The Gargoyles were how David found Fredrick DeCormyr's apartment over an art shop called "Great things on High" in Columbus. He'd followed the railroad tracks west from his crash site, found his way along High Street by a large, multicolored convention center and found a pebble of gargoyles in the store window.

DeCormyr lived in Columbus for quite some time and David was surprised that there weren't gargoyles everywhere, on the eaves, before the doors, on the windowsills. A well grounded angel could expect thousands of them to show up after a while. Since there were only a hundred or so Stone Spirits in the front window he was rather baffled.

David then noticed that each of the gargoyles in the window bore small handwritten paper price tags. He then had to assume two things: either this shop did a rather brisk business in gargoyles or DeCormyr was just a bastard and even they couldn't stomach his company for long... or both.

David wasn't going to assume either. From his short correspondence with the cranky angel, he was fairly certain as to the reason. In addition to the gargoyles, he was more than mildly surprised that the neighborhood wasn't already in complete shambles- it was actually quite a nice surprise.

The reason for David's surprise is that he knew what most people didn't. 

People think Angels would make good neighbors. They're wrong; angels don't make good neighbors at all. In fact, people don't realize how bad Angels are until it's too late to do anything about them.

Bad things happen when angels come around: a drastic reversal of property values (up or down), an influx of artistic types who seem inspired to lead revolts or take control (good or bad), the arrival of odd sculpture (well, gargoyles), civil collapse (no need to explain that one) and finally, the rise of the forests or deserts (whichever force is the strongest).

It's not that they're inherently evil, unkind, or even intentionally detrimental – after all, they are angels. It's just that humanity isn't prepared to be that close to The Father while still living in the flesh. So, odd things spring up rather quickly.

Angels have a tendency to bring out the creative side in people by their mere presence. In fact, more sculptures, frescoes, illustrations, chalk drawings, cave paintings – you name it - are angelically inspired than anyone could possibly imagine. Because of this, their company can cause artistic people to have problems with such day-to-day needs as food, shelter or basic survival. The Italian Renaissance started simply because the angel Calgius wanted to spend a long weekend in Venice and commented idly that the place could use a little sprucing up.

This characteristic has unintentionally changed the course of intended human history.

The Angel Demitri, for example, decided to vacation on the southern region of the Salisbury plain and his presence completely revamped the highly advanced local culture. However, instead of establishing a foothold that would rule the known world until the modern age – as was intended – they decided to spend the next 1500 years building a giant stone sculpture depicting the intricate layers of an onion – as a metaphor for the meaning of life. Of course, by the time they finished it, the original purpose and meaning of the sculpture was lost entirely (as they had neglected to invent writing in the process) and the civilization vanished. In the meantime Demitri had moved far south to the quieter areas in gardens of Egypt.

Shortly after the collapse of Egyptian culture, Lucifer decided that, instead of sending demonic agents to subvert local populations, he simply sent holiday brochures to Demitri. Eventually, through divine intervention, Demitri was sent to Rome and forced to remain within the Vatican while his angelic handlers came up with a solution. Finally, in the 1940's, The Father ordered him to set up shop in Dresden, Germany just before the fire bombing. That did the trick – he was reassigned to the Department of Divine Inspiration and forbidden to return corporeally.

Another downside to having angelic neighbors is the amount of decay. Angels can be dreadfully lazy when it comes to housework so many of the apartments, houses, condominiums, castles and villas in which they spend the centuries fall into disrepair and ruin. It's only natural to expect someone who has literally spent his entire existence in Heaven to have a certain laissez-faire attitude when it comes to simple, mundane things such as trimming the hedges or cleaning out the cobwebs. Angels are rather used to just letting things go a bit. They're perfectly content to allow a forest to grow in the middle of the living room, for a few centuries, just to see if it brightens up the place.

