Sometimes a writer needs help. Sometimes there's a story trying to get out but it's buried in an avalanche of unrelated thoughts. This is a story I pulled into existence through the assistance of friend and fellow writer Kelly Komm. She fed me the words and phrases marked in bold as I wrote, coaxing the story out of the murky corners of my mind. The fun part is that she didn't know what I was writing - she just gave me words when I called for them. And this is the end result.
Happy Halloween season, folks. And thank you, Kelly.
Full Moon Risin'
“Carve out the heart of the gargoyle once woken. Bury the heart under an elm by the light of a harvest moon.” She read the instructions aloud, again, slower, brow furrowed. “Seriously?” She looked at the cat who licked his paw and narrowed his eyes. “No, you’re right. Easy.” Just cut out the heart of a living gargoyle and bury it under an elm during a harvest moon. She shrugged. Simple. “I wonder if listening to Neil Young sing Harvest Moon would work the same?” she wondered idly. She supposed the particulars of the burial could wait until she’d actually located a gargoyle and figured out which weapon would best remove its beating heart. She shut the book and dragged herself to bed. Sleep came reluctantly and she tossed and turned with nightmares about boxing cats, skeletal hands grabbing her ankle from under the bed, and spiders yelling at her to turn down her TV.
“How could you?” she groaned into the phone while waiting for her coffee to brew the next morning.
“Uh, I didn’t know you needed it?” Cody sounded bemused. “What’s the big deal?”
“The big deal is I need a gargoyle heart for the spell, idiot.”
“Uh huh.” Cody’s voice was distracted. He sounded like he was brushing his teeth. “Like a love spell thing?”
“The… seriously?… the spell we talked about two days ago!” She rolled her eyes. The coffee was good. Hot. Good and hot. “Do you have no memories at all?”
“Oh yeah, hold on, lemme check my arm tattoo for that.”
“Memento jokes, hilarious.”
“I couldn’t find the pen when you told me to write it down so…. It’s a curse, right? I’m all over it. The curse thing. I got it.”
“It’s not a curse thing, Cody. It’s the resurrection spell. Because you hit that poor—“
“I remember! Jules, no jokes.” His voice was immediately serious. “I’ll find another gargoyle.”
“Good.” She hung up and headed for the shower.
* * * * *
That night after work Cody swung by unannounced. He was breathless and excited when she answered the door. “I found one!”
“Whoa, did you run here?”
“Dude, I can’t…” he gave her an exasperated look. “Anyway who cares? I found one! Get your coat.”
They headed out into the corruption of the autumn evening, burnished leaves dying underfoot, the moon aching to get into the sky, the sun tainted and shamed at the edge of the horizon. Cody led her along a twisting maze of side streets, farther from traffic, away from the populous areas she was familiar with, and one by one streetlamps sputtered on as night gathered tight around their footsteps. Finally they took a sharp left across a weedy apron of neglected lawn and came face to face with a dark church.
Jules felt a cold line drawn up her spine. “Where are we?” She kept her voice to a whisper. Something about the place, nondescript as it was, made her very much want to stalk away and break into a run once it was out of sight.
“The place with the gargoyle.”
“Okay.” She breathed slowly, trying to calm her frantic pulse. “And so… right. Now all we have to do is wait for one to wake up and then cut out its heart.”
“And then play it Harvest Moon by that dude.” Cody nodded. “What’s his name?”
“I told you his name,” she whispered, feeling ridiculous yet inexplicably grateful that they were arguing over Neil Young. It gave her a dose of exasperation which cooled her nerves. “Neil Young.”
“Think it’ll work?”
“You prefer to wait till an actual harvest moon to see if gargoyles can exact revenge without their hearts?”
“No.” Cody grabbed her forearm and dragged her across the bedraggled lawn towards the side of the church. “Around here.” The trees on that side of the building were devoid of leaves, every last one having slid to a rotting death early in the season. The back corner of the rectory came into view and atop it sat what looked like a jagged shadow. Cody didn’t need to point to it. She knew. It was unmoving. Stony. She held her breath.
The last hush of red fire left the sky. Darkness swallowed even the stars.
A rushing sound reached their ears, filling the air from every direction at once. Like a great pulsing, a beating, a fury battering of wind. Wings. In the darkness, wings. And a terrible gravelled screech torn from hell itself.
Jules tried to scream but all around her was the black beating of the air. Cody’s hand was wrenched from her arm. She ran but her feet skidded out on the fetid leaves and she landed, heavily, on her back. Above her she saw Cody suddenly, a flash of panicked white eyes and flailing limbs clutched in a great talon. And then a thick liquid slammed into her body. Sticky and warm. Then she did scream, shrilly, piercing and horrified until the scream was torn right out of her body, lung from limb, bone snapped out of flesh.
* * * * *
A week later the stooped priest came by to sweep off the front and back steps of the church. He carefully went around bagging the worst of the leaf decay. He couldn’t quite give up on the old building. Not yet. His rake caught on something. He bent, with difficulty, and pulled a shoe out of the leaves. He shook his head. Bagged it.
Dragging the bags through the tiny cemetery to the back alley, he found his familiar path through the tumbled stones suddenly blocked by a new grave marker. Gleaming white and straight it stood, jutting out of the lawn as though it had always been there. Frowning he bent and adjusted his spectacles to read, “They’re in a better place.” But the names were obscured by three deep grooves that looked not unlike claw marks…
- Corinne Simpson