, Gina couldn’t see that it really mattered. Considering everything, considering that no one had ever paid the slightest attention to her before, she might as well go for broke. She cupped some water into her hands and drank. "I’m still alive," she mocked the cameras.
She might as well go for broke.
"All right, this next part’s rated R," she announced. "Get the kids out of the room. I’m not sitting here in wet clothes all night." She pulled off her T-shirt (it was already a bit sweaty from the Mediterranean heat) and stood there for a second as if showing off her boobs. Gina was actually more attractive than she considered herself, and she liked the idea of a captive audience, people who had to look at her because they wanted to watch the tape for other reasons.
And so many people, who…
She kicked off her sandals, unzipped her shorts, and pulled them down, stepping out of them. She smiled impishly to the camera in front of her and then slid off her panties. She wasn’t wearing any jewelry. And then she spun a bit for the cameras. She didn’t imagine that anyone was really interested in this part, but she did it anyway. And then she slid over the marble rim and lowered herself into the water.
It was about waist deep, and she ran the water over her breasts, trying to duplicate the sort of actions she’d seen in R-rated movies right before the killer struck. She tried to act innocent and melodramatic all at once. She liked the idea of hamming it up in front of all those "professionals". She could hear them saying even now, as they watched the tape (with her?), "Who does she think she is? Get on with it."
She lowered herself into the water and stayed under for a minute, teasing her audience. Would she never come up again? No, she was just getting thoroughly soaked, letting the water sink in. She came up soaked to the skin, her long hair slickered out behind her. She showed off her glistening breasts to the nearest camera. And then she stepped out of the pool.
She stood there for a moment, centered between all those cameras, trying to pretend that her audience liked what they saw. She tried to look impish and teasing as she struck a stately, seductive pose, her left hand covering her lower hair and her right hand cupped on her left breast, leaving the right one bare. "Well, I survived the Gorgon Cavern," she laughed to the cameras. She actually didn’t know what a Gorgon was, exactly, but that’s what everyone was calling this place. She stopped laughing and closed her mouth for a moment while she tried to think of something else nicely sarcastic to say.
* * *
The videotapes ended there. All six cameras showed the same thing – a flash of light followed by static. The static gradually cleared intermittently over ten seconds to reveal glimpses of Gina, still posed. The static cleared completely to show a statue of Gina in her stately pose, that momentarily serene, contemplative expression on her face, her stone hands forever grafted to her breast and pubic area – a perfect classical form, except that it wasn’t idealized but was a real human form, a particular human form with all its beauties and with all its flaws.
The incident’s public debut was on a shlocky prime-time special. Twenty minutes were devoted to "The Mystery of Gorgon Island," as the special had renamed the risen land. The videotapes of Gina – her private parts pixelated until the static – were shown in their entirety, fast-forwarding through her hours of lonely petrification to where the suited men and archaeologists entered the cavern, examined the room and the statue, and finally turned the cameras off to watch the videotapes themselves. One of the archaeologists was visibly shaken and crossed himself. Another was simply dumbfounded. A third looked curious but skeptical. The other two just looked with suspicion and intrigue to their suited companions and asked them, in the videotape’s final moments, "How the bleep did you pull that off with us watching the whole time?"
Gina’s segment was wedged between a midwest town where several respected businessmen and one journalist swore they’d seen a UFO, and a story of news magazine in the 60’s whose employees had written a softcore romance novel en mass as a satire of the industry and then picked a woman to pose as its author on talk shows. Only the first archaeologist agreed to be interviewed, and he described at length how, although he’d lost the respect of his profession, he couldn’t hide the truth of what he’d seen.
A year and a half later, another network did a full hour entitled "Gina Galloway and the Pool of Death". They rehashed reports of how experts had been sent to the island in the days following the supposed transformation to verify that there were no secret entrances to the cave, that no tunnels had been dug. They showed videotape of their own team being sent in to study the cave, where the statue of Gina now stood forever by the pool, since it’d been agreed not to move her. They interviewed one of the most skeptical of the archaeologists, who insisted that the whole thing had somehow been faked, though he hemmed and hawed on how exactly it’d been pulled off with him and four of his colleagues (one now so "pathetically milking this con with his tabloid-books") watching. Distant relatives who’d met Gina once or twice when she’d been a small girl were dug up to give accounts of the kind of woman she’d been. And the special, hosted by a middle-range television actor from the 70’s, concluded, "We may never know the truth of what happened to Gina Galloway when she stepped from… the Pool of the Gorgons!"
