(Perry writes per introduction: “The Voice Within the Idol” was bought by Lou Thomas, one of my favorite porn editors, for FirstHand Magazine—in the late 1980s. We both thought it was a wonderful twist on gay porn, in that it actually had a lot of wisdom in it instead of just the usual gratuitous physical experiences (although, frankly, I am never against them either). Connecting the dots between Egyptology and modern Manhattan is never difficult, in fact, it only becomes easier. In both situations you have exalted idols with extremely clay feet. As I said, the real question is: how far can you go on those clay feet?)
Many years ago, when I was a young man about New York, I had the good fortune, or misfortune—depending upon your point of view—of getting too drunk one night and being left by my friends at the home of my host. It had been a wild party, in a beautiful section of Manhattan where it seemed like the very night air was sprayed with a particularly suffocating form of cologne you'd find in Bloomingdale's, but I still had no intentions of spending the night. My host, a man at least twenty years older than me, had been quite successful in business. His apartment was showy; his hospitality, especially to young men, lavish. In other words, he lived in some splendor for a guy who'd never seen the inside of a college, had never had much talent for doing anything except pleasing the right people, and who still spoke like a resident of the less frequented side of the tracks.
Like I said, after passing out cold in his living room, I had the excellent fortune of ending up in his bedroom. Now, although I was young, I still thought that these almost Arabian Nights maneuvers, when suddenly one finds oneself transported—as if by a genie—from one location, in this instance the living room, to another, the bedroom, boded for good luck. And I was right. My host turned out to be as pleasing in the sack, in this case a huge bed with satin sheets and a mirror on the ceiling, as he'd been during the earlier part of the evening, when my foolish young friends deserted me for what they felt to be the greener pastures of the bars and discos of a wintry night. Although the hair on my host's head resembled the gray of ashes, the fire in his loins was still very red hot. And after finding myself stirred in the early dawn hours by his passionate kisses, I soon also found myself quite awake and very hard. It is these surprises which add luster to the routine of our lives, and which my other had dismissed by leaving for the jaded routines of yet another night out. But by the circumstance of my drunkenness, I discovered a side to our host that my friends denied themselves.
That next morning, over an elaborate breakfast served on Limoges and chocolated coffee laced with an expensive liqueur, my host told me he would reward my decision to spend the night—unplanned as it was—with a story that had been told to him under remarkably similar circumstances, perhaps twenty-five years earlier. I told him that there was no need to reward me at all. But he demurred and said I should listen to his story first, before I made up my mind.
"I hope you'll never forget this story, young man," he added. "Because I certainly haven't."
I sat there, quite enchanted by the luxury of my setting, in a large, velvet robe, at the table in his formal dining room. I looked up curiously at him from my gilt-rimmed coffee cup, and asked him what the story was called.
He smiled benignly at me. "It is called, my dear young friend, 'The Voice Within the Idol.'"
In ancient Egypt, many years ago, there was once an idol. The idol stood in the recesses of a large, dark, stone temple at the edge of the great desert. The idol had been left by an army of invaders. They had brought the idol with them, and venerated it during their time of conquest. And although the idol was not native to Egypt, the natives in turn treated the foreign god with great respect, as he was known to be powerful, to reward all wishes, allay all fears, and bring happiness, serenity, and security if approached correctly.
Many, many people of every social stripe came to see the idol, and they all hoped to hear his voice. Physically, the idol was very striking, with a massive, sculpted chest; great, muscular thighs and legs; and a powerful, bull neck. But the most striking thing was his face. The face was quite featureless, with a smooth, bland countenance. In other words, one could read into the idol's expression pretty much what one wanted. To some, the idol was fearful and threatening; to others, kind and comforting; and to others, still, very seductive.
The idol's voice was famous. Some people had heard it and boasted thereafter of being given their heart's desire. But to hear the idol's voice, you had to come alone, under the darkness of a late, late night; or even later, just as the gracious morning star arose. The idol, as a rule, would not speak to groups. Since the way to the idol was so forbidding, out there at the edge of an inhospitable desert, and the idol himself did appear so frightening to a great number of people, few ever attempted a private audience with this large, stone enigma.
