by Robert Hood
"Why was I not made of stone like thee?"
(Charles Laughton as Quasimodo in
The Hunchback of Notre Dame)
down made him dizzy.
Mac Rusch closed his eyes and tried to pretend he wasn't sitting
seven storeys above the street, maybe even that he was lying on
his bed. But the roar of space around him, stone-texture
pressing against his thighs and palms, and the acrid smell of
the creature, were stronger than his imagination.
"I don't like this," he said.
The gargoyle didn't reply.
Night vast blackness that disappeared into a haze of distant
streetlights scratched at his skin like tiny claws. Luckily
there wasn't much wind the chill he was feeling was mainly
inside him, a numbing wash of fearful expectation, now that the
initial shock, the hysterical terror, had faded. Perhaps his
mind had decided it was all a dream. After all, events like
these had to be dreams, didn't they? Reality wasn't this
Blood drying on his skin made him hope so.
"Why am I here?" he asked.
The stony face ground towards him. It shocked Mac. Though he had
seen the gargoyle move before, many times, and a while ago much
more expressively, the unnatural sight was still enough to drive
nails into his fingertips and ice into his chest.
You made me,
the creature said.
True, yes, superficially true. He had guided the hammer blows
that chiseled its distorted features its low brow, horns,
broad snout-like nose, fanged mouth (wide like a surreal grin)
and hunched, bent body, clawed hands, and wings yes, he had
done that. His muscles had driven the blows, his fingers had
felt their vibration through the stone-chisel's cold steel. But
at that point of creation the creature had been a mere
design-element, part of a stylistically ragtag facade. Mac
hadn't made this absurdly living thing, this impossible
"I didn't," he said weakly.
The gargoyle's dead eyes watched him.
It had come to him while he slept. Beside him someone human had
been breathing. A woman. Her name was ... what? He couldn't
remember. That made him sad. He couldn't remember her name any
more, mere hours later, when she needed to be remembered. His
mind was playing tricks with him, eroding his immediate past,
making him more callous than he wanted to be. They had made
love, hadn't they? Had had sex, at least. Gaye? Perhaps that was
it. Sounded familiar. Mac had met her in the local pub, after
she'd called out of the blue to ask him to come; she was someone
from his past. Who? He hadn't wanted to go and depression had
settled over him like a shroud. Feelings of void had oppressed
him. Coldness. Why was he forty-seven, and dying?
Mac woke out of a dream that had no details, but was potent with
menace. Woke, felt the woman's flesh pressed warm against his
thigh where now there was stone. Nearly remembered who she was.
And the gargoyle spoke. Let me live, it said.
Mac spasmed in shock, screamed. He'd thought it was a nightmare.
But the woman had woken. She looked at Mac, ready to berate him
perhaps, then sensed the thick shadow, smelt its bitterness,
heard its voice like cockroaches scuttling. She looked at the
"No," she whispered.
Her denial was confirmation for Mac. This was not a dream. Not
something excreted from his mind.
"You came as a nightmare," he said now. "But you're a statue. I
was paid to sculpt a statue like you, maybe it was you, a long
time ago. The money's long spent. If it's you, if that thing I
made was you, you've been sitting on this building for twenty
It hadn't said anything more. Hunched up in bed, in the
semi-dark created by a wash of cheesy light leaking through the
window from the moon, Mac had watched its claw take the woman by
the throat, holding her up so that it could look into her eyes.
What was it after? She couldn't speak now, the stone fingers
constricting her windpipe, but gargles and moans bespoke fear
and pain. Mac had been unable to move. Terror drained all motion
from his limbs.
Its dispassion was insupportable. It reached into the woman with
its free claw, stripping flesh from her bones, while the other
claw dangled her before it. For too long, she remained alive,
conscious that she was being killed and tortured by the agony of
it. Blood and intestines slithered down her legs, gathering into
a glistening shadow on the floor there. Mac could see the torn
muscles convulsing. Her ribs gave way, but by the time her heart
spilled out of her, she was dead. Still, the creature showed no
anger, no rage. It seemed to watch each moment of evisceration
intensely, seeking some mystery in flesh and gore. What
knowledge could there be? It wrenched off an arm, baring thick
bone at the shoulder, splintered now. It dropped the corpse. Mac
continued watching, sickness welling in his throat, shivering,
but he could not take his eyes from the creature of stone, as it
stripped flesh away and then prodded at the exposed bone, as
though it were a revelation.
