T H E M O R P H I S T
by Silva Noir
Chapter 15: gargoyle
Atop 'Ken's Unisex Barbershop', ticking claws kept time with the eight o' clock chimes of the congregational church across the street. The looming shadow had been waiting long enough to wear slight sloughs in the cement lip above the whitewashed brick building. None of the infrequent passers-by took notice of the newly constructed ornament. The gargoyle kept both bulging eyes on the lookout for its quarry. It had done its spy-work over the past few days, deciding to take matters its own Xilvrin charged hands. Why be the hunted when you can be the hunter? Speaking of the hunted, it spotted what it was after. It laughed, tusked mouth gaping open. The voice was booming, running through hollow chambers deepening the prideful, vengeful glee of the man buried beneath layers of grotesque metal.
Stocky legs pushed him off the ledge. He could not fly, especially with a form already so bulky, so instead the wimpy webbed wings served to but slow his descent. He could have cared less; he was only jumping two stories. He could have plowed straight down, but he didn’t want to kill the one he landed on. He only wanted to scare the hell out of him. He landed in the narrow alleyway missing hitting the individual by an inch. Thick bear paws knocked the feet from under the target.
The scruffy haired boy fell to his knees. Another leaded swipe pushed his face into the gravel. The lad scrambled backward in attempt hide on the curb behind a parked motorcycle. The animal intent on pulverizing him picked up the road machine in its wide jaws, tossing it aside like a cheap toy. Drunken patrons from J.D.’s Pub swaggered out to see what the crash was. Even the flaming skull jacketed biker whose vehicle was just totaled was impressed enough not get in the beast’s path.
“How’s it feel Hyuni, to be trapped, to scream and have noone help you? To be at the mercy of your former best friend!” David, whose voice was unrecognizable, bellowed. He sucker punched the teenager with a heavy fist when he attempted to rise to his feet. “Look me in the eye when I’m talking to you!” he roared the curled up body. As soon as the boy did as he commanded, he again pounced, pressing the whole weight of his form on one who was obviously out of shape. “How does it feel to be pinned?”
“Let me go, man! I didn’t have anything to do with it. I didn’t know what was going on! I just do what they ask!” Hyuni attempted to cover his face from the gargoyle’s onslaught. “You’re the one who’s a fucking ogre!”
“Who are ‘THEY’?” David demanded. When the person beneath him refused to answer, he clamped down on the arm shielding his face. He twisted it quickly, popping it from the shoulder’s socket. The boy hollered in pain. Letting go but still holding him to the pavement with his over limbs, he growled, “I’ll ask you one… More… TIME. Who are ‘THEY’?”
“They are they.” The wisecracking Chinese youth shrank when David snarled at his flippant retort. “Look, I don’t know the nameof the organization or whatever. There are secrets in secrets. All I know is they pay me good enough if I do what they ask. They wanted to know where you were and what you were doing. And I sent the info on your stupid tags. That’s all! I swear! Just let me go!” Hyuni pleaded.
“Why did you come here? Do you want to ruin my life AGAIN? Once just wasn’t enough for you, was it? Why can’t you leave me alone! I didn’t recognize you at first. If I had, I would have killed you from the start!” David warned. He continued to beat on the Hyuni until he blacked out and mouthpooled with blood from dislodged teeth. He never received the answers he wanted.
The police had been summoned, but hadn’t arrived rightaway figuring a phone call from the bar involving mythical monster was a prankcall. When one finally did show up, hewas more than shocked. No one knew exactly how to handle the impossible statue come to life. David dared not leave the nearly dead ragdoll for them to revive. Hyuni knew about him, knew what he was. If the police had that information one of three things would occur to him: he would be locked away permanently, sent to his death, or be forced to kill anyone who stood in his way. None of the three sounded very appealing. Instead of running away, he ran towards them. Some discharged their guns in hopes a carefully aimed shot would at least slow down the demon. Bullets bounced off the hardened hide. David himself bounced over the squad cars in a game of leapfrog. The broken body hung like a sad sack of potatoes in his jaws.
