21st Century
The Future
World Travel
Books & Film
Original Fiction
Opinion & Lifestyle
Politics & Living
Film Space
Movies in depth
Kid's Books
Reviews & stories

The International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year:

From the Journal of Chas. Templeton, Esq.
Greg Mosse

Last night I had William bring my cot downstairs alongside the fire against the cold. But what a rude awakening, before dawn and before my people were abroad, with the banging of a phantom fist upon my shutters. Catastrophic news: the King executed in the public square by means of a mechanism while his assassin skulked out of sight in his craven hutch. The shame of it!

The man was sent by Gray and had a second encoded message that he whispered close to my ear for me alone to understand. Gray would come on himself forthwith, and I should prepare myself for imminent departure for Manton. The man disappeared like a wraith in the fog and I commanded my bag to be packed and gave instructions to William for the destruction of my incriminating property.

The donkey was harnessed and we stood waiting in the snow, he on his four horny hooves, I stamping in my timber-soled boots. Gray arrived on a spent horse which he gave to William to keep for the rest of its useful life and then for meat and glue. My poor servant was speechless with gratitude and wept in the dawn.

I followed Gray indoors to my library where he began to tear pages from my library of spell books. I was astonished to find myself excited – titillated even – by this sacrilegious proceeding. I asked him if these incriminating papers might condemn us and he told me without a glance that he would vaporise them before we were taken. This was the first I heard of such a feat.

With his cloth bag crammed with crumpled thefts from my finest grimoires, we emerged and he flew into one of his rare rages. William infuriated my companion by sinking to his knees and praying gratitude to the false God for Gray’s beneficence. I felt, as he bellowed and vituperated at my uncomprehending man, that the sky darkened and turned back the imminent sunrise, that the birds ceased in their song. But that may have been only an impression given by the precocious hour, the cold and my lack of sleep.

We climbed aboard the cart but my recalcitrant donkey refused to walk on, remaining insensible to admonishments, threats, cajolements, treats or violence. I had taken it in payment of a debt, with no great enthusiasm. Yet still I felt for the beast when Gray drew a dagger from his cloak, a dagger sheathed in a smooth, polished metal sheath. But instead of drawing his blade and jabbing the animal’s stubborn rump, as I might have done, he called: ‘Cling on, Templeton!’ and thrust the cold sheath a hand’s span into its anus. The donkey leapt into motion and, by repeated doses, we made excellent time with the animal largely unharmed.

All the same, the short day was waning before we came to Manton-supra-Mare. We went directly to a large church decorated in the Gothic style, inside and out, massed with superfluous ornament and grotesque sculpture. I remarked that, by some chance, the great east doors were open. Gray replied that he had extended his powers ahead of our arrival to cause this and we bowled in, cart and all.

Stiff and cold from the ride, I eased myself down onto the flagstones and went to shut the great oak portals. ‘No, not that,’ he told me. ‘We’ll want to see them at their work.’ He upended his cloth bag into the font – happily dry – and searched through all the torn papers. ‘See who at their work?’ I asked him, but received no answer.

Finding the necessary receipt, he let out a great ‘Hah!’ of seeming triumph and strode outside. I joined him on the threshold and, side by side, we looked back through the length of the nave at the far west window above the altar. Beyond it, the setting sun crept down the glass, just as the architect had intended. It shone through into the nave with a magnificence I had not seen since the coronation in the Hall of Ceremonies when I kissed the king’s ring. Now he is gone – I must remember, he is gone.
‘We are in time,’ called Gray and held up the leaf of vellum. Outside the west window, the sun dipped to the horizontal. Through the red gash in Christ’s side, a single ray darted towards us like a focused beam and struck the spell. As it did so, I noticed Gray’s lips move – though whether to conjure the next extraordinary events or something more mundane, I will perhaps never know. There was – predictably enough – a smell of scorched hide and a few seconds later the sun disappeared below the level of the window’s sill.

I drew breath to speak but Gray hushed me. All at once I heard a scratching sound, like mice carrying stale bread across a table. Gray pointed to the roof, well lit by a high, clear full moon. I took two steps back in the snow and saw at once that the gargoyles were in motion. One after another, I watched them stretch their grey limbs. As they did so, dust fell in powdery showers to the ground. Then they came free of their niches and rain spouts, crossed the lead and huddled in groups, slapping each other about the shoulders, their ghastly stone mouths hanging wide in fixed smiles.
The last rays of sun disappeared and the gargoyles – perhaps thirty of them in total – began to descend. I flinched, thinking they might mean us harm, but Gray commanded me to stay. They scrambled to the ground and raced past us in a grating grey tide. We observed them disappear in a colony into the bell tower. There was an awful minute of suspense, during which I saw the ground begin to freeze about my feet, the powdering of snow congealing to a firm skin of ice. Then they emerged in a mob, with great coils of bell-rope in their stone hands. In silent co-operation, they lashed it about the buttresses of the church, forming themselves up into gangs, five or six to a tug.

I felt a shudder beneath my feet as they strained and the entire edifice began to move. ‘Come on,’ called Gray, ‘inside!’
I did as I was bid and went straight to the poor donkey that was squealing and distressed. With a juddering vibration, the gargoyles dragged the church towards the water's edge and my mind reeled at their inconceivable labour. We crossed the shallow beach and the teams of gargoyles strode out into the brine, pulling all the while. I turned to Gray to alert him that we should drown but, as the thin stone swimming arms pulled us out into the waves, the open doorway was sealed with a panel of frozen seawater in which imprisoned fish and seaweed sketched an organic pattern – and the interior became almost dark.

My heightened senses detected a rocking motion and I asked him: ‘Are we afloat?’ ‘For the time being,’ was his only reply. Then he withdrew to one of the private chapels. It was some moments before I realised that he was in conference with a face trapped within the gold frame of an icon.

Though it seemed that, momentarily, we were safe from Parliament, I had no conception of what our next project might be.

© Greg Mosse March 2009
Greg is a lecturer in Creative Writing and specialises in crime fiction

More stories


© Hackwriters 1999-2009 all rights reserved - all comments are the writers' own responsibility - no liability accepted by or affiliates.