The sun dipped low on the horizon, flooding the evening sky with a sultry array of reds and golds, tinged at their outer edges by pale greens and blues.  In the distance buildings and trees became black silhouettes that cut into the heavenly array, obstructing the view and yet somehow adding to the vibrant spectacle.  High above the fading sun a solitary cloud drifted by, carried by the wind, reflecting the golden hue at its base, its puffy upper ridges turning a shade of deep blue.

 

On the streets below few stopped to admire Mother Nature's artistry, most rushing to get home after a long day at work, too consumed by thoughts of all they had to do before they took to their beds that night to pay any heed to the beauty all around them.  Those who did take the time to stop found themselves breath-taken by the vista, awed by the majestic splendour before them, vowing to commit the scene to memory though at the same time knowing it would exist in their minds for mere minutes after it had faded to blackness.

 

From where he perched above the arched double-doors of the church, Roger watched impatiently, caring little for the wondrous display, anxious for the sun to complete its journey, for night to finally fall.  Had he been able to do so, he would have drummed his fingers against the stone plinth beneath his feet as he waited, but he could no more drum his fingers than he could scratch the itch on the end of his nose that had been tormenting him for hours.

 

As he waited with growing frustration for the sun to complete its journey over the horizon, a fly landed on his foot.  He could see it out of the corner of his eye, feel it moving on his big toe, but could do nothing to shift it.  He cursed it silently just as he had cursed the pigeon that had woken him from his slumber in the middle of the day when it crapped on his head, leaving a glob of foul-smelling fluid dripping down his cheek as it flew off into the distance.

 

The sun had dried the excrement, leaving a white streak down the side of his face, stifling the smell, but he could still feel it there.  He tried not to think about it, tried to pretend it wasn't there, but its presence had kept him awake throughout the day, forcing him to endure the baking sunlight, the screeching of children, the torturous hum of traffic, the hustle and bustle on the street beneath him.

 

There had been a wedding in the church that afternoon, a young couple, the woman no more than twenty years of age, the man only slightly older, mere infants as far as he was concerned.  He'd listened to them inside the church, reciting their vows, pledging to stay together forever, their friends and family sniffling in the pews behind them.  He'd listened the the raucous cheers as the couple made it out of the church after the ceremony, as their loved ones pelted them with grains of rice and colourful pieces of paper.  It was only as they reached the black Rolls Royce at the curbside that he'd seen them, as they turned, posing for pictures, their arms around one another, bright smiles on their faces.

 

I give them a year, he'd thought to himself as they climbed into the car.  Two at most.

 

After that the church had been quiet.  People had come and gone, making their way up the aisle in reverential silence, sitting in the pews or kneeling before the altar to utter quiet prayers to a God Roger was sure was far too busy to care, but at least they hadn't disturbed him.  He was grateful of that.

 

In the late afternoon he'd started to drift back off to sleep, weariness summoning him into its merciful embrace once more, but a sudden flash of light had roused him once more.  At first he'd thought it was lightning, but the sky was clear, cloudless, an ocean of pale blue.  It was only when he glanced downwards that he saw them, the tourists, their cameras pointed directly at him, firing repeated blasts of light as they captured his image. 

 

Though he knew he couldn't move, not in the daylight, he'd willed his arm to move, willed his hand to rise, willed his fingers to clench into a fist, all but one, the middle one, waving it at them as a gesture of his appreciation for their interest in him, but of course he'd been powerless to do anything but sit there, enduring their unwanted attention.

 

Finally they'd departed, babbling in some foreign tongue to one another, pointing and smiling at him as they continued down the street in search of other spectacles to photograph.  If he could have scowled after them he most certainly would have, but instead he was left frozen on the spot, projecting bad thoughts and profanities he knew they would never hear, staring out at the horizon knowing he would not sleep again that day.

 

Roger sighed as he felt a tingling sensation in his arms, his legs, his wings, glancing out at the last of the shimmering light disappeared over the horizon.  He smiled as he felt the paralysis that gripped his body slowly beginning to lift, then braced himself, preparing for the agonising pain he knew that would come when the feeling returned to his entire body.

 

As the skyline faded to blackness, it hit him, a burning sensation that seemed to grip every muscle in his body at once.  Groaning aloud, he stretched, fighting to free himself of the cramp that left his body taut, one of the many torments that came from being locked in a single position from dawn to dusk day after day.  Raising his arms high above his head, he spread his wings, rose up on his hind legs, flexing his clawed fingers and toes, wiggling his jaw, puffing out his chest.