Websites sprung up. Women (and men?) in newsgroups claimed that they were Gina Galloway, shuttled away to a life of seclusion, well-paid for her part in the hoax. Amateur debunkers offered complicated theories of the deception. Members of the twentysomething generation, insisting that the true hoax was in rendering a mystical experience so shlocky for public consumption as a way of discrediting it, used the Gina Galloway incident as a springboard to rehash the fashionable internet religions of the day.
Three years, two months, and eight days after Gina Galloway stripped on camera and smirked from her "Pool of Death" to her captive audience, an eccentric billionaire, after much litigation, finally succeeding in buying Angeliki Island a.k.a. Gorgon Island, so named for the first woman to set eyes on it and for the tv segment that’d first made public the events there. He wasted no time in charging admission to Gorgon Cavern. For twenty-five American dollars, people would be shuttled in by boat from Santorini and given a tour culminating in the cavern where Gina Galloway stood forever in stone. Only she wasn’t Gina Galloway anymore. "And here’s the crowning glory of our day today," the tour guide explained, motioning to the statue. "Gina Galatea, we call her, renamed in honor of the famous statue carved by Pygmalion and brought to life by Aphrodite. According to the deciphered script you saw on the walls on the way in, there’s a legend that she’s coming to life again one day. It could be today, folks, so keep your cameras focused! That concludes our tour. On your way out follow the blue path so that you don’t get in the way of our next tour group."
The blue path back down to the dock ran straight through a gift shop. Money was raked in from postcards, small plastic replicas, books on Greek mythology, and T-shirts and bumper-stickers that read, "I survived Gorgon Cav-…"
In all the shlocky exploitation, no scholar seemed too interested in exploring the mystery of the script which had been so strangely deciphered; it was career suicide. And not even the tour guide believed the guff she’d invented about Gina’s return to life. But her enterprising tall tales soon earned her a place off her feet in FederalCorp, the business that owned the island and its subsidiary rights.
On the tenth anniversary of the grand opening of the Gorgon Island Tour, visitors were invited to a new expenditure, following up another legend invented by the enterprising former tour guide, now Vice President in Charge of Gorgon Island and Subsidiary Merchandising. Those whose drank the water in the pool would add ten years to their lives. That too was written on the walls in that never-deciphered script. A real steal at only $9.50 a sip. "Oh, come on, honey," a man laughed to his wife four years later. "It’s great fun, anyway."
"Fred, do you always have to be such a sucker?" she laughed as he plopped down $28.50 and they scooped up water into their hands. "Susie, come here, dear, Daddy’s spending your inheritance!"
Susie looked up at the statue of Gina Galatea, still staring serenely, contemplatively out across the cave. "I believe in you, Gina," the little girl insisted. "You’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen." And she darted off as her mother shouted at her a second time. In the gift shop, Susie bought a wall poster of Gina Galatea. She still had it ten years later when she went away to college.
"Don’t tell me you actually believe that cheesy hoax," her new roommate laughed. And Sue looked a little hurt for about thirty seconds, until a good-looking guy, a senior, poked his head in the door and laughed, "Oh, wow, Maxrad! You’ve got a picture of that Gina chick! Where’d you get it?"
The Gina Galloweys and Galloways on NetChat, Inc. were getting younger and younger, but their stories hadn’t changed much with the passing years:
GGallowey: no, really, I’m like in my fiftees now but that was me I swear it was just the most maxrad hoax and I got five hundred Westhems for going along with it which was alot of money in those days and they changed my name and moved me to Hawaii which was the zoniest part of the deal
And guys and fems on AmeriGroups, Inc. were posting:
PopeMustDiet: No, no, it was Gina Galloway, not Galatea. They played up that whole sweezy Greek mythology angle to discredit it but it was the Great Goddess, really, just showing that things like that can still happen these days if you really believe.
