Catherine ran down the long, grassy slope. She ran faster and faster, her pigtails bouncing around her smiling face, each step closer to sending her stumbling forward, until she reached the cathedral at the base of the hill. Her momentum sent her right to the stone walls, and she had to put her hands out to stop herself. Her rosy cheeks huffed hot breath. The stone was a stunning cold to her warm hands. Still smiling, she tilted her head up and saw the gargoyle watching from its perch.
The gargoyle was weathered and worn with patches of moss covering its skin. A tooth was broken from its gaping jaw. The defined curves of its original shape had lost their edge, but the mighty wings still spanned wide and strong. Catherine stared at the black stretch of wings blocking the blue sky. The face was frozen in an insane smile. The eyes were wild and wide.
Catherine went to the left, then to the right, watching those dead eyes watch her. In the distance, she heard her mother calling out, but Catherine didn’t turn. She held her gaze, and the gargoyle looked into her. It was the first time she wasn’t afraid of the strange sculpture. From beyond her sense of perception, through the eons that stone endured, the gargoyle transcended the boundaries between mortals and gods and spoke to her.
Beware, little one, came the voice she felt but did not hear. Beware, for horrors abound. The darkness laughs at the folly of man. Evil laughs and bides its time. It pulses through every vein, falls from every tongue, and grabs with every greedy hand. The wind stirred and tossed Catherine’s golden hair into her face. She brushed it aside without looking away. Her mother was still calling, closer now, louder now.
Do not trust him, said the gargoyle, for you know in your heart he lies. He has touched you with his pain. The pain within him has no end and he only seeks to cause you more. Trust in love, child. In love, you must confide. Her mother was at the bottom of the slope now, and closing in on the cathedral wall. The gargoyle’s eyes seemed to quicken. Tell your mother, sweet child! Do not fear the lies!
“Catherine!” shouted Susanne. “What are you doing!? I’ve been screaming my head off back here! I know you can hear me.”
Catherine broke her stare from the eyes, clearly stone once more, and turned to her mother. “Sorry, Mom,” she said. The gusting wind slowed as her mother knelt before her.
“Come on,” Susanne said. “It’s time to go. Your father is waiting.” Susanne grabbed her daughter’s hand, but Catherine pulled it back. “What’s wrong?” she asked.
“I don’t want to go to Daddy’s,” said Catherine.
“And why is that?” asked Susanne.
Catherine gave a brief glance to the wild smile of the gargoyle. Its wings loomed over the edge of the cathedral. “He gives me strange hugs,” she said with a pause. “At night, when it’s dark. I think his brain is sick.”