 

After a minute the pain began to subside and, for the first time since he'd taken up his position that morning, Roger began to relax.  Almost absent-mindedly he reached to his nose, scratching the itch that had tortured him throughout the afternoon but which, curiously, no longer seemed to matter.  Craning his neck, he peered over the plinth at the pavement below, making sure there was nobody looking his way, then flapped his wings, ascending from his pedestal and gliding around to the side of the church, soaring over the neglected graveyard in search of a puddle or any other source of water.

 

Spotting a birdbath at the far edge of the graveyard, he slowly descended, angling his wings to slow his approach, landing clumsily on the edge of the stone basin.  At first he teetered forward, almost falling head first into the water, but a flap of his wings enabled him to right himself, keeping him upright while he found his balance.  Only when he was sure he'd steadied himself did he allow his wings to fold up behind his back.

 

Reaching down he scooped up as much of the water as his little hands would allow, splashing it over his forehead, massaging it into his cheek, ridding himself of the deposit the pigeon had left on his face.  Though he was sure he's cleansed himself of the foul mess, he reached down again, wetting both hands this time, scrubbing his face once more, hoping to eradicate the memory of the indignity along with any residual evidence of its presence.

 

Finally he sat on the edge of the basin, waiting for the water to settle before leaning over it, admiring his reflection.  He smiled as he saw his own face staring back at him, a smile so big his bulbous lips parted to expose his fanged teeth and grey forked tongue.

 

A handsome face if ever I saw one, he thought to himself, nodding at his reflection as though to affirm his belief.

 

Turning, Roger hopped off the birdbath, spreading his wings to allow him to drift gently to the ground below, landing expertly on the weed-strewn grass.  Reaching behind him, beneath his wings, he pulled out a packet of cigarettes and a lighter, plucking one of the white sticks from the pack before striking a flame, drawing on it greedily.

 

For most of his six hundred years of life he'd never know the pleasures of tobacco, and had been quite mystified by the sight of endless humans walking back and forth on the street below him puffing on the fiery sticks.  It had only been a decade ago, when he'd found a packet abandoned on the pavement, that he'd succumbed to temptation and tried them, and they'd rapidly become one of the few pleasures in his life.

 

Of course, acquiring new packs, and replacement lighters, had proved a challenge for him.  He'd considered flying into one of the open shops after dark and buying a pack for himself, but gargoyles didn't have money, and even if they did he knew from experience that humans generally didn't react well to his animated form.  They were perfectly happy to gawk at him for hours as he sat motionless above the church door, laughing and pointing at him, but the moment they saw him in the flesh, as it were, moving about freely, they tended to become somewhat alarmed.

 

He smiled as he remembered the first time he'd gone out for a pack of cigarettes.  The pack he'd found had lasted him for a week, but when they were gone he found himself craving more.  He'd spent three nights flying over the streets searching for a discarded pack, but all he'd found were empty boxes dumped carelessly on the pavement or in gutters.  Finally desperation had driven him to take more drastic measures to feed his growing addiction.

 

He'd found a bar a few streets from the church, a bar with tables out front.  Only one of the tables had been occupied that night, two couples sat drinking and smoking in the moonlight.  He'd sat on a rooftop overlooking the table, waiting for them to go inside, hoping they'd leave a pack of cigarettes behind, but after a couple of hours he'd become impatient.

 

When the two women rose to “take a piss”, as they'd so delicately put it, and one of the men had volunteered to go to the bar, leaving the other sat on his own, Roger had decided to make his move.  Descending quickly, he'd landed on the table with an almighty thump, causing the man to leap from his seat before he even set eyes on Roger, and when he did...

 

Roger chuckled to himself as he recalled the moist patch that had appeared at the front of the man's trousers.  For a moment he'd just stood there, urine streaming down his legs, staring at Roger, his eyes wide, his mouth opening and closing, his body trembling.  Roger had ignored him at first, simply reaching down and gathering the three abandoned packets of cigarettes from the table, taking the man's lighter, and lighting up.

 

It was only after he'd taken his first drag on the cigarette that he decided he could no longer tolerate the man staring at him.  Emitting a heavy sigh, he'd turned his head towards him, puffed out his chest and announced, “Take a picture.  It'll last longer.”

