The Age of Eric Contest — Sample fic

Title: Expelled from the Garden of Eden

Pen name:tradermare

Characters: Eric

Disclaimer: Eric is the property of Charlaine Harris.

Thank you, Kristin Elizabeth — you always know exactly what to say to get my ideas flowing, and you always help me fix my many mistakes.

Thank you, Zigster — you have been there from the beginning to the end with this fic!

You are both awesome!


Eric POV

Rome 1509

Gardens and ornate palaces, chapels and churches, made up the area known as the Vatican, the home of the Pope and the seat of the Catholic Church. Impeccably clean and well kept, the Vatican grounds provided a perfect place for hunting. Unlike the humans in the crowded, squalid cities and villages nearby, the Vatican's occupants enjoyed plenty of food, clean conditions, and even physicians to take care of their ailments.

The priests and the seculars living there roamed the Vatican grounds at night, often alone, looking for solitude, or an illicit rendezvous. Swiss Guards patrolled the more populated areas, but the gardens and outer buildings were often unguarded and provided ample opportunities to overtake a human. There were plenty of places to hide in the subterranean world under the Basilica in the Piazza San Pietra. When dawn came, any one of dozens of underground crypts provided a light-tight resting place.

Many of the residents of the Vatican made their way to prayer in the early hours before dawn. These humans were the easiest to hunt, drink, and glamour on their way to their services. I laughed at the thought of the faithful humans' praying, feeling euphoric from my bite, all while believing it was their devotion. I witnessed the human's religious rituals, and found it ironic their ceremonies utilized wine as a symbol for drinking blood, while I feasted on the blood of those that performed the services. Alive or undead, we both relied on blood to sustain us.

I had arrived in Rome a year ago, but after six months, I had grown weary of the squalor and the dangers of hunting in the highly populated regions. Although the other vampires I knew in the region warned me not to come here, I chose to stay on the Vatican's grounds. The presence of the Swiss Guard, and a reluctance to drink from the devoutly religious, kept them away. I shook my head at the thought that the "less" holy were somehow more appropriate to bite. I cared not for any religious distinction on my feeding—all men were equally suitable to provide sustenance to one such as myself.

The grand architecture of the buildings, with their ornate columns, beautifully carved details, and sculpture, attracted me to the area first, even before I learned of the benefits of hunting here. The churches and the religious icons did not scare me away; rather, they drew me in, beckoning me with their intricate artistry. I wasn't a Christian in my human life, and I didn't understand the significance of most of the paintings and sculptures, but that didn't stop me from admiring their beauty.

I roamed the Vatican, along with the guards and the priests, and anyone lucky enough to be inside the walls. I varied my location regularly, and one night, as I hid near the Piazza San Pietra, I saw an old man hobbling across the plaza. Paint and bits of dried plaster covered his clothing, and his exposed skin. His frail frame pushed against the cold north wind as he crossed the plaza, and he sighed aloud with weariness.

As I watched him make his way home, I knew he would not be my meal tonight, nor would he be the victim of any other creature of the night. I followed him home for protection, and my own curiosity. He was clearly a painter, an artist, working in the Vatican. After months of absorbing the beauty within those walls, I had finally found one of those responsible.

I watched that night as he arrived home, ate a quick meal, and then sketched by candlelight, converting a small drawing into a larger one composed of many pieces. When dawn came, I returned to my resting place, vowing to learn more about my new found human. It took three nights to discover where within the Vatican, my art master worked.

Each night I went to the chapel where my artist worked until just before dawn. Huge scaffolding anchored to the wall rose up to the vault, like a giant monster. The workbench in the center of the floor looked largely unused, while most of the lime and sand marred the floor at the base of the scaffold.

It was no wonder the old man's physical condition was poor. Hauling the artist's tools and medium up the scaffolding was no small feat for the strongest of men. Yet the old man helped right alongside the apprentices assisting him, and he pushed himself to do more each night.

I hid in the shadows of the chapel, watching him bring the vaulted ceiling to life with plaster and paint.

Placing the large sketches he created the night before onto the damp plaster, he transferred the outlines, and then energized them with his colors. The painted figures began bland and washed out, and they transformed into bright, vivid characters, as the colors dried into the plaster. As he painted the scenes depicting the creation of the sun, moon, and man, his own paintings came to life on the ceiling.

I spent all my time there, night after night, often going without feeding, just to watch the figures appear as the plaster dried. The old man would stay all night too, having fired his apprentices for mixing the plaster wrong during a previous evening. He worked alone now.

