All characters herein are my own creation.
"Gargoyles" is the property of Disney/Buena Vista.
Rated PG-13, for two or three swear words.
"You shouldn't trust the storyteller; only trust the story."
He'd been treading
through the snow, searching for his lost companion. The stuff was
up to his knees and kept rising. If he didn't find shelter soon,
he would freeze.
In the distance, he saw a cave, and instinctively headed toward it. Optimistically, he hoped he would find his friend there, safe and sound.
He made his way to the entrance. The snow that piled up in front spilled inward.
He rubbed his blue hands/talons together, blowing on them.
Then, he peered down the cave, realizing only then how it extended. There was a turn, and he could see light reflecting off the wall, originating from somewhere out of sight. He hoped that it was his friend, and he walked toward the light, eager to see her alive and well.
He turned the corner and…
His friend was nowhere to be seen. Instead, there was a human, heavily clothed before a small fire. He had a gun, aimed rather accurately for the newcomer's head.
"Please," he said. "I am only seeking shelter until the storm passes. I mean you no harm."
The human stared at him with distrust. "How do I know you won't try to kill me for food or something?"
"Because I am a gargoyle," said the blue creature. "It is not my way." The human still did not lower his weapon. "Please, tell me your name."
"Josh. I'm Josh."
"Hello, Josh. I was named Touchstone by my rookery parents. May I sit down? I am very tired."
"No. You'll… You'll kill me!"
"Only if you look like you're about to get careless with the weapon. I won't hurt you. Please, put it down."
The human kept the weapon trained on the newcomer for an eternity of seconds. Then, reluctantly, he dropped it.
"Thank you," said Touchstone.
Josh didn't look at him. "I was out of bullets. I would have fired if I had bullets."
"I see." After some silence, Touchstone said, "How long have you been here, Josh?"
"I… I don't know. It seems like forever. I… I came here with my family. We were on a skiing vacation."
"Yeah. Skiing. You know, surfing the snow?"
"It doesn't sound safe."
Josh gestured at his leg. His ankle was bound with a makeshift sling. "No shit."
"You humans risk your lives for the most peculiar reasons."
"Oh yeah? Why are you all the way out here?"
The gargoyle looked at the fire, then up at the human. "For all I know, I'm here to help you."
"Ha. Hah! Right."
"You don't have to believe me. I know the truth."
"So," said the human.
"So," said the creature.
"You're a gargoyle, eh? Why?"
"Why are you a human?"
"Um… because I was born that way."
"Just as I was born a gargoyle."
"But… look at you! You're not normal."
"How do you mean?"
"You know. You're not human."
"Well, you've got me, there. You are correct; I am not human."
"But you can talk."
"For the same reason that you can talk. I learned how."
"But… you shouldn't have. I mean, humans are supposed to be the only intelligent life on this planet. What are you, some kind of alien?"
"No. The Earth is my home, just as it is yours."
"It doesn't make sense. I mean… how could you just come out of nowhere?"
"Then, where did you come from?"
The gargoyle shrugged. "Where did *you* come from?"
"Okay, that's really getting on my nerves. Cut it out."
"Let's just… Let's just keep quiet, okay?"
"If you wish."
An hour passed, and
the gargoyle was growing restless. It made the human nervous.
"What are you doing?"
"I'm looking out for my friend. I'm very concerned for her wellbeing."
"You mean… there's more than one of you?"
"She's probably frozen."
"I sincerely hope not. She is… my friend."
"Why wouldn't you answer my question?"
The gargoyle looked at him. "Hmm? You mean the one that questioned my right to exist?"
Josh began to sweat, in spite of the cold. "No… No, I didn't mean that!"
"Do you want an honest answer from me?"
"All right, then. The answer, very plainly, is that I don't know."
"But what about you, human Josh? Where did *you* come from? Do you truly know?"
"Yeah. Yeah, of course I do. In the beginning, God created the garden of Eden, and two human beings: Adam and Eve."
"How do you know this?"
"Um… because that's what's written."
"But you weren't there."
"But you believe in what's written."
Josh found himself growing defensive. "Look, it's as good an explanation as any. But what about you? The scriptures don't say anything about you or your kind. You're all a bunch of anomalies. You shouldn't be here, speaking in front of me. It doesn't make sense."
"Is that so? Then, perhaps your 'scripture' is only one version of what happened."
"Don't… Don't you wonder where you came from?"
"Of course. It is not beyond our capacity to question the nature of our existence. If you asked any other gargoyle, though, they would not have an answer for you."
"And you do?"
"No. I only have possibilities. Would you like to hear one?"
"Sure. I mean, why not? We're not going anywhere, right?"