For several days news programs had been reporting bodies found
in a bloody state in dark alleys, on a lonely stretch of
foreshore, on top of a semi-demolished tenement, dripping blood
onto early morning commuters. Mac remembered reading about the
other deaths. "They may be ritualistic," a police spokesperson
had said. Were they all the work of this creature?
The gargoyle was pulling the meat from the woman's arm over its
own stone-sinewy limb, giving itself a layer of bloody flesh.
Skin over bone. Its body was hard, like bone. Did it want to
cover its nakedness with flesh?
Gore slipped off it and flopped messily onto the boards. The
gargoyle looked at Mac. No flesh, it said. Then it came
toward him, where he trembled, not even thinking of moving, and
held its arm out. Its surface was bloodied. It reached with its
other arm and Mac thought he was gone. Like the woman, like
Gabrielle ... yes, perhaps her name was Gabrielle ... taken by
the throat. Eviscerated. He held out his hands ineffectually, to
ward it off. "Please," he said.
The gargoyle's hard claw took his wrist, dragged the hand toward
itself. It pressed Mac's fingers onto the arm that had been
covered in flesh. It held him there, feeling cold sliminess and
the hard, stony texture beneath. No flesh, it repeated.
"Yeah," said Mac, numbly, "No flesh, I get the point. No flesh."
It released him. Stood staring as Mac rubbed at his hand where
the stone had held him.
You made me.
As it spoke these words, the gargoyle stepped forward on its
left leg, dog-bent and hoofed. It indicated a blemish etched on
its ankle. Mac didn't have to see in the dim light to know what
it was. His mark. The signature he'd carved into the stone on
that night nearly twenty years ago when he finished his work and
felt the desire to leave evidence of his effort. He hadn't known
it was responsibility that was being proclaimed.
Wind increased for a moment, so Mac had to grip the stone ledge
harder to stop himself from tumbling off it. Sudden insecurity
made him glance down at the dark fall across the building's
facade to the street far below, and vertigo wrenched his gut.
"What do you want of me?" he asked.
The creature of stone, its chest unbreathing, shifted minutely,
but the grinding sound of its feet and wings against the side of
the building filled Mac with horror.
You made me stone,
it said. Now make me flesh.
"I'm not responsible," Mac protested, "You were just a statue,
one of several. You couldn't move, you weren't alive. Statues
are inanimate, stone can't move itself."
I am what you made me to be.
Mac tried to remember what he had made the gargoyle to be. It
was long ago, in his youth, and the emotions and desires of that
time were like the memories of someone else, so distant and
alien he couldn't understand them at all. What had been in his
life at that time? Hope? Commitment? Enthusiasm? They were gone
now, all of them. He remembered that, at first, he had welcomed
the job. Just an art student, that's what he'd been, penniless
but determined, hired as one of three sculptors to decorate the
front of an otherwise utilitarian building. Government grants,
the desire to minimise costs, political manoeuvres he couldn't
recall what had motivated the project; but he did remember that
it wasn't a happy time. Contracted payments had seemed petty as
months passed and the enterprise soured. The architect, who was
a self-opinionated philistine and hated the gargoyle concept,
badgered the artists continually. "His resentment is blemishing
the stone" that's what Mac used to say, and Gwen would call
him pretentious. Mac ignored job opportunities elsewhere,
because of his commitment, so that by the time it was finished,
he faced a period of unemployment, followed by a diminishing of
his ambitions that led him into the public service. A bad time.
For a moment a woman's face, laughing, smirking, teasing,
flickered in his memory. Gwen. Stress had made them fight, in
that penumbra of dwindling enthusiasm, and they had been so
close to hating each other during the final days of the project,
that a future together had seemed unlikely. Nevertheless they
married, afterwards, and a bit later on had a son. But the
gargoyle-sculpture was always there, reminding each of the
other's failings, and in the end they parted, not angry, but
worse, indifferent, to lead lives that somehow never achieved
even a basic level of satisfaction, no matter how much Mac
pretended it was otherwise. Maybe he never saw her again, his
wife, Gwen, nor his son, and not one of a long succession of
lovers had produced a single moment of commitment. Now Mac had
cancer in his prostate, and that fact seemed a logical
development, not an aberration. He hadn't thought of it before,
but perhaps that gargoyle he'd sculpted had been imbued with too
much of his energy for him to ever find peace again in himself.
