From Grey

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
From Grey is the story of un unhappy gargoyle living on Notre-Dame de Paris, who wants to persue his life-long dream of becoming a painter.

Submitted: November 20, 2014

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Submitted: November 20, 2014

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He hated gurgling. He despised it beyond any reasonable doubt, and had, since he could remember.

He had never had a real choice in the matter.

As a youngster, his word was worth less than pigeon droppings, and so he was forced to do as he was told. He sometimes wondered if anybody else had to suffer as much as he did.

As the last rays of daylight melted behind the horizon, Grock de Notre Dame began to come back to life from the Other. His clawed fingers were the first to switch from cold stone to flesh, and he flexed them gently against the great buttress that crowned the great monument.

He soon regained the use of his arms, legs and torso, and he greatly anticipated the same kind of freedom to be bestowed upon his face.

Behind and around him he could hear the distinctive creaking and crackling of the rest of his kind coming out of their pensive slumber.

All at once, his mouth was free, and the grotesque grin he had been forced to stamp on his face before the waking-sleep was quickly replaced by a small smile of satisfaction, which didn’t-t let one single jagged tooth show.

His eyes were the last, and they sparkled a bright blue against the lights of Paris, taking in the life that surged below.

Grock coughed slightly, dislodging the last remains of water that had now been trapped in his throat during transformation. He heaved a little, and the remains of a dead pigeon catapulted out over the city, a rain of dried bones and flesh.

“Ugh” he sighed heavily.

His eyes began their habitual tour of the city landscape, resting gently on each of his favorite spots.

“Hmmm…Quay des Orsays I think….”

He quickly shook himself letting his typical bat-like wings flutter briefly in the breeze, then he stood up, and walked briskly towards the door that led to the tower.

“Grock! Where are you going?”

He froze midway, almost as if he had become stone once again, his grey-skinned body totally unmoving.

Crouching grotesquely on either side of his door to freedom were Mom and Dad, or as they insisted in being addressed, Mother and Father.

They both descended from the original Gargoyles that had inhabited the cathedral when it was first constructed, and as their ancestors, they were extremely proud of the fact. They often referred themselves as the de Notre Dames, and they were fanatic when it came to upholding tradition.

Grock had been afraid of their encounter: he didn’t-t always see his parents during the night, what with them being often gone on Dream-scares or attending social meetings with other important night creatures (he could hear his mother even now: “Why yes count, those dreadful chimeras are everywhere! Not real gargoyles at all! A truly different breed if you know what I mean”).

The problem, in a nutshell, was that ever since infancy, Grock had displayed a very un-gargoyle like behavior, that in te beginning was sold off as his being eccentric, special and a late bloomer. However, in his young adulthood it was now becoming apparent that Grock had very little interest in the dynamics of water gurgling, the intricacies of grinning or the general frightening that went on in Dream-state.

And if his parents only knew what he was doing in the Other Place…

“You’re always creeping off into the our Planes dear, not very proper you know” his mother hinted a little icily.

“ Yes SON, we wouldn’t want you to neglect your duties now, would WE?”

Father was a whole different bowl of soup. Where mother was a grotesque and ugly gargoyle, fit for horror and disgust, Father was masonry rendered terror incarnate. He was the lord of the present tribe, and had fought his way to the top brutally through physical strength, but most of all his command of the edges of Dream-state. Even now he was shadowed, dark vapors flowing lazily around him, accentuating ruby red eyes.

“Oh, I’m just off to plan my first nightmare Mother, Father.” Grock bowed his head respectively.

“Well, do hurry up Grock” his mother simpered as snot gushed from one distorted nostril “the event is in one week and all of the nocturnal brass will be there to assist the your coming of age!”

“So YOU had better not disappoint US!” growled his father ever more menacingly.

He quickly edged upwards towards the tower, calling back reassuring assurances as he went, but already his mind was fixed on his dream, his passion, and his glory.