In the beginning,
there was God.
For reasons beyond our reckoning, He created the heavens and the earth. He made the stars in the sky and the dirt in the ground. He made plants, and animals, and finally humans.
But you already know this. Let me tell you the part that you don't know.
All life began in Eden, God's garden. There, He planted the seeds that would eventually grow into all life on this planet. First came the plants, so that the humans could breathe. Then came the animals, so that the humans could eat. Then, at last came the first human, crafted so meticulously out of the clay of the earth to be just as God imagined it. He was the first living thing to be named.
God was proud of His garden, and all that grew there. And He was proud of Adam, whom He molded from the earth. Now it was time to name His creatures, and He decided that Adam should have the honor.
"Name my creatures," said the Lord. "For all things must have names."
And Adam proceeded to name the birds of the sky and the fish of the sea. He named all the animals that live and breathe that humans know of today.
But there was one that he didn't name.
There was only one other animal that God crafted as meticulously as the human. The creature, winged like a bird, clawed like a cat, and erect as a human, waited anxiously to be named. But Adam saw the creature, and he said he would not name it, for he was angry that God made another so alike himself. He was angry because he saw that God could love another.
And the Lord said unto Adam: "You have wounded me, for I put so much care into this creature's creation, and you refuse to acknowledge its existence by giving it a name. Why do you hurt me?"
And Adam told the Lord that there should be no other creature so similar to humans, for he feared that God's favor would someday shift from one to the other. Thus, the creature should be erased.
And God spoke unto the creature: "What say you?"
And the creature said: "My Lord, You have created me with the other animals, and then You have created humans. I am no more important than the birds of the air or the fish of the sea. Do as he wishes, for this is his world, not mine."
And the Lord spoke to Adam: "What do you wish me to do with my creature?"
And Adam told Him that, so long as he was awake, he wished never to see the creature.
And God listened to Adam, and made it so that the creature slept only while man was awake, and awoke only when man was asleep.
And the creature had no name.
God felt sorry for
the creature, for it was the only one of His creations that had no name.
He spoke to it: "I am sorry that man has treated you this way. So I present to you a gift. You shall have the one thing that man shall not. You shall be able to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Your eyes shall be opened to the world, and you will know what man does not."
And the creature said to the Lord: "My Lord, I want but one thing, and one thing only. I want to know why man hasn't given me a name."
And the Lord said to the creature: "This, and all other things, shall become clear once you eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil."
And the creature ate from the tree, and his eyes were opened.
And God created Eve, and man and woman were both naked and unashamed of their nakedness.
There was still
a serpent in the garden, and he saw God make a gift of the forbidden fruit
to the creature, and he was jealous.
He spoke to the woman: "See how the one without name has become God's favorite? He has been allowed to eat of the forbidden tree, and he has become like God. See what hangs around his waist? He is no longer naked."
But Eve told the serpent that God's wishes were not hers to disobey. She cared nothing about the other creatures, for she was of man, and man was in God's greatest favor.
So the serpent went to Adam, and pointed out the creature as it slept. "See what hangs around its waist? The creature has eaten of the forbidden tree, and is now as powerful as God. It has become God's favorite, and now you are no more special to Him than the birds of the air or the fish of the sea."
And Adam looked at the sleeping creature, and he was angry. He ate of the tree and knew that he was naked. He gave fruit to Eve, and she knew that she was naked. And the serpent ate whatever was left.
And God was walking through the garden, and called for man and woman.
"Where are you?" said the Lord. "Why do you hide from me?"
And Adam said that they hide because they are naked.
And the Lord asked them: "Have you eaten of the tree of knowledge of good and evil?"
And Adam said that they had only eaten the food allowed to man and beast.
But Eve saw that God was angry, and Eve said that the serpent had tried to convince her to eat of the tree, but she had refused.
And God said to them: "The serpent has tricked you. Now, you cannot stay, for the garden was made for perfect creatures, and now you are not one of them. So I will send you out into the world, without the protection that I would have given you."
But Adam said this wasn't fair. That it was the creature's fault.
And man was exiled, and the serpent was punished.
And the creature slept.
That night, the
creature awoke, and God came to it.
The Lord asked him: "Do you know why you were hated so by man?"
"My Lord, I do profess that the fruit has not enlightened me so much."
"Then, listen: Man saw you as something that you were not. Man saw you as superior. He feared losing my favor, all the while forgetting that it was man that was created to be most perfect. Let it be known that man will always fear others like him."
So the Lord named the creature Himself, and gave the creature his first duties.
The creature would guard the entrance to the garden. He gave the creature eyes of fire, whose brightness would turn outsiders away.
