September 7th. 2019 by Patrick Starks
When I was just twelve years old life was pretty neutral, somewhat chaotic, but neutral. I really didn’t know what I wanted to be or if I even cared really, but then there was that night a strange man approached me on my way back home. It was cold and wet out, and no matter how much you tried to avoid it with an umbrella, you’d feel like a Popsicle by the end of the day.
The man was tall and well-groomed and wore the hell out of suit, maybe even tailored by the way that it looked. He must’ve been worth billions I assumed, but if anything, he could have just been some creep looking to run off with a little twelve-year-old boy, like most had done that year. But that was Burdenham for ya, the city of creeps, thugs, prostitutes and god knows what else. The place was a complete ruin but seeing a man in a suit so well put together made me feel a little like I’d died and was staring in the eyes of an angel for once, or at least that’s what I hoped. The man then spoke.
“What are you doing out here all by yourself little one?” he said. “You know this is no place for kids to be wondering around at this time of the day.”
The man’s voice was as expected, smooth and groggy. And he smelt like old spice, bourbon, and cigars. He was completely mysterious in ways I couldn’t comprehend, but the question was, was if the mystery about him was good or bad. Although, by the smell of him it seemed he’d be bad.
“I get it,” said the man, chuckling. “You don’t have to say a word. I’m sure your parents have told you a thousand times not to talk to strangers; as good parents should tell their kids. But seriously little one, you should hurry along. You don’t want to see what happens when it gets too late at night. That’s when the freaks come out. But since it is getting close to around that time, it might be best for you to crash at my place for now… It isn’t far.”
The sound of glass then shattered in the background, and for an odd reason a horrid smell had come along with it, like death. Golden eyes danced in the darkness, and the streetlights that hung in front of them flickered in unison with every blink they’d make. Although, the man wasn’t fazed by it at all. In fact, his eyes had never left me.
“W-what’s that?” I asked, stepping back with caution, pointing passed the man.
“Oh boy, oh boy… I guess you’re a bit too late now little one,” said the man. “Just stay behind me, and whatever you do, don’t run. That’s what they like.”
“What who likes?” I asked.
But the man didn’t say another word after that. He’d spun around and his eyes would stay glued to whatever was in front of us. I couldn’t really tell what it was down the street, but I could tell that there were dozens of them of them now, with steam coming off their breath like an over steeped tea kettle.
Before I’d even realized it, the man was gone, and his suit would be on the ground soaked in the puddle before me. He couldn’t have just gone nude in such a situation, could he? Why would he? Although, such a man didn’t strike me as the shy type either, so it wouldn’t have been much of a surprise had he did.
From out of nowhere a black cape with a black mask flew up into the air, falling gracefully like paper in the middle of the street. It was stained with blood and had rips and scratches all over. And all I heard after that was the sound of a burp echoing throughout every alleyway, I had contemplated on running towards.
Closer and closer one of the glowing eyes had already began making its way over to me, while the others stood static. Its face would be revealed underneath the streetlights, haunting me for every moment that I couldn’t move. A black scar traveled from the top of its head to the center of its chin, and it had a joker-like smile with jagged teeth in ways I never knew was possible. My legs had urged me to run but then the thought of what the man had said made me pause on the thought. Still, the closer it had gotten to me, the more I’d forget what the man had told me. By the time whatever it was, was within a couple of feet of me, I’d cut tail and run as hard as I could to one of the alleys, but halfway down the street whatever it was would be right in front of me again, drool oozing from its mouth like fresh honey from a bottle.
“Ah, ah, ah… Now what’s a little one like you doing out here all by his lonesome,” it said, licking its lips with a tongue as black as the skies.
I shivered just by the pitch of its voice. And from its hot breath all I could depict from it was the smell of spoiled tuna left out on a countertop during a summer’s day.
“I get it,” it said. “Mommy and Daddy must’ve told you not to talk to strangers… I understand.”