From the top of the tower it was an easy shit to the Other plane, and there, only seconds till his Place.

It was a small cave of positive magic, too high up, deep down and behind things to ever be noticed by anyone other than himself…after all, he had made it.

In it, he had brought with him the things he needed to entertain his hearts passion: chair, canvas, brushes, paints, watercolors, pastels, pencils and spray cans.

He had discovered paint when he was much younger. He had once had the great privilege of crouching a whole day next to painter, drawing Paris from above.

Although he didn’t have the use of his eyes at the time, he could easily pick up the thoughts of the artist, and see his creation take shape before his eyes.

It had changed him forever.

He knew that he would have no chance of pursuing his passion if his parents ever discovered it, so he set about building his Place in the Other plane, and slowly coaxing artistic ingredients and compounds from the surrounding Other stuff.

He had then realized that although he now had the means, he did not know how, or what.

So, he delved deep into forgotten knowledge, and discovered how to look out of mirrors.

It was an old technique, principally used by the Boogeymen, before they grew extinct. It consisted on drawing a doorway in the Other place, and placing a slip of paper describing the surface to look out from. In theory it worked for ponds and watery surfaces as well, but Grock had greater plans in mind.

It took him many nights, and much searching, but in the end he found it: the Midnight Atelier!

Here, aspiring painters came to learn under the direction of the great and not so great, and it was here, through the great wall window that Grock spied and learned to make art.

He learned about space, color, light, and depth, Impressionism, Realism, Pointillism, the Renaissance, Da Vinci, Monet, Van Gogh, Picasso, Rembrandt and Michelangelo.

Through this window into a world of artistic ecstasy Grock learned, perfected and soared into a new world, oh so different from the top of the grim Cathedral his tribe inhabited.

And the walls of his hideout, in the beginning bare, just as he had wanted them, now glowed with art that spanned centuries of style, emotion and thought.

Recently he had taken to painting sceneries, and tonight was no exception.

He swiftly penned out a name in the script of Night, and threw it hurriedly at the great arch he had painted carefully at the far end of the room.

As soon as the little bit caught the center of the doorway, it seemingly imploded into a vaporous purple mist. It soon cleared, and there, an opening coalesced over the magnificent city of Paris, in perfect view of the Quay des Orsays.

“Hmmm…pastels.”

He muttered taking the thing wooden box and sliding the cover off lovingly.

He didn’t speak after that.

His hands caressed the canvas lovingly and with deft strokes of blue, black, purple and yellow, he drew his Parisian night.

He smudged and pulled the color with his fingers and he knew nothing else in existence than the texture of the oily paints touching his skin and the rich earthy smell as they raced across white to ring what he saw to life.

The night was nearing its end, and the art was far from finished, but he was happy as he cleaned his hands in a basin of water.

He made his way haltingly and grudgingly back through the Other place, through the doorway and back down the steps of the tower to Notre Dame Cathedral.

He trudged reluctantly to his pedestal as dawn began to glow pale in the east, and reluctantly he put himself into position, hands by his side, wings folded, mouth open, ready to gargle.

“GRIN!”

He almost fell of the Cathedral. Images raced through his mind of the few who had, their bodies becoming stone as soon as their life-force smashed on the hard ground.

His father crept up next to him, his flaming red eyes peering over his giant maw. He carefully looked down then, noticing the beads of sweat forming on his progenies brow.

“Long way DOWN, is it not? But don’t worry; only disappointments are unfortunate enough to travel that far. And I KNOW” he whispered into Grocks ear “you won’t disappoint”

He was gone, and the frightened gargoyle had only enough time to grin weakly before the sun hit him square in the face and he was gone.

 

 

A week passed quickly, and during the following days, the young gargoyle did all he could to spend time in his special place and paint to his hearts desire.

He didn’t think at all about his upcoming Dream Trial, until it was quite late.

“Ready for tomorrow night Grock dear?” simpered his mother disgustingly.