He was the first gargoyle.
"I don't like that story," said Josh. "That's not how humans really are."
Touchstone rubbed his hands/talons over the fire. "You don't like it because it's not true?"
"Well… yeah! I mean, Adam didn't eat the fruit first. Eve did. You're making it all up!"
"Am I? I never said it was true. Besides, do you humans not have your own stories?"
"Well, fairy tales and shit. But we never tried to pass them off as fact."
"What makes your creation myth more true than mine?"
"Because… Because it's been around longer!"
"How do you know that?"
"I… We don't. But that doesn't change anything."
"Is that so? How does not knowing something imply that it is true?"
"Look, just be quiet, all right? You're trying to confuse me."
"No, human Josh. I'm trying to make you think."
"Just shut up, okay?"
Another hour passed.
Touchstone's wings hugged his body. Unlike the human, with layers
of clothes, Touchstone wore only a loincloth. He rubbed his arms
and breathed out smoke.
"How long before sunrise?" asked the gargoyle.
Josh checked his watch. "I don't know. Three hours, I think. I don't know what time the sun comes up around here. How come?"
"If the blizzard doesn't stop by then, you'll know why."
The gargoyle was looking
again at the entrance of the cave.
"This friend of yours," Josh said, "You're really close?"
"Yes." The gargoyle looked at him. "It's your turn."
"My turn?" Josh asked nervously. "My turn for what?"
"A story. Tell me a story."
"No. I can't. I have no stories."
"Really. Then how do you know my story's not true without any of your own to contradict it?"
"Well, I *know* stories. I just don't have anything original."
"Is that what it takes to tell a story? Originality?"
"Well, yeah. Nobody wants to hear the same thing over and over again."
"Really? But that's all there is."
"I've read some of your books. You've written stories of the past, present, and future. You've written stories of time and space. You've written stories in, out, and beyond the mind. Do you truly believe there is an idea that hasn't already been explored?"
"Humans and gargoyles alike get ideas *from* ideas. The only 'original' thing we can bring to an idea is our own point of view. So, given that, do you still think that you have no stories to tell?"
Josh sighed. "All right, all right. I'll tell you a story. Jesus…"
Touchstone moved closer to the fire. "Excellent."
This is a true story.
I'm just going to tell you what happened, and that's it. Everything has a name. Everything happens for a reason. There are no creatures that man doesn't know about. There are no gargoyles.
So, with all of that stuff out of the way, I'll begin.
The story is about Jacob and Esau, sons of Isaac, who was the son of Abraham. The bible tells us that they were rivals all the way back to the womb. Scholars believe that Jacob was supposed to be the first one to come out when their mother went into labor, but Esau was a brute and threatened to hurt their mother unless he was the first one out. Jacob was holding on to Esau's heel when they left the womb, and that's how Jacob got his name.
The rivalry continued into adulthood, when Esau became a skilled hunter and Jacob became a quiet man who dwelled in tents. Isaac favored Esau, because he loved to eat of the game he hunted. But their mother, Rebekah, favored Jacob.
Esau had a birthright, because he was the firstborn. Now, the bible has us believing that the birthright rightfully belongs to Jacob. After all, he was supposed to be the firstborn before Esau threatened him. One day, Esau came back from the hunt, completely famished. So famished, in fact, that he thought he was seconds away from dying. Jacob was cooking some pottage or porridge or some such thing, and Esau demanded some. Jacob offered to sell him the pottage… in exchange for his birthright. What does Esau care? He's about to die! So Esau agrees, and doesn't realize until later that he's been fooled.
Now, Isaac had grown old, with his sight failing him. He told Esau to hunt for him, and prepare the food the way he liked it, and then Isaac would bless him. Rebekah, hearing this, wanted the blessing for Jacob, so she prepared the food and disguised her favorite son so that he *felt* like his brother.
Now, the bible would have us believe that Isaac knew that he was giving his blessing to the wrong son, but that's not how it's written. Anyway, Jacob makes a hasty exit, only for Esau to come in seconds later with his food prepared and everything. It's almost comical. Isaac is confused, because he's already eaten, and already given the blessing to who he thought was his favorite son. When Esau found out he was tricked out of his blessing… well, that was the last straw.
Esau was enraged, and Rebekah was sure that Esau would kill Jacob if he was found, so she sent Jacob away to her kinsman, Laban.
On the way, Jacob had a divine encounter. I won't go into much detail about it. Essentially, he climbed a ladder to heaven and found angels ascending and descending from it. Once there, he was given directions by God, and was assured that God was with him, just as He was with Isaac, his father, and Abraham, his grandfather.