GodsaGal: Well, I don’t think she’d use her last name anyway if she were around today so I don’t see what difference it makes, cause Gina was just the maxraddest which was why she was blest that way and if it were like some cave in Jerusalem you can be sure everyone wouldn’t be trying to discredit her.
For a mere five Euros (eight-fifty Westhems) one could get one’s picture taken with Gina Galatea, now roped off at one end of the cavern. Some people came just to gaze in person at her beauty; no photograph could do the statue justice. Others were more interested in sipping the water. There were those on NetChat and AmeriGroups who were now claiming that some of the people who’d drank the water in earlier years had vanished under mysterious circumstances. People in their thirties would go into museums, see a sculpted form that looked a little too real, and wonder.
Forty-five years after the words "Well, I survived the Gorgon Cavern" were captured on videotape, the North American Entertainment Corporation finally produced an interactive special debunking the stories about the water. Chemists had analyzed the water in detail and found the source of the spring, and it was just water. Scholars explained that the script in the entrance tunnel had never been satisfactorily deciphered, debunking the various legends that had grown up around the statue. Four years later, the Supernation of Brussels disbanded EuroCorp, the current owners of the island, and pledged that as a government property, Gorgon Island would henceforth be run along more tasteful lines. The gift shop was banished from the island, the practice of drinking the water was stopped, no cameras were allowed in the cavern, and many other famous Greek statues, including the Venus di Milo, were moved into the cavern, which would henceforth be run as a museum with Gina Galatea as its showpiece.
Conspiracy theorists insisted that the water had really defied analysis and that the media was covering it up. Women who worshipped Jehovess insisted that Gina Galatea’s pre-petrification books attacking the traditional power structure of her time had been suppressed by the atheistic intellectual elite. Respected members of the Boston Artists’ Union insisted that the statue could not possibly have been faked using the technology available at the time. The National University at Trenton was widely condemned by all four major webpapers for offering a frivolous course entitled, "Gina Galatea – Magic or Hoax?"
Seventy-six years after the lonely, tired girl answered her apartment door, the Abraham Alliance annexed Greece, spawning a world war lasting six years. Most of the precious museum pieces of Gorgon Island were dispersed throughout the Alliance. The Venus di Milo ended up in Jerusalem. Other precious pieces ended up in the museum in Arafat City. Gina Galatea was left standing in the cave. The acting governor of the island, Colonel Joshua Assad, wept openly before his officials, declaring, "To move this beauty from her eternal home would be a crime, and my superiors’ll have to remove me and take it by force." But he was a war hero, and no one tried. The cave was roped off and closed to the public, but Colonel Assad could often be found there in those dark moments when the war seemed to be going against the Alliance.
General Jacques Braun, liberator of Greco-Turkey, chose not to open the sight to the public once more at the war’s end, especially in light of the rumors abounding over the Venus di Milo’s destruction – caused by Brussels’ bombing raids or a spiteful act on the part of the Alliance? And for the better part of a century, Gorgon Cavern sat silent and abandoned, sealed off, with Gina Galatea alone in the darkness.
It was public pressure that finally shone light upon the statue once again. The Feminist Separatist lobby in the WestHem Federation had made it one of their chief objectives, and the Brussel Republic was little more than a political puppet of that nation at this point. It was cruel, the lobbyists argued, to subject Gina to endless darkness. Saner people rolled their eyes; obviously Gina Galatea had, for all practical purposes, died at the moment of petrification. The girl was now only stone, they insisted. Conspiracy theorists subscribing to WorldWeb insisted to one another that despite the respectability of these fanatical new (in historical terms) religions, everyone was yet living in a rational, scientific age and couldn’t believe in that nonsense. They dug and dug through all the old records, trying to disentangle myth from fact from hype. They pointed to the suicide of one of the "moderate" of the spectator-archaeologists ten years after the "staging of the hoax."
