Friday, January 10, 2014
Curse of the Gargoyle (A Jacob Slade story)
CURSE OF THE GARGOYLE
My name is Jacob Slade, or as my friend Drake calls me, the jackass of all trades. Drake and I were brought together through the discovery of our rare extraordinary abilities. Drake is a technopath–he possesses the ability to manipulate all forms of technology and electricity. As for myself, I was blessed with the strange gift of telepathy.
We both grasp the concept that our gifts are not related to genetics. And this was no freak accident either. No, there were other forces at work here. Forces we both can’t quite understand. Despite the gaps in my childhood memory, I still can recall many past experiences.
Currently, I’m self-employed as an S.I., or Supernatural Investigator. My vocation is not one that everyone comprehends or takes seriously. I’m the laughing stock of the local police force; the only exception being Sheriff Karl Booth, who I've collaborated with on a number of occasions.
But I’m not here to discuss Sheriff Booth or Drake Furlong or the Dorchester Police Department. I’m here to answer the one question I've heard since the days I opened the doors to my office: What made you decide to become a Supernatural Investigator?
My first brush with the supernatural occurred when I was still a teenager. Strapped for cash and desperate for work, I spent several summers under the cruel employment and tutelage of a man I’ll refer to as Mr. Smith. That’s obviously not his real name, but I’ll spare him the same embarrassment he inflicted upon me.
Mr. Smith had employed me as a dock worker, but what he really wanted was a personal butler. In addition to tying off the boats, bagging ice, selling and carting bait up and down the docks, weighing fish that the commercial boats dragged in, hosing fish guts and scales from the fillet tables, and doing general maintenance, I was also forced into doing things like washing Smith’s truck, his boat, painting the sides of his house, and tending to his wife’s garden.
Speaking of his wife, Mrs. Smith was a dark skinned woman in her mid-thirties, short and paper-thin. She had a tight ass, but her breasts were flat as a tabletop.
Mrs. Smith was best defined as a hedonist. She lived for her own self pleasure. That meant neglecting her three children and leaving them under the constant supervision of multiple nannies and babysitters.
She spent every day lounging in the sun, swimming laps in her aboveground pool, and knocking off drink after drink. Some days, her drink of choice was beer. Other days, it was vodka or margaritas. When she was in the mood to celebrate, she drank Cristal.
She was so dark and tan that by the final summer I worked there, her skin resembled a wrinkled leather coat.
Since I was being housed on the property rent-free (Mr. Smith had a stationary trailer all set up with running water and electricity), and since Mr. Smith claimed I was being taught a trade and skills that I would go on to use for the rest of my life, he didn’t offer much in terms of salary. He gave me a small allowance per week. That’s the word he used for it; allowance.
It was enough to eat and survive. I didn’t dare ask him for anything else for fear of losing my job. At the time, the job was all I had in between school. In the winter, I lived off the money I made in the summer and found other ways of making extra scratch; turning copper, aluminum, and other scrap metal in and collecting cans and bottles on the side.
Mr. Smith had this hideous looking gargoyle statue perched on his front stoop. Mrs. Smith had pleaded with him numerous times to trash the silly thing. But he couldn’t bring himself to part with it. It was a gift from his late Uncle Jeffrey and he saw no reason to haul it off to the junkyard.
Mrs. Smith seemed terrified of the thing. It was ugly, grotesque. I didn’t really see the harm in it though. But there was something about that statue that caught her eye in the worst way imaginable. Something she could see that others couldn’t.
* * *
Saturday and Sunday were usually the busiest days of the week at Smith’s Marina. There was always a shark tournament or bass fishing tournament every other weekend. I’d get up bright and early on those mornings, three or four o’clock, hours before the sun even dared to rise.
One weekend in mid-August, we had our biggest tournament of the year. Mako tournament. We had people drive their boats in from Connecticut, New Jersey, and Rhode Island just to take part in it. The grand prize was two- hundred-and-seventy-five thousand dollars.
