“YAHHHH!” A blast of energy exploded in the space above the Earth as a man tumbled through a portal. His white and purple robes stained in blood and tattered by constant battle.
The old man stopped his rolling by the use of more energy from his hands. He hovered in naked space, breathing heavily. He swished a hand through the air in front of him and a look of relief cross his aged features. “Good, my spell still holds the air around me. Now, I just have to close this before he...” He was ready to seal the portal he had come through, but a hand came out of the portal and prevented it’s closing. A second hand joined it and gripped the sides, shoving it open.
“NO!” The old man began a chant, the energy around his hands now the same color as that of the portal as he attempted to force it closed.
Those two large, metal gloved hands broke his spell and tore the portal wide. A large figure of a man stepped through, clad in dark, metal armor that covered everything including his face. “You haven’t the strength to fight me any longer.”
The old man gathered energy in his hands and shot. “LEAVE THIS SPACE, KRAVIK!”
Kravik was hit and pushed back hard, but he opened his arms up and reflected the energy off of his chest. “No more!” He clapped his hands together and a shockwave crashed into the old man and sent him tumbling head over heels backward in space. Suddenly Kravik reached up and tightened his hand into a fist which caught the poor old man with an invisible force and squeezed him. Floating closer, Kravik said, “you are the last Vexillian, your kind was not good enough to face the Legion. It is my pleasure to end you and declare ultimate victory in this combat.”
“Gah!” The old man gagged under the extreme agony, “one day...that ego...will be the Legions...undoing.”
“Gods do not have egos, they are simply correct at all times.” Kravik squeezed his fingers tighter.
The Vexillian gasped and felt his bones giving into the pressures on his body.
He wheezed hard and then said, “perhaps...but the legion...are not gods. SHOTANIRI!” He cast the most powerful, desperate spell a Vexillian had in his arsenal. Out of his mouth and eyes came a blinding light that blasted the metal villain in the face. This wasn’t any simple spell, it was the tearing of his soul to power the magic within, it was suicide.
Kravik’s mask split in two with the impact of the energy. Both halves blasted away and the creature within screamed and gasped as his only life-support in the cold vacuum of space was stripped away.
The Vexillian was released from Kravik’s grip which stopped the magic attack short of completion. The old wizard struggled to maintain his life, but he wasn’t finished with Kravik. With a simple shoving spell, he hit his enemy and sent him flying away. “I knew your ego would be your undoing...gasp...” He crumpled his body in space as he fought to breathe. Watching his enemy growing more distant by the second he sighed, “but, this isn’t over, is it?” He groaned, feeling his life fading quickly. He would soon fall into the atmosphere of this alien world and die on entry. He stabbed a finger into nothingness and opened a small portal. Falling into the opening, he tumbled across the grassy ground of this strange new world.
It was night on the side of this planet. The cool air smelled so sweet. Above him, strange little insects flew around and blinked light to one another. In the distance he could hear people enjoying some sort of festive time, completely unaware of what just happened above them in the heavens.
Pushing himself to sit upright, he looked around and saw a small village in the distance. A large fire burned near the center of town where colorful decorations were strewn about while children danced and people sang to archaic instruments. For the first time in too many years, he smiled. “Such a beautiful world.” His moment of peace was broken by searing pain. The soul tearing spell continued it’s terrible march toward his death.
After the surge of pain passed he took in a deep breath of the air. The scent of baked breads caught his nose just then and he wanted so dearly to go taste them. Then it hit him, he sniffed again and wanted to cry in pure joy. “Morphons, I don’t smell morphons.” Most races do not smell those horrid molecules, but the Vexillians could sense their presence in many ways.
He closed his eyes as tears ran down his face, “I can’t...I can’t do this. I cannot let another world fall to their warmongering, their competition of death. I have to help these people. Gah!” He doubled over as a crack formed across his body with light spewing from it. “I cannot fade, I cannot leave. I have to help.”
He called up all his strength and rose from the ground. Stumbling under the pain he walked toward the town. The people were joyously celebrating and hardly noticed the man coming toward them. However, when he entered their square, it did not take long for the villages to become alert, and worried.
“Who is he?” “What is he?” Came from the locals.
The magic of the Vexillian allowed both him and the villagers to understand one another even though they were speaking thirteenth century Dutch.
“Help me, please. I need to...gah...I need to help...” he fell on the ground as a new crack formed, this one across his face, the light flickering brightly out of his skull.
This caused an uproar as people ran screaming from him. Now they yelled a new word, “Demon!”
He lay on the ground, abandoned and worried that he would not find someone to complete his last effort to save them. They were simple, primitive people, he did not blame them for their fear. He only wished to give them aid before the day of the Legion arrived.
“Please, won’t somebody help me?” He begged in a raspy whisper.
A splash of water hit his head and a deep-voiced man said, “Begone, foul creature, begone!”
He looked up to find a robed man flinging water at him and continuing this strange chant. It looked like a religious leader of some nature.
“I want to help.” He begged.
“BE GONE!” More water on the head.
He reached up, “Please. Listen me.”
The man stopped his water assault and angrily asked, “You wish to confess your sins?”
“I wish to tell you...” he cringed and struggled to maintain his lifeforce, “Legion is coming. They will challenge your world. They cannot breathe your air, they will poison it with morphons. These morphons...they will...”
“What is this witchery you speak?” The priest growled at him.
“Gah!” He held his sides, “Just tell your leaders, when the air is filled with morphons, Legion is coming. They will destroy you all if you are not ready.”
“DO NOT THREATEN US WITH YOUR DEVILRY! BE GONE DEMON! BE GONE!” More water was thrown at him.
“What fools these people are.” Hopelessness filled him until he saw something that gave birth to a new plan. It would be a strange plan but it just might work. He ignored the shower he received and pulled himself across the ground, no longer able to stand. He grabbed the feet of a statue that was currently tethered by ropes, no doubt to lift it and affix it to the sides of this stone building, where other odd statues were currently residing. It was the figure of a winged man, its wings sharp and evil-looking, its body muscular and naked.
“Let go of that gargoyle, demon!” The priest called out, still throwing water at him.
In the distance he could hear the sound of the constabulary rushing to deal with him, he did not have much time.
“Gargoyle...so that is your name.” He whispered as he maintained his grasp. He closed his eyes and let the last vestiges of energy flood through his broke body. “I give you my lifeforce, I give you my strength. I give you the ability to fight and not be harmed, to fly and not tire, to live, but not die. GAH!” The cracks across his body grew exponentially, the brilliance of the glow filling this plaza. The priest fled in fear while the guards came to a stop to cover their eyes. He continued his spell, “My strength is insufficient, my power to low, but when the morphons arrive and flood this world, they will give you the last of what you need. You will awaken to them and you will know your enemy. Protect this world! DO NOT LET IT FALL!” As he said these last words his whole body was nothing but light. The statue of the grotesque gargoyle also beamed with light. It’s hunched, mangled form changed into a more human shape, its wings expanded to twice the size they were, and he stood up straight.
The light faded and the plaza was once again lit by the fire alone. The gargoyle statue had changed but was just as dormant as it had been since it was delivered by the artisans weeks ago. On the ground, all that remained of the last living Vexillian were his tattered, bloody, burnt robes.
The guards came rushing in and joined the priest. All looked at the mess on the ground and then the statue.
“What is this?” the captain asked.
The priest shook his head. “Work of the devil no doubt.”
“That gargoyle...it changed?!” one of the younger guards exclaimed.
The priest nodded. “Yes. It is strangely remade, bewitched by foul curses.”
The captain marched over to the smith's forge and grabbed a hammer. He returned and held it up. “Let us do away with this witchcraft!” He swung and hit the statue dead center of the chest. The head of the hammer exploded and he was thrown back across the ground, almost into the bonfire.
“Captain!” His officers rushed to him as did the priest.
He sat up and looked at the statue with wide eyes. “It is beyond mortal hands to deal with.”