The statue stood behind a Transpoly shield so that it wouldn’t be inadvertently damaged by all the gawkers. People flocked to see up close the "girl who’s suffered in still darkness for so long." Little girls got their first genuine sight of Gina Galatea.
"Maxed, Mommy…" an eight-year old girl sighed with delight as she looked up at the statue. "She’s so beautiful…"
"Yes, Gina," she told her daughter. "It was a mystical transformation, whatever people say. I don’t mean that she can actually hear you, darling."
"Who turned her to stone, Mommy?" the little girl asked.
"Opinions differ. Name a god or goddess and someone thinks that one’s responsible. But it’s just a divine mystery. I don’t want you growing up to spout off all that religious nonsense. But never forget that there are forces beyond science, and Gina Galatea is proof."
"I wish Daddy could see this," she pouted. She was still too young to understand about "limited marriage." She just kept staring up at the beautiful transformed woman, the luckiest woman in the world, the little girl thought. "I believe in you, Gina Galatea," she assured the statue. And once her mother had stepped a few feet away to take that funny medicine of hers, she added, adoring that tranquil, thoughtful, lovely face, "I know you can hear me, whatever Mommy says. And I’m glad you’re not lonely anymore."
It was all pretty much the same a century later, except that little Gala wouldn’t have bemoaned the absence of her father, since half the world’s children were the product of artificial sperm, and her mother would be slightly less likely to assure her daughter that the statue couldn’t hear her. Technology was still making rapid advances, but more people than not believed that things like Gina’s transformation could actually happen. There were those who were convinced, a century later, that Gina had to feel the Cavern a lonelier place without the presence of children to admire her as no adult truly could. And even though most of the world’s children were born artificially and raised on Child Collectives, surely field-trips could be permitted; after all, Galatea Island was only a few minutes away from anywhere on earth.
No one took much notice when the first cranks began to announce that, using technology long since available, there were embarrassing discrepancies in the static on the original recordings. There were many plausible replies – degradation of the recordings over time, for instance – but no one felt much obliged to offer them. The transformation of Gina Galatea was a mystery beyond serious questioning, and only atheistic fanatics would even be looking to discredit her in the first place. It took forty years for analyzers finally to deign to address the longstanding charges of forgery of the recordings, and the experts agreed – there was no simply no way that such recordings could have been faked with such primitive technology of the time.
Technology and learning never vanished completely, but they took a back seat in the following centuries as "progressivism" took hold, urging a return to the land and simpler ways, and reserving technology only for important purposes – such as medical. A dark age, technologically speaking, fell over earth for about five centuries, and at its end small governments again began to emerge. Galatea Island was a holy place now, a shrine to great powers not fully understood, and it was taken for granted by most that Gina Galatea saw and loved the people who sailed out to her island and hiked up into her cave. No one thought of her anymore as helpless or trapped, exactly, but as a beautiful girl who’d willingly become a happy monument, a reminder to everyone of the great, mysterious spirituality that filled the universe. Gina Galatea loved every child born of man and woman who entered the Cavern hoping that she would, in some sense, bless their marriage and their family.
Governments rose and fell, and each had differing opinions as to how much technology was enough, but that was now how the question was framed. A lot of the old records were long gone. The great books of wisdom written by Gina Galatea before her transformation had not, it seemed, survived. But everyone knew the sort of things that would be written in those books – words of love and family and understanding and tolerance and peace.
There was no mass-knowledge any longer, though there were plenty of books and everyone could read. Parents taught their children from books to respect the land and work hard, to be self-sufficient in small villages throughout the world. Every town had a data center where as much of the old knowledge as remained was stored in computers, free for the use of whoever wanted them. Every district had a few learned men who still understood technology and made sure that that knowledge was passed on to the following generations. Throughout the world, people remembered Gina Galatea. There was still a limited amount of fast travel, and pilgrimages were respected by all as having a high priority. Pilgrimages to Galatea Island were among the most popular.