Anyway, Jacob spends the next twenty years in service to his kinsman and married and had children. He grew wealthy by being intelligent, and had a large herd of cattle and sheep.
But one day, God told him it was time to go back to his home, and Jacob knew he would have to face his brother again. Jacob lived in fear of the moment when the two of them would meet, because he was sure Esau would not have forgiven him. He set up camp outside of town, and was told by a messenger that Esau was going to meet him the next day with four hundred men. So Jacob decided to divide his cattle and sheep into two groups, so that if Esau found and destroyed one group, the other could make an escape.
That night, Jacob stood alone by a river. The bible doesn't say why he was there. Maybe God told him to go there. I don't know. What the bible *does* say is that he wrestled with a man there. It doesn't say who attacked first. It doesn't describe the man. It simply says that "a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day." But Jacob was strong. Somehow, he overpowered his opponent. Seeing that he was about to lose, the opponent touched Jacob's hip, instantly injuring him. But day was approaching, and the man told Jacob to let him go. Jacob refused to let him go unless he was blessed. So the man asked for Jacob's name, and Jacob told him. The man then declared Jacob's name to be changed to Israel. It means "victor," I think. Then, Jacob asked for *his* name, and the man said, "My name? Why do you ask me for my name?" Then, the sun came up, and the man was gone.
The next day, Jacob was ready to face his brother, no matter the consequences. To his surprise, Esau embraced him and was happy to see him and had missed him. And so, Jacob survived his homecoming.
"So? How was
Touchstone blew on his talons. "It fell apart at the end."
"The execution is fine, up until it reaches the climax--the fight with the man until daybreak. Afterwards, it seemed like you just wanted to finish as quickly as you could. Don't feel bad about it. A lot of stories are like that. They build up to a point, possessing so much energy, and then it's all used up by the time they've arrived. Otherwise, I'd have to say it was a decent retelling, but it was nothing new."
"'Nothing new'? This, coming from the… the *thing* that ranted and raved about how *unimportant* originality was? You don't even follow your own advice!"
"Didn't you hear what I said *after* that? That we must bring a part of ourselves into the telling of every story. It's our own unique point of view. The most interesting parts of your telling were the small digressions when you allowed your own ideas to surface."
"The story was *fine*. I didn't have to change it. You… you've *butchered* Genesis! You've changed it so much that I can hardly recognize it!"
"Was I consistent?"
"Was I consistent with the changes? If you hadn't already read Genesis, how would you judge my story?"
"My name is Touchstone, *human*. We both have names. I have respected you thus far by using yours. Please do me the same honor."
"All right. Touchstone. You have to understand that if I accept the premise of your story, I'm denouncing years of devotion to my religion. I must believe that events occurred the way the bible describes them, otherwise I have no faith."
"I'm not asking you to believe anything I say, Josh. Only that you accept my story for what it is: A point of view. An idea. Maybe even a *possibility*. All stories, even your bible, are collections of lies. It is the *seed* of truth within them that draws us to them."
"Look, just don't challenge my faith, okay? I don't know how long we're going to be stuck here, so I don't want to question the nature of God during the moments I might need Him the most, all right?"
Touchstone looked down at the fire. "The blizzard has stopped."
"What did you say?"
"The blizzard. It's stopped. We may leave."
"Wh… Why didn't you say something?"
"Because your story wasn't finished. Because I knew that you would regret not finishing it."
"I wouldn't have cared. I'm not a storyteller. I'm just your typical human being who thought for all of ten seconds that he knew how to ski. We don't *all* like to hear ourselves speak."
"Maybe you should."
"Because if more humans spoke, then perhaps there would be less violence."
Josh stood, angered. "How can you judge an entire race of people? You're not even one of us! How do you get off thinking that you know so damned much? What makes you the expert on human behavior?"
"Books. Research. Sometimes personal experience."
"But you're forgetting one thing: You're *not* human. You can no more talk to me about humans than I can talk to you about gargoyles. You know *nothing* about us!"
"Perhaps you're right. Though it is difficult to forget that I am not a human." Touchstone stood, rewrapping his wings around himself. "I must go find my friend now." He looked toward the ground that Josh stood over. "Your ankle seems to be feeling better."
"What? Yeah, I guess." Touchstone began to leave. "Hey, wait just a second, pal!" He caught up with the gargoyle. "The story you told… where did you hear it? Who told it to you, anyway?"
"No one told it to me. I made it up."
"But… you admit it, then. It was lies."
"It was a *story*," Touchstone corrected. "Just like your 'fairy tales and shit.' But just because I made it up doesn't mean that something similar didn't once happen. It cannot be proven false. That's its seed of truth."