 

The man hadn't taken a picture, of course.  Instead he'd bolted down the street, a high-pitched whimpering noise escaping him as he'd fled.  With a shrug of his shoulders, Roger had flown back up to the rooftop, perching there, smoking cigarette after cigarette as he watched the man's friends return, observing their confusion at finding the table empty, listening as they cursed him when they found their precious cigarettes missing, finally deciding to leave the bar and go in search of their friend, to find out what had happened to him

 

Roger doubted the man had told them the truth, of course, but even if he had he wasn't concerned.  There had been a time when he would have been believed, when people saw his kind as demons, when they knew gargoyles came to life at night, but those days were long gone.  So long as he was careful not to allow himself to be seen by too many people, he could indulge himself every now and then, scaring the occasional drunk.

 

He'd become more careful since then, though, making sure he was never seen as he acquired the cigarettes to feed his habit.  Sometimes he waited outside corner shops until the owners disappeared out the back, swooping in and helping himself to as many packs as he could carry, disappearing before the owner returned.  He'd also become quite adept at picking pockets, waiting on walls for unsuspecting humans to pass by, then reaching into their jackets and relieving them of their cigarettes.  It had become a sport to him, a nightly game to help pass the time until the sun rose and he was forced to return to his plinth above the church door.

 

Taking another drag on his cigarette, Roger began a slow amble through the graveyard, enjoying the peace and quite he found within it.  Most nights the graveyard was empty, at least of human life.  On occasion kids or students would venture inside at night, stalking amongst the stones on some quest to find ghosts and ghouls, but normally people stayed away from the place after dark.  Roger liked it that way.  The graveyard was his domain, his sanctuary from the world.

 

He sighed as he heard the sound of flapping wings overhead, a reminder that while the graveyard was his domain, it was not his domain alone.  He feigned ignorance as he heard the flapping circle around him, continuing to smoke his cigarette, walking onwards, hoping that he would be left alone, but when he heard a thump on the ground a couple of feet behind him he knew that he wasn't going to get his wish.

 

“Hello Harry,” he sighed without turning around.

 

“Damn,” he heard Harry mutter.  “How did you know it was me?”

 

“Who else would it be?” Roger asked, rolling his eyes as he turned to face the young gargoyle.

 

Harry was a little over a century old, an antique by human standards, but a mere child to Roger.  He had been carved in Roger's image, as had the other four gargoyles that lined the outer walls of the church, but in Roger's opinion Harry's sculptor had been a vastly inferior craftsman to his own.  Though Harry possessed the same bulbous lips and approximate form as Roger, his eyes and teeth were narrower, his ears shorter, their points less sharp, and his wings were plain.  In his daytime pose, Roger also found Harry to be far less intimidating.  He was certainly grotesque, but his supposedly menacing sneer seemed more like a pained grimace to Roger.

 

Harry was the only one of the four additions who had come to life, and in Roger's mind it was easy to understand why.  Until an appropriate form was created for them, his kind existed as intangible entities, drifting through the ether incapable of communicating with each other or anyone else.  But they had eyes, minds and, for the most part, taste.  He felt fairly certain that most of his kind had taken one look at the shoddy workmanship that had gone into the five forms added to the church and decided they could do better elsewhere.

 

But not Harry.

 

Then again, Harry was...to put it kindly...somewhat feeble minded.

 

“So what are you up to?” Harry beamed at him, skipping along beside him.

 

“Walking,” Roger replied, hoping his one word answer would discourage Harry from asking further pointless questions, hoping the boy would get the message and leave him alone.

 

No such luck.

 

“Where are you walking to?” Harry asked him.

 

“This way,” Roger said, pointing ahead, in the direction he was walking.

 

Harry cackled wildly, slapping Roger hard in the middle of his back, just below his wings.  “Good one,” he tittered.  “Hey, look!”

 

Rolling his eyes and sighing heavily, Roger glanced at Harry, finding his arm outstretched his finger pointing off towards the left.  Roger followed his finger, spotting a large ginger cat stalking through the grass around the gravestones, doubtless in search of mice or rats, entirely oblivious to their presence.

 

“Watch this!” Harry instructed, slapping him on the back again before skipping off around a large tomb.

