We pause at our work and watch as two strangers make their way across the plain. Their eyes are lamp-lit. Their flesh is salt-white, covered in chalk from the cliffs near the sea. They ask to wash themselves in the pool at the center of our square. They want to rest in the shade of the standing stone, our pillar. We understand their desires. The pool before the stone is filled with fresh water, replenished by a buried spring. The stone is our mystery, a ruined monument from bygone days. In winter, the stone has a reddish hue; in summer, it reveals flecks of gold. There are those who claim it is perhaps a pillar dragged from the broken gates of Eden. Others say it is gravestone, marking the burial place of the monster Tiamat. A few even claim the stone is older still. It fell from the high wall that separated the earth from the sky when the black stars of creation still turned in the firmament.
Wind blows about the stone as the strangers arrive. The cracks in its surface seem to sing. Each of us pauses when we hear the song. In our recollection, the stone has never made any such sound. Lot, tiresome old scribe, leads the strangers to his home at the dusty edge of the city. He washes them there and feeds them. He asks them questions in a quavering voice and later tells his wife he believes they are messengers. “From some king in the East?” Lot’s wife asks. Her husband does not answer.
We, who have been listening to the song of the stone, understand the strangers are far more than messengers. We realize we have been waiting for them all our dull and toilsome lives. That evening, we are compelled to make a circle around the old man’s house. Our faces are masks. Our eyes, hollowed. We hear the song of the old stone still, drifting toward us from the square. And all of us sing together. Lot offers his daughters to us (two sullen girls in braids), and we know how ridiculous such an offering is. The old man bars the door in an attempt to protect his messengers. Still singing, we break the door down. Inside, we find them, the two strangers who came. There in the candlelight, they look not like men at all. They wear a human skin, as one might wear a cloak on a cold day. They make a sign with their pale hands that tells us where we are to take them.
We fall upon the strangers, bringing them to the monument in the square. On the marble bier near the pool, we come together, clinging to each other’s backs. And using all our strength, we begin to form a single body. It’s difficult at first. We wrestle and climb. But soon we are a giant, composed of innumerable, heaving men. There are those of us who act as the body’s great arms, and others are its bracing legs. A number of us fall together and form a hard thick phallus. The strangers then are no longer like two men at all. They have undressed themselves, giving up the pretense of skin and becoming a denser part of the air.
We are hungry for them. Ours is a sacred desire that was buried too long in our chests, like some city beneath the sand. Those of us acting as the giant’s hips thrust forward, penetrating the dense air. We press inside a strata of deep time, feeling the lush warmth of it. Deeper still we push until, finally, in a haze of rose and blue, we see a garden. An intricate enclosure, rising. We think of Eden and the Grove of Dilmun, but this is neither of those places. Bright waters lap at the garden’s shores. We see the stone—the very monument of Sodom—standing there at the center of the garden, strung with flowering vines. It is newly carved, sculpted with scenes that are strange to us. We realize all our stories of creation have been a lie. The long ago sun caresses our skin. There are animals that walk in the shade of the garden and speak warnings to us in odd tongues. The hare, the lion, the serpent, all of them make portents. But we do not listen. We know our aim. We move our great body, pressing against the membrane that seems to surround and support the ancient garden. We rock against the warmth of it.
When finally we find release, our voices rise, words lit by fire. And the air around us is filled with the sudden bright fluid of a new music. Not a hymn, but something that strums the golden strings of the cosmos itself. We bathe in the sound, losing our grips on each other’s backs and slipping down into a jumble in the square. The strangers are there among us, once more sewn inside their lovely skins. We are all covered in the liquid that is neither our own sweat nor the dew of the garden, but something brilliant we have made together. Lot makes his way out of the city, frightened old creature. He takes his daughters to a cave where they will live out their days like animals. Lot’s wife turns to look back at us, thinking we men are a marvel—a thing that is entirely new. And we lay together with the strangers, bare and glistening in the shadow of the stone. We finally understand the meaning of its song, the words it has been chanting all along: There are no gods, it says in its beautiful voice. And if there are, my friends, believe me: they do not matter.