The gargoyle had to make a quick decision. The yellow and white T bus was making it rounds off Crawford Square, making its first stop in front of the burger joint where Sue slaved away her after school hours for chump change. David did the only logical thing. He threw himself, kamikaze style, in front of that bus. From their angle the police saw the ugly animal die, bits of it ripping away from its body, shreds of silver liquefying. They shook their heads and abandoned the case. No officer among them wanted to make the report of otherworldly devils devouring human flesh then being creamed by late night commuter vehicles.
Laboriously, he crawled atop the moving bus, blending in the overall design, flattening himself as far as he could into a box. His passenger, flaccid as ever, didn’t seem to mind being smothered in swathings of goo. David wasn’t entirely sure he wasn’t killing the boy. He was more concerned with his own getaway at the moment… and holding on. Various seeking cords corkscrewed around every available device. Batten down the hatches, he called in thought to his corpse crew. The velocity felt delightful, rippling the jelly metal skin at a cool 40 miles an hour. This was his way of body surfing. He’d forgotten how much fun it was to play in traffic.
The bus driver didn't see his extra nonpaying passengers. If per chance he had glimpsed them he still wouldn’t have been so bold as to ask for fare. The route went on as it normal did, making its usual stops. David enjoyed the view as they moved away from the more upbeat uptown to the hokier and greenery dotted North Randolph. When they made a short stop to let of five people across from the temple, he took a moment to ponder the giant cement replicas of the Ten Commandments, embossed with Hebrew, supported by the buildings outer wall. He thought of other religious stone artifacts and that lead to the remembrance of a gargoyle’s purpose. They were ornaments to ward off evil spirits, not the embodiments of evil. He felt slightly guilty for misrepresenting them.
Past Zeppy's Bagel bakery from where the delicious scent of something cinnamon reason wafted on the air, at the bottom of the rolling hill, he noticed St. Bernadette’s catholic church was having a night mass. An old woman tottering on a walker got off at this stop, heading towards the Royal Crest condominium complex. David reformed the guardian statue form then crawled into the telephone pole. Lucky for him, no motorist or pedestrian, not even the policeman in Day-Glo orange directing traffic looked up to the branches of the trees he was slowly slinking through. The raspy caws of a few ravens and the surprised meow of a loose tabby cat that'd been stalking field mice disproved that no creature had borne witness. These witnesses he did not pay mind to. David dropped to the small brook that ran between the church and condos. Here the thick cover of trees, weeds, and steep earthen slopes sheltered him. Being the sort of town that it was, the water was congested with unhealthy bright green lengths of algae, shopping carts, and paper products. Added to this was a body fallen out of the coat of a gargoyle. The cold, if not entirety pure, water revived Hyuni.
Wits with him, Hyuni inquired, riled, "What now, huh? Going to kill me now that you got the cops off your back, nice and out of view?"
"Don't follow me anymore." David's mood had swung to sadness, as it did easily and often. "Get away from me and let me lead my life in what peace I can salvage. I never wanted for anyone to get hurt at first... but keep threatening and caging....” He gradually let the armor melt off him like candle's wax away from the flickering flame. "I won't go without one hell of a fight. But I don't want it to come to that. So go... you're free as long as you let me be free."
"How generous of you!" Hyuni tossed a Styrofoam coffee cup at the morose being. "You're a retard if you think I'm not going to report this. You can't stop me, short of killing me. If you kill me they'll hunt you all over for murder! And if you don't kill me you'll be hunted anyway! You can't win freak!" He shook his wet hair "I haven't even had to do anything to prove what a danger you are, you keep screwing up all on your own!" Hyuni paused from his taunting when the one he expected to lunge at him headed in the opposite direction. "Hey, get back here when I'm talking to you... old friend!" He doubled over in the muck and litter with crackpot laughter.