To a set of beings that spent much of the early part of the Earth excitedly watching India smash into Asia, everything is temporary. It took them five hundred years after the first great extinction to realize that anything was amiss. They just thought that it got a lot quieter... and darker. This glacial way of life, because of their virtually unlimited lifespan, gives them the patience to endure the centuries unhurried and calm. Their canny legal sense, with which they retain iron-clad real-estate contracts and deeds, manages to keep human interference at an arm's distance. And their general laziness keeps their homes in uninhabitable ruin.

Lastly are the gargoyles. Gargoyles are synonymous with angelic visitation. If an earthbound angel stays longer than a month in a single location he will attract every homeless gargoyle within miles – sometimes hundreds of miles. These Early Spirits of the living stone, created by The Father on "the first day", gather around angels simply out of curiosity, adoring love and a protective nature.

Their first duty on Earth was to help shape the foundations of rock. The problem was that they could never leave or truly die. So, they were stuck on the same spinning rock for billions of years being made and remade. It was boring, mind-numbingly, especially since they hadn't had a decent days work since the last asteroid strike. In the last few thousand years they found employment as decorations, paper weights, drain spouts and angelic guardians. While it wasn't as glamorous as forming the Hawaiian Islands or the Marianas Trench, it was decent work and it kept them entertained and busy.

Bored gargoyles are far worse than entertained angels. Angels, at least, are limited by a sort of mortality and respect for life. Gargoyles, on the other hand, don't understand the fragility of life. They might just decide to form a union and wake a sleeping Mount St. Helens on an unsuspecting region just to see the spread of the ash- without even considering the general upheaval it might cause. They were nice companions to have around as long someone kept them busy or happy.

The gargoyles in the shop window noticed David instantly and many seemed to show pleasure in their still eyes. A few almost seemed ready to leap out into the air in excitement at the appearance of his fresh face in the window.

David smiled and entered through the ringing door to his left. He strolled up to them, touching their fangs and wrinkled snouts and bat-like wings. The sensation of their stony skins on his fingers, that real sensation, was exhilarating. These beings were around before he was. They made him feel young and immature.

"Hi guys." He said softly and bent to one knee before a particularly fierce looking statue. "I'm David." He looked up at the stone faces staring down at him. "I'm not sure if you remember me."

They didn't respond. Instead he could feel the charming goodwill emanate from them. It filled the room like a sweet fragrance.

"Can I help you dear?" David looked up to see a smiling, white haired woman at the counter; she gazed at him over an egg carton she filled with tiny, colored beads. She saw his hand placed tenderly upon the large gargoyle's snout. "I just love them, don't you?"

David looked at the woman's face and grinned. "They're lovely." He said. He walked over to the counter and shoved his hands in his pockets. This move made him look more like a pre-pubescent boy than an immortal being. "Do you have more?"

She smiled. "I get more in from time to time but these are all I have right now." She played her finger aimlessly in a container filled with mood rings and looked wistfully at him. "There's an artist upstairs who carves them and brings them down to me." She looked over at the gargoyles. "He does such nice work. He's a nice man if a little brusque."

David started to understand further and nodded. "Is his name Fredrick DeCormyr?"

Her eyes lit and she nodded. "Do you know him?"

"Yes, he's an old friend of mine." He caught her eye again and she blushed. "Do you know if he's in?"

"I only see him when he comes in to drop off another statue. Sometimes he can be quite prolific, other times it can be weeks until he has something." She pointed to the brick staircase just outside the shop door. "That's the way up." She said. "I see him come and go but he only comes in when he has something to sell."

David stepped back from the counter and looked toward the staircase. He then began to take note of more in the store around him. It was a cacophony of artistic noise. One wall was covered with stained glass, another with African, Asian and European masks, clocks, post cards (some quite scandalous), old adverts, vivid, emotional stone faces. The place smelled like stone, wood and unburned, scented candles. He marveled at the creativity and forgot himself. He said quietly. "I love this place."

"Thank you, dear. I'm quite proud of it."

David looked back at her, surprised because he'd forgotten she was there. He grinned. "Can you tell me what apartment is his?"

She thought for a moment. "I believe it's 435a." she pointed straight up. "His windows face the street."

