• Vol. 05
  • Chapter 08


Incense, bells and chants were the constant background to my life – from dawn when the great doors swung open to admit the first worshippers, to dusk when the monks hustled the beggars out into the street.

I watched from my pedestal as people slipped off their shoes to kneel on the cool tiles, praying for wealth, or for a good crop of rice, or for a pain to ease. My task was to winnow out the chaff, leaving God to deal with major requests. I must have cured at least ten thousand toothaches, boils and rashes, and more piles than I care to remember.

They brought offerings, of course, and the heady perfume of lilies mingled with thin threads of smoke from joss sticks. Occasionally there would be the earthier scent of freshly baked cakes and the monks would hover, their eyes gleaming with greed, though by the time the golden doors clanged shut and they divided the day’s hoard, the food would be cold.

Monks or beggars, I envied them their freedom. After a hundred years I was bored and restless, and asked God to release me.

“There’s no coming back, Sadim,” He warned. “You’ve heard their prayers – it’s a harsh world outside.”

But I wouldn’t listen. “I want to taste food, to see the world, maybe to fall in love,” I insisted.

So He stretched out His hand and I was free.



A rush of sensation swept through my body. My chest moved to suck in my first breath, my entire body pulsed as my heart began to beat – I was alive! But my skin felt odd. I lifted my hands to my face and gold ran through my fingers. “I’m melting!” I cried.

“No, Sadim – you are becoming human,” God replied, and then I could no longer hear Him.

I sat on the steps among the offerings, surrounded by a pool of gold, gazing at my dull brown knees and wondering how I could have been so stupid.

A monk hurried over. “It’s past sunset – beggars shouldn’t be here,” he said, dragging me to the door.

“I am an idol – I live here!” I cried, but he laughed and threw me into the street.

That was a year ago. Now, every day, I return to beg God’s forgiveness, pleading to be taken back, but His face is impassive, and the new gold statue on my pedestal gazes down.