The learned class grew, but always remembering the principles the world lived by. Technological innovations resumed, but they were used mostly to gather knowledge. And two thousand one hundred and thirty-two years after Gina bought a nondescript cake and called it her birthday cake, two tech-wizards, man and wife, were the sole custodians of Galatea Island, welcoming all visitors. It was out of deepest respect that they moved Gina Galatea from her dark cavern to a high pedestal overlooking the beach. For the first time in her long, long life, Gina Galatea could see the world she loved, and all visitors would rightly look up to her physically as they long had in other ways. It was their great-great-grandson, custodian of the island in his time, who finally used a vast carving-machine to break up the rocky hill in which she’d lived for so many centuries, and not out of disrespect, but out of deep reverence. He created a machine to sculpt perfect, five-inch replicas of Gina Galatea – an icon, a reminder, for homes and villages the world over – given freely to all who came for as long as there remained hill to carve up. There were those who called the decision impious, but after another two centuries, the tiny icons throughout the world served as reminders of all that Gina Galatea had taught before her divine transformation… and there were still great pilgrimages to see the original. The copies remained only copies, never idols, never the real Gina Galatea, whom people still came the world over to look up on and adore.
Two thousand, nine hundred, and forty-three years after Gina’s first and last helicopter ride, a tech-wizard found, buried among all the old records preserved for centuries, the data from the Satellite Surveillance System. For the longest time he didn’t know what he was looking at, nor why it’d been buried so deep in the old records, but when he realized the sort of thing he had, he began watching on his imaging scanner. Apparently the System had been a great secret in the Days of Fleshed Gina, created by the governments of the time to watch and record from earth-orbit. The culture of those ancient days was strange, but he enjoyed watching such old, forgotten ways. He never imagined that, with so much of the world to survey, images would even have been taken of Galatea Island on that fateful day, let alone survived so long, but they had done both, buried deep within complex government codes which were now child’s play to crack. Someone had been watching on that day, and someone had kept what they’d seen secret.
Gina Galatea, dressed in those odd ancient clothes, entered the cave. A whirling air-transport descended and a crate was taken out. Arguments between those on the island, and currency exchanged. The crate opened. A life-size sculpture unpacked. A statue. THE statue. Brought up into the cave mere minutes after Gina’s entrance. And the record ended.
The goddess was a fake, a hoax played upon the world so many centuries ago – for money or spite or simply to prove that it could be pulled off. That the world, and so many countless generations, could be fooled.
The tech-wizard cried that day. But the great principles of Gina Galatea included a respect for truth, even if she herself had never really existed. And Gina Galatea, if she had existed as in the legends, would not have wanted her beloved world to believe a lie. He wrote it all down and sent it throughout the system, a packaged explanation of his findings and where in the system to find the evidence. And then he killed himself.
But the Order of tech-wizards found, in a massive vote, that they could more easily betray their religion’s principles than the religion itself, that it was better to knock over one tree than to destroy the forest to save it. And so they suppressed the knowledge that Gina Galatea was a fraud.
It leaked out gradually. They passed it down among themselves, but from their wives and children it gradually spread to the populace. For a long time no one could quite believe it. But undoubtedly the counter-legend was one of the contributing factors in the Great Re-education. By the end of three centuries, science was no longer a hidden art. And as knowledge and rational ways spread, so did skepticism about Gina Galatea. Pilgrimages to her island trickled off. The small icons were stored away. And people began exploring the computer network to learn and see the truth for themselves.
There were those who insisted that the truth didn’t matter, that Gina Galatea remained a powerful symbol of so much, even if she was only a symbol. The pilgrimages never stopped completely, but they were different in tone – respect for the cornerpiece of the great religion.
It was a scientist frustrated with this stupidity of the people, this stubborn refusal to accept the truth, who finally perfected a time-scanner. He traveled to Galatea Island and hiked out to the level place where the hill had once stood, and situated in the perfect spot, activated his scanner to peer back through the ages, recording the truth so that all would see that Gina Galatea was a hoax.
* * *
"Well, I survived the Gorgon Cavern," Gina Galloway laughed to the cameras. She actually didn’t know what a Gorgon was, exactly, but that’s what everyone was calling this place. She stopped laughing and closed her mouth for a moment while she tried to think of something else nicely sarcastic to say. Gina’s heart nearly jumped out of her chest as light flashed all at once, but she realized almost instantly that it was some part of the scam they hadn’t briefed her about. For a believable reaction, probably. She held her pose for another few seconds, just in case.