From four to seven, I ran up and down the docks in a mad frenzy, loading boats up with ice, mackerel, chum, and other bait and casting them out to sea. By seven-thirty, the boats had all left the dock. Most of them would return by five or six that evening, pull their boats in and weigh their sharks. It was my job to help them weigh. I also had to keep track of the weights and who was in the lead.
In between doing that, I also had to perform all my other tasks, which included tending to Mrs. Smith’s garden. She was sitting on her lounge chair, soaking up the sun with a Corona in hand. Her three kids running around screaming in the backyard, being chased down by their nannies. I watered her flowers and trimmed some of the thorns from her roses.
When I walked around the side of the house and passed the front, something caught my attention. Something I saw out of the corner of my eye. For a second, I could have sworn that the gargoyle had changed its position. But when I turned to face it, it was in the same spot that Mr. Smith always kept it; still and lifeless. I shrugged it off.
It got pretty damn hot on those days; ninety, sometimes over a hundred degrees. The heat can really wear you down, make you tired. Sometimes it can make you see things too.
By seven-thirty, the sun had faded below the horizon. The fishermen had all retired from the docks for the evening. And I was still slaving away, hosing the fish scales off the docks and scrubbing down fillet tables. Then I had to scrub outs stacks of chum pails because Mr. Smith pinched pennies where he could and would always have me clean the pails spotless to reuse or resell to his patrons.
When I was done, I brushed myself off. Not much good it did. My clothes were covered in scales, fish blood, and seawater. I reeked of chum and fish guts. I couldn’t wait to get back to my trailer and wash off.
As I was walking back, I passed the front of Mr. Smith’s house, as I did every day after work. He was out front, hosing mud off the side of his truck. I’m surprised he didn’t stop me and have me do it for him instead.
I brushed past him without saying a word. Before I reached my trailer, I heard a scream so loud it almost curdled my blood. I rushed back to Mr. Smith’s place, and that’s when I saw it. My eyes refused to believe what they were witnessing. My brain could not register what was transpiring. My body shut down, went into sleep mode like a desktop computer. All I could do was stare on in disbelief.
The stone turned to flesh before my very eyes. The wings of the gargoyle spread. Purple veins jutted out as they flapped calmly in the breeze. Its mouth parted, exhibiting two rows of mangled, razor-edged teeth.
It took flight, zooming across the yard towards its intended target. The gargoyle landed on Mr. Smith’s shoulders and its wings arched back as it lowered its misshapen head.
One bite was all it took. I dropped to my knees and gasped as Mr. Smith was reduced to Ichabod Crane before my very eyes.
It took his head clean off.
Then, the gargoyle took flight again, soaring above the sky and vanishing in a mist of gloomy twilight.
My first instinct was to pack my shit from the trailer and bolt. But that would raise too many questions. And of course I couldn’t tell the police what I really saw. They’d haul my skinny ass off to the looney bin and throw away the key.
When I spoke to them, the only thing I mentioned was the scream that I heard. I told them by the time I got there, it was too late.
“What happened to the head?” one of the cops asked.
“Beats me,” I replied.
“And the gargoyle statue that was on his front porch. His wife reported it missing. Do you have any idea about that?”
“If you’re insinuating that I stole it, check my vehicle or my trailer. Other than that, I don’t have anything to say. I have no clue what happened to the statue or to poor Mr. Smith. Now if we’re done here, this has been one hell of a day and I really need to sit down.”
“Beat it, kid,” the officer dismissed me.
* * *
That was my last summer at Smith’s Marina. His wife inherited the property and sold it off to a group of six local fishermen.
Speaking of Mrs. Smith, I had heard through the grapevine that she contracted skin cancer and passed away at the age of forty. The moral of the story? I’m not sure that there is one. I don’t even know that you could say her death was ironic. And as for her husband’s death… well, there’s just no sane, rational explanation for that. That’s why people like me exist in this world. To explain the unexplained. To protect you from those monsters that lurk in the shadows. To keep the darkness from spilling over into our world. That’s why I do what I do. Laugh if you must, but if you were to follow me on one of my assignments, you wouldn't laugh... You’d scream.