“I agree,” the priest said. “It cannot stay here, lest it curse this town forever.”
The captain got to his feet and brushed himself off. “We will deliver it to Rome, let the Pope decide what will be done with this cursed object.”
Seven hundred years later: Rome, Italy
A woman in a neat pantsuit walked with a sign in her hand. She waved to a group of people who all followed along. Most snapped pictures with their phones while others looked over the brochure.
In a soft Italian accent, she spoke, “welcome to the museum of historical curiosities. Items here have strange histories, or their history is still a mystery. Some of the collection is very old, so, again, no flash photography is allowed. Stay close, do not touch. Come with me.” She walked them down rows of plexiglass protected exhibits.
After a long tour of explaining the odd paintings or artifacts that filled this museum, the guide led them to a smaller room. It was a circular room with five pedestals around the exterior, each holding an antique book protected by a dome of glass. Though, It wasn’t the books that grabbed their attention.
She began to explain, “this room holds a set of special books related to one object. It’s history is still a deep mystery to everyone, but has been the obsession of Dr. Shepard for years.
“What the hell is that?” A tourist asked in a thick Texas accent.
Everyone paused at the sight of a statue in the middle of the room. It was six feet tall from head to toe, but it’s enormous wings added another three feet of height. The man was a well muscled figure with a charming face and kind smile. His wings were bat-like, one might even say dragon-like. A small bit of cloth tied around his waist was all the clothing he had.
The tour guide explained, “these books and Dr. Shepards personal study has centered on this statue. This is the infamous cursed Gargoyle statue. Believed to have been found in a German village in the thirteenth century, no one is sure who made it or why.”
“That doesn’t look like no gargoyle I ever seen.” A woman stated.
“The legend says that a demon cursed this statue, meant to be placed on a local cathedral. It was brought to the Vatican to be destroyed, but no one could destroy it. Pope Nicholas the fourth ordered it sunk into the Mediterranean. In 1850, an archaeological dive into the Mediterranean retrieved the statue and it was put on display here. Since then it has been the focus of many studies, most of which have provided little results.”
A snooty man in a brown blazer came over and gave the statue an examining look. He shook his head. “No, this can’t be thirteenth century German. This looks like Italian Renaissance, fifteenth century or later. In fact,” He leaned over and looked at the well toned leg of the statue. “One might surmise that this is from the Rococo period or the Neo-Renaissance, nineteenth century. I suspect that someone crafted this for this museum, as an attraction, a con-job to attract visitors.”
“Are you well versed in Art History?” She asked with a tinge of irritation behind that practiced smile.
He gave a short nod. “Professor Hargrove, Oklahoma State University. I specialize in art history and especially how to identify fake art. This, my dear, cannot be thirteenth century German.”
“Ah, but it is.” A man came out of another door carrying two books. He pointed to the books around the room. “This is the collected books that reference this very statue throughout the ages. One of these books is an original printing from the Vatican itself where the Pope’s own experts diagrammed this statue and spoke of it’s storied origin.”
“Really?” The professor was honestly intrigued.
“I’m Dr. Shepard, chief historian and librarian here.”
Professor Hargrove gave him a surprised look. “Not the Brian Shepard of NYU, author of the text book Providing Evidence in History?”
“One and the same. My passion has always been studying unusual artifacts. Come with me, I have the information in here about this odd statue.” He led the professor back into the special little library while the rest of the tour group went on their way to the next stop.
Professor Hargrove found a library that was piled high in books, somewhat cluttered compared to the rest of the immaculate areas he had seen thus far. “Nice little...collection you have?”
Dr Shepard shuffled through piles of books, “I know it’s a jumbled mess, but I have what I need. I collect every history book printed in all languages and store them for study. This collection is two hundred years old, and vital to keeping up with all the items brought into the museum.”
“I’ve never seen a library like this in a museum, especially an oddity museum.”
Dr. Shepard stopped his searching and gave the professor a stern look. “This isn’t some tourist attraction, the items here are all true historical objects, though they prove difficult to understand. I am not P.T. Barnum or Ripley. This library and the museum have been one of the most used places in all of Italy, and perhaps Europe in regard to identifying relics and helping establish their historical context.”
Hargrove nodded. “My apologies, by nature I’m a skeptic. But, seeing all these books, I can trust that you do proper work.”
“Yes. I do a lot of work. I love my job, which is why I do it for the paltry salary I get.” He pushed another stack aside and nearly dove into a pile. “Now where is it?”
Professor Hargrove was about to ask a question when he heard a talking voice. Moving aside some books on a desk, he found an old portable television with a news broadcast on it. A woman was speaking energetically in Italian as a camera watched the skies over New Amsterdam. “What the hell is going on?” He asked.
“Here it is!” Shepard came back, suddenly the light coming in the windows dimmed and an odd purple glow filled them. “What’s going on?”
“I don’t know. My Italian is rusty, I can’t follow her.”
Shepard came close and changed the channel. “We get TNN...it’s...here.” He changed it over to an English channel.
The images were the same, but the reporter now spoke English, “as you can see, these...strange holes first appeared over New Amsterdam just a few hours ago, and now they are beginning to appear all over the planet. No one is certain what they are or what they are doing, but it is believed that they are a passage of some nature. It is advised to keep a good distance from any portals and report them to local authorities the moment they appear. We go now to Dr. Purdom at AIG laboratories.” The screen changed to a woman speaking to a crowd. “We’ve been studying a strange particle that showed up recently in our atmosphere, it set off the climate stations sensors all over the planet. There was no reason for alarm, it seemed to have little to no effect on anything or anyone. However, when the first opening appeared over New Amsterdam, the sensors there registered a three thousand percent increase in the particles near the opening. The connection of the two is not coincidence. We do not know what prolonged exposure to high concentrations of these particles will mean, but we advise people to stay as far away from them as possible….I will take questions now.”
Dr. Shepard turned the television off. “I need to go see my superiors.”
Hargrove nodded, “Yes, I...I need to get back to my hotel room and get in touch with my family.”
Both rushed out of the room, neither noticing the fact that the statue was reading a book as they passed it. Professor Hargrove came to a sliding stop when it caught up with him. He jogged back to the room with the statue and looked in astonishment as the huge statue was pouring over a book. It looked up at him and smiled.
The Professor screamed and ran away twice as fast as he had been running before, he passed the librarian in no time and was out of the museum as if it were on fire.
Dr. Shepard sat at his desk in the library. It had been two weeks since the portals began to open. Everything had calmed down, but the tension across the world was palpable right now. The museum was closed while that strange portal hovered in the skies above it. Most people were keeping their distance, but for Dr. Shepard, he simply had to keep working. He tried his best to continue his work, researching a set of golden spoons rumored to be on the table of Pope Urban the second. He had a pile of books in front of him, though he struggled to focus.
The little television remained on most of the time, he watched the news to see what kind of new danger would crop up. He turned the sound on for a second.
“Across the planet people have begun to demonstrate powers that are beyond normal human abilities. Reports of flying people have been heard from all corners. A woman living in a nursing home just weeks ago can now lift and throw cars. A senator from the state of Tennessee can breath fire. There are ten new reports every hour. Scientist are looking into those strange particles that began showing up on environmental sensors a few months back. Since the first incursion, the amount of those particles has grown exponentially. Why they are here is a mystery to everyone and how they are causing these powers is still questioned. We have invited several scientists to comment on the situation, we turn too...”
“Can I borrow that book please?” A man asked from behind Dr. Shepard.
Shepard could see a hand pointing at a book and he merely held it up. “Sure.” It was a general history book he was using to keep the dates of the various Popes in the right order. It wasn’t risky to lose it, he could order another tomorrow if he had to. He stopped thinking about the book itself and said, “wait just a minute, this place is supposed to be closed. Who the hell was that?”