“W-who are you? What are you?” I asked, fearfully. “Please don’t eat me… I’ll do whatever you want, just please don’t eat me!”
It then smiled and leaned into me, as every bone in its body cracked like an old man. Its head was right beside mine, and if it wanted, it could’ve easily bitten it off by the size of how massive its jaw was. And even though I wasn’t the religious type, for every second its head rested beside mine, I’d prayed that that wouldn’t have been the scenario.
“The name’s Luther, and I am a gargoyle,” it whispered, into my ear. “And don’t worry, we don’t eat children. I mean, we do eat humans, just not children. To be frank, we eat the adults, but not the good ones though, the bad ones. You could say they have an interesting taste about them. And you really don’t feel as guilty when you eat them either.”
“Did I st-st-st-st-stutter? Of course, I’m a Gargoyle but not from the Moonlight Chapel. From another place.”
One of the members of Luther’s group would then make their way over and they would be just as horrid and smelly, but was more like a workout musk, than a dead musk, which in all honesty still wasn’t good either way you smelt it. It had long dark hair but looked a little red in some angles of the lighting that surrounded us. It was much shorter than Luther, but one would have been a fool to think it wasn’t as scary. Its teeth looked much sharper and their skin looked as if it had been sitting in a bathtub filled with swamp water for hours, maybe even days. It was repulsive, although, I’d find out later that Luther would’ve objected to that had I told him.
“Ah! How could I forget. Over there is Xenia,” said Luther “My future wife. Isn’t she gorgeous?”
“Ugh… I’m not your wife Luther. I told you it will never happen. I have… goals.”
“What other goals would you have besides marrying me?” said Luther, confidently.
“Ugh, males…” said Xenia, annoyed. “Anyways, it’s a pleasure to meet you little one. You know that was a close call back there. You would’ve been the seventh child this week that had gotten picked up by that creep.”
“W-what are you talking about?” I asked.
“What she is saying boy is that the man you were just with was a pedophile and he was looking to take you home as he’s done most of the children in this town,” said a voice from a dark corner. “But don’t you worry. You can say he’s been retired.”
“But the black mask and the cape?” I asked, squinting to see what hid.
“What about it?” replied the voice from the corner.
“What was it? Was he like a superhero or something?”
“Ha! More like a wanna be batman. Trust me boy, that man was no superhero. It was just a gimmick he liked to play to lure little boys like yourself into his dirty claws. I guess, little boys are really into superheroes. But none of you’ll ever have to worry about him again. Although, there are still more like him out there so be aware of your surroundings. You can never be too sure nowadays.”
The voice in the corner then gradually revealed itself under a light no different than Luther had. He was large and muscular; about the size of Luther and Xenia combined. His eyes were sparkling gold and his smile was toothless but then teeth expelled from them like holstered knives; only difference was that they were dull compared to the others, which part of me terrifyingly wondered what would be worst; to get chewed up by sharp or dull teeth. If I had to bet my money on it, I’d say the sharp teeth would’ve been less painful or at least would’ve been the quickest death of the two.
“Well I guess I should…”
“I don’t need any silly introduction Luther,” interrupted the gargoyle. “The boy doesn’t need to know my name, all that he needs to know is that I don’t give piggyback rides and I don’t associate myself with humans, especially children. But I do eat them, the adults. Or was it the children… I don’t know. I’ll just let your imagination wonder.”
“Ugh… Give it a rest already Khon,” said Xenia. “Don’t worry about him little one, he’s just grumpy because he got a cut from the man.”
“It’s just a flesh wound…” said Kohn rubbing the back of his shoulder.
“Where do you live boy?” asked Luther. “Where are your parents?”
“I don’t have any… I’m an orphan…”
“Oh, poor baby,” said Athena. “Oh, Luther can he stay with us, please? Can we keep him?”
Luther then looked at me with eyes as sharp as his own teeth. He took a deep breath and then spoke.
“Okay, okay. The little one can stay with us,” he said, walking away.