"When did you ... wake up?" he asked the gargoyle.
it said. Is this awake?
"How far back can you remember? When did you first know ...
I remember coldness, I remember stone. There was fire, which did
not make me warm.
Fire? What did the creature mean by that? Mac glanced around,
but night revealed no details to him. What fire could there be
up here? Then, above the ledge on which they crouched, on the
roof of the building, he spied an aerial a conductor. It made
him think of lightning. Had the gargoyle been struck by
lightning and brought to life by it?
"Are you going to kill me?" he asked, suddenly conscious that
such speculation was useless, especially in these circumstances.
it replied, as though it didn't understand what he meant.
Mac's gut had started to tremble again, chilled without being
cold. The gargoyle suddenly moved its head away from him,
shifting slightly and staring into the dark, as though it saw
something far below. Mac gasped in expectation, not knowing what
to expect, but fearing what the creature might do. Wind tingled
on his skin.
Then the gargoyle was no longer beside him. It had launched
itself into the air, its bat-like wings beating easily against
the currents. How was it possible? Mac thought, feeling despair
like something undigested in his throat. The creature was made
of stone Mac had felt the stone. It was too heavy to be able
to fly. He watched as it glided out and downward in a circling
motion that carried it along the street and into the night. It
was as though its shape, not the logic of the natural world,
governed what was possible, so that having the form of wings
allowed it to fly, just as having the shape of a being, albeit
mythical, gave it life, and appearing monstrous made it a
He could no longer see it. Mac squinted into the night,
suppressing fear and hoping, in a futile gesture he didn't
believe for an instant, that it had all been a dream of some
kind, that out-of-sight meant out-of-mind and that what he'd
done was dispel the delusion by having it fly into the darkness,
never to return. But he knew it would be back. It was real, at
least according to the definitions of real that Mac had
functioned by all these years he had touched it, felt it,
feared it. It would be back because, somehow, it belonged to
him, and sooner or later it would trade his life for its own.
But perhaps its absence gave him a chance to escape. If it was
real, if it was, according to whatever logic was operating here,
a physical being with limitations imposed by its shape, it
wouldn't be able to find him if he hid himself away, far from
here, in another town, another state. Living so close to this
building, mere blocks ... that had been a mistake. Christ
almighty, he'd lived here in the shadow of this thing for twenty
years. Twenty years! Why, for god's sake? Why hadn't he moved
away long ago?
Mac glanced around desperately, along the ledge, up toward the
roof. That was the way he had to go. No other choice. He
couldn't scurry down the outside of the building like Dracula.
But the ledge was six or seven metres below the top and in
between the wall was recessed and without handholds. He couldn't
climb it. Perhaps further along there would be something, a
drainpipe, something he could use to get up to the roof. A
ladder? Perhaps, if he followed the ledge as far as it went, it
would lead him to some sort of access door. He couldn't
remember, now, what the rest of the building was like. How had
they put the gargoyle up there in the first place, given that it
hadn't flown? Probably a crane. Yes, he remembered now. A crane.
The thought suddenly leapt into his head that there were three
other gargoyles on the building, sculpted by other people, whose
names he had long ago forgotten. Was it possible that the other
gargoyles were alive too? He leaned slightly, glancing along
the building through deep shadows and past the pillars that
stood on the ledge every five metres or so. He could see what
was probably one of the other gargoyles, crouched motionless
where it had been placed years before. No, it didn't seem to
have changed. When he thought about it, that made sense. His
gargoyle was alive because it was his.
That thought made his mind revolt, because he didn't understand
it and it didn't seem reasonable. Nevertheless, there was a
truth to it that he found himself unable to deny. But why should
such a thing be true?