And, further, those who did were very circumspect about reporting the effects of the idol's voice. Certainly, the voice was deep, commanding, knowledgeable—even exciting. And those who came alone reported that they stood trembling in awe. They did exactly what the idol wished them to do, whether it was to bring offerings, or listen to the idol's gift of prophecy, or even to the idol's own petty wishes and regrets. Because, as everyone knew, sometimes you had to do that with idols. But those who did venture alone up to the temple at the edge of the desert, in the deepest, most frightening hour of night, said very little else.
One evening a young man, first making his way through this treacherous world, decided that he, too, had to see the idol. And he had to see him alone. He had gone to the idol several times in groups with his friends. They were a chatty group—young students of the Mysteries, of the Arts, or Commerce; and they'd all been awed by the idol. What massive proportions the idol displayed! What huge hands! What huge feet! Even his large male member—how they exclaimed about his large male member! Wasn't it supposed to have magical powers of its own? But in groups, no one ever heard the idol's voice. The idol was silent; silent as the centuries he came from. Finally, the young man decided that it was high time that he heard the idol's voice for himself.
"Be careful," his friends warned. "The desert at night is terrifying. Jackals. Wild beasts. Shrieking ghosts. They all prowl the desert at night and come up to the very edge where the idol's temple sits. Many men have been known never, ever, to come back."
These were daunting warnings, and for a moment the young man was discouraged. But he was a cocky young fellow, who as a rule did not listen to his chatty friends, and his sense of adventure and ambition quickly got the most of him. He jumped on his horse and galloped past the palms and the last settlements lit with torches, to the place where the invaders had built their temple. There the only light came from a thin moon and the desert stars.
He steeled his courage up, and walked through the huge, long, dark entrance way. Scorpions brushed from his path. Small wild cats screeched. Rats and snakes hurried away. Bats swooshed over his head. His heart drummed inside his young, handsome chest. The way, in almost total darkness, seemed to take forever. His eyes became more accustomed—then some pale light from the moon and the stars began to seep into the recesses of the temple.
Finally, many yards ahead, he made out the idol. It was huge. It was frightening. "Co-o-oome!" it said
His knees went to water. He thought he'd collapse. The idol at night was as frightening as he'd ever heard. And that voice! It could move boulders. It could stop an army. It was the biggest, deepest, most thunderous voice the young man had ever heard.
He approached. To his sheer terror, he saw, in his nervousness, that the idol's face, normally so bland, was scowling. The idol was displeased. "Whaa-aat do you want?" it asked.
"Oh," the young man said, his voice pinched and tense. "Just to be happy." He paused a second. Although the palms of his hands were cold, he was perspiring. But he knew what he had to do, and he had to ask the idol what he had galloped through the wilderness to ask. "I want," he said, swallowing hard, " to know my way through life. To have all the answers. Not to fear anyone. I want that."
"Doo-oon't we all!!!" the idol said. His mouth appeared to turn down. "Go-ooo!!" the idol boomed.
The young man felt terrible. Dejected. He'd come so far, and now he'd been rejected by the idol. This was not the way it was supposed to end. He turned around and began to walk sadly off.
"No-ooo!!! Not home!" the idol roared. "Not that way! Go left."
The young man was shaken to his sandals at first, but then he collected himself and walked to the left. There, in an even deeper recess of the ancient temple, he saw a narrow passageway. He followed it. It was very dark and close and silent. He could hear his own breathing. He could hear his own heartbeat. A dozen steps away, the passageway ended abruptly. A blank wall hit him. There was no light at all. Nothing for him to do. No place for him to go. He felt ambushed. Up against a blank wall, at the end of a narrow passageway ...
Then he heard the idol's voice speak once more. "There! Stay!"
Well, where else was he going to go? There was no place else. It was too dark to see. The young man decided simply to stay and see what the old gods and their idol had in mind.
Suddenly, a hand reached for him. Was it the idol's hand? Would it put its hand around his young, innocent neck and kill him?
But the hand seemed amazingly gentle, and then there was another hand. Both hands held him around his waist. Then the hands bade him to lie down—flat on his stomach.
"Now!" the idol said in the darkness at the end of the passageway. "Now, you will get the answer."
The answer? the young man thought as he lay on his stomach. Finally, the answer! "What? What?" he asked.