“What! You can’t be serious?” yelled Khon. “If we take him back, they’ll…”
“They’ll do nothing!” shouted Luther. “The boy comes with us; per request of my future wife.”
For once Athena hadn’t said a thing. Maybe just for once, the thought of marrying Luther was beginning to settle in a bit. Maybe, just maybe, as a goal she could see a life with him.
“I don’t need to go with you guys. And I don’t want to go with you. I have a home,” I pleaded.
“Is that so?” asked Luther, leaning in towards my face again. “Then where might that be little one?”
“D-d-down the street…” I shivered.
“And where is it down the street boy?” said Khon leaning in as well, slime embed within his hair like gel.
“Oh, stop it you two! You’re scaring him,” yelled Athena. “Come with me little one, I’ll show you where we stay.”
With just a blink of an eye, Athena would spread wings like an angel, and I’d be soaring above the city, confined by her arms, that of which felt more muscular than a body builder in their prime. I’d never seen the city as a place of beauty but as we flew above it, I’d realized how wrong I was. It was like looking at a thousand fireflies down below.
“I know what you’re thinking,” said Khon. “Beautiful right? But with all beauty comes a price. Nothing in this life becomes beautiful my boy without something chaotic happening to it or around it. And vice versa. In fact, sometimes things become chaotic or ugly because they or it realizes that due to their ignorance, they are forever stuck with the karma of knowing that they might not find beauty again. But of course, that all depends on what they are willing to change about themselves.”
“Spoken like a true poet,” Luther chortled.
“Go to hell Luther.”
“Too late, I’m already in it.”
“Ugh… males,” said Athena, rolling her eyes with the wind.
We’d arrived. The place was just as I expected it would be; filled with nothing but garbage and old sofas that people had abandoned probably months ago. Just by the looks of it all, it wasn’t a shock that they’d smelt the way that they did. But the thing that I noticed were the statues that filled it, like old relics. They weren’t gargoyles but something else.
“What are those?” I pointed.
Neither of them had said word, and every single one of their backs were turned to me.
“The rain,” said Luther.
“What do you mean?”
“I don’t know if you remember it little one… But 4 years ago, when the rain poured the city became flooded. And well… the whole thing about the sun turning us into statues was a myth, it’s really the rain that does this. Fortunately, some of us were able to avoid it, but sadly others met a different fate.”
“But they aren’t gargoyles, are they? I mean… they look completely different from you three.”
Kohn stood motionless in front of a statue that had flowers all around it. There was a twinkle in his eye, but unlike Athena’s it didn’t fall. Or at least Kohn hadn’t allowed it to.
“You know it wasn’t always like this,” said Kohn. “We used to be human to you know…”
“Human? You three?” I asked.
“I’m afraid so,” said Athena.
“Then how did you change to gargoyles? I didn’t even know that was possible. And if you were human, then how would the rain effect you?”
“You’ve heard the story of vampires and werewolves, right boy?” asked Kohn.
“Well it’s no different. We weren’t bitten but…”
There was then a pause amongst the three of them. Kohn looked at both Athena and Luther for the approval if he should proceed or not. Both Athena and Luther nodded.
“But… there was a day when the true gargoyles ruled this
city; the seven, we called them,” Kohn continued.
“What happened to them? Are any of them still alive?”
“No,” said Kohn, still staring at the Statue in front of him. “They were all murdered by a man we still cannot find to this day. Goes by the name of Vastros the Gargoyle slayer… And when he killed the seven, he’d no longer have a gig anymore. So, in order to keep the hunt alive, he tainted the city’s water with their blood. Before anyone had realized what he did, it was too late. When the rain came down that day everyone had turned into statues. My wife…” said Kohn, rubbing the face of the statue. “My lovely Rose… Before I could get to her the rain had turned her, like it had done everyone else.”
Luther and Athena were quiet with their heads pointed to the ground. Everyone had a look of shame in their eyes, the same shame that I’d felt since the day I was born; the shame of not knowing how your world could’ve gone so wrong.