The angel thanked her and walked toward the door. He stopped as he opened it and turned back to her. "I'm sorry, I'm terribly impolite. I'm David." He said.

She smiled sweetly. "Agnes." Her head bowed back to sorting the beads as he exited.

 

David couldn't sense the presence of angels while corporeal and this was new. As a spirit, he could feel the presence of all spirits, good and bad, everywhere on the Earth. Now, in a way, he felt a little blind and disoriented. He started to understand how most humans on Earth felt when in the presence of spirits – they felt nothing at all. Except the faint emanations of the gargoyles, the other spirits and angels were as silent and distant from him as The Father.

He accepted this lack of sight even though he'd expected to be as one of the seers and spiritualists, attuned to the machinations of the sub-physical world. This was not to be. He was human now... well, practically human. Maybe it was good that he felt so typical. He understood and he envied The Son now. His birth as an infant gave him time to get acquainted with his body. David wished he had that kind of time because it was taking a while to become accustomed to his human senses.

Sound was frightening and something he'd never actually understood before. While he knew the physics of it and that he would hear sound in his head, he never realized that his body would feel and resonate various sounds. It seemed as if parts of his body were attuned to a different frequencies and tones. The first passing train, as he'd walked towards DeCormyr's apartment, left him almost weeping with the sensation against and under his skin. Spiritual communication dealt with the soul and the mind and it used a different set of senses. While he could usually see people move their mouths as they spoke he "heard" the workings of their mind and never actually heard sound. This system of communication came from the spirit, lying was impossible and sound inconsequential. He wondered if spiritual angels even had organs to sense sound.

Smells were completely new. The odors all around him seemed like ethereal barriers. The sweet fragrance of the wildflowers and grasses growing along the railways, the strong diesel fumes of the COTA busses that passed along high street, the stench of the garbage bins, the city smells, almost seemed like a spirit world of their own. He marveled at the fact that no one he passed on the street seemed to take much notice of it. He wondered if such things would ever become everyday to him.

But the actual feel of the physical world was the most intense. He spent hours after landing just touching his skin and running his fingers along the rocks and in the dirt and through his hair. He took off his shoes just to feel the heat of the pavement in the hot August sun. The initial impact had left his body tingling and throbbing and as he grew accustomed to the new skin he found that he could not stop being aware of his feet in his shoes and the places where the clothes touched his body. The sense of touch was so varied – hot and cold, rough, smooth, sharp... all of these things realized by his skin. It was amazing.

He stood at the bottom of the staircase at the sidewalk and stared at the double glass doors. The rumble of the cars, as they passed, buzzed in his stomach, the wind ruffled his hair. He wanted to stay and feel this but knew there would be plenty of time to learn his new body and understand it. David was, after all, an efficient worker while in the spirit and knew that wasting time with unimportant things – no matter how lovely and distracting – would cause problems in the long run. He waited for Decormyr to buzz him in, climbed the dusty smelling staircase to the second floor to DeCormyr's apartment and knocked.

After a moment DeCormyr swung the door open. Before David could even open his mouth DeCormyr irritably barked "Where the hell have you been?" He surveyed David's dirty shirt and disheveled hair "and what the hell have you been doing?"

David smiled broadly. "Fredrick!" He embraced him heartily, crushing him to his chest. "It's wonderful to see you again." He held onto his shoulders until DeCormyr pushed him firmly back.

DeCormyr sputtered dismissively at him but bade him inside, closing the door behind them. He began brushing off David's dirty white T-shirt while shaking his head in disapproval. "You look like a bum, David, like you've been rolling in dirt."

"I have been." David said as if bidden to impart an exciting story. "By the railroad."