He flinched reflexively as inside he cringed, afraid that his escapades had been noticed, and that the hammer was soon to fall.

“Whu, what?”

“Don’t gape dear, grin! And don’t act surprised! You know, tonight! Dream trial! The one you’ve been preparing for the past two weeks?” she uttered sarcastically spewing rainwater all over, “honestly, I don’t know how you manage to keep that head of yours attached to your shoulders!”

“MAYBE, it won’t stay on for LONG!” growled the ever-feared gravely voice near his shoulder.

“Nonsense dear, he is ready, and after all, it is his first try…he is allowed to make mistakes…provided of course he doesn’t screw up!”

The last words sounded almost as menacing as his fathers, screeching out of teeth and lungs that had now become solid rock.

The last thoughts whirling about his head before the rays hit him, were terrifying, panicked and confused.

Later in the day, many tourists were slightly puzzled and intrigued by the odd gargoyle that seemed to be clutching a pillar, a grotesque expression of fear etched in his every feature.

Night however came, and it took very little for the member s of the tribe to line the sides of the parapet, shaping a passage for him towards the top of the tower.

As he strode forward, his parents hunching and hobbling beside him, he noticed many other and illustrious members of Paris by-night: the Count de Eifel, long toothed and pale; the Shade of the Bois de Boulogne and even the reclusive undead Emperor who now stood stiffly by the rooftop, his hand in his waistcoat.

His parents had said nothing, but their eyes and their tense smiles (or exposed fangs as was his Fathers case) told him more than he needed to know: if he messed up he would be in the deepest of trouble.

He tried to climb the ramp to the tower in the most goblin-like fashion he could, and on reaching the top, he turned.

Below him were at least one hundred creatures of various provenances all gazing up it him, with expressions that covered everything from boredom, to intense excitement.

He then did as was expected of him, and flashing a weak grin, less gargoyle and more frightened rodent, he strode through the Barrier and into the Other place.

The shift to the Other place was similar to that made during the day: it left the physical body behind but permitted the spirit to travel in other places, and it was through this property that gargoyles went about penetrating the nightmare of sleeping humans.

It was a job they did out of tradition and in accord with the other denizens of the dark doorways, shady alleys and obscure sewers, and they took much enjoyment out of finding creative ways to frighten the powerless denizens of the Dreamscape.

In principle, Grocks test was simple: he had to enter the dream of a mortal, manipulate it so as to cause it as much fright as possible and then return into the Other place to await judgment by his peers (who would be watching carefully).

It was common knowledge that his Father had done so well in his test, that he had succeed in frightening a grown man to death on his first try.

As he trudged through the bizarre and twisting mire that was the Dreamscape, Grock began to descend into panic, as thoughts upon thoughts clouded his worried and clueless mind.

He had no idea which human to choose (there were so many out here, just look at all those shades!), much less how to manipulate a dream and frighten them! What was he to do? They were watching!

Some minutes later, and with no solution in sight, he submitted himself to the obvious solution: chance.

Taking a deep breath, he lunged at a shadow on a dreamscape isle, and without waiting another instant, dove through into the mind of a sleeper.

The dream he entered was…well…nice.

He found himself surrounded by autumn leaves, falling from a blue sky. No trees were in sight, and the leaves kept on falling, never resting on the ground.

It was a captivating dream, and almost immediately the artist within him longed for his paints…but no! He must go on! Only this once, then he would be free.

He shook his wings and spread them wide, and then took to the air, searching for the owner of this dream.

Not five minutes later, he spotted her, sitting on a bench, under the falling leaves, a book in hand.

He tried, he tried really hard. He really did.

But even his desperate tries failed miserably in modifying the dreamscape into something terrible. The most he did was whip up a small gust of wind that only swirled the falling leaves in a dazzling storm of reds, yellows and oranges.

In pure desperation he swooped down, and grinning his most horrible grin, he dashed at her, arms outstretched, roaring as menacingly as he could.