He left his desk and went looking for whoever this was, sure that a vagrant had taken up residence in his museum. No one was in the library itself, he would have to search the rest of the place. Just before leaving the library he noticed the world history bookshelf was almost completely empty, and it shouldn’t be. Most of these books were easily replaceable, but he wasn’t too keen on anything going missing like this. Marching out of the library he was going to find whoever just asked for a book and why they were hoarding all them.
The moment he entered the round room he paused. His eyes were on the far door, but he was distracted by something new. The Gargoyle statue was no longer as tall as it had been before. In fact it was short, and all he could see were the wings. If he didn’t know better, the statue was now seated, but that would be impossible. Then one of those wings moved and the statue shifted positions. His attempt to scream came out as a squeak. He backed up so fast he ran into the wall.
The statue, in its seated position, turned slightly and looked back at the trembling man. The kind face of the gargoyle smiled at him. “Why does strange man try to hug wall backwards? If strange man wants to hug wall, he must turn around.”
Shepard attempted to say something or even yell, but it came out as a wheezy gasp.
The statue cocked his head and turned even further. “Is little man okay?”
Dr. Shepard gulped and spent a long few moments with trembling lips as he fought to form words. “Wha...wha...what are….you?”
The statue gave him a funny look and then frowned as he dove deep into thought, “I...I do not know what I am, I know name. I was called Gargoyle by father, so that is name, Gargoyle.”
Dr. Shepard, still unable to pry himself off of the wall, asked, “Are...a...are you a...demon?”
“What is demon? Gargoyle does not know this word.”
“Uh...it is...I...uh...it is an evil thing.”
“Then Gargoyle is not demon, Gargoyle is not bad. At least I don’t feel evil.”
Dr. Shepard trembled, sweat beading up across his face. He finally asked, “will you hurt me?”
Gargoyle smiled, “small person need not be afraid of Gargoyle. I come to protect, not hurt.”
“Did you come from the portals?”
“Portals? Portals?” Gargoyle thought about that word, he picked up a dictionary and flipped through it. “por-tal noun 1. a doorway, gate, or other entrance, especially a large and imposing one. No, Gargoyle did not come from por-tal. He awaken here, in room.”
“That is what Gargoyle said.” He flipped through the dictionary and then laughed, though Dr. Shepard did not know what could be funny in a dictionary.
Dr. Shepard saw something in this creature that eroded his fear. This wasn’t a monster or a villain, it was a child in need. Though his heart was still pounding and he was shaking, he stepped away from the wall and gingerly approached the talking statue. “What are you?”
“Gargoyle does not know. Only memory before awaken is old, see father for only a small time. Father die so that I live. That is all I know.”
Shepard slowly approached the winged stone creature and finally saw the stack of books sitting on the floor in front of him, the entire general history section he had been looking for, plus a few dictionaries and one children’s picture book. “Why do you have all of these books?”
“Gargoyle want to learn, know of world he protects. Hungry for knowing things. Your world, it is strange place, but Gargoyle love it.” He smiled with a child’s glint in his eye.
Dr. Shepard picked up a thick history book that was used in World History classes at universities, “Can you read all of these, these are advanced, some are in Latin or Italian.”
“Gargoyle can read all things. No problem reading. Believe gift of father.”
“That is amazing.” Shepard asked, “who was your father?”
“Gargoyle does not know name. Only feeling. He was sad, lost, close to death. That is all Gargoyle knows.”
Dr. Shepard felt Gargoyles arm and realized it was as cold and hard as stone to his touch, yet when he moved it, it moved like the flesh of any normal person. As he stood there, fascinated by this, he realized what Gargoyle had been saying. “Wait, I have something.” He rushed back into the library and found a file folder. He came back in and sat down among the books on the floor. “See that book over there.” He pointed at one of the books on the pedestals.
“Gargoyle sees book.”
“That book contains a special record that was provided to the Vatican over seven hundred years ago.” He began to pull out photo prints of the pages in the book. They were aged considerably, written in an old dialect, and had hand drawn pictures. “This was the report the constable of the German village gave to the Vatican authorities regarding the statue...I mean, you. See there, that is a drawing the artist on hand made of you when they first brought you here.” He held up a sheet with a quickly sketched image.
Gargoyle smiled. “That is me?”
“Yes, of course. But, this is what is interesting, what you just said is what the constable reported. See here.” He held up the prints of the pages.
Gargoyle frowned as he looked at them. “It is hard for Gargoyle to read, words messy.”
“Yes, it took some work getting it translated. Basically, the constable said that the local priest witnessed a man dressed in strange robes crawl through town, he approached a gargoyle statue meant for their cathedral, and cursed it. When he was done, he had vanished, leaving only a few scraps of clothing. Oh, take a look at this...” he held up a page with a drawing of a mans face, with a crack across it. “That was the description the priest gave to the artist.”
Gargoyle’s pleasant demeanor faded as he looked at this drawing. “Father?”
“Do you recognize him?”
Gargoyle appeared for a moment as though he were going to cry, “I see face in memory for moment. That is face.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to make you sad.”
The picture was handed back as his sadness melted away. “Gargoyle is okay. Father give Gargoyle life to protect world, that is all Gargoyle knows.”
“Is that your purpose, to protect the world? From what?”
“Gargoyle does not know. Ideas in head foggy, hard to see. I read about world, know history, but still not understand why Gargoyle is here.”
Dr. Shepard picked up some of the books. “I’ve studied you for a long time. You’ve been the greatest mystery in my career as a historian. My job isn’t done. I’ll help you discover your purpose and you can help me learn about what and who you are.”
“Gargoyle would like that.” He smiled and gathered up more of the books.
Dr. Shepard nodded toward the library. “Come in there, we can dig into this with all my resources.”
Gargoyle stood up, while holding a huge stack of books. “Thank you, new friend.”
“Oh, you can call me….Your naked!”
“Your naked? Funny name.” Gargoyle stood there, a bemused look on his face.
Dr. Shepard averted his eyes. “No, my name is Dr. Brian Shepard. I just noticed that you didn’t have the cloth over you any longer.”
Gargoyle strolled right passed him. “It is okay, Gargoyle not feel cold.”
Dr. Shepard whispered, “this has got to be a dream, a weird, crazy dream.” he followed his new, naked friend into his book sanctuary.
Gargoyle stood at a window in the library, looking out at the ever-present shadow cast by the large portal hovering in the sky above. Military scientists had arrived a week ago and set up a station to monitor and study this. The people outside worked furiously to figure this out. Once in a while one would look up at the distant window and squint, staring directly at Gargoyle. Eventually he or she would shake it off and continue their work.
“Gar!” Dr. Shepard came in from another room.
Gar, which had become his nickname, waved a hand so that he could be seen around all the shelves. “By window!”
Dr. Shepard came in with several items in his hands. “Oh, there you are. By the window again? Watching them work on studying that...hole?”
Gar shook his head, a serious expression written on his face. “No, something about portal worries me. It sparks memories...no, not memories, feelings. I do not know what they mean.”
“I hope we’re not in danger here?”
Gar kept his eyes on that portal. “I do not know of dangers, I cannot say. But, I know it is not a good thing. But, we stay here, it safe here.”
Dr. Shepard put down the items he had brought and picked up several of the old books stacked up on the table. “So, you finished these history books about the colonial periods, and I see you found some of the fiction books.” He pulled out an old book with French on the cover. “Beauty and the Beast, in French. Wow, I didn’t know you could read that.”
“I can read all words, they look the same to my eyes.” Gar stated plainly.
“That never ceases to amaze me, what a wonderful gift. And, more reason then.” He shuffled through his stuff.
Gar frowned and finally looked down at his friend. “Reason?”
Dr. Shepard picked up several books and set them on the table. “I found some current books about Rome and Italy, about America, Britain, and….oh, I know I found it….yeah, here it is, a book on current events in Asia. You’ve been reading all those old history books, which has been good. But, I think you need to learn more about the world today. Besides, in two short weeks, you’ve practically gone through half of this library, you’re a fast reader.”