"But you missed the whole point," Josh said as they walked. "You can't make up biblical stories. I mean, it's a contradiction of terms! The bible isn't a *story*. It's… it's a *law*. It's teachings. It's not meant to be fiction!"
"That is how I take it. Are you condemning me for my point of view?"
"Because I have read some of your history books. I have read of a history of humans mistreating one another for the most diminutive differences. I have read about your persecutions, your slavery, and your genocide. All of this occurred because of a refusal to accept another group of human beings for their point of view. It makes me wonder: Would the Christians take up the cross and don the white hoods against us? Would the Jews imprison us in camps? Would the Blacks make us slaves? Would history's lessons have to be learned all over again? That is why I have made up a creation myth for gargoyles. I want humans to know that we have beliefs, too. That our differences are only skin deep."
"Look, um, Touchstone. Humans aren't like that anymore. We're not barbarians. Maybe we used to be, but…"
"Do you remember how you reacted when I challenged your faith? Imagine an entire world believing as you do. Our mere *presence* contradicts everything that your creation myths say. We would be hunted as though we were animals for that simple reason."
"If that's what you believe… then why bother? Why sit with me and exchange stories?"
"Because," Touchstone said, "One human is much easier to reach than all humans."
"Who was the man?" Touchstone asked.
"Huh? What man?"
"The one who neither attacked nor defended. The one who wrestled with Jacob."
"Oh. Him. You know the bible doesn't say. I mean, there's enough evidence there to make me think that he wasn't human. Maybe he was angel. Maybe he was a physical manifestation of Jacob's fears. Maybe it was God. I've given it a lot of thought, and I just don't know."
Touchstone smiled secretively.
"What are you smiling at?" Josh demanded. "What's the deal?"
"I know who the man is."
"Oh yeah? Who?"
"He is a gargoyle."
Josh blinked at him. "Hah! Right. Tell me another one."
"In my version of the story," Touchstone explained, "He is a gargoyle."
"What makes you think it was a gargoyle?"
Touchstone looked at him. "Before, it was 'he.' Now, he's an *it*?"
"I mean it. Tell me."
"No. It is a point of view you won't believe. I don't want to waste any more stories on you."
That made Josh upset, and surprised to *be* upset. "Wasted on me? What the hell is *that* supposed to mean?"
"The whole point of telling stories is to have someone listening. An audience. An open mind. You are not open to me *or* my point of view."
"Then tell me a different one. Just keep away from the biblical stuff."
Touchstone shook his head. "I will not be censured."
Josh grabbed his arm. "Touchstone… please?"
Touchstone looked at him and appeared to give it some real thought. "I cannot. It's time for me to go home."
Over the next hill was a lake, solid as glass. A boat sat there on the shore, with another gargoyle standing in front of it. Touchstone was moved to see his friend alive and well and ran to greet her.
"Rosalind," he said, "This is my friend, Josh. We exchanged stories tonight."
Rosalind, green-skinned, brown-haired, with horns that went around her head like a crown, eyed Josh suspiciously, then said hello.
"Um, pleased to meet you, um, Rosalind." Josh extended his hand, and Rosalind was surprised at that. Warily, she extended her own and clasped his wrist affirmatively.
"It's almost sunrise," Touchstone mused almost absently. To Josh, he said, "Will you be all right?"
"Yeah, I'll be fine." He looked down. "Jesus, my family must be worried sick about me. What am I going to tell them when I--"
A peculiar sound drew his eyes away from the snow at his feet. The sound of grinding stones and crunching gravel. He looked up, and he saw the sun shining behind the two gargoyles, who now stood inanimate before him as statues.
"Oh, God…" He breathed.
The day had passed,
the night had risen, and they were on their way back to Avalon. The
human wasn't there when they woke up.
As the mists enveloped them and they were in between worlds, Rosalind set down the ore and turned to her rookery brother. "He was the first human I've ever shaken hands with. And all you did was exchange stories?"
Touchstone also stopped rowing. "We argued. We debated. We criticized. And, yes, we exchanged stories."
"What was it like? Spending all that time with a human?"
"It was confounding and enlightening all at once. I honestly don't know if I reached him."
"He was only one. What is he to the millions who would fear and hate us?"
"Perhaps nothing. Perhaps everything."
"You honestly think we have a chance in this world?"
"There's always a chance. But sometimes there's never an attempt." Touchstone looked up at Rosalind. "But enough about this. What happened to you last night, sister? We were separated somehow. I feared you would freeze to death."
"Well, Touchstone, it's an interesting story."
Touchstone, scribe of Clan Avalon, smiled.