“RAR, RAR, RAR!”

The woman was startled for a moment, but then seemed to relax as the odd creature with the open mouth danced in front of her, waving its arms and growling itself into a fit of coughing.

He realized something was wrong when he heard her fail to contain a snort. He looked up into her red face, and a split second later she was laughing wholeheartedly, her eyes tearing up.

His arms sank to his sides, and he seemed to grow smaller, as his growling subsided.

It took her a while to stop laughing, but when she finally did, she was startled to see a single tear drawing a line from the gargoyles right eyes down its face and land in desolation on his foot.

She collected herself, and years of teaching took over.

“Please, sit child.”

Grock could think of nothing better to do than sit.

They remained in silence for a while, then…

“What is your name?”

He sighed deeply.

“Grock…”

“A pleasure to meet you Grock, I’m Magda.”

“Hullo…” he answered sullenly.

The teacher looked at him kindly, then continued.

“Why were you trying to frighten me?”

This question he didn’t answer, but only mumbled: “I’m sorry…I don’t want to be scary…”

The teacher frowned.

“Well than you shouldn’t be! Tell me child, what do you want to do?”

The air seemed to change subtly as Grocks mind climbed tentatively towards a light he didn’t believe existed in this place.

“I…I want to paint Magda.”

“Then, paint!”

The freedom those words imposed upon him was like the greatest gift he had ever received. All of the sudden, the dream, her dream, made itself available to him, through her gracious permission, to help him get his secret wish.

The leaves disappeared, and all that remained was white, and the paints of the gargoyles mind.

And he painted.

Sometime later…

“Oh my! Grock…it’s wonderful!”

Under them, over them, around them, Paris blazed in all its nighttime glory, with colors springing from the heart of an artist and technique born from long nights of solitary working.

He admired his creation proudly, and let loose a sigh of deep satisfaction.

He never even noticed how the paint began to curl away at the edges, blackening, as the smell of sulphur permeated the air.

“WORM!”

Darkness descended in the dream, and the painting was snuffed out like a candle. The only lights were two points of crimson, that swooped down suddenly and wrenched him out, faster and faster, running through the Other, and…no! Not there!

“YOU THOUGHT YOU COULD HIDE THIS FROM ME?!” howled a voice spawned from the fires of hell, as flames devoured his most precious creations.

“No, no…please…” he moaned pitifully as brushes were destroyed and paints splattered everywhere.

“NOW…YOU WILL BE CAST DOWN!” and he was being dragged out again, out into the real world, his hand dragging through his fallen paints, as they left what was left of his destroyed Place, and his broken heart.

Much later, he regained conscious ness. He remembered the scene on the roof, his father holding him out over the drop, his claws around his throat. Only his mother’s coaxing spared him. The alternative she proposed however froze his heart.

“Burn his eyes out. That way at least he will make a fitting stone statue for all eternity”

The sentence was to be executed in two days, so he had one day left, as was gargoyle law to make peace with the stone he was to become.

He could feel the fingers of his right hand moving freely already, and now he only had to wait. His last night on this Earth.

But something was wrong. Only his fingers moved, and nothing else. Had they already taken out the sentence? Was he dying?

He spent many hours wondering over the presence of his spirit in a partially stone body, until, finally, the rest of his limbs broke free, and soon, he could see again.

He quickly looked down at his right hand, and expressions of puzzlement, shock and finally cautious joy played over his face in quick succession.

Glancing around quickly, and making sure nobody noticed, he snuck up the tower steps and made his way in all haste to his Place, the makings of a plan in his mind, and his hand stained of red paint clutched at his side.

 

Daybreak had almost come when at last all the gargoyles scuttled back to their positions, a solemn air of gloom choking the air. Grock moved slowly and heavily back to his post, carefully exuding a sense of sadness and despair.

“SLEEP, WORM” grated the gravelly cavernous voice behind him, “FOR TOMORROW, WE TAKE YOUR EYES”

Light hit them, and they were still.