“I really enjoy reading. I grow with each book.” Gar said as he looked at these new books.
Dr. Shepard nodded. “I can tell. Your syntax and grammar has improved when you speak.”
“I will read these books, learn more about world.”
“Precisely. I thought that we would go out finally and meet some people. I would like to introduce you to several historians that laughed at me when I said that you...well the statue that you were...were something unique and special. I’m gonna rub it in their faces that I was right. I know, it’s petty, but they’re snobs and I’ve been dismissed as an eccentric nutjob for too long.”
Gar slowly set down the books and stepped away. “I...I do not want to go out.”
“Oh, pish tosh, you need to get out of here and see the world, not just read about it. This is why I also got you these.” He held up a large pair of shorts.
Gar turned around and frowned at the clothing. “What for?”
“I’ve gotten used to you walking around naked, but I doubt everyone else will enjoy seeing all of you walking down the street. I think they’ll fit, might be a bit tight.” He held them up to be accepted.
Gar shook his head. “I do not wish to leave. I want to see world, but scared. They scared of me.”
“They haven’t even seen you yet.” Dr. Shepard said.
“I see images on noisy box, hear of people around world during these strange times. They scared and have right to be. I am not human, I scare them. And...I scared of them.”
Dr. Shepard lowered the shorts he was still presenting and softly approached his friend. “I won’t force you to go out and I won’t bring anyone here, not until you’re ready. You’re right, the world is timid right now, you might be a bit startling to everyone. I guess I forget that you aren’t human sometimes.”
Gar turned back around and smiled. “Thank you. For Dr. Shepard, I will wear clothing.” He took the shorts and struggled to figure out how to put them on. He tried three times, but it was more difficult than it looked.
Dr. Shepard actually unfastened his own pants, pulled them off and then put them back on, to show him how it was done. In time Gar had finally got them on the right way and tied them around the waist.
Gar felt himself being picked up and moved. He could see dark skies and torches burning as he was carried down a hill. Suddenly he was thrown into water and sunk deep into the ocean. He wanted to scream, to move, to do something, but he was frozen in place. It was dark and cold, he did not feel pain on his skin, but the fear in his heart screamed an agony that he couldn’t bear.
Forcing open his eyes, he looked around the vacant library where he had fallen asleep. Sleeping was something new to him, it only started after a month of being awake. He did not know what dreaming was, until now. His hands trembled, his wings hugged him, and he wanted that throbbing in his mind to stop.
“Dr. Shepard?” He whispered, hoping to find his only friend.
It was four in the morning and Dr. Shepard was currently at his own apartment. For the first time since Gar woke four weeks ago, he was truly terrified of being alone.
Hours passed without any more sleep and he saw the light of the open door as Dr. Shepard came in for the day.
“Morning Gar! I hope you had a nice night. I have to get some work done for the city, basic research on a newly discovered coin someone dug up. They can’t date the thing and hope I can. It’s menial work really, but it pays the bills.”
Gar was silent for a long time, not holding a book or anything. Often he would be reading while Dr. Shepard took care of his daily research tasks.
“Gar. You okay?”
Gar shook his head. “I had scary dream. Cannot sleep after it.”
“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. Tell me about it.”
“I don’t want to talk about it, it too scary.”
Dr. Shepard pulled over a chair and sat near Gar. “You know, talking about a bad dream helps to make it go away, sort of helps you realize it was just a dream. Come on, lets hear it.”
Gar didn’t fully understand the logic, but he would try anything to stop feeling so afraid. “It was dark, I was taken, could not move. People throw me into water, deep water, so deep it too dark to see. I cannot move. I was so scared.”
Dr. Shepard frowned, “That’s interesting. It seems to me that you just described what they did to you when they first found you. The Pope of that time was afraid you were a demon or something like that and he had you dropped into the sea. I didn’t know you could remember that.”
“I have flashes of memory of first days after I was given life. Most of time I did not know what happen around me. But, I think I remember some. I was so scared it hurt, I never hurt like that before.”
Dr. Shepard smiled and put a comforting hand on Gars arm. “I’m sorry they did that to you. They didn’t know what you were. We don’t really know what you are now. But, I promise that no one will ever throw you in the ocean again. Besides, you can move now, you can fly out of that ocean on your glorious dragon wings.”
Gar let out a little smile. “I do not know if I can fly.”
“With wings like those, sure you can.” Dr. Shepard was being overly cheerful.
Gar laughed, “Sure, why not. Thanks. Dr. Shepard, I do feel better.”
“Good. Now, why don’t you get back to your reading, I think you were up to Hamlet in the Shakespeare collection. I have a report to finish on those antique glasses and then this coin they found.”
“If you don’t mind, I would like to sleep,” Gar said.
“By all means, sleep. I know what it’s like to lose a nights sleep to bad dreams.”
Gar got up from his seat and headed for the door, but when he realized he would be alone in the next room, he turned and found a corner in the library and sat on the floor to sleep. He simply felt safer to be with someone right now, having had his first nightmare.
Hours passed and he woke up and then dug through several more manuscripts of English literature. It was a quiet day of reading and study. He spent a lot of time reflecting on his memories, the fragments from his earliest days. It was terrifying to know that something horrible happened to him, and all he could remember was the fear and pain. When the sun set for the day, he lamented what would happen next. Dr. Shepard would leave and lock up and he would be here alone again.
Night arrived and he wandered around the library and museum looking for a place that might provide a little extra comfort. Why was he so scared of his own dreams? He shouldn’t be, they are nothing to worry about. He logical, rational side faded quickly as he grew more tired.
Gar finally sunk down in a corner and tried to get some rest. But his mind replayed those horrifying images, that feeling of being buried alive. Then he nearly jumped through the roof when he heard the squeaking sound of wheels in the museum. He got up and came around the shelves to find Dr Shepard pushing a strange object into the library.
Dr. Shepard shoved the object to an open area and then pushed hard on it, folding it out into a bed. “Wow, this thing hasn’t been used in years. But, it’s still soft.” He pushed on the mattress.
Gar came over and gave the bed a funny look. “What is this?”
Dr. Shepard said, “I thought you could use some company right about now. It’s hard to be alone when your own thoughts torture you. If you have someone around, you can talk and distract your mind long enough to get some sleep.” He walked over and picked up a cushion off of an old chair and brought it back to the bed.
Gar sat down on the floor, which was fine for him to sleep on. He was in silent thought the whole time as he watched Dr. Shepard make up his bed and then take off his shirt and get ready to sleep.
“Why are you so nice to me?”
Dr. Shepard sat on the edge of the bed and looked at the winged man sitting near him. “When we first met I was terrified of you. You scared the crap out of me. A talking statue...that’s never happened in human history. But, I realized that you weren’t dangerous, you were...to be precise...a child. You seemed lost and needed help.”
“I am very grateful for all the help you have given me. But, why not tell others? Why not give me to people who want to learn more. Stories in books say that different creatures are studied by special people. I am a different creature, I do not even know what I am.”
Dr. Shepard shrugged. “I’ll admit, when we first met, I thought many times about handing you over to specialists. I remained a little worried that you came from one of those portals and would turn out to be dangerous. However, in time I saw something different in you, I was no longer afraid of you in any part of my heart.”
Gar frowned and cocked his head. “What did you see?”
“You reminded me of my son. You reminded me of the days when I would hold my own child’s hand and teach him to walk, to read, to study. Timothy would love to read the books in my library back when I worked at the research center in Albany. Just like you, he was thirsty for knowledge and happy. I guess the father in me told me that you weren’t just some strange creature, you were a person who needed his hand held, and to be cared for. I hope you don’t mind.”
“I like it. I would rather study than be studied. I want to know about what I am, you will help me discover that, I know it.”
“I will try my best. Now, lets both go to bed and get some sleep.” Dr. Shepard stretched out on his bed and pulled the cover over him.