David nervously appeared, as a man, from between the trees. He’d never been inside a church before so he had no clue what behavior was appropriate. He had a vague idea of what to anticipate from Melanie. She'd prodded him to attend mass every time they spoke over the phone. Faith would do him good, she claimed. He could unburden his soul by confessing his sins and receive divine assistance from the Lord. He had his doubts about all this but he figured he’d give it a shot anyway. No one would look for a demon in a church after all, so it made an excellent sanctuary for the night.
The church's appearance was far from the awe-inspiring cathedrals of Europe he'd seen in photographs and paintings in books. It had been contracted in the 1960's and the style showed, not particularly ornate... not particularly anything. The outside, as well as the in as he found by going in the side door, was rather plain. Flat surfaced stone formed the walls, along with thick rectangular goldenrod stained and varnished wood beams that extended into a pointed ceiling of the same hue. The ceiling resembled the interior of hull of an old ship turned upside down to serve as a roof. From this hung uninteresting modern track lightning. In front above the mauve altar, precariously suspended from two thin steel cables was a heavy wood cross with a carved, half-starved, drooping Jesus nailed to it. The poor guy didn’t even have clothes to give him dignity, only some drapery that looked more like a swishy shirt. David was fixated on it for the horror factor. Creepy... couldn't they have picked something more PLEASANT to worship? he wondered and shook the heebie-jeebies off his shoulders and from his head physically.
Young teens and a few supervising adults fuelled the pews that were made of the same goldenrod high polish wood as the beams. All were pretending they wanted to be there as good churchgoers and all showed signs they would rather be somewhere else, doing somewhere else. This included priest in the typical black jumpsuit with the white square, who was lecturing with hand motions and a microphone between the isles about a word that all the teens, including David, dreaded to hear out of an adult's mouth: RESPONSIBILITY.
Staying in shadow, David looked at the mainly blue stained glass windows in mild curiosity. Many were abstract with some classification of saint or bible figure with symbolism or metaphor that was difficult for even the most devour catholic to decipher. Twice he counted someone crushing the neck of a snake beneath his or her feet. David felt sorry for the snakes. He'd watched enough nature shows to know they weren’t bad, just trying to survive like any other animal on Earth. If snakes, which were something totally natural, were so easily loathed, he wondered what place he would be held in the hearts of mortal men and women. He decided to stay and observe silently, as any good scientist of wary foreigner would do.
Accidentally he found the stairwell to the back balcony. Tired of the sermon, which was exceedingly boring, and done reading/examining all written and art objects left about, he went up to explore. The view was much better at the railing's edge. He wished in a way the benches were facing him and that this was his loving audience to command with words. But he had nothing to say to them, no inspiring words to preach. For now, he was content with being unnoticed. "I think I'll sleep here tonight,” he remarked to himself pacing in small steps, "Why not? I don't think anyone checks or cleans up here." He stifled a sneeze while running his finger along the thick gray dust on the organ. The instrument was reserved for special occasions only, as indicated by a faded yellowed music sheet of the wedding march still propped on its shelf. Other old choir materials, included pedestals with more music booklets were stashed up there. He was truly tempted to give a performance. He could sing, and sing well, but never had anyone to listen. Contrary to his personality, what he sang were mostly ballads or happy tunes behind the door of his room when no one else was home into the bristle end of a hairbrush.
He snatched a music book, flipping through wrinkled pages. He knew he shouldn’t… he was asking for trouble… but the besmirched keys of the pipe organ had become too tempting to resist. When he was 12, Ruth had bought him one of those lightweight plastic keyboards with all the keys labeled with letter stickers. He mastered the simpler songs…“Happy Birthday”, “Mary Had a Little Lamb”, “On Top of Old Smokey”, and of course, “Chopsticks”. There were no alphabet stickers on this and one, not two, rows of keys. He was able to read music notes at one time but he was out of practice. He titled his head and rubbed his chin in thought. He pictured the book Ruth had left for him and the charts displayed in them. Ghosting his fingers over the organ’s lower set of keys he mentally labeled each. If not for music, life would have been completely silent.