 

Roger frowned after him, wondering if he should take the opportunity to fly off, find somewhere more peaceful to enjoy his night, but instead he leaned against a gravestone, lifting his cigarette to his lips once more.  Out of the corner of his eye he spotted Harry tiptoeing towards the cat, ducking behind gravestones and clumps of grass whenever the feline glanced in his direction, somehow managing to stay out of the animal's vision.

 

When he was close enough, he hunkered down, waiting for the cat to draw close, glancing back to make sure that Roger was watching.  The cat ambled nearer, sniffing the air, glancing left and right in search of suitable prey, all the while moving slowly closer to where Harry was silently waiting.  When finally it was close enough, Harry sprang to his feet, emitting a fearsome, guttural roar, his clawed hands raising high in the air, his wings spreading wide as he leapt several inches off the ground.

 

Roger couldn't help but smile as he saw the cat's eyes shoot open, its back arching, its tail shooting straight up behind it.  It let loose a startled shriek, a high-pitched yelp, before turning and bolting in the opposite direction, barely managing to avoid running straight into one of the tombstones as it raced towards the far wall, springing over it in a single bound.

 

Roger turned, chuckling to himself, but managed to regain his composure as he heard Harry trotting towards him.  When he turned back to the young gargoyle his smile was gone, a stern look on his face.

 

“You shouldn't have scared the poor creature,” he scolded Harry, doing his best to maintain a disapproving stare.

 

“I know,” Harry nodded, bowing his head slightly as a grin spread across his face, “but did you see it?  Bloody thing almost crapped itself.”

 

Roger lifted his cigarette to his lips to conceal the smile that was spreading across his face.  Though he would never admit it, to himself, let alone to Harry, there were times when he enjoyed the boy's company, his youthful exuberance.  He couldn't help but recall his own antics as a young gargoyle, stalking birds, cats, even the occasional dog, taking delight in the startled looks as he leapt out at them, but they were nowhere near as amusing as humans could be.

 

“So what are we gonna do now?” Harry demanded, bouncing up and down on his heels.

 

We?” Roger asked, raising an eyebrow as he regarded the youth.

 

“Oh come on Roger,” Harry pouted at him.  “I know you like to be alone, but I really feel like having some company tonight.”

 

“Fine,” Roger sighed, rolling his eyes yet again.  “I was thinking I might fly over the city for a while, see what's going on, maybe scare a few tourists, take a peek in some hotel windows, that kind of thing.”

 

“Sounds like fun,” Harry grinned at him.

 

“Try to keep up,” Roger stated, launching into the air as he took one final drag on his cigarette, releasing it, allowing it to plummet to the ground below as Harry fluttered into the air behind him.

 

As Roger soared high into the air, he couldn't help but smile at the city beneath him.  His city.  Not his in the sense that he had any legitimate claim of ownership, but certainly in the sense that it was his home, the place where he belonged, a city he'd grown to love.  It was one of the sadly few cities in the world that was older than he was, though it was nowhere near as large when he'd come to take up residence over the church door.

 

Over the years he'd watched the city grow, change, developing in ways he couldn't possibly have imagined.  Some of the changes he didn't like, but others made him positively gleeful.  Or at least as gleeful as he was capable of being.  He'd found many pleasures in life, and at times he'd even considered himself content, but he was never truly happy.  The truth was, he wasn't sure he even wanted to be.  It wasn't a gargoyle's place to be happy and cheerful.  Gargoyles were supposed to be fearsome, angry, menacing, and if Harry was anything to go by it was difficult to be any of those things with a stupid grin on your face the whole time.

 

As he neared one of his favourite spots in the city, he slowed his pace, swooping down to land on the rooftop above a dark alley, gazing down at the dank cobbled path beneath him.  Sucking in a greedy mouthful of air, he smiled as the stench of rotting garbage penetrated his nostrils, relishing the odour as he'd seen many humans enjoy the noxious scent of a fresh flower.

 

He glanced over his shoulder as Harry landed on the roof behind him, the young gargoyle panting frantically as he stumbled towards Roger.  For a moment he said nothing, just rested his hands on his stony knees, struggling to catch his breath.  Roger sighed, shaking his head slowly as he regarded the youth, wondering why he'd ever agreed to allow the boy to come with him.

 

“You're fast,” Harry panted, his words rasped so breathlessly they were almost unintelligible.

 

“You're slow,” Roger corrected him.  “If the man who made you had taken the time to carve you proper wings, flying wouldn't be so much of an effort for you.”