The old man, the artist, the creator, commanded the entire process, from carrying lime and sand up the scaffold, to painting the figures while lying on his back. The more he suffered, the brighter and bolder the images became. I wanted to go to him, give him my blood to help him in his work. I worried he would fall from the scaffolding or suffer something worse from not eating or drinking. Protecting him and his creations consumed my thoughts and became my purpose.

Night after night, he slaved at his tasks, driven by some unknown force. I grew bold and crept closer to the base of the scaffolding to get the best view of the master's work. I listened for the painter's breathing and pulse, concerned for his welfare, since he was not visible from the ground.

The crash, when it came, echoed through the vast nave, and I flew to the top of the scaffolding, caring only for what happened to the artist. The frail man lay prostrate on the scaffolding platform, holding his head. His eyes fluttered, and he muttered nonsense.

I quickly sat down and positioned him against my back. With a prick of my finger, I placed drops of blood into his open mouth. He started to come around, and his confusion lifted. He spun around to look at me, his eyes wide with fear.

"Who are you?" He managed to croak out.

"A friend," I replied.

"What happened to me?" He looked around the platform, and seeing no escape, stopped moving.

"You fell, and became disoriented. I didn't want you to fall over the edge, so I came up."

"And I ask you again—who are you?"

"I am an admirer of your work. I've been watching you bring this," I gestured to the vault, "to life for the last month or more. I am enthralled by it. What is your name, so I know the creator of such beauty?"

I smiled genuinely at him, without fangs, to put him at ease. I did not want to sully this relationship with unnecessary glamour, when good manners could do the same.

"I am Michelangelo Buonarrotti. Now how did you get in here?"

He relaxed, and really looked at me, his eyes traveling from my thick neck, down across my shoulders to my broad chest, and then in a straight line to my abdomen. I had seen men look at me that way before, in lust, but desire was not all I saw in his eyes—he studied my body with a palpable intensity, as if he were memorizing every muscle.

"I have never seen any quite like it, Signore Buonarrotti." I ignored his question regarding how I got in here.

Michelangelo snorted. He looked across the expanse of the ceiling. "I would rather be sculpting. I am not a painter."

"Then why are you here?"

"This commission must be finished before I have leave to sculpt."

"I should like to see you carve someday, Michelangelo."

He tried to stand up on the platform, but he sat back down, tired and weak.

"You are most kind to help me—but I must get back to work."

"Why do you work alone? You need strong backs to help you."

"There are none that work as I require, and I must have my hands in everything…the plaster for the buon fresco must be just right, and the cartoons in the section applied straight and true. And mixing the colors? Only I can mix them properly. So you see, it is more efficient to do things myself, as no one cares about these things as I do."

"Would you show me? Make me your apprentice at night?"

Michelangelo took in my long, lean form again. He grabbed my hands and turned them over, stroking the bones and tendons as if he were trying to memorize their shape and size.

"Your skin…it is so white…almost like marble." He continued examining my hands, and arms.

"Signore, I am strong; I can carry the lime and sand or bring you food and wine, if you don't want to teach me your art. Let me at least help you with that, in repayment for watching you work."

"What is your name?"

"Eric."

"You can haul my supplies up the scaffolding. You can start tomorrow morning."

"I can only come at night."

He thought for a moment. "Yes, the nights are much too desolate here, and I could use the companionship, but you must agree to one thing."

"Anything to work with you, maestro."

"You must do as I say—is that understood?"

"Si, Signore Buonarrotti." I could hardly contain my excitement.

I did whatever he asked of me. I hauled bags of lime and sand, along with jugs of water up the scaffolding each night. Michelangelo showed me how to combine them together, with marble dust, to create the arriccio that was applied as the base coat. I mixed the materials until he was satisfied, and he spread it on the wall in a thin layer. He was precise in his consistency. Michelangelo alone mixed the intonaco, the thin layer applied over the arriccio. He spoke excitedly about this part of his work, as he added a paper-thin third layer of mud on which he would paint. The third layer enhanced the brilliant colors and it was his technique alone.

I worked wearing only my breeches, and I caught Michelangelo admiring my form as I labored. Many nights, I would strip down and work without clothes, so he could study my body. He would run his hands over the muscles of my arms, chest, and thighs, making sketches of the hard lines. He marveled at my smooth, white skin, and remarked the similarities with marble. Sometimes he had me pose as if I was part of his drawings.