Dwelling on metaphysics was pointless. Mac stretched his legs,
and as he did, pain stabbed through them, muscles that had been
unused since the gargoyle brought him here protesting at the
sudden movement. Then a gust of wind touched him. He felt his
balance tilting over into imbalance and consciousness of the
fall that would follow stabbed through him as panic. He jerked
back against the wall until he felt relatively at ease again.
He must move. Mac pulled his legs up onto the ledge, which was
wide enough for him to crawl along on his hands and knees
though beyond the wider platform that the gargoyle had sat on,
only just. The dirty stonework, decades of residue and bird
droppings gathered on it, hurt his knees as he edged along.
Something flapped close by. A bird? Perhaps. Mac glanced around,
nearly lost his balance and had to spend a moment deep-breathing
to calm himself. His back was aching now, as though sitting on
the stone, and being so tense, had bent it unnaturally.
Several times he felt like stopping, giving up. The fingers of
his left hand would feel the space hanging over the edge of the
concrete, his left knee would slip and the fall would come into
his mind. He wondered how long it would take to reach the road.
Would he scream all the way down? Would he be conscious when he
struck the footpath? Would his head burst open like an over-ripe
melon, as it was always described in the paperback thrillers he
read? Maybe. If it did, he would never know.
But he didn't stop again and he didn't fall. Soon he reached the
first pillar, which cut across the ledge, blocking further
progress. He pulled himself up against it, grabbed the stone
with his fingers, and peered around the pillar, stabilising
himself easily on its square edges. It was about half a metre
wide, that was all. Mac glanced upward, hoping there would be
handgrips, or a down pipe, so that he could climb up onto the
roof. But there was nothing. The surfaces were still too smooth.
Maybe it was like that all the way round. No, there had to be
Then he saw it. A window. It was well beyond the pillar he was
crouching against, just before the next, obscured in a thick
shadow cast by the second pillar itself. The window seemed to be
about the size of an average bathroom window and was probably
shuttered in some way. If he could only get it open
He stood, his legs weak and shaky, and waited until they felt
stronger. He gripped the wall fiercely. Then he slid his left
hand to the opposite side of the pillar; the action made him
lean outward, but he inched his fingers around, imagining that
they were digging into the stone, and tried not to think at all
of the long drop behind him. Once he was steady, he swung his
left leg out and across the face of the pillar, feeling with his
toes until they found purchase on the ledge again and he sensed
his weight redistribute itself. The moment when he committed
himself to his left leg, and launched his right away from the
wall, was like the first instant of an irredeemable decision
that would prove a disaster. But he didn't fall and another
moment on, the sensation of disaster had dissipated and he was
standing, secure, on both feet. Carefully he lowered himself on
to his hands and knees again and continued toward the window.
It was securely fixed. Metal bars, corroded into lumps of rust
but still firm, protected the glass from him. The glass itself
was covered in grime. He tried to peer between the bars, to see
what lay beyond the glass, but all he could make out were vague
darknesses that could have been anything. Annoyed, he pounded on
the metal bars with his fists. He only succeeded in making his
"Break, damn you."
He grabbed one of the bars, the weakest looking, and pulled,
hoping it might snap or its bolts rip away from the windowsill.
Indeed, he heard them give slightly, and the encouragement urged
him to greater effort. But yanking hard, he unbalanced himself,
slipped and nearly tumbled off the ledge. Would have, except
that something held him. Something hard and stony. He glanced
over his shoulder.
It was the gargoyle. The creature was hovering about an arm's
length from him, its wings sweeping up and down gently, keeping
it in position. Wind buffeted him. Its long, serpentine tail was
wrapped around one of Mac's arms. As he regained his balance,
flattening himself against the wall, the tail released him.
"Um, thanks," he muttered automatically.
At that point he noticed what the gargoyle was holding.
The man's head looked for a moment like a dummy's. The skin
seemed unnaturally pale and bloodless and the eyes were glazed
like marbles. But it was no dummy. Dark blood dripped from the
ragged shreds of skin and flesh that hung on it below the neck,
and Mac saw the shoulder and arm that remained attached to it,
the long backbone like a tail, and the ribcage, still covered in
gore. A piece of intestine dangled in the breeze. Mac turned
aside and was sick.
The voice of the gargoyle drew him back. So slight,
underneath the flesh, it said. And for a while so warm. I
too would be warm.