David surveyed Fredrick's immaculate apartment as he spoke in an almost detached tone. "There were rocks, too..." he stared at a wide, photograph covered brick wall on the northern side of the room and two soft, overstuffed leather chairs the color of creamed coffee beside a slender floor lamp and a tall black stereo emitting soft, classical music. There was a large desk facing the wall on which rest a computer. Before all this was a floppy, L-shaped couch that matched the chairs and intricate oriental rugs which covered wide sections of the dark hardwood floor. "I spent a little time getting used to touch." His eyes trailed upwards to the high ceiling. "I'm not certain but I think I got a piece of glass in the palm of my hand." He displayed his palm to Fredrick while looking absently up at the tall cathedral ceiling and saw a hundred or more varied gargoyles perched on the crossbeams. Many of them grinned down at him with wide, fanged teeth and David grinned back. "Wow, Fredrick, you're not a bastard after all, are you?"

"What?" DeCormyr grabbed David's wrist and examined the palm of his hand. He gently pulled open a tiny cut, looking for glass.

"Well, when I saw there were only a few gargoyles downstairs I figured they just didn’t like you very much." David yanked his hand back from Fredrick's probing finger and pulled it protectively to him. "Ouch!"

"No glass." DeCormyr said as his brow furrowed. He frowned at the gargoyles above them. "They don't like me." He looked up at the beams and shouted. "And I don't like them much either." He walked roughly around a metal countertop into the kitchen and removed cups from the cupboard and poured them full of coffee. "When too many show up or they start looking bored, I take them downstairs for Agnes to sell off. It's better to give them new homes than to just kick them out... well, safer." He looked up and shouted again "But more just keep coming!" Above him the gargoyles chittered with amusement.

David wandered around the room touching the brick walls and couch, turning the lamps on and feeling the heat off the light bulbs.

"Oh, come and sit over here, David." DeCormyr said, motioning to chrome and leather barstools at the counter. "Drink some coffee while I get your things." He pushed a steaming mug across to David and walked back toward the desk.

David sat and picked up the ceramic mug and stared at his reflection in the black liquid. The pungent smell met his nose with steamy heat. He sipped quietly, slowly making the association between the bitter taste and the rich smell and the sharp heat in his mouth. He looked up. "This is wonderful!" he said incredulously.

"It's only Maxwell House, David, nothing special." He dismissed him offhandedly but his voice had a hint of pleasure despite his frown. He rummaged through one of the desk drawers and removed a fat, yellow envelope and walked back to the counter.

David slurped noisily at his coffee as DeCormyr dropped the envelope on the counter before him.

"I don’t suppose you know what any of this is, do you?"

David set the mug down and carefully opened the flap, sliding the contents on the counter. "You did a fine job explaining what I needed once I arrived, Fredrick, so I assume this my identification and such." He surveyed a black leather wallet, some papers, a map, a red Swiss army knife with his name engraved on the side, some keys and a cellular telephone.

DeCormyr softened at the compliment but hardened again as if he realized he wasn't frowning. "Now, there's a driver's license in there but I don't want you to even try driving until we get someone to show you how." He opened the wallet and started explaining each of its contents. When he was done he saw that David was staring up at the ceiling again. "Are you listening?"

"Your music's skipping." David said, winking at one of the gargoyles who stared down eagerly at him.

DeCormyr cursed under his breath and stomped to the stereo cabinet. "This damn stereo cost me fifteen hundred dollars in nineteen eighty nine and it hasn't worked right since I bought it." He slammed the flat of his hand on top of the CD player and it continued on, ceasing the annoying, repetitive sounds. "You'd think that mankind would find some better way to store music than on something else that skips." He shook his head. "I had a Donna Summer vinyl record that I bought new in nineteen seventy nine that never played right."

David picked up each of the items and turned them. He examined the smooth case of the knife. "Fredrick, do I really need a knife?"

DeCormyr sighed as he walked back to the counter. "They're fine knives..." He said, "...and I've found mine quite useful."

David smiled and set it down. "You've always been amazingly efficient, Fredrick, thank you."

Fredrick, clearly unused to getting thanked for anything, stammered uncomfortably. "Well... I- I can't have you blundering around the world without help, David. There's a big difference between watching the Earth in the spirit world, affecting reality with your will and actually existing and inhabiting in it."

"I know, Fredrick, I know our sort have had all manner of problems."