He spoke to me of his art, and his hunger for perfection, while I plied him with wine containing drops of my blood. But when he talked of his deep-rooted need to uncover the figures within blocks of Carrara marble, his eyes lit up, excitement clear in his voice; he came alive. When he told me of his creations, I vowed to see his works…the Pieta and his David.

As I looked at his work on the ceiling of the chapel, I realized he painted his figures as if he had carved them from stone, accentuating the muscles beneath the skin, and the power within the form. If he was unable to create with the medium he loved the most, he would do it in the medium he was forced to use.

When his exhaustion threatened to slow his progress, I gave him more drops of blood. We worked easily together, and I had never been so happy and fulfilled. I greeted each sundown with purpose.

After a month of nights, a Swiss Guard entered the chapel, disturbing our routines and reminding me of the humans that would kill me if they could. I crouched down on the platform so the guard could not see me.

Michelangelo leaned over the edge and called out. "What is your business, guard?"

"I have a message from the Papal palace. His holiness, Pope Julius, will visit tomorrow evening. He would like to see your progress."

I could see Michelangelo stiffen at the message. He was not happy with this news.

"Is there a specific time?"

"No."

I whispered to Michelangelo. "Make sure he comes alone."

Michelangelo didn't hesitate. "Guard, I must have a private audience with his holiness. My work is not yet complete."

"I will convey your message."

We passed the rest of the night in silence, working with fervor to finish the panel entitled Deluge, a representation of a great flood. Michelangelo thanked me and kissed my cheeks in a gesture of affection when I left close to dawn. There was no time for me to feed. I fell into my daytime rest with an exhaustion that reminded me of the first night I saw the old man in the piazza.

^V^

As soon as I came out of my daytime slumber, I hunted for a meal, without luck. I couldn't leave Michelangelo alone with the Pope either, and left for the chapel without feeding. When I entered the chapel, Michelangelo was agitated, pacing the floor around the unused workbench in the center of the room.

I watched from the shadows near the massive scaffolding for the Pope's arrival. The side door opened, and I could see two Swiss Guards stationed at the entrance. A booming voice outside the door announced our visitor.

"All kneel for his Excellency, our Holy Father, Pope Julius the second!"

There was a murmur of other voices, and after a time, Pope Julius appeared in the doorway. He was a vision of majesty in his robes of red and white accented in gold. His face was clean-shaven, and a red skullcap covered his head, allowing a glimpse of gray hair to frame his face.

Michelangelo kneeled at the base of the scaffolding, and lowered his head. The Pope moved slowly across the mosaic tile floor, taking time to stop and look up at the vaulted ceiling.

"You may rise, Buonarrotti." The pope continued to look up, assessing the progress of the painting.

No pleasantries were exchanged between the men. The pope directed his stern gaze at Michelangelo and peppered him with questions, occasionally acknowledging the answer with an "hmmm" or a grunt. I didn't like his attitude toward my master, and felt my anger rising. The pope's voice became louder and more vehement as the questioning continued. Then the questions turned to commands.

"You WILL finish in one month. I have set the unveiling."

"But your holiness, there is more to be done…the details…the other figures…" Michelangelo pleaded.

He raised his cane and pointed it at Michelangelo in an aggressive manner.

"Silence, Buonarrotti! It is not for you to say. You WILL finish. This scaffold is to be removed. That is all."

Disgust filled my throat. I knew the embarrassment Michelangelo would feel to display unfinished work.

The Pope placed the tip of his cane on Michelangelo's chest.

"And if you defy me, I will repeal my commission to carve the figures for my burial tomb. If you will not paint, you will not sculpt."

I bared my fangs with a hiss. Moving with vampire speed, I attacked from behind, my fangs sinking into the throat of Pope Julius II, in a savage strike delivered in pure anger. I swallowed once and would have kept on going but I heard Michelangelo gasp, and then a frenzied shout.

"Stop! Stop!"

I lifted my head, keeping my chin down so Michelangelo would not see my fangs. I licked my lips, scored my thumb and healed the wounds on the pope's neck. The dark shadows in the vast chapel hid my quick movements, and Michelangelo's eyes did not witness my cover-up. My fangs retracted while I dragged the human to a makeshift bench at the bottom of the scaffolding. Propping him up against the wooden structure, I glamoured the Pope into a trance, and turned to face Michelangelo. His eyes were wild and his arms were flailing about.

"What have you done?" Michelangelo looked in horror from me to the Pope and back again.

"He will live." I snarled. "Now be quiet for a moment."

"What are you going to do to him?" Michelangelo gestured to the Pope, his voice shaking with fear.