 

“At least I have wings,” Harry replied defensively.  “Have you seen those gargoyles over at the hotel in the city centre?  No wings at all.  They have to scoot along ledges and climb down drainpipes just to reach the ground.”

 

“More fool them for choosing such feeble forms,” Roger scoffed unsympathetically.

 

“That's a bit harsh,” Harry frowned at him.

 

“Perhaps so,” Roger nodded, “but I reserve my pity for those who deserve it.  Have you met old Charlie over at St Mary's?”

 

Harry shook his head.

 

“I first met him when I was a young gargoyle,” Roger informed him.  “Back then Charlie was the envy of every gargoyle in this city.  Beautifully formed.  Magnificent wings.  Terrifying face even when he smiled.  Then, about twenty years ago, some ratty bloody teenagers thought it would be funny to steal him.  They failed, of course, but they did succeed in knocking him off his perch as he slept.”

 

“What happened?” Harry asked nervously.

 

“Smashed his left wing, knocked off one of his ears and broke his arm,” Roger stated.  “He's never been the same since.  Can't fly, can't climb, just sits there all day and night.  You know what the humans call him these days?”

 

Harry shook his head again.

 

“Old Misery,” Roger told him.  “They used to think he looked terrifying.  Now they say he just looks sad.”

 

“Why doesn't he just move on?” Harry frowned at him.

 

“Too set in his ways,” Roger sighed.  “He's been in that body for over eight hundred years.  I don't think he'll ever leave it.  And why should he?  If the humans had any decency they'd fix him up, or give him a new body to move into.”

 

“You don't much like humans, do you?” Harry asked.

 

“Not much,” Roger admitted.  “I mean, they're interesting enough, but they could never understand our kind any more than we could understand them.”

 

“I like them,” Harry said, smiling proudly.

 

“You would,” Roger scowled at him.

 

“What?” Harry frowned.  “I think they're nice.  They smile and wave at me, take my picture, some of them even say things to me.”

 

“Good for you,” Roger said, rolling his eyes yet again.

 

“Don't they take your picture?” Harry asked.

 

“Of course they do,” Roger growled, casting a menacing look at the boy.  “Bloody pests.”

 

“I like it,” Harry beamed at him.  “It makes me feel pretty.”

 

“Pretty!” Roger roared, barely able to contain the full extent of his outrage.  “Pretty!  You're not meant to feel pretty!  You're a gargoyle.  You're supposed to be terrifying.  When humans look at you they're supposed to shudder with fear.  Pretty!”

 

“Where is it written that all gargoyles are supposed to be terrifying?” Harry demanded, a hurt expression on his face.

 

“Written?” Roger spluttered, shaking his head slowly.  “It's not written.  It doesn't have to be written.  It's just how it is.  We are guardians of the places to which we are attached.  We are supposed to scare away anyone who intends to harm our homes.  That's our purpose.  It's why we exist.”

 

“It's not why I exist,” Harry stated, turning his snout towards the heavens.

 

“Of course it's why you exist,” Roger sighed, his teeth clenched.  “It's why we all exist.”

 

“Not me,” Harry maintained, shaking his head.  “I'm not going to spend my entire life guarding some building.  It's not why I'm here.”

 

“Then why are you here?”

 

“I'm going to be something more than just a gargoyle.”

 

“Like what?”

 

“I'm going to be a ballet dancer,” Harry stated, rising up on one foot and spinning on his toe, almost launching himself off the roof in the process.

 

“A ballet dancer,” Roger echoed, barely able to believe his ears.

 

“That's right,” Harry nodded.  “I saw the ballet last year, over at the theatre.  I'm mates with one of the gargoyles out the front of the building, but he was gone so I decided to sit and wait for him.  While I was there I just happened to look through the window and I saw...well, I can't really describe what I saw.  All I can say is that it was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen.”

 

“So you've seen one ballet and now you want to become a ballet dancer,” Roger said, his voice tight, strained.

 

“I've seen more than one,” Harry replied.  “After that night I went back every night, and when they stopped showing the ballet there I searched all over the city for other performances.  I must have seen at least a dozen.”

 

“And now you want to be a ballet dancer,” Roger said.

 

“What's so strange about that?” Harry frowned.

