Essence of Gargoyle

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic
University student Tracy Hilen's work at the city museum's Archeological department takes a horrific turn when one specimen exudes a mysterious smell.

Submitted: June 16, 2019

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Submitted: June 16, 2019

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Essence of Gargoyle

 

Phillip J. Boucher

 

 

The room underneath the main foyer of the museum had been Tracy Hilen's home for the past year. During the weekdays she took her classes at Fenly University, but afterwards and on the weekends she was the cataloguer/inventory clerk for Dr. Edwards, the head of the Archeological department of the city's museum. The job paid her bills and gave her some spending money, but it was also a job in which she worked mostly by herself, something she was thankful for due to her extreme shyness and introversion.

She was not a popular girl and really didn't have any friends, being the butt of many a joke or rude remark. But here at the museum, she was praised for her work, trusted in handling the artifacts, and told her attitude added to the atmosphere of the department. She felt as if she had finally found a place in which she belonged.

The room was large, housing all the pottery, jewelry, and anything else that came in from archeologists from all around the world. Dr. Edwards' unique specialty, however, was those interesting and unusual finds from the British Isles that were shipped here to be inventoried, stored, then examined by Dr. Edwards and his team until they were cleaned and prepared to be sent back to Britain to be put on display.

So it was with the shipment that was currently on its way, a large volume of artifacts that had taken over a year to be released to the museum, untouched by anyone since being discovered. A team had unearthed the remnants of an old castle that had been buried deep in the ground on a hill that was being developed for a golf course. The report that had arrived a few days before was full of wonder and joy at the many treasures the castle yielded: armor for both men and horses, and dishes and cutlery, some still with crusted and dried food stuck to them.

The email also mentioned chests of coins and jewels, a chopping block, several large axes and swords, and what appeared to be cloths drenched in blood. There were also mentions of pieces from what they believed to be a torture chamber or dungeon; devices that kept the eye open as a screw was turned and bore into the eyeball; sharp plier-like tools that they were sure were for cutting off fingers or toes; and a large box with shackles, nails, and what looked like a hammer. That device, the team surmised, was used to contain a person and keep them immobile as nails were driven into the small holes that dotted the box and into the body of the encased poor soul.

In a morbid and curious fashion, Tracy could hardly wait to see these things. They could be hundreds or even thousands of years old! And she was not just an onlooker. She would receive and sign for the delivery, open the boxes, and examine and touch, albeit with special gloves, each object to ensure they arrived intact and everything was accounted for according to the shipping slip. She would lay them out for Dr. Edwards to look at and then she would catalogue in the computer the objects' origins, description, and other information provided by the archeological team and Dr. Edwards himself. After that, his own team took possession of the objects. Yet she saw and handled everything first. It made her feel good.

As the day wore on, she was examining some artifacts sent from Chile, looking at her watch on an average of every ten minutes, and entering information into the computer. She reached over and grabbed her coffee cup, about to take a drink when the delivery alarm went off and she jumped with a fright, enough to spill some coffee on the floor. Ignoring the mess, she quickly left the room and made her way to the loading dock. As she arrived, two guards were there, watching the tractor-trailer's brake lights go out.

The driver and passenger exited the truck as the guards cut off the seals and opened the back of the trailer, exposing the many boxes that were piled high and stuffed in tightly. She directed two dockworkers as they maneuvered their forklifts onto the trailer and gently removed and organized the shipment on the dock. Once done, she signed the delivery sheets and had the dockworkers take the boxes under guard and cameras back to Dr. Edward's room.

With everyone gone, she commenced to examine the shipping label of each box and check the listed contents against both the emailed list from the archeologists in Britain, and the delivery sheets from the shipping company. She opened box number one of twenty-two and gingerly removed each item and placed it on the table. 

She picked up and held the eye torture device, the metal rods that held the eye open still set perfectly for the last victim it was used on those many centuries ago. The screw was dark in sections and she very lightly touched them for only a fraction of a second, wondering if the stains were the blood of the last victim as well. She examined the bloody cloths next, the stains on them very discernable and a dark brown now. The last item in the box was a metal collar with a large handle on the back, used to slowly torture and strangle a person to death.

The remaining boxes yielded similar items. In the last box, a tall and large one that took her a long time to open was an item that she knew, from her experience at the museum, had to have come from the very top of the castle. It was a large statue of a creature that looked like a cross between a dragon and a dog. The face had a long snout with sharp teeth, and eyes that seemed to look through her though they were made of stone.