Gar looked at the man on the bed and wondered what it would have been like if anyone else had found him.
“Where are we going?” Gar asked through the little window.
“Shh, we’ll be passing a check point, get into position and don’t move.” Dr. Shepard drove the little truck down the old dirt road.
A uniformed man stopped them. “Halt! Who are you? What do you have?”
Dr. Shepard looked at the window of the truck and gestured back toward the tarp covering Gar. “Just delivering this to the Monticello Estate.”
The man walked around and pulled the tarp back, revealing Gar, who was sitting in a planned position so that he looked like a large garden statue. The man frowned. “It’s awful late to be making a delivery.”
“I know. But, getting around the north section of Rome took time, with all that portal stuff.”
Another man came around the truck and scanned it with a special device. He told his companion, “the readings are off the charts.”
The man asked Dr. Shepard. “Sir, were you in or around the distract with the strange portal?”
“No, sir. No one is supposed to travel in or out of that district right now.”
The man gave him a long look and finally waved him through the check point. “On your way.”
Dr. Shepard drove on while Gar slowly pulled the tarp back over himself. The guards did not notice that the statue was the one who replaced the tarp, they were too concerned about checking the next vehicle coming out of Rome.
The truck arrived in an open, hilly area. It was nighttime and the nearest home was a good distance away. Dr. Shepard parked the truck in the grasses.
“Okay, you’re clear.” He announced.
Gar pulled back the Tarp and stood up, stretching out his whole body, including his massive wings. “That was not a comfortable position to sit in all that way.”
“You did well. They bought the statue story.”
Gar hopped down from the truck and immediately felt the grassy ground with his bear feet. He smiled and the sniffed the air. “Wow, this is real world!”
Dr. Shepard laughed. “Yeah, I sorta forgot you haven’t been out of the museum in these past six months. How does the grass feel?”
Gar knelt down and ran his hand over the ground, “I like it.” He looked at his stone colored hand, which was now streaked in green smudges. “It melts?”
“No, it just leaves a mess. Don’t worry, it’ll wash off.”
Gar smiled and walked around, amused at every stone and flower. Finally he turned and looked out over the sprawling vista of low hills and short grasses, “Wow! So beautiful!” He opened up his arms and wings as he took in this new world. “I like this world!”
“I know, you’ve said many times. Wait till you see tall, snow capped mountains, dry hot deserts, the plains, and even the ocean.”
Gar turned around and snarled. “I don’t care to see ocean.”
Dr. Shepard said, “I guess you wouldn’t. Maybe, one day, you can see it and not think of your unfortunate past. It’s beautiful.”
Gar ignored this, sure he would hate to see the ocean, and asked, “Why do you bring me here? To see hills and grass?”
“Not exactly. I noticed that you’ve been reading a lot about flying and how wings work. I thought, perhaps, you’d like to try flying yourself.”
Gar frowned and shook his head. “Science say I cannot fly. I too heavy, wings too small, all wrong for flying.”
“You never know if you don’t try.” Dr. Shepard stated.
“I know, science says...”
“Science says you shouldn’t be walking around made of stone. Science says you shouldn’t be over seven hundred years old, there’s a lot about you that science disagrees with. I say we try your wings and just see if they work.”
“Good. Now, we can use a little science in this. You did learn about bats and other gliding animals. I would wager that is the technique we should start with. These hills aren’t too tall, so if you stumble, you won’t go down too far. Let’s check the breeze,” he licked his finger and felt the wind, “Okay, south eastern. So, look that direction and lets start.”
Together they worked for hours into the night trying all sorts of techniques for getting airborne. Gar realized quickly that he could glide for short distances easily, and built on that. However he wanted to actually fly, to get up higher and use his wings more like a bird or bat, and not just a glider. He plowed into the ground more times than he cared to remember, but he succeeded far more often than he expected.
Finally, just as the first rays of sunlight spread out on the horizon, he knelt low and beat his wings hard in the air. He now realized how it felt to catch the wind and use it to lift himself. He kicked off the ground and climbed higher into the sky. He leveled off and began a gentle glide and from that he beat his wings harder and gained more altitude. He would glide for a while and then climb higher, repeating this over and over. Soon he was swooping around and making loops. It was the most exhilarating experience in his short half year of being awake.
At one point he had climbed so far up that he was above the low layer of early morning clouds rising up from the fog. The gentle tufts of white lazily floated along as though they were on a water surface. In the far distance the sun breached the horizon and a beam of glorious rays spread out and bathed his face. Birds flew with him, gliding along on the same currents. A satisfied smile came to him as he soaked in all this glory.
It was in this moment that he felt what it meant to truly live. He never understood what he was, and this didn’t answer his meaning of life, but it did give him a sense of purpose. He was Gargoyle, a creature born to protect this world and all the gentle beauty that it holds.
Coming down fast he landed on the earth hard enough to rattle Dr. Shepard at a distance. It took a moment for Gar to settle down from that experience. After it passed he rushed over and grabbed up Dr. Shepard in a big hug. “I DID IT, FATHER!”
Dr. Shepard dangling from the way Gar was holding him, patted his back. “You did wonderfully. I am so proud of you. So...proud.”
Gar felt something strange, little drops of water on his back. He set down Dr. Shepard and found the man in tears. “Did I hurt you? I did not squeeze hard.”
Dr. Shepard wiped his eyes. “You didn’t hurt me. I just...haven’t heard anyone call me father in so many years. I didn’t know it would do this to me. Damnit, I can’t stop this stupid crying.” He continued to wipe his eyes.
“Do you not want me to call you father? I just thought, you are like father to me.”
“Oh, please, call me father if you wish. It makes me very happy.”
“Then, why cry?”
Dr. Shepard spent a moment gathering himself. “Gar, I told you that you remind me of my son. Well, my wife and son both died twenty years ago in a plane crash. I was broken inside. I left my job behind me and took up this position here, just to keep busy.”
Gar softly said, “I cannot replace son.”
“No one will replace my son or wife, they’ll always be in my heart. But, you have given me a reason to feel like a father again. You have given my life a new meaning, a new start when I felt like I could never return from my sorrow. Thank you.”
Gar smiled. “You have given me so much as well.”
“We...” He stopped when they both noticed a car coming down a distant road. “Quick, back in the truck, we gotta get back to the museum before anyone sees you.”
Gar jumped back into the truck and Dr. Shepard covered him. He took up his crouched position and held still. Soon they were back on the road, heading home. It would take several hours to get there, plus a few more to get passed all the check points.
“Father! What does this mean?” Gar walked up to Dr. Shepard at his desk in the library. He was holding a magazine, since he had read most of the rest of the books in the place.
Dr. Shepard pulled off his glasses and rubbed his tired eyes. “What?”
“This? What is lb?” he haphazardly pronounced the two letters.
“That means pound.” Dr. Shepard frowned and took the magazine, “wait, this is a recipe for French Onion Soup. Why are you reading recipes?”
Gar shrugged. “Not read before, it is very confusing.”
Dr. Shepard said, “I suppose it would be confusing to you since you don’t eat or drink anything. We mix all these ingredients together and then cook them in a way that makes it taste good.”
Gar signed, “I would like to taste something. It sounds fun.”
“It can be very fun. But, we still don’t even know what you are. That you haven’t eaten food in seven months baffles me. Then again, your body feels like solid rock to my touch, but you move like a regular person, you can even fly.”
Gar smiled brightly. “Can we go flying again tonight?”
Dr. Shepard shook his head. “I don’t think so. We’ve been out there letting you practice flying for three weeks now. I love watching you learn, but I’m losing a lot of sleep and it’s beginning to catch up to me. We can….” They both looked back when a door buzzer sounded. Dr. Shepard got up quickly, “Who in the world would be coming here right now? This whole section of town is technically shut down. You’d better get back on your pedestal, in case someone comes in.”