"I can't do it," Mac choked. "I'm not a god."
You started me. Finish me now.
Mac felt tears running down his cheeks. Deep sobs that arose
from fear and grief wracked him and he sank into a crouching
"I can't," he managed.
The gargoyle tossed the man's remains and Mac watched as they
disappeared into darkness, finally striking the distant road
with a dull plop.
the creature continued, And there will be no more killing.
Mac looked it in the eyes, but there was nothing to see except
"I don't know how."
it said, as before.
Then it reached for Mac, plucking him off the ledge, and for a
moment he was hanging over an abyss. He closed his eyes, felt
movement numbly, and let the moment pass, opening his eyes again
as the gargoyle placed him on the shelf where it had sat
unmoving for twenty years. The creature landed beside him,
folding its wings across its back and squatting in its original
position. It held something out to him.
"My tools?" he said, staring at the familiar leather satchel,
faded and mildewed now, after ... what? ... maybe fifteen years
untouched. "Where'd you get them?"
The gargoyle didn't answer. Mac reached out and took the bag. He
opened it. The chisels, hammer, files were all there, though
patchy with surface rust.
Make me live,
the creature said.
Mac stared at it just a statue when it wasn't moving. But what
he saw was more than that. In its lines, in the curves of its
body and the intricate texture of its face he could suddenly see
the pain and coldness twenty years of regret, two decades of
anger and humiliation. Again, tears welled into his eyes.
whispered the creature's gravel voice.
Mac reached into the bag and grasped a hammer and the largest of
the chisels. He put the bag gently to one side.
"You want to be human?" he asked.
The gargoyle might have been looking at him, but it was silent.
"I'll finish the job," Mac added. He shuffled toward the back of
the creature, against the wall, his sight blurring with tears.
The gargoyle did not turn to see what he was doing, but rather,
moved its head to stare out across the city, toward the east, as
though hoping for sign of dawn. Mac placed the chisel head at
the base of one wing, raised the hammer and struck. The clack
echoed like a bell, then was sucked up by darkness. Again he
struck, and again. Each time, chips of stone shot away from the
chisel head, and sparks flashed in the night. After a few more
blows, the stone cracked and the wing fell, smashing at Mac's
feet. Still the gargoyle did not protest.
"Life is flesh," Mac said. He rested his chisel against the
creature's shoulder, where its second wing sprouted
asymmetrically now. "Life is warmth." He struck with his hammer.
Sound cracked into the void, echoing along the facade of the
building. He struck again. "Life is ..." If he'd been going to
say something, his blow muffled the word. The second wing split
off and fell. He stepped back. The gargoyle was still gazing
into the distance, ignoring him. It was perched near the edge of
the shelf, its clawed feet cumbersome on the marble surface.
"I haven't been very effective at life," Mac said.
This time the gargoyle's head ground toward him, and for a
moment Mac thought he saw its stony eye catch light and gleam.
Mac leaned forward, resting his hands on the creature's back. He
lowered his head onto the cold stone, as though listening for a
heartbeat. Tears ran off his cheeks onto the lifeless figure.
"Life ..." he said sadly, "... is the certainty of death."
And he shoved. The gargoyle didn't offer any resistance; it was
totally committed to whatever course of action Mac wanted to
take. It hung for a moment on the edge of the fall, then
disappeared, without protest and without attempting to save
itself. The sound of it striking the road below was like a bomb
After a while, his eyes still watery, Mac crept to the edge and
peered into the night. He couldn't see much it was seven
storeys down and there were many shadows, but he thought he
could make out the rubble that had been his gargoyle. It must
have landed in a puddle of water, because dim glow from a
streetlight was shimmering off the surface of something wet
something that spread out from beneath the shattered pieces of
stone. It looked like blood.
Mac pulled back, squatting on the shelf where the gargoyle had
been. He hunched himself up, feeling nothing but a deep chill
that seemed to originate in the pit of his stomach. Part of him
said that he should move, crawl along the ledge again, find a
way up to the roof. Another bigger part didn't want to move. It
wanted him to stay there, getting colder, and thinking of
picked up as dawn approached, but by that time Mac couldn't feel