"I will show mercy on him. Now, a moment, please." My anger faded as I saw Michelangelo's reaction to my actions.

I lifted the Pope's chin and looked directly into his eyes. My voice was nothing more than a quiet hum as I planted the suggestion. "Michelangelo can have as much time as he needs to finish painting La Capella Sistina. You will pay him double. You will make no demands of him. You will treat him with reverence." Replacing tonight's short-term memories with these suggestions took less than a minute, and I disappeared into the shadows as the Pope snapped out of the trance.

The Pope rubbed his temple, looking around the chapel. He shook his head once, then again, and stood up. He tilted his head back and looked at the vault. When he spoke, his voice was soft and friendly, so unlike before.

"Beautiful, just beautiful. I look forward to its finish, whenever that may be. May God bless you and keep you, my son, Michelangelo."

Pope Julius II walked to the end of the nave, and looked back up one more time before I heard his handlers shuffling outside the doors. The Pope's entourage of clerics and cardinals stationed outside the door, along with the ever-present Swiss Guards, scurried into action with the Pope's return. Michelangelo sighed with relief, although he kept watching the door long after the Pope had left, as if he expected the guards to be coming back for him.

Once Julius was gone, I came out of the shadows, and helped Michelangelo take a seat where the Pope had just rested. He looked tired, although I saw relief on his face as he let his head fall slump against the vertical timber of the scaffold.

I sat down next to him, as we had so many nights before. With my tone respectful and quiet, I asked, "Why would you let him talk to you like that? He will be remembered for ages because of your work and yet you let him speak to you like a common laborer, a slave."

Michelangelo dropped his head. "He is the Pope! It would be blasphemy…"

Eric picked up Michelangelo's hand, holding it reverently in his own. "No, it is blasphemy that he rushes you and takes away your pleasure of sculpting. That is the blasphemy."

Michelangelo looked at me, love shining in his eyes. He sighed. "No, you are wrong. There is no greater patron of the arts than the Pope."

"He will not have any of his precious art if he continues to abuse you in this way."

"You don't understand…" His voice cracked, full of emotion.

"I understand you are the greatest painter and sculptor I have seen in my long life. I won't allow him to abuse you."

Michelangelo waited a moment before he responded. "You take care of me, like no other. Although, sometimes I fear you."

I released his hand and put my arm around his shoulders. The long arduous hours, coupled with the Pope's stressful visit had taken their toll on him. His body sagged against mine.

"You have nothing to fear from me. Let me take care of you, my Maestro d'Arte." I stroked his cheek and as I glamoured him, he closed his eyes, relaxing against me.

After witnessing the Pope's unreasonable demands and after seeing how those orders damaged my friend, I needed to give him comfort. I planted the suggestion to drink deeply from my throat, without any memory of the act. I wanted the feel of him in my arms. My protection and my blood I could give him, saving him from those that would take advantage of his gifts.

With a quick slash of the knife I used while I worked, I opened my throat, and gently placed my hand on the back of his neck to direct his lips where they needed to go. By instinct, he licked at the wound, before he latched on and took deep pulls of my blood. His body responded, and undulated against mine, while he put his arms around me to gain a better purchase. My body reacted to his touch, swelling as the blood pounded in my groin. I smiled as he groaned with pleasure and his hand roamed across my thick, muscular thighs, feeling their power, before his hand came to rest on my hardness. He touched me with love and reverence.

Soon, the wound on my neck healed on its own, and Michelangelo pulled himself away from it, resting his forehead on my shoulder, panting, hiding his face from me. When he spoke, it was with remorse and shame.

"We should not be doing such things, especially here in this holy place."

I stroked his face. "Do not be ashamed, master. We come together in respect, and love. Where is the sin in that?"

Michelangelo started to argue, but then stopped, his head thrown back, looking up at the vaulted ceiling.

"You will stay and help me finish, yes?"

"Certamente, maestro."

Then I captured his eyes with his gaze, and glamoured his bad memories of the night away, leaving the memories of our embrace intact.

^V^

I continued my work with Michelangelo. He never asked where I went for the day. Most nights, I mixed the plaster and spread the first layer as he taught me, while he sketched the next day's drawings. How he managed to work by oil lamp through the night with his weak human eyes, I did not know. The nights passed by quickly, and soon he worked on the panels at the center of the vault. These were the most important of all, the creation scenes, and the expulsion of humans from the garden.

Michelangelo's temper flashed more often now, and he grew frustrated, ripping up sketch after sketch.