That was the beginning of “The Quiet Era” as he called it. Usually the years in which children grew into teens and discovered they can rebel against their parents’ values, he instead went out of his way to please his single mother. He had no friends or family to converse with, no contact with the outside world, and no awareness of society. He didn’t roam beyond his back yard which, depending on what house they were in that collection of months, was usually surrounded by high fences or bushes. By 14, he’d given up speaking all together. He regularly practiced stepping gracefully and doing thing subtly so that he could walk in and out of a room unnoticed. This lead to him eating less and less and wanting less and less of everything. Knowledge was the only thing that he thirsted for, carefully studying every book she gave him and going through the set of encyclopedias front to back cover twice over. He did nearly all of the chores including uncomplicated dinners for Ruth. He morphed animals and exercised out of her view, mostly when she was at work. He had no choice… it was a matter of having to, not wanting to. The energy and Xilvrin built up regardless if he needed to it and required release at least four times a week. It was only a stage away from being an involuntary function. He caused no destruction at that time in his life.
But that wasn’t enough to make Ruth happy. She returned home from her job miserable even though she had a willing and unobtrusive servant who would do anything she asked. She took out the day’s frustration by criticizing him or mild cursing “shoot”, “you idiot” “I didn’t need this to happen tonight!” at anything that slipped out of her hands or annoyed her in the slightest bit. What stung the most is when she professed she wished she had never become a mother, made better decisions so that she could have remained at her old career which she had loved. She literally had told him a handful of times she wished he were never born. When she was in one of her moods he his in a room and stared at the mirror. Having read “Alice in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking Glass” he fantasized about passing through the surface to a world where he was not the only oddball. He watched Star Trek and dreamed about traveling to the farthest reaches of space to find a planet where his abilities would be appreciated, not looked down on. They did move –often- but once settled one place was as bad and bland as the next.
By age 16, he’d had enough. Curiosity was nibbling at him. He became fascinated with one of his next-door neighbors. She was a pretty girl from the Caribbean. His own age, she was outgoing, friendly, always surrounded by people when outside, smiling, laughing, sometimes even dancing. One year they had an outdoor party… he’d stayed outside as long as it went on, listening through the fence, trying to imagine being a part of it. How he envied her. Her world was full of color and life. It hurt him to know he could not say even the simplest of hellos to her. Sleep was riddled with nightmares of her finding out what she was and running away in fright. When the day came that he’d fostered enough courage to defy the rules to introduce himself, his mother laid down the announcement they were to move again. He began to wonder what the point of his own existence was if no one knew him or cared about him…. No one would miss him if he died. He didn’t want to die unknown and unloved. He wanted to speak again... he wanted to sing and dance like the the neighbor girl had done... he wanted to be a part of the world... he wanted...
All his fingers slammed down on the organ at once. Clouds of dust shot out of the brass pipes. A boom swelled and echoed through the church. All attendants screamed out in shock; many jumped out of their seats. He got up to see the results of his puckish disruption. One who was not amused tapped him on the shoulder. A bad feeling hit David’s stomach. He’d been caught! But… that was a little too quick…
He had no time to defend himself once he turned around. The blade plunged up to its hilt into his chest. The sharp metal found its mark deep in his heart. His eyes widened feeling the wrenching pain. Blood pumped from the wound in racing beats. Every artery screamed whilst his gaping mouth could not, throat closed in soul’s torture.