“But I don’t understand… Wont the moonlight bring you guys back?”
“No,” said Athena and Kohn.
“We’ve tried many things,” said Luther. “Tried the Sun, we tried carving them out but realized that their whole entire body inside and out had been converted to stone.”
“And the water?” I asked.
“What about it?” they all questioned.
“Will I become one of you?” I asked.
Again, there was a pause amongst them. Luther then walked over to me and pulled out a small bottle, with water in it.
“Only one way to find out,” he said.
“No, Luther he’s just a boy,” pleaded Athena.
“I’m sorry my love but this is the only way. The boys right, he could be one of us and if he is, then we especially need to keep him from the rain whenever that comes again.”
Kohn nodded and remained close by his wife’s statue as he watched. Athena, on the other hand, had already stormed off and left the room, avoiding seeing what might happen.
“I swear that woman overexaggerates sometimes,” Kohn sighed. “Okay little one, put your hand out.”
“Either one, or both, it doesn’t matter, just show them to me.”
I then put at both of my hands and Luther would unscrew the top the bottle. He looked at me again for assurance if I was okay with it all, but I hadn’t even been looking the whole time.
“Okay little one, this might hurt,” said Luther.
So much as a tear drop had fallen from the bottle onto my hand. And within seconds it would feel so cold that my hand almost felt as though it been put in ice for hours. In the center of my palm was a grey dot. It felt solid, like a stone.
“This might hurt,” said Luther, pulling at sharp knife.
“Wait… What are you about to do? You’re not thinking about cutting it out, are you?” I asked, concerned.
“Of course,” said Luther. “There is no other way. Besides, it’ll be faster than you know it.”
Athena walked over to console me for a bit. “It’ll be okay little one, trust him. He knows what he’s doing.”
Luther then took the knife and cut deep into the center of my hand. It was excruciating but he’d pulled the stone out just as fast as he said he would—within a blink of an eye. Athena had wrapped a bandaged around it, that of which I feared was dirty from all the filth that surrounded it us. At this point it was a high chance of me getting an infection but then again, I was one of them it seemed, so I guess it would be a high chance of that not happening.
“So, I guess we take him to the place now?” said Kohn.
Both Athena and Luther were quite as they stood beside me, like two parents that had just been told that their child was being expelled. But then it seemed they’d both come to realization that that was what needed to done.
“What place? What’s Kohn talking about?” I asked.
“Up there,” said Luther. “At the highest point of Burdenham, Moonlight Tower.”
“W-what’s up there?” I shivered.
“Other Gargoyles,” said Athena. “The elders. Not a gargoyle goes unnoticed from them, not even a little one like you.”
“What will happen when we go up there?”
There was a silence amongst them again. Every one of their eyes pointed to the floor and every one of their eyes pointed to the ceiling, avoiding any contact with my own.
“We should think about this,” said Athena. “The little one is too young?”
“Yes, he is. But if we don’t take him there soon, and they find out that we’ve been holding him all this time, then we’ll be soon looking like my beloved over here,” said Kohn, still standing regretful by the statue of his wife.
“Okay then… Its settled. The little one will go there first thing tomorrow night. But until then he’ll stay with us.”
“No, the boy should go tonight Luther!” Kohn shouted.
“Luther you can’t!” Athena shouted.
“I don’t want to go up there, its creepy looking!” I shouted.
“Everyone! Please just be quiet! I’ve made my mind up. Little one you go there tomorrow!” Kohn shouted. “And that’s final.”
Afterwards everyone went to their own spots within the room. I’d gone along with Athena. She just didn’t trust any of the guys at this point, especially Kohn, who kept staring at us across the room, waiting for our eyes to close, only so that he could take me up to the tower unnoticed. But Luther, on the other hand, was still wide awake. I’d gotten the feeling he wasn’t much of the sleeping type. Although, that night we all waited for the next night to come. The night when I would meet the elders.
“Night, night, little one,” Athena whispered, as a faded sound asleep.
[To be continued]