 

“What's so strange...” Roger stammered, shaking his head slowly.  “You're a sodding gargoyle for a start!  Every day you turn to stone.  How exactly do you propose to dance when you're a lump of rock?  Are you going to have the other dancers just throw you back and forth on the stage like some bloody sack of potatoes?”

 

“Well obviously I can only perform at night,” Harry sighed, looking at Roger as though he was foolish for suggesting otherwise, “but most ballet performances take place at night.”

 

“All the ones you've seen anyway,” Roger retorted.

 

“Well of course,” Harry sighed, shaking his head, “but I still think I can make a go of it.”

 

“Make a go of it?” Roger groaned, fighting the urge to throw the youth from the roof and watch him shatter on the cobbles below.

 

“You're really going to have to stop repeating what I say,” Harry scolded him.  “It's my dream and somehow I'm going to make it happen.  Besides, what's so great about being a gargoyle?”

 

“What's so great...” Roger began, catching himself just as Harry began to open his mouth.  “You're a gargoyle,” Roger stated.  “That's a fact.  It's what you are.  It's who you are.  Do you think you can just prance into some ballet school and say 'I want to be a ballerina'?  They'd take one look at you and run screaming from the room.”

 

“First of all,” Harry sighed, “I want to be a ballet dancer, not a ballerina.  Only girls can be ballerinas.”

 

“Only humans can be either,” Roger interjected.

 

“And second of all,” Harry continued, ignoring him, “I really don't think that all humans would react that way to me.  I admit they might be a little surprised at first...”

 

“Surprised?” Roger laughed.  “No!  Whatever gives you that idea?  I'm sure there are plenty who would be at all phased by the sight of a talking statue.”

 

“They'll get used to me,” he insisted.  “It might take a little time, but...”

 

“Look!” Roger snapped, cutting him off.  “You're a gargoyle and that's all there is to it.  If you have a dream, dream all you like, but don't go thinking you can make that dream a reality.  Even if you could dance...”

 

“I can dance!” Harry announced quickly.

 

“Even if you could dance,” Roger repeated, fixing him with a firm look cautioning him not to interrupt again, “humans never react well to our kind.  I've scared enough of them to know.  I've seen them scream, piss their pants, faint, point at me jabbering incoherently, leap up and down screaming for their friends to come see the little 'goblin', but not once, not once have they ever reacted with anything but fear or confusion.”

 

“Well, maybe it's your disposition?” Harry suggested.

 

“My...” Roger scowled at him.  “Right!  Come on!”

 

“Where are we going?” Harry frowned at him.

 

“To put this nonsense out of your head once and for all,” Roger stated.  “We're going to go find some humans and see exactly how they react to you.”

 

“Fine with me,” Harry nodded.

 

Casting him one last scornful look, Roger leapt into the air, almost forgetting to flap his wings.  Catching himself in time, he flapped fiercely, soaring high, searching the ground beneath for suitable candidates, humans to whom Harry could introduce himself, see first hand the reaction they had.  He saw plenty of people walking the streets, but none who were suitable.  They were either in large groups, close to other people or in locations where their inevitable screams would attract too much attention.

 

Angling his body, he turned away from the city centre, heading out towards the suburbs, the outer districts, glancing over his shoulder only to check that Harry was following.  He made sure not to move too fast, to keep a slow, steady pace that Harry was sure to be able to keep up with.  On his initial flight his goal had been to lose his unwanted companion, but now he wanted to make sure that the youth followed, that he could keep up.  He wanted the satisfaction of being able to say 'I told you so' when the time came.

 

They flew for nearly an hour as Roger scanned the ground beneath.  Once or twice Harry suggested a candidate or two, but they were always unsuitable.  The first time he pointed to an elderly woman walking along a quiet road, pushing in front of her a small wheeled basket laden with shopping.  Roger seriously considered the idea, but concluded that seeing the old woman drop dead with fright might be a little...overkill.

 

Harry's second suggestion was a pair of children playing in their back garden.  Roger gazed at them for a few moments, circling overhead.  They were two boys, the older no more than eight, the younger just four or five.  Roger had experienced some deeply satisfying reactions from children over the years, but he also knew how unpredictable they could be.  Most would scream at the sight of him, run as fast as their little legs could carry them in search of parents who would never believe their story of what they'd seen, but there were others who didn't seem at all afraid.

 

More than once he'd leapt out at a child only to be poked and prodded by the curious youngster.  Once he'd even had stones thrown at him by a fearless infant of ten or eleven.  No, he concluded.  Children were just too unpredictable.