“Okay, father.” Gar followed him back through the library and into the room he spent so many years in.
Gar climbed up on the pedestal and struck a pose, not even close to the one he held before he woke, but he felt it looked awesome. He held perfectly still, something else he was good at. Dr. Shepard shook his head with a little grin on his face, he seemed amused by the way Gar was showing off.
Standing there, waiting, Gar could hear muffled voices in the distance, Dr. Shepard spoke to someone at the door. In fact it was two people and they were getting louder as they spoke. Gar was alert, not sure if there was trouble. He wouldn’t let his father get hurt by anyone. Some of the local shops had been burglarized during this strange time that the block was shut down. If someone came in here to steal stuff, they would meet with an angry statue.
Just then Dr. Shepard came back in with two men dressed in security outfits. They were the same people who had been studying that portal outside for the past seven months.
“I know you ordered everyone out of these places, but I have special authority to stay here by order of the American Ambassador. I’m doing work for the Smithsonian and several other major institutes. My presence is not a threat to any of your work.”
The men, neither of them Italian, looked around the place. One gave Gar a funny look, seemingly confused by the shorts the statue was wearing.
“Sir, we know about the special order you received. The other anomalies around the world have closed. But, the anomaly outside has grown. It is now emitting a new energy signature that might prove to be dangerous. You will have to leave.”
Dr. Shepard shook his head. “I really need to stay here. I have...special reasons for remaining in this library. I’ll not hold you or anyone else responsible if something happens to me.”
Gar realized that his father wouldn’t leave him behind. If he left, Gar would be alone or he would have to find a way to smuggle him out, and that might be impossible now.
“Sir, this is not a debate or an issue of responsibility, this is an order from the U.N. You can take your case to the American consulate if...” just then the whole room changed to a dark purple hue. This was followed by a deep boom that rolled across the city.
Dr. Shepard and the two security guards ran to the windows and saw that the portal was expanding and had tendrils of energy coming from it. A deep voice thundered out from the portal. “SEND YOUR FINEST WARRIORS TO FACE OUR MIGHT!”
Gar looked up, a strange coldness filled him. The voice, that energy, that challenge, it awoke memories buried in him that were not his own. He whispered one word, “Legion...” and suddenly he could see years of turmoil on another planet. People not entirely unlike humans fought against creatures of all natures in vast, terrible battles. The people of this alien world cast great spells and controlled unimaginable energy as they contended against their foes. Years of war ran through his mind, blood bathed the world, broken corpses littered the burnt landscape. However, he did not know their names, it was like a dream filled with someone elses vague memories.
Through the eyes of another, he saw the united forces of Legion standing around a central figure, a being of pure horror that controlled them. With a wave of its hand, the world broke apart and the creatures it controlled slipped away through portals. Somehow he knew they were preparing for the next world they would challenge.
In his mind he saw himself cast a portal and flee, but not before one of the last minions of this monster followed. From there he experienced the final battle. He felt himself fall to the earth, and he watched the man crawl across the ground and grab his feet. The last words of this man resounded in his head, “Protect this world! DO NOT LET IT FALL!”
“Gar...Gar?” His fathers voice brought him back to this moment.
He hadn’t realized he had fallen to his knees and was holding his head. Looking up he saw Dr. Shepard standing there, a worried expression written on his face. The two security guards were trembling and holding guns, aimed at him. Gar’s body quivered as he said, “I know what that is, I know who I am.”
Dr. Shepard asked, “do you know what’s going on?”
“That is Legion, destroyer of worlds. I was created to fight them, to stop them. They are horrible!” He was fighting the trauma of the visions he was forced to relive.
“Wha….what….what are you?” one of the two guards asked, his gun shaking.
Gar simple lifted his enormous wings and bellowed, “Go! Run!”
The man pulled his trigger and fired, but the bullet merely reflected into a wall. Seeing this, both men screamed and ran for their lives.
“Gar, why did you scare them?”
Gar took is fathers arm, “You have to go! Now! Whatever comes out of that portal will kill everything!”
“Okay, let’s go. The trucks around back!” Dr. Shepard took one step before he was thrown to the ground by it’s shaking.
Outside, something came crashing out of the portal, landing in the middle of the square. Gun fire could be heard outside as the forces sent to investigate the portal responded.
“What’s going on?” Dr. Shepard yelled over the din.
A bright light filled the windows and the wall of the library nearest the portal was destroyed, as were all the people fighting. This thing had just leveled most of the square in one shot.
Gar had his father held behind him, protecting him with his stone body. The museum was compromised but still standing. However, the wall and most of his precious library had been destroyed. Beyond that stood the creature that did this, one that stepped right out of the nightmare Gar had just endured. He whispered, “Kravik.”
Kravik, the huge, metal clad warrior of Legion, held a large gun that he had just used. He looked around, behind that mask of his. “Now, how can this be? I sense the presence of...a Vexillian.” He scanned the area with a small handheld device. He stopped just as his device was aimed at the museum.
Before he could respond to his readings, a man spoke over a megaphone, “UNKNOWN CREATURE, STAND DOWN OR WE WILL FIRE!”
Kravik turned quickly and shot his weapon at the military. There was an explosion and then a rocket slammed into him and sent him flying across the plaza.
“Let’s go!” Dr. Shepard pulled on Gars wing.
Gar turned and said, “You go, I have to face him.”
“What? No! That thing will crush you. We are getting the hell out of here.” Dr. Shepard took his hand and pulled.
Gar used the grip on Dr. Shepard to pull him up into a hug. “I love you, father. But, I have to do this. I am strong enough. I was made to fight the legion.”
Dr. Shepard hugged him back while crying, “I can’t lose another son. Please, come with me.”
There came more explosions outside as the two forces fought, when the noise died down enough, Gar answered, “He knows what I am, he can sense it. He will follow us wherever we go. He will murder countless people, I have to stop him now.” He set his father down.
Dr. Shepard begged, “No, please. We can hide.”
“I have been hidden for seven centuries, waiting for this. That creature and his kind exterminated my creators people, I won’t let him do it again.” With that Gar turned and ran for the new opening in the wall.
“GAR!” Dr. Shepard cried out.
Gar flew as fast as he could, directly for the metal monster attacking the military. Kravik was too occupied with blasting his enemies to see the stone man barreling toward him. Gar made contact with Kravik’s side with both fists. The huge metal man was thrown across the plaza and into the side of an ancient building, part of the stone facade fell on him, burying him.
Gar landed in the square and was immediately hit by gunfire. It didn’t hurt, but did annoy. “STOP! I AM HERE TO PROTECT THIS WORLD!” He called out.
“Hold your fire!” The commander called out before cautiously approaching this new creature. “State your name and purpose!”
“I am Gargoyle, I am here to protect. Go, he...” Just then an energy beam hit Gar in the side and he was sent sprawling across the ground.
Kravik launched himself out of the pile of debris and landed in the square. He brushed off the rocks and dust and then held up his scanner, “I see...I see, so you are the Vexillian. I have never seen one made of rock. This will be an interesting fight.”
“FIRE!” The commander yelled out and his subordinates rained bullets on Kravik while the military prepared another missile from the launcher.
Kravik held up his arm which emitted an energy shield. “Pathetic! If this is what the Earth has to defend it, it will not be a long contest.” He swung his other arm around and sent a blast of energy directly at the missiles, which would immolate everyone when they exploded.
Gar suddenly landed in the path and took the blast himself. His wings were out and his hands held in front of him. The energy crashed into his body and shoved him back across the ground, but his feet were planted and he maintained his position. The stone ground beneath him had two long gouges where his heels were digging in against the onslaught of power. “Go...Now! He will kill you. GO!”
The commander took the hint and ordered retreat.
Kravik stopped firing. “Oh, so this is the champion of Earth, the last soul from a fallen world. How pathetic. Your people lost the competition, you should accept your defeat, not try to hopelessly help this pitiful planet.”