The ears were pointed and curved inward. But that was where the dog imagery ended. The neck was long and evolved into the large muscular body of what she imagined was a dragon. Scales covered it right up to the spikes on the base of the tail. The creature sat like a dog though, it's serpent like legs and claws in front of the body. Large wings swooped from the statue's back in a folded position, as if the creature had just landed, or was ready to take flight again.

It was a typical design of most gargoyle statues she had seen come through the museum, though this one was extremely elaborate in the detail of which it was created, the smile on it's face more of an evil grin than the typical expression of aggression.

“That’s quite a remarkable piece,” the voice behind her said, giving her a quick fright. “Sorry, Tracy, didn't mean to scare you. Look at that detail!”

“It's a fantastic piece, Dr. Edwards.”

“It's a fantastically beautiful piece. Look at those eyes and those wings. Those teeth!” He held his glasses up as he peered through the bottom portion of his bifocals. “This is the only gargoyle in the shipment?”

“Yes, it's the only one they found, from right on top of what they determined to be the archway to the castle. To protect the inhabitants from all evil.”

“Yes, the protective gargoyle.” Edwards ran his hand over the stone and smiled. He leaned in toward the box and examined the wings as best he could. “It looks totally intact. They said it was, but there could be some small chip or other damage. If it's intact, it'll be one of the best examples of gargoyles ever found. I've never seen one so, so-”

“So intriguing?”

Edwards laughed.

“So, interesting, yes. It just seems to be different somehow. More detailed, more compelling.”

“I know. When I opened the box and saw it, it gave me a strange feeling. I've opened up other boxes with gargoyles in them but this one, well, just is different. Do they know anything of the castle yet?”

“Nothing I've been told so far. They're still digging away at it and clearing away the dirt. Most of the items from inside have been shipped here. Hopefully they'll be able to tell me more in a few days. Until then, this little fellow is a mystery.”

Tracy gave the statue one more look. She placed her hand on its chest and felt the rough and old stone against it through her gloves.

“So old feeling,” she said.

“Yes it is,” Edwards agreed. “Well, you might as well take off. Most of the larger items will be too heavy for you to lift, so I'll get a couple of guards to help you set these up in the morning.”

“All right, then. Thanks, Dr. Edwards. Goodnight.”

“Goodnight, Tracy.”

Edwards continued to look at the gargoyle as Tracy put on her coat and left. She hoped the statue was intact with no chips or other pieces missing. That would make it quite the item that both she and Dr. Edward's team could examine and catalogue, bringing the British museum community untold envy by other museums, and prestige to Dr. Edwards and his team.

#

Tracy arrived early at the museum and upon entering her room found two large and strapping security men waiting for her. She went to help them with the first large item but they waved her off and lifted the piece up quite easily and ever so delicately, both actions that she greatly appreciated. The rest of the pieces quickly ended up on the exam tables and it was finally time to take a look at Roger. That was his name. Roger the Gargoyle. He looked like Roger, the ugly dog her family had when she was a child. At least the statue's head looked like Roger's. So Roger it was.

She set out her priorities of examination and cataloguing from looking over the pieces, filling out the examination forms, deciding to get everything else out of the way and leaving Roger for last. Even breaking only fifteen minutes for lunch, it took her most of the day to get through only the first two boxes of items. With an hour left, she decided to take a look at Roger, who, she noticed, simply sat in stone-faced patience waiting for her.

The table he was on was away from the wall, which allowed her to examine him all around. She started at the tip of his nose, her own nose but a hair-width's away; her eyes examining every crevice and flaw, every little dip and bulge of the stone. She continued up the snout, over the face and eyes, then onto the head and down the back. With great difficulty, she lifted the statue up only slightly and examined the underneath quickly. She came back to the chest and up along the throat to the mouth, looking at every single tooth that exhibited the same intricate detail that the statue's maker had done on the rest of it.

While examining the front fangs she noticed a very small dark spot that looked as if it was on the stone rather than part if it. With great care, she gently scratched the spot a few times but it didn’t come off at all. Assuming that it wasn't something just on the stone, she began to pull her head away but as she did, a very slight and almost indiscernible odor momentarily invaded her nose.

It wasn't unpleasant and smelled rather sweet and flowery, but she was unable to compare it with anything she had smelled before. There was a sudden sharp bite of the odor just as it went away and she crinkled her nose at the assault. She shook her head a bit and waited for the feeling to subside.

She began to catalogue Roger, from description and color, to design and detail. She completed the forms as best as she could with what little information she had on him. She was startled as her phone alarm went off and put down her clipboard. She cleaned up her desk and grabbed her coat, standing in front of the gargoyle and looking into his eyes.

“Ok, buddy. I'll see you tomorrow night.”