Twisting the handle of the oversized knife was a dirty, disheveled Hyuni. Through a snarling smile and dark expression he growled” and then the hero slew the monster…”
David’s mind swum in agony. Arms and legs were useless. Each breath brought a more intensely unpleasant sensation than the last. He fell backward against a sidewall. It was all he could do to keep standing. “Its like those movies… all we need is the slow motion and the violins….” He didn’t know why but he joked, fearing they would be his last words. Consciousness faded. His vision went black…
From where coagulating red oozed, silver lines built up then curled outward as plant seedlings would from soil. No flowers were these; rather the fading body produced a dozen skinny eyeless serpents. Made of neck and mouth and nothing else, they latched onto the stainless surface of the obstruction, pulling from one end and pushing at another, working as a team to remove it. David, the human portion of him at least, was not in control. At the moment it was in he deepest darkest sleep with only rudimentary brainwaves. The serpents acted as simple celled parasites defending their host from competitors and viruses. They were the Xilvrin veins themselves… that which had no mind except the will of the host. As this host was mortally damaged, they were infused with the basic will of self-preservation. As outer pencil-sized serpents held the dagger millimeters from the wound, the inner serpents set about jumping in and out flesh, weaving it together as if they were now sewing needles. They would diligently hold the stitches until he could receive real medical attention. They still had one last task to complete before they could return power over the body to their host…
“Eliminate Virus,” the zombified man advanced towards an amazed and aghast Hyuni with a weapon transferred to a steady, bitter hand. Xilvrin and blood crisscrossed the sterling plane of the stabber in sinuous stripes. Hyuni kicked out in attempt to defeat the thing that wouldn’t die with his scattered knowledge of martial arts. Silver plated eyes bore down on him without emotion. They fought on, the beast with unfeeling relentlessness able to block every action the other put forth. Hyuni was not so lucky. He would have been better off if he had fled, for each time presented direct threat of death, the more he unleashed the demon within David. Artfully, the knife slashed out. Another flick of the wrist resulted in yet another cut. The attack did not end until the knife was plunged equally as deep as Hyuni had done to him. In a last ditch effort to protect himself, Hyuni had thrown up his arms, therefore avoiding his heart from being sliced in half. He gave up, running at this point as far as he could from the devil.
Zombie-David picked up the yellow cell phone that had fallen out of Hyuni’s pocket during the scuffle. Weakly, he fumbled with the buttons. “Help… St. Bernadette’s Church… dying…” he stated simply, drawing on memories reserves, conserving as much energy as possible while waiting for assistance from whoever had been on speed dial. Survival was key, and without the brain, both host and Xilvrin would perish.
David (the human) awoke with a pleasing caress of a silky hand across his cheek. He opened his eyes, returned to normal, to see the sweetest possible of sights. This was more tempting than being an amateur musician. As his perception returned so did the searing pain. Feeling as though this was a final moment, he circled his arms around Rabbit and kissed her vermilion lips as passionately as he could. Regretfully, he loosened his grip, expecting a slap. None came, only pity shone in her dark eyes.
“Are you my guardian angel?” If not for the fact his voice and health were failing him by the minute, it would have sounded like a pitiful pink up line… but he genuinely meant it.
“Who did this to you?” She asked, comforting him by running her fingers through his mellifluous blonde hair. Hyuni, as well as the churchgoers, were long gone and she hadn’t spotted his phone that had slid under the organ and out of view. Walking into the scene she had only seen him and the splattering of blood everywhere.
“Short story… myself in a way” David coughed. “Give a dying man his wish… kiss me until I’m gone? That way if... I do go to hell… at least… I could have… a taste of… heaven.”
She did as he asked, gently removing his glasses so they wouldn’t get in the way. Her body was warm and kept his the same. Her skin was flawless where it showed through fine clothes and perfectly straight shining black hair. He enjoyed running his hands over both. Her perfume was delightful and smoky eyes spoke of lust. Her beauty was accented by the soft halo of blue light from the stain glass windows pouring in on them. He never wanted to let her go. He even thanked what had transpired if it had brought her to him like this. The price was steep but desperate for love as he was he paid it gladly. The only thing that saddened him was he wouldn’t find out if the feeling could last. Not being able to struggle for much longer he pulled away enough to whisper “Will you cry for me when I’m dead? I want someone to.... ”
author's note: the last part was inspired by a line from a song from the Romeo and Juliet (the modern one) soundtrack "kiss me and tell me its not broken, kiss me and kiss me till I'm dead... "
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