 

He spotted the ideal candidates as they passed over a park, a young couple of seventeen or eighteen walking hand in hand along the dimly lit tree lined path.  The atmosphere, the shadows, the solitary nature of the location, everything was perfect for a damn good scare.  Signalling to Harry, Roger swept down ahead of the couple, perching in a tree about a hundred yards away from them.  Harry landed on the branch next to him, glancing at him nervously.

 

“There you go then,” Roger said, beckoning towards the approaching pair.

 

“Them?” Harry frowned.

 

“What's the matter?” Roger teased.  “Afraid they'll run screaming into the night?”

 

“No,” Harry pouted.  “It's just...it's a bit dark here.”

 

“That's the point,” Roger nodded.  “If you can approach this pair without scaring the living shit out of them, you'll certainly be able to walk into a brightly lit ballet studio and state your case.”

 

“OK,” Harry nodded, hopping down to a lower branch before glancing back at Roger.

 

Roger reached back, beneath his wings, pulling out his pack of cigarettes and lighter.  He nodded to Harry as he lit up, watching the youth teeter nervously on the branch, certain he wouldn't even go through with it.  He was just taking his first drag on the cigarette when Harry suddenly leapt from the branch, gliding almost gracefully down to the path, landing just a couple of feet in front of the couple.

 

Roger smiled broadly as the woman jumped, pressing her body against that of the young man, who instinctively wrapped his arms around her.  He nearly laughed as he saw their eyes widen, saw the woman's mouth open, bracing himself for the shrill sound of her scream.

 

“Don't be afraid,” he heard Harry say in a soft voice, taking a couple of tentative steps towards them.  “My name's Harry.  I won't hurt you.”

 

“What...what the fuck are you?” the man asked, pulling his date back, moving away from Harry.

 

“I'm a gargoyle,” Harry stated, cocking his head to the side.  “I didn't mean to scare you.  Really I didn't.  I just wanted to hop down and say hello.”

 

Roger leaned forward, sucking a greedy mouthful of smoke from his cigarette, his entire body tingling with anticipation as he waited for the inevitable hysteria, but as he watched something happened that he really hadn't expected.  The woman smiled.  Roger shook his head, squeezing his eyes shut before looking again, making sure he wasn't mistaken, but it was true.

 

She was smiling!

 

At Harry!

 

Roger felt his mouth drop open as he saw the young woman untangle herself from her date's grasp, stepping towards Harry and crouching low in front of him.  All of a sudden Roger knew what was going on.  She wasn't afraid.  She was angry.  She was going to pull out some weapon from her pocket, smash Harry to smithereens, but even as he readied himself to shout a warning to the hapless youth, the woman reached out, brushing her fingers against Harry's cheek.

 

“He's so cute!” she squealed, a bright smile spreading across her face as she turned towards her date.

 

The man seemed to relax a little, moving forward and crouching beside her, regarding Harry with a look of nervous curiosity.

 

“Thank you,” Harry purred at her, cocking his head to allow her to caress him further.

 

“He feels like stone, only...softer,” the girl stated, glancing at the man.

 

“I am made of stone,” Harry nodded.  “During the daytime I'm a statue, but at night I...wake up.”

 

“How...how is this possible?” the man frowned, shaking his head slowly.

 

“It's just who I am,” Harry shrugged.  “There's no need to be afraid.  Really.”

 

“Touch him,” the girl urged, smiling at the man.

 

Nervously, tentatively, the man extended his hand, running his index finger over Harry's shoulder.  Smiling broadly, Harry reached up, grasping the man's finger in his clawed hand and shaking it heartily.

 

“Pleased to meet you,” Harry beamed at him.

 

“And you,” the man replied cautiously.

 

“I'm Harry,” Harry told them, not for the first time.

 

“You said,” the woman giggled.  “I'm Sarah.  This is my boyfriend Paul.”

 

Roger shook his head, growling fiercely as he leapt from the tree, soaring down to the path, landing firmly beside Harry.  Mustering all his strength, he reared up on his legs, spread his wings, raised his claws, emitting his most fearsome roar.

 

Immediately the man shot to his feet, his eyes wide, though he appeared more startled than frightened.  The girl, on the other hand, simply laughed.