Soon now she wouldn’t be a nobody. She’d be the centerpiece of one of the great cons of all time. Sooner or later, it’d be exposed, but that hardly mattered. Either way, she was finally something. Of course no one would really believe all that mystical bullshit, but people would go nuts trying to figure out the details of its execution, and Gina Galloway would be remembered, no longer ignored by the world. She knew that the likes of she could hardly be choosy. And a thrill went down her spine at the thought of television specials devoted to "The Great Gina Galloway Hoax." It wasn’t like being loved, but at least it was being noticed. And that was why it didn’t really bother her anymore that she’d had her soul read by their machines. They had picked her because she had zero motive to betray the hoax. The longer she was mysterious and fussed over, the better.
They had enough footage of her immobility by now. She moved to let go of her breast -…
And failed! Oh, god…! She couldn’t move! She really couldn’t move! Oh, god, what was going on…?
That light from nowhere flashed again, and with it this time was a strange vibration, also from nowhere. Her whole body was shaking, and she still couldn’t move. What was happening to her? What was -…
Oh, god, she could feel it now! She could see it. Pieces of her flying off as the vibrations literally shook her apart! Her whole body dispersed itself into thousands and thousands of tiny fragments, carried by some strange wind in the cave, circling around and around, and she could still feel, still think, as those pieces detached and grew smaller and smaller, more and more fragments of skin and hair and bone and tissue filling the air, and her vision expanded and she could see from all of them at once, watching all the others, until her former body was a mist of such tiny particles that all she could see anymore was that mist, being pulled in all directions throughout the cavern… and into the walls…!
Gina had no body. And still she could see, hear, even feel the stone in which she was embedded. She could see the blackness of the inner body of stone. She could see the pool, the lights, the backs of the videocameras, the fronts of those same videocameras, further away. She could smell the stone, feel the strange wind dying down as mysteriously as it’d arisen. She couldn’t move! There was nothing of her to move! She looked out from every angle at once from the cavern walls as the suited men and archaeologists entered with their sculpted statue of her classic pose. "Where did she -…" someone began.
One of the archaeologists looked around the cavern. "There’s no other way out! And this pool’s only a couple feet deep. How did she -…"
Gina tried to scream to them - I’m here, I’m alive! I can see you, hear you…! Help me! Help me somehow, please! It was real! There really WAS something about this cave…! I’m trapped in here, in the walls, in the stone! But they only kept looking around for her.
"Never mind that," one of the suited men insisted. "Set up the statue."
"What good is that if she didn’t -"
"We don’t know until we examine the tape," he growled. "Set up the statue, just in case, and then we’ll edit ourselves out." He unpacked a briefcase with perfect copies of her T-shirt, sandals, shorts, and panties – perfect in every respect except that they had special, well-concealed seams for pulling apart and putting back together. "No way to tell if she was nude or not without stopping the cameras. We’ll have to do both two takes – one with the stone starting nude and one where we cut her clothes off. And then when we play back we’ll know which to -"
"Dear lord…" one of the archaeologists interrupted. "What if something really did…?" But everyone ignored him and went about their work. And when they played back the pre-edit tape, their jaws fell. Pose. Light. Real static. And then Gina Galloway was simply gone. Was she hoaxing them, or…?
They could only go through with it and hope that, wherever she was, she wouldn’t betray them. There was money to be made from Angeliki Island.
* * *
The scientist fell to his knees, and then in his wild repentance he tore apart the time scanner. He never told anyone what he had seen.
The myth of Gina Galatea was bigger than the reality, and after a century or so, everyone lost all interest in what the facts of so long ago had or hadn’t been. Pilgrimages to Galatea Island picked up again. And the icons, those tiny carved replicas of the goddess, were gradually brought out once again and set up in the holy places of villages, towns, and cities the world over.
And Gina Galloway, embedded in those countless icons, looked out from every one of them, seeing it all at once.
Loved as no woman had ever been loved before.