She turned off the lights and began to close the door behind her when the strange odor wafted past her nose again just as the door clicked shut.

#

Her apartment was smaller than one quarter of the size of the exam room at the museum, a fact never lost on her every time she returned home and flicked on the light. She threw her coat on the couch and kicked her shoes off, not bothering to use a hanger or mat. She opened the box of half-eaten pizza that sat on the stove, grabbed two slices, and then retrieved a cola from the fridge.

She plopped herself down on the couch and watched some television as she ate, tired from the day's work. The pizza tasted a bit funny, a little off, but she dismissed it as the simple fact of cold pizza not being as good as when it arrives hot from the pizzeria.

The TV show, a documentary on Egyptian antiquities, was not as interesting as she thought it might be, and found herself drifting off to sleep on the couch. She reluctantly headed off to bed. The night went by slowly. She was tired yet was unable to fall asleep. The smell from work still lingered in her nose and swirled about in her head, irritating her, and the front part of her head started to ache.

She got up and headed to the bathroom, taking a couple of pain pills to try to lessen the throbbing that now ran down the right side of her face. She blew her nose and through the tissue could feel the slight crustiness that had formed around her nostrils. She looked at it in the mirror, the crust a yellowish-red and seemingly thicker now. She pulled at a small part of it and it came off painfully, blood oozing from it. The pain in her head had now spread to her whole face and fearing she was having an allergic reaction to something, turned and ran back into the bedroom towards the phone, but collapsed before she could reach it.

The pain radiated throughout her whole body and she felt so weak, too weak to even try to get up to get to the phone. She stretched out her arm, grabbing at the nightstand leg and wrapping her hand around it. Then she screamed in agony. The pain was excruciating and she could see the crust beginning to form on her arm and hand.

With every ounce of energy that she could find in her soul, she tried to scream out for anyone in the apartment building to hear her, but all that came out was a guttural growl and the smell of her breath, the same smell from work.

The crust now covered her entire body and her eyesight became slightly blurred and reddish, as if she were looking at the room through a filter. She was able to stand but the sudden pain that stabbed at her shoulders threw her down violently onto the bed and caused her such agony that she passed out for a moment, coming to in a fog and haze.

She stood up again and staggered to her right until she came to the wall, something crashing into it before her body did. She felt pain in her right shoulder and tried to move her arm backwards, but as she did, a strong wind flowed over her body and blew the curtains up. The consciousness and concentration she had tried to keep was rapidly fading and just before she lost the knowledge of whom she was, she opened her balcony door, stepped out onto the balcony, and leapt over the side.

#

It had gotten quite late and Dr. Edwards decided to pack it in for the night. He left his office and made his way to main exam room. He put set up the specimens he wanted to work on in the morning and sat down at his desk, pouring one more coffee to enjoy before going home. He let the coffee swirl around in his mouth for moment as he read an article in a magazine. As he swallowed, he heard a slight noise coming from the adjacent room that Tracy normally worked in. He ignored it and went back to reading. He heard the noise again and went to investigate. Opening the door, the room was dark and he turned on the light. The assault on his eyes was momentary and he looked around but could not see anything wrong.

“Tracy?” he called out, but it was obvious she had gone home.

He listened for several minutes but heard nothing, and was about to leave when his nostrils filled with an unusual smell, like honey and roses. He had never smelled anything like it before and it quickly became quite strong. Wanting to return to his magazine, he turned off the light and closed the door. Just before it locked, the door flew open and with his hand still on the knob, was pulled violently back into the room. The force slammed him hard into the far wall. His head and body hurt and he tried to get up but the pain from his broken leg prevented him from doing so. The sweet smell was overpowering now and he tried to look in the direction it was emanating from, but the tiny amount of light that filled the room from the window presented only a dark form.

The smell filled his nostrils and they closed up as he tried to avoid inhaling it. He crawled to the wall and pressed his back up against it, and felt hot breath right in font of him. As he screamed in horror at the image of the gargoyle that shortly came into the light, everything went dark, the jaws of the creature tearing at his face.

The night's breeze gently flowed over the gargoyle’s body as she sat on the edge of the museum’s roof, extending her wings for a moment, and then folding them up again. Her eyes scanned the cityscape below, every light a simple beacon to another meal. Tracy Hilen was gone, and in her place, a creature had taken over, exhaling the sweet smell of fear as the only warning to her victims. With a large inhale of breath, she spread out her wings and leapt off the roof, flying into the sky and towards a streetlamp in the near distance.

 

The End


© Copyright 2019 PhillipJBoucher. All rights reserved.

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