"Maestro, what is wrong? You have not painted in days."

"My drawings…they are not quite right. Eve looks like a man. This will not do." He crumpled up his latest sketch and placed his head in his hands.

"Perhaps a female model…" He cut me off.

"And where would I find such a model?"

"I can find her for you."

"You would do that?"

"Yes."

"Then go, find me the right female form. I am going home to rest."

For days I searched, inside and outside the Vatican. Michelangelo grew impatient, and depressed from my failure to find a suitable model. It pained me to see him so, because I knew his art would suffer, if he were able to produce anything at all in the state he was in. I continued to hunt for the perfect female, one that would honor his vision, and I found her amongst the woman that baked the bread in the vast ovens in the central kitchen. It just happened that she was walking home after a night's work when I saw her crossing the plaza.

She was bundled up against the cold, but I could see the tendrils of blonde hair that had worked out of her braids coiled about her head. Her complexion was light, and she had a glow about her that reminded me of the sun. Her plump form with her wide hips and ample breasts was just what Michelangelo was looking for. She was beautiful. I felt something stir in me that I hadn't felt since I began working at the chapel. The need to feed from her was strong, and the desire to lay with her even stronger.

She was the one.

I hid on the edge of the plaza, and when she approached, I reached out and pulled her into the shadows with me. She pummeled my chest with her fists until I caught her eye and glamoured her, just enough to stop her thrashing about.

"Let me go!"

"No"

"What do you want with me? I have no money."

"I don't want money."

She started hitting me again, trying to break free of my grasp.

"Stop. I'm not going to hurt you. I want to offer you work."

"I already have a job. I don't need another. Now let me go!"

"No."

"Please sir. I have nothing you want. Let me go."

"What time do you come here…to your work?"

"Most nights, ten o'clock."

I used my glamour now. "You will come to the La Capella Sistina at eight o'clock in the evening, before you go to bake. Now what is your name?"

"Susanna"

"I mean you no harm, Susanna." I released her from my grasp and from the power of my glamour.

Now that she was free, I expected her to run away from me as fast as she could, but she stood there, looking at me."Why do you need me at the chapel?"

"Come tomorrow and you will see. I bid you good night, my lady." I bowed with a flourish and she scurried away with a backward glance. My body told me dawn approached, and I left to find a resting place.

The next night I arrived at the chapel as soon as the sun set. Michelangelo dozed at the base of the scaffolding, on a bench against the wall. I shook him gently by the shoulder.

"Michelangelo…wake up."

He groaned, and his eyes fluttered between rough rubs of his hands. "Eric, have you found someone?

"Yes, she will be here soon. Her name is Susanna."

She arrived at the chapel promptly at eight.

Michelangelo walked around her as she stood in the middle of the chapel floor, sizing her up. Susanna didn't mind at first, but as he drew closer and reached out to touch her, she recoiled.

"What do you want with me? Why am I here?"

Michelangelo gestured to the sky and she looked up for the first time. Even in the yellowed light of the oil lamps, the ceiling was a sight to see, and she gasped.

"Oh my…" She laid her head back, her eyes locked on the vaulted ceiling, while she moved around to get a better view.

"What can I do to help you, good sir? This…is amazing." Michelangelo smiled and I saw a spark of light in his eyes.

"I need a model. Will you do it?"

She thought for a moment, and looked up again. "Yes, I will. Now, what do you need me to do?" She removed her cloak.

I carried Michelangelo and Susanna up the scaffold and once at the top, she removed the remainder of her clothing. Her skin was unblemished and smooth, her arms and legs muscular from her work, yet still feminine. She took her hair down, and the blonde waves covered her shoulders. She was not modest about her body—she took Michelangelo's direction as he sketched her in various poses.

The maestro looked at her with the eyes of an academic, without lust or longing. That was reserved for me, and every night she posed, I struggled to keep my instincts in check, so as not to take her blood and body right there on the scaffolding platform.

I wanted her.

The work at the chapel moved forward again, with Michelangelo sketching at night, and painting during the day. By the time I arrived each evening, new feminine forms graced the ceiling. I spent my time mixing the plaster, and scheming how I might get Susanna alone. I was distracted from my mixing, and Michelangelo started to suspect the reasons why. He became critical of my work, finding the smallest of imperfections in order to chastise me. He refused my blood.

On what was to be our last night together, Michelangelo's words flew out at Susanna and me like daggers. The figures depicting the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden were not to his liking, and he would not accept them in his creation. His commands echoed through the chapel, their ugly sound contrasting with the exquisite art all around.

