Installment No. 2
#gargoyle #shifter #authorscdane
Merrick craned his neck to get a better look at the path beneath him, and felt the pull of his thick shoulder muscles run the length of his spine. The screech of stone assaulted his ears as his claws scored the wall. His talons, formidable weapons that they were, bit perfectly into the holes already etched into the granite—from his centuries of crouching exactly where he was now—perched on the Archway to Hell.
Condemned to killing its trespassers.
Thank you, God, you lousy son of a bitch.
Rage swelled inside him like the flooding waters behind a crumbling levee. Another soul, burdened with guilt, plodded beneath him. Resigned to its fate in Hell, where the doomed bastard would remain. Because Merrick knew no souls discovered redemption. Instead, they forever perpetuated their crimes, twisting ceaselessly within their self-designed tortures.
Like a twitching whip, Merrick’s rope-like tail slashed his fury as he tracked the sinner’s route.
Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.
Dante might have mistranslated the words carved into the Archway’s keystone, but he hadn’t mistaken the circular levels.
Not the misery. Nor the horror.
Merrick knew every shitty bit of it—he’d been forced to witness every doomed soul since the creation of this infernal cauldron. And he’d had enough. His guts were swimming in the filth of the madness, the terror. His skin grew thick, rough as stone—the telltale sign of what he and his Kynd were fated to become.
Condemned by God to this unholy patch of sunshine, he was inevitably turning to stone, just as thousands of his brethren already had. And he couldn’t stand it, had to circle on his paws to relieve the twitching of his skin, the compulsion of his muscles to act. To do something to alleviate his furious despair.
The archangel Lucifer had been right: God was a heartless bastard who turned his back to the cruelty He Himself created. Was it no wonder the souls consigned to Hell were so full of hopeless misery?
Just like the one entering Hell beneath him.
Shrieking assailed Merrick’s ears, and he roared his anguish while his heart weighed heavy as the rock it was fast becoming.
The pose didn’t suit her. Although far be it from Angelia to notice she formed the perfect imitation of a long-legged grasshopper. Not with her attention riveted to the skin-bound book spread open in front of her.
She felt like a member of the bomb squad holding the wire snips. Kept her breath locked in her lungs. And not because the pages of the book were fragile, either. Given its age, the darn thing had defied the ravages of time.
What worried her, and kept her from breathing, was the aura of magic surrounding the thing.
The relic sitting in front of her was volatile as a real bomb. All it would take would be one wrong move, one offensive stumble from her, and the book could do anything.
So, she couldn’t screw up.
As it was, the only reason she sat in the same room with it was because she was the only being it allowed to read its pages.
Like the Scriptum had an inkling of its own.
And that made it one scary so and so.
Because, let’s face it, she wasn’t anyone special. Not in this world of Fae, Vampire, Demon, and Ghoul.
How could she forget to add the Gargoyles and Chimeras to her list of supernatural wonders. When she was younger, she used to fantasize about the Grotesques, spending countless nights conjuring histories for them, fabricating stories of derring-do for her Gargoyle heroes.
Which was fine when you were a little kid. Playing make-believe was as normal as snot hanging out of your nose. Even as a teenager, she could be excused when she’d gripped tight to her fascination, practically wallpapering her bedroom with pictures of Chimeras.
She’d never outgrown her fascination.
Which made her a loser on all counts. A human living in a realm populated by creatures with innate talents that left her wanting.
And feeling pathetically inadequate.
Ugh. Yeah. She’d polish that nugget of loveliness later. Right then, she was preoccupied with sliding her silver reading blade along the pages she was translating. She had come to the running end of an unfinished sentence about her favorite subject: Gargoyles and Chimera.
So to her, the Scriptum read like a New York Times best-selling novel: a real page turner. Hastening to devour more, she flicked the blade to roll the page. Only to slice her finger on the vellum—even though she’d been using her knife.
“Ooh, crap!” She jabbed her bleeding finger into her mouth, her eyes dancing like frantic maids to find something, anything, to dab the blood off the ancient page.
“Oh, God, oh God, how could I be so stupid?” Mortified, she jumped to her feet, tipping her stool so it clattered to the floor behind her.
The droplet of her blood spread in a widening circle into the page. Like an atomic cloud.
And just as flipping devastating.
She’d marred the ancient Scriptum. With her stupid, human ineptitude she’d scarred a relic which had remained in near pristine condition for centuries.
Faltering back, she couldn’t peel her helpless stare from her blunder.
Oh, man. She would have to confess it.
Fear snatched her breath. Droplets of sweat stung her armpits, prickled the small of her back. Aro, her Vampire boss would be…catatonic with rage.
See? Pathetic. Aro would never lay a fang on her. Not when her father was Vampyre, one of the ruling Triumvirate.
Okay, so he wasn’t her real father. But she’d been raised since infancy as Anton’s own, and it was no secret to the Vampire realm. Inept human she might be, but Angelia moved within her father’s world freely.
No Vampire in their right mind dared touch her.
Right. Taking a deep breath to calm her panic, she bent to put her stool back onto its three feet. Then bolted upright, her hand clutched to her heart like a clichéd heroine wrapped tight in her corset and long skirts.
Singing expanded inside her head.
“Holy rum raisin ice cream.” The Scriptum hummed. The voices stuck to her pulse, pulling and twisting along her veins as they sang. They magnified inside the amphitheater of her skull, to the point she thought the bone would fissure and sound would blast forth like footlights—to illuminate the ceiling over her head.
Her knees buckled, as if she knelt in supplication to the concerto. Tears tumbled down her cheeks. Trembling, she reached forth, as though Jesus himself stood in glowing magnificence in front of her, and she wanted nothing more than to touch his modest robes.
The voices flew ever higher, and Angelia’s heart strained to devour every truth, every glorious exultation…until the pounding lump of muscle stuttered, fluttered, and fibrillated.
As her vision tunneled, the Scriptum shrunk into a tiny pinprick before disappearing, just like scenes in old movies ended.
Last thought? Darkness. Angelia cashed out like an empty register, her body folding to the flagstone floor.
~Next Installment (no. 3) coming: Tuesday, February 3, 2015.