 

“There's another one,” she beamed at him, offering the same silly grin he'd often seen on Harry's face.  “And what's your name?”

 

Instead of replying, Roger lunged at her, roaring once again, bearing his fangs as his initial cry faded into a vicious snarl.

 

“This is Roger,” Harry said, nodding towards him.  “Don't mind him.  He's just a bit uppity tonight.”

 

“A bit uppity!” Roger barked.

 

“You're doing it again,” Harry said, sticking his tongue out at him.

 

“I...you...” Roger spluttered, but before he could utter another word he felt the girl's hand on his cheek, stroking him softly.

 

Darting away from her touch, Roger scowled at her, then sighed, shaking his head slowly.

 

“You're not afraid of me?” he asked.

 

“I'm sure you were very scary,” Sarah grinned as her date crouched beside her once again.

 

“Don't patronise me, little girl,” he pouted.  “I'm six hundred years old.”

 

“Wow!” Paul smiled, shaking his head.  “You must have seen a lot over the years.”

 

“A fair amount,” Roger nodded.  “You'd be surprised by the stories I could tell you about... Hey!”  He glared at the man, narrowing his eyes at him.  “What the hell is wrong with you people?  You act as though you see walking talking gargoyles every day of the week!”

 

“No,” Paul shrugged.  “Can't say I've ever had an experience quite like this one before.”

 

“But you're not afraid?” Roger demanded.

 

“A little nervous,” Paul admitted, “but now I know you're not going to hurt us...”

 

“Who says I won't?” Roger growled.

 

“Oh please,” Harry sighed, shaking his head.  “The worst he can do is nibble your fingers.  We gargoyles might look scary, but...what is it that you humans say?  Our bark is worse than our bite.”

 

“I don't think you're scary,” Sarah said, reaching out and picking Harry up.  As Roger watched with wide eyes, she cradled him in her arms, rocking him slowly back and forth.  “I think you're adorable.”

 

Harry giggled, and though it wasn't physically possible Roger was sure he saw him blush.

 

“Enough!” Roger snapped, pulling out another cigarette and lighting it.  “You people are clearly demented.”

 

“You know,” Paul said to him, “those things will kill you.”

 

Roger glared at him.  “I hardly think so.  I'm made of stone, remember?”

 

“Well, they'll make your insides all dirty then,” Sarah retorted.  “And they're already making your teeth go all brown.”

 

“They are?” Roger frowned.

 

Paul nodded as though to confirm what Sarah had told him.

 

“Buggeration!” Roger roared, glaring fiercely at the cigarette before tossing it away.

 

“Great,” Harry giggled, nestling into Sarah's embrace.  “Now he's going to be crankier than ever.”

 

“Up yours,” Roger pouted at him.

 

“Come on, Sarah,” Paul said, glancing at his date.  “I promised your Dad I'd have you home by ten.”

 

“Just a little longer,” Sarah whined at him.  “It's not every day you get to meet a real live gargoyle.”

 

“It's already five-to,” Paul informed her, glancing at his watch.  “You know what your Dad's like, and I don't think this is an excuse he's going to buy.”

 

Sarah pouted, her eyes pleading with him to let her stay a little longer, but even as she opened her mouth Harry said, “I can always meet you here again tomorrow night.”

 

“Really?” Sarah grinned.

 

“If you'd like to see me again,” he nodded.

 

“Definitely,” she smiled, carefully extending his arms, guiding him back down to the ground.  “What time?”

 

“After dark,” Harry told her.  “I'll be here as quickly as I can after sundown.”

 

“We'll see you then,” Paul said, grabbing Sarah's hand and tugging her down the path.

 

Roger and Harry stood side by side, watching the couple as they wondered down the path.  As they reached the gates at the far edge, they turned, both waving to them.  Roger turned away, scowling fiercely as Harry raised his hand, wiggling his fingers in response.

 

“You see,” Harry grinned at him when finally the couple disappeared from view.  “What did I tell you?”

 

Roger sighed, shaking his head.  “Not everyone's going to react the same way they did,” he asserted.

 

“Yeah,” Harry acknowledged, “but what was it you said?  If I could approach that pair without scaring the living...”

 

“Point taken,” Roger groaned, rolling his eyes once more.  “So, this plan of yours to become a ballet dancer...”

 

“Yes?” Harry grinned at him.

 

“Know any good ballet schools?” Roger asked him.

 

 


 

 

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