The young man felt something coming at him, under his light, Egyptian robes. Then he felt something enter his body, from his rear end. It was large. But it wasn't that large. Actually, to tell the truth, it was about as large as any normal man might be. Nothing big by idol standards, but no small potatoes, either. He'd heard about this ... this ... humiliation, this horror that happened to young men when they weren't careful and went abroad at night into the underbelly of the City or the Desert.
But, after about half a second, he realized that it didn't feel all that bad. And, actually, since he couldn't go any further in the temple, and it was pitch dark, and the idol was such a hunky, fearful, awful creature anyway ... well, that was just the end of that.
The idol quickly took his pleasure from the young man, and the young man had to admit that he'd felt worse things before. And, specifically speaking, it was rather exciting in fact. In fact, he couldn't believe anything so marvelous could happen to a simple young man like himself, alone at the edge of the desert.
After it was over—and the idol pulled himself out of the young man's anatomy—there was a moment of intense quiet. The young man had indeed never heard quiet this quiet. He was certain that he was alone in the recesses of the temple, and the great idol who'd just mounted him had left. Now, what was he to do? Now, he'd never know a single secret. He suppressed a sob. Now, he'd have to go back to his friends and lie to them, because certainly he could never tell them the truth.
"Do you mind if I smoke?" the idol said.
"Mind if I smoke!!??" the voice boomed.
The young man told him it was fine. "Sure." A match was struck, and the young man saw that instead of this massive, stone god with the powerful, throbbing male member, he was lying next to a thin, wrinkled old man. Well, maybe not so old, but certainly wrinkled, especially to this young man.
"You're not ... you're not ... you're ... not!" the young man said.
"So? What did you expect? Hercules?" the idol's voice countered. "Listen, it gets really boring inside that idol waiting for some young chicken to come along. It wasn't bad, was it? I usually give satisfaction, right?"
The young man had to admit that was true. "I just never thought sex with an idol would end up like this," he said.
"You should see me in the morning. You think I'm disappointing now? But at least I gave you the answer to all your questions."
"Sure, baby." And the old man entered him again, this time slower, rhythmically, with more attentions to details, so that the young man got more out of it, too. Then the old man whispered something into the young man's ear, something the young man never, ever forgot. And with that, the old man disappeared.
The next evening, the young man's friends wanted to know all about his quest for the idol's answers. And the young man lied to them just as he promised himself he would do. He told how the great idol had spoken powerfully to him, and given him every answer. "Amazing," his clever friends said. They started to make up smart little ditties in his honor, and passed the hookah back and forth, noshing on dates and sweet meats, and staying up most of the night, even after the young man, now fired with ambition, had gone to sleep.
Then the next afternoon, his friends borrowed an oxcart and journeyed out to see the idol themselves. They were about half a dozen in number, and they were a loud, but humorous group. They alighted in front of the temple and walked together down the long passageway to the idol's reception room. There, the idol seemed gracious to them, and they all smiled at him, and he, through his bland, stone features, seemed to smile back. Then one by one, they praised the idol's generosity and intelligence, and left gifts for him. But the idol did not speak, and none of them had the courage to visit the idol in the dead of night.
But the young man did just as he thought he would: he rose way above his born station in life, and became secretary to the Prime Minister of Egypt, who reported directly to the Pharaoh. People admired and envied the young man's good fortune. They asked him many, many times the secret of his success. But he never answered them, and only gave them the same genial, neutral facial expression which he'd seen the idol make. Of course, people always interpreted this expression kindly.
But every night, before he went to sleep, the young man remembered the last words the "idol," who had met him in the dark, had spoken to him thusly:
"It is easy, young man, to discover the 'clay feet' of an idol. The real secret, my young friend, is to understand just how far those clay feet can take him."
"Well, how d' ya like that story?" my kindly host said to me.
I remembered telling him it was wonderful and nodding my head. A moment later, I finished my coffee, and then began to search out my host's own idol under his robe. He smiled and led me back to the satin sheets of his bedroom.
Perry Brass’s 19 books include fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and short stories. His work often deals with the intense, heartfelt feelings of men and women that came from his radical roots in New York’s Gay Liberation Front directly after the Stonewall Uprising. He is a founding coordinator of the Rainbow Book Fair. More info: www.perrybrass.com