Gar stood in defiance. “This is my planet and I will defend it with everything I have.” Before any further banter between them, Gar dashed directly for Kravik.
Kravik seemed eager for this, he wasn’t firing any more weapons, he met his opponent in hand to hand combat. Gar punched him in the chest and dented his armor, Kravik took his arm and tried to break it. Gar spun around and used his wings to confuse Kravik, then he swept a foot across the ground and tripped him causing him to fall face-first into the ancient stone street. Not losing any momentum, Gar stomped on the arm that had the energy weapon, feeling the crunch of the armor under his foot.
“ENOUGH!” Kravik rolled across the ground and then came up in a swift motion. He grabbed a large stone on his way up and threw it at Gar’s head.
Gar deflected the stone with his arms, but wasn’t ready for the weapon aimed at him. Kravik held up his hand and shot, but the broken weapon merely exploded in a massive ball of fire. The eruption sent both enemies flying in opposite directions. Gar crashed backward through the museum landing in a pile of broken shelves and tattered books.
“Gar!” Dr. Shepard came running to his side.
Gar, slightly dizzy for the first time in his life, sat up. “Father! What are you doing here?”
Dr. Shepard attempted to help Gar to his feet. “I couldn’t leave without you. Come on, please. That monster is going to kill you.” Suddenly he fell back as a laser pierced his left shoulder.
“I...I’ve been shot.” Dr. Shepard held his shoulder that was soaked with blood.
Just then they both heard the crunching sound of someone walking over the rubble of the library. Gar and Dr. Shepard looked up to the large opening in the libraries wall. Kravik stood there, his right arm now without armor, revealing a sickly bluish green skin. He held a smaller weapon aimed at them.
“You...you are formidable. Not like these pathetic fools. See how easily they are hurt, how they bleed. They will fall in a day to our strength.”
Gar gave Kravik a deadly glare. “What do you want!?”
“You. The Legion needs strength to test worlds with, Emperor Kruhl desires the unique, the powerful, the unbreakable warriors. You are not like these people or the Vexillians, you are something special. Come with me, let the rest of these fleshy infants burn.”
“I would never join you.”
“Pity.” Kravik shot again, this time right through Dr. Shepards head.
The world stood still for Gar. He watched the instant that blast hit his father and saw the life fade from his eyes. “FATHER!” Gar held his father to him, blood streaming across the ground behind him. “PLEASE, DON’T DIE! COME BACK!” Gar cried out, the deepest pain he has ever endured filled his heart. He waled in powerful sorrow.
“I was wrong.” Came Kravik’s cold tone, “You are just as pathetic as the rest of them.”
“YAHHH!” Gar turned and raced at Kravik, a true, deep rage filling his entire body.
Kravik stood there, ready for another round of fighting. However, Gar wasn’t ready to fight, he was ready to kill. He crashed into Kravik and then shoved him across the plaza. The pair smashed through wall after wall, many of them stone or marble as he demolished entire buildings in an effort to break this villain. They exited the last wall and hit the ground on a street that sloped down. Gar was now kneeling on Kravik and punching him repeatedly.
Kravik finally caught Gars fist with both of his hands and used the force of Gars attack throw him over his body. Gar was slammed into the ground, back first. He struggled getting to his feet since his wings were in the way, this gave Kravik time to get up first. When Gar did get to his knees, Kravik kicked him hard and sent him rolling down the street. Gar fell down the steep road and crashed through several small cars parked on the side. He flipped over an embankment and found himself falling off of a bridge.
He wasn’t able to get airborn before he hit the waters of the Mediterranean. The darkness surrounded him as he sank. The sun, at first a blinding light in the surface, quickly became a distant flicker. He screamed, but it was muffled. Since he did not need oxygen, he wouldn’t drown, but it felt like he was suffocating. His worst nightmares were coming true, his world was over. His stone hard body slammed into the seabed and he lay there, unable to fathom what was happening to him. All he knew, all he loved, all he had just this morning was gone.
For a moment he lay there, wishing he could die. His mind traveled back to the first day he learned to fly, seeing the beauty of this world with his own eyes. Then the words of his father rang in his mind, “You have given my life a new meaning, a new start when I felt like I could never return from my sorrow.”
“I will not die in sorrow, I will find meaning! I will make my father proud.” He confirmed in his mind.
Beating his wings in the water he struggled hard using them to swim. That little flicker of sunlight would be his guide, he would get back to the surface on his own, he would end this nightmare by ending the one who started it seven hundred years ago.
Kravik scoffed, “Dammit, lost sight of him. Stupid hills.” He searched himself for his weapon, but it was lost in the many walls he was shoved through. Not a real problem, he always had another weapon. He reached down and pulled something off of the armor on his thigh. He snapped his hand to the side and an energy covered blade extended. “This should cut through stone.”
Marching down this street, he took pleasure in the way the little humans scurried away from him. He could have so much fun slicing them up right now, but he had a ‘champion’ to break.
“COME OUT, OH CHAMPION OF EARTH!” He called.
With a quick stab he thrust the blade through a statue that was standing on a pedestal. It crumbled to the ground, “Not him.” He grunted. Then there was another statue standing on the side of a building, it had wings. He approached and then sliced across it, splitting it in two. “Gah! Where is he!”
“Go away!” A little voice commanded.
He stopped his third attack on a statue to find a little old Italian lady standing her ground near a flower shop. She had her hands on her hips and no fear in her eyes. “You...you would challenge me?”
She spit on the ground at then pointed another direction. “Go away!”
“Oh, this is too easy.” He came closer and lifted his blade to split her in two just like that statue.
Without warning she hit him with two laser beams from her eyes. He was stumbled back and tripped over the rubble of a statue he had demolished. Sitting up, he didn’t get a chance to stand before she hit him again. He was rolled up against a building.
He lay there, a little stunned, “Humans...have laser eyes? That was not in the report.”
“GO AWAY!” She commanded.
He rolled to the side and avoided the next attack, she might have laser eyes, but she wasn’t too clever in her attacking. Jumping to his feet he summoned his energy shield again and this absorbed her attack. He ran at her, those lasers blasting the whole time. Suddenly Gar flew up over the road and grabbed the woman just as he stabbed his blade in the ground where she had been.
“WHAT!” He screamed.
Gar swooped around and set her down on a balcony. He turned sharply, planted his foot in the wall, then launched himself at his enemy. Water streamed off of his stone body as he gained speed with each moment. Kravik stood there, ready to fight. Gar knew that he was no match for this enemy, he didn’t have the right training to fight. But, he had speed and strength.
Kravik was ready for another round, but was side swiped as Gar flew passed him once and then came back around quickly, this time hitting him in the shoulder. Kravik was losing his focus and swung with abandon as Gar came for a third strike. This was the moment. Gar reached out and grabbed the forearm holding the blade and he lifted Kravik off of the ground. Kravik flailed around on purpose, but Gar’s grip was far greater than any struggling. He slammed Kravik into one building and then another. He squeezed the wrist until the metal armor broke and this creatures wrist was crushed, forcing him to release the blade. Kravik screamed and for the first time in many years it was from true pain.
Gar made a huge swoop in the sky and then threw Kravik across three buildings, crashing him through many different objects and walls.
Kravik tumbled with extreme precision and landed in a kneeling position on the third rooftop. He quickly pulled out yet another weapon from his leg armor and shot at Gar.
Gar set his sights on Kravik and slid left and right in the air as he dove toward him. Each movement allowed him to dodge shot after shot. Coming dangerously close he twisted suddenly and used his wing to slam into Kravik and throw him backward off of the building. Before he hit the ground Gar grabbed his leg and flew hard holding him in this undignified position.
With one last crash, into a tree this time, Kravik lost yet another weapon in his arsenal. He called out, “I CAPITULATE! YOU WIN THIS BATTLE!”
Gar flew fast as he went over the city of Rome. “I DON’T CARE!”