 

Night came, later, and as the creatures of stone awoke and began moving about, a cry went up along the rooftop of the old cathedral: “Grock is gone!”

“GONE?! GOOOONNNNNEEE?!” howled the great leader, as he ripped at the stonework, his claws leaving long traces.

“HOW COULD HE BE GONE? THERE IS NO WAY ONE OF US CAN MOVE IN THE LIGHT-HOURS! SEARCH FOR HIM! SEARCH EVERYWHERE, IN THE OTHER AS WELL!”

They searched all through the night, but nowhere could they find a trace of the lost criminal. They scoured the cathedral from top to bottom, from the apex of Notre Dame herself to the lowest catacombs amongst the murmurings of the dead and not-so-dead. Through the dreams of Paris and over its many rooftops they searched but not a bit of gravel was found.

Soon, nearing the dawn, a rumor went round that he had leapt into the river in the early hours of twilight and had met his end in the murky waters.

They prepared for their rest thus, almost certain he was gone.

But nothing had prepared them for the revenge of an Artist.

 

The great gargoyle chieftain stirred from his slumber.

“DUSK AGAIN” he thought, and he stretched in his spot, and yawned a terrible yawn. It was truly a fear inspiring bellow, but not nearly as frightening to the clan of gargoyles as was the next sound they heard as they seemed to awake.

“MONSTER!!!! MONSTER!!! AAAAAAHHHH!!!”

The eyes of the greatest lord among gargoyles snapped open. Something was wrong, terribly wrong! All the light, the noise the screaming!

He blinked frantically and soon, bellow his perch a rosy pink human figure came into focus, a small female no less! She was screaming for her parents, and tears where streaming down her face as she frantically backed up against the wall of the great cathedral.

There was no time! He couldn’t worry about the bizarre fact of being able to move in daylight, he must silence the pathetic lump of meat before he was discovered!

He held himself high, and spreading his wings, plunged with a bone-chilling screech…only to land flat on his face as his feet refused to budge from the solid stone they were attached to!

In a panic now, the leader scrambled around his pedestal, trying desperately to come loose, lest he be caught and witnessed by humans! In his frantic turning he caught a glance of himself in the window, and let loose a foul howl of shock.

He was painted from head to ankle in a variety of bright colors, that swirled around him joyously and giving him the appearance of a particularly boisterous flower. He looked down the line, and sure enough, every single gargoyle in the clan was similarly transformed, some following the color schemes of late impressionism, others going for a more classical stance, but all painted and in some form or other of shock.

“Dear? What is it? Daddy is coming!”

In a split second, as the door from bellow opened, the lord of gargoyles signaled to his clan, in what he hoped where coherent gestures.

A blink later and the worried father hurried over to his daughter and listened to her frantic story of how the stone monster had come alive. He examined them closely for her, and even went as far as giving them some hard knocks on the sides of their grotesque faces. In the end he even pulled faces at them, amidst the laughter of his relieved daughter. Throughout this, the princes of the cathedral remained as immobile as stone.

 

They had much to worry about that day, as many visitors trooped up and around the cathedral, drawn to the curious new presentation of the gargoyles of Notre Dame. The authorities said it was a scandal, and spoke of acts of vandalism. Shortly after, the rooftops were sealed off, as the gargoyles were due to a good rinsing.

Thankfully for Grock, that one day was all he needed to get away.

As his father fought the impulse to attack a particularly annoying Italian tourist, a short figure, covered in clothes from head to toe was boarding a train to London. The ticket machine couldn’t notice that the figure seemed quite small for a human, and even that the shape beneath the overcoat seemed domed and grotesque.

All that mattered was that, sometime later, a new painter began to become renowned for his radical new interpretation of the London skyline.

And as he painted another coat over his now permanently tinted skin, Grock smiled warmly.

He didn’t grin, not even a little bit.

 

The End


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