"Eric! More plaster! We do this section again."

Later, her soft crying interrupted my mixing of the plaster. Her eyes were red and swollen with tears. The anger rose in my throat, and for the first time, I shouted at my maestro.

"Why must you make her cry? She tries to pose as you wish. It is not her fault you lack the vision for this panel."

His face enflamed and he crumpled the drawing in his hands.

"Get out. Both of you. Do not come back. You are finished here." He shouted.

What had I done?

"You heard me, Eric. Get out. NOW! And do not come back." He picked up my mixing trowel from the platform and threw it at my feet.

Susanna grabbed up her clothing and clutched it to her chest. She sobbed openly now, but she composed herself to climb down the ladder. Michelangelo planted his feet and stared at me, both of us locked in a battle for control. But this was his commission, his creation, his world, and as difficult as it was, I followed Susanna down the scaffold ladder, and out the door of the Sistine Chapel.

The bitter, cold, north wind slapped me in the face. What had I done? Would I ever get to see my maestro work again?

Susanna was gone, back to her baker's job, gone from my life too.

From the ecstasy of discovering Michelangelo's art to the agony of losing it, I knew my days in Rome were numbered.

I returned to hunting on the Vatican grounds, taking multiple victims regularly to replenish myself after the long nights spent with Michelangelo. When not hunting, I passed the time in the shadows of the Chapel of Santa Petronilla, studying Michelangelo's Pietà and longing for the company of the creator of such a magnificent work. I mourned our estrangement.

The doors of the Sistine Chapel remained locked at night, but I still checked for a way in. No light was visible through the windows at night and no sounds came from within. I ventured into town and Michelangelo was not in residence. I returned to the grounds of the Vatican and fed.

Weeks went by before Michelangelo was back to work. He had apprentices to help him again. I waited for the workers to leave, and summoned up the courage to enter the chapel. I had made the decision to leave Rome, and I had to see it before I left.

The scaffolding occupied a new spot, and the timbers blocked my view of the panels above. I strained to see the Garden of Eden depiction, the panel he was working on the night he dismissed me, but I could not see it from where I stood in the shadows.

I walked out into the open chapel and looked up. Michelangelo had completed the panel. The story of the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden jumped off the ceiling in brilliant greens and golds. I stood there, my eyes fixated on the panel, examining every corner, every detail. I knew they all symbolized something in the story the artist told in this section. I didn't hear him come up behind me.

"Do you like it?" He asked, in a quiet, respectful tone, so unlike the last I heard from him.

"Yes, very much so. I would say you captured the agony of the expulsion very well."

He nodded.

"I will forever remember our time together, Signore Buonarrotti." I bowed to him.

"And I shall never forget you, my friend." His voice cracked.

We stood in silence for a while, enjoying his creation, his heart and soul, painted on the ceiling vault of the chapel.

"I will be sculpting again, soon. I could use a good apprentice who appreciates my philosophies, and my work." His tone was hopeful, his hands trembling.

"I'm leaving Rome. The Pope goes to war, and I will have none of it. I leave for the Orient tonight."

Michelangelo dropped his head, disappointment clear on his face. He recovered from it, though, enough to bid me goodbye.

"I see. I will miss you, Eric. I wish you safe travel. Stay as long as you like." He gathered up the drawings from the workbench and walked away without looking back, the ties between us permanently severed.

Or so I thought.

There on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, the face of the serpent temptress was that of the model Susanna. The body of Eve reproduced her lovely curves, and soft, white skin. I flew up to the platform to get a closer look, and I smiled. I could see my own features in the figure of Adam before the fall, his firm legs, broad chest, and muscular arms were my own. I stayed on that platform for another hour or so, remembering my time there, knowing I had contributed to the creation with the plaster I hauled and mixed. But I could take no credit for the creation itself. That was all Michelangelo Buonarrotti. I felt great relief that we parted company on better terms, and I was touched by his generosity in including my form in his work. I would never forget him.

I climbed down the scaffolding for the last time, and walked out the very same door Pope Julius used so many months ago. With a smile on my face, I bid goodbye to the Vatican and Rome, in search of my next adventure.


For an absolutely incredible virtual experience of the Sistine Chapel….

www. vatican. va/ various/ cappelle/ sistina_vr/

(remove the spaces in the URL, you know the drill)

can you find the Expulsion from the Garden panel?

Good luck to all entering the Age of Eric contest! *hugs* tm