“PUT ME DOWN! I WILL LEAVE!”
Gar began a glide as he flew over Vatican city. “And never return?”
Kravik answered, “Yes. I will never return.”
Gar realized that he had to be better than his enemy, he had to show mercy even when they wouldn’t. This was what his father would want him to be. He headed for the large open space of St. Peters Square. However, just as he was about to let Kravik down, something struck him in the wing he almost crashed. Then another shot, he looked to see that Kravik had yet another weapon and was firing at him.
The deepest form of rage filled his mind and he spun in the sky, flipped over once and then slammed Kravik against the top of the Vatican Obelisk. The cross on top bisected the aliens already broken body and split him in two. Kravik’s bisected corpse fell to the ground in a pool of his blackish purple blood.
Gar landed near him and said, “now you will never return.”
Just then dozens of military, police, and Vatican security rushed up and held out their guns at Gar. He looked at them with a deep sorrow in his eyes.
“WINGED CREATURE, STAND DOWN!” A man called over a megaphone.
Gar lifted his wings, which startled them, and took off running. The people in his path fired, but their bullets could do no harm to him. He kicked off the ground and took flight, soaring over high over them and away from the Vatican.
After a long flight, or at least it felt terribly long, he landed in the square where Kravik first appeared. The portal above it was gone and he saw no other signs of these strange portals. Several ambulances were in the square gathering the injured and dead while the local police and UN military investigated the scene and contained the crowds. There was a news crew already there, speaking to people.
Gar landed in the square, in the middle of all the commotion. His appearance drew all the attention and a decent amount of fear. The newly arrived military rushed up and took aim.
Before Gar could say or do anything, a man yelled out. “HOLD!” The commander he had saved earlier came running over and stood in front of him. “Put your guns down, he is not our enemy.”
“Sir?” One of the UN officials stepped closer, his gun still trained on Gar.
The commander walked over and shoved the gun down, “I said, hold.” He addressed the crowd, “This person arrived on the scene and saved our lives. If it weren’t for him battling that strange alien from the portal, we would all be dead.”
The woman reporting the news came up and timidly asked Gar, “Who are you?”
He looked at her and softly answered, “I am Gargoyle, I will defend this world...always. Please excuse me.” He walked away from her.
The reporter spoke to the camera again, the military all lowered their guns, and the medical teams continued helping the injured.
Gar stepped through the broken wall of the place he knew as home. Two EMT’s followed him.
“Um...sir...this place is not safe.”
Gar ignored them and found where his father had died. Part of the ceiling had fallen on him and he was buried. Gar knelt down and began to remove huge chunks of plaster and metal, tossing it all aside to uncover Dr. Shepard.
One EMT watched this longer than the other, when he saw the body he called out, “We have another person!”
Gar sat back and watched them carry his father off on a gurney, to be taken to a hospital. He sat there, in the ruins of his life and never wanted to move again. He wished he had never woken up. What purpose would his life have if he had no one left who truly cared for him?
“Help!” A rescuer cried out as he sifted through the rubble of another building.
Gar turned and saw that they were trying to move a wall that had fallen, trapping someone inside. He got to his feet and went over, lifting the wall with ease, allowing the EMT’s to get a homeless woman out who had been living in the abandoned building. More and more people were trapped and needed help. He let go of his moment of mourning as he continued moving rubble and carrying people to the medical teams. The whole time the media watched in awe as he worked through the night with everyone, saving as many lives as he could.
The next morning, Gar sat outside of the hospital where they had taken his father. He was so still that many people assumed he was a new statue. Few realized he was the now famous Gargoyle that stopped the villain. He didn’t want their praise or thanks, he was lost in his sadness.
Just after sunrise, a doctor came out and tapped him on the shoulder. When he moved the doctor jumped slightly. “Oh, I am sorry Mr...Gargoyle. I wasn’t sure if you were real.”
“I am.” He whispered.
“We have called the American Embassy, they tried to contact Dr. Shepard’s family back in New York, but he has no living relatives we can find. Since you seem to know him, we would like to know if you have any contact to his family?”
Gar nodded slowly, “I am his family.”
Gar stood up, “Take me to him.”
The doctor spent a moment thinking about that, a small tinge of fear in his eyes at the imposing figure of Gar. “Of course, right this way.”
Gar walked through the hospital in silence. People around him either jumped out of the way or simply stared, he didn’t notice them. In time he was brought to the morgue where they showed him the body.
“We cannot transport the body unless...”
“I’ll take him.” Gar said and then leaned over.
“No, proper transportation...wait...you can’t do that.” The doctor protested when Gar lifted Dr. Shepard off the table.
Gar, holding his dead father, turned and lifted his wings threateningly, “MOVE!”
The doctor and all the staff nearby got out of the way. Gar walked out the way he came in, this time the fear in peoples eyes was tangible as he carried a limp body with him.
Outside, he ran across the yard and took flight. People stopped their cars to watch this strange creature pass over them.
Gar flew hard through the day and night as he made his way westward. He had read so many books about this world he knew the landscape by heart. He never tired, never stopped, simply flew a straight path. The air was cold, the skies lonely, the sounds of crashing waves once terrifying but now somehow soothing.
Once he reached America he followed the coast northward until he met another famous statue, Lady Liberty. Dr. Shepard once told him that his wife and son were both buried in a cemetery just outside New York City, a plot that belonged to his family for generations. He was the last of his family and hoped to be buried next to his wife when the time came. Gar honored this request and buried his father in a plot next to his wife and son. He then flew until he found the perfect stone and used his hands to hew it into a marker.
Finally, he knelt beside the grave and mourned. He could think of nothing else he would do now that his father was gone. He didn’t want to face a day without him, so he simply stayed there and watched over that marker. The days passed and a month had gone by, but he didn’t move. Eventually the people who saw him thought he was nothing more than a strange statue placed on a grave, and to him that was exactly what he had become.
The rain fell down, pouring over him, soaking the only clothing he wore. Behind him he heard footsteps, which was odd to hear in the rain, but not entirely uncommon. However, they stopped just as they got to him. He expected to hear the same comments about the odd statue.
“Are you done yet?” A voice asked.
Gar frowned. Was this person speaking to him? He decided it was nothing, so he didn’t move.
“I can come back later, Gargoyle, but I don’t think you can find solace by staring at your pain forever.”
Gar turned around, now sure this person was speaking to him. He found a tall, older man with a short, scruffy white beard, an eye patch, and dressed in black leather like someone in the military. He walked with a cane and wore a black trench coat. Gar asked, “who are you?”
The man stepped closer, not an ounce of fear in his eye, “I am Director Nova of B.A.D.G.E.”
“Badge? What is that?”
“It is a special organization that gathers people with meta-human abilities and trains them. We feel that the earth is in great danger, and after what happened in Rome, I am inclined to believe we have barely begun to realize how much danger we are in.”
Gar nodded, “I know all about the danger.”
“Which is why I want you. B.A.D.G.E. needs you, you are a capable fighter, but you also have some inkling of what is going on.”
Gar stood up and shook his head, “I’m not meta-human, I’m not even human.”
“Doesn’t matter. We need you and I think you need us.”
“Why would I need you?”
Nova smiled, “You need help learning how to fight. I saw the recordings of the fight, what little was to be found. You did well, but you need work.” Somehow he could sense that Gar was ready to turn him down, “You also need a home, a place to be with people who will help you, be your ally, and even perhaps friends. We are all stronger when we help one another.”
Gar gave this some thought, and then came to the conclusion that if he was to help this world, it would better if they were working with him. “Alright, I will join you.” he stuck out his hand.
Nova shook the hand. “Welcome to the fight, son.”
Gar asked, “how did you know where to find me?”
“It’s a long story. First, lets get out of this rain and back to HQ. I have a few trainers who would like to run some assessment tests on you.”
Gar followed Director Nova to a landed craft that would take them to the main B.A.D.G.E. facility.