"Problems..." DeCormyr actually laughed. "David, it's not as if I'm trying to tell you how to deal with a woman during 'that time of the month' or how to use a urinal without pissing on your pants." He stopped again and gaped as David filled his mouth with coffee and sloshed it around. He glared again, his softer tone turned harsh. "Will you please stop that?"

David looked up at him sheepishly and swallowed. "Sorry."

"I'm also not going to explain to you how to hold your ass closed so you won't shit yourself – or anything that has to deal with your body. You've seen enough humans that you should know what to expect." DeCormyr glared up as he heard one of the gargoyles snicker overhead. His eyes flicked back to David. "You'll learn about your body in time and on your own – believe me. I'm just saying that there are big differences between watching someone live in this world and actually living it yourself." DeCormyr thought for a moment, as if remembering his own experiences and shrugged. "Alright, I can't show very much at all. You're just going to have to figure it out yourself... just try not to fuck up too much."

David nodded and surveyed the items on the counter again. It was all he had in this world and it didn't seem like much. In that moment he felt very alone and afraid. This wasn't quite what he'd expected. "I haven't made a mistake in coming here, have I?" He asked.

DeCormyr shook his head. "Of course not." He growled. "Look, if every one of The Host came down and lived here for even a year, they would end up with a far greater passion for this place. They'd stop watching the continents and start watching the people." He paused and looked very thoughtful. "Heaven knows that I wouldn't presume to offer suggestions to The Father but I think it should be a requirement. Sometimes I wish he had made us far more flawed."

"But what if I do fuck it up?" David asked.

There was a restless shuffle from many stony feet on the beams and DeCormyr looked up sharply. "Sit still, damn it, I don't want another beam falling in from the shifting weight."

David saw several stony wings flap and some of the gargoyles moved to grasp the cross beams with two arms and horizontal beams with others, trying to shore up support. Many of them stared knowingly at DeCormyr and David noticed that his mentor was a little red-faced.

DeCormyr turned back to David. "Six weeks after I moved into this place I had one beam collapse from a pebble that came in from Cleveland." He explained quickly, pointing to a patched area near the joint of the wall. He shook his head and shrugged. "Well, at least they're good with repairs."

David still stared up at him, concerned and curious at DeCormyr's reaction to the restless gargoyles.

The expression on DeCormyr's face hardened and he went back to his former train of thought without explaining. "Look, everyone in this world fucks up." He paused and sighed. "So just expect to at some point... but..." He picked up the phone on the counter. "I put this phone on my plan so if you have an important question or need help you can call me." He showed it to David. "My number is in speed dial on the number seven." He pressed his thumb on seven and held it until the phone displayed Fredrick DeCormyr and a phone rang in his pocket. "Got it?"

David nodded as DeCormyr pressed another button and the high pitched ringing ceased.

"Good." He held the phone out and David took it. He focused his attention to the other items on the counter while David examined the phone. "Now, put that in your pocket and answer it if it rings..." He paused. "You know how to use it, right?"

"I'm exactly as old as you, Fredrick, and I'm not stupid. I have seen them used before." David stared down at the phone realizing he had no idea what to do with the thing. He held it to his ear.

DeCormyr frowned deeply and shoved his hand in his pocket, pulling out an identical phone. He pressed one of the buttons and the phone at David's ear rang loudly.

"Hello?" David said as it continued to ring. He looked at the lit face and numbers and then pressed it back to his ear and said louder. "Hellooo?"

DeCormyr fumed. "Answer it."

"HALLOO!" David shouted into it.

"That's not how you answer it! You have to press the button, David!" DeCormyr growled.

David stared back at the phone and pressed seven. It continued to ring.

"Not that button-" Fredrick stopped when heard the message he recorded earlier on David's voice mail and David's phoned ceased ringing.

David, pleased, held his back to his ear. "Hello?"

At the beep, DeCormyr said distinctly into his phone. "You are an insufferable prat and I'll be surprised if you live to see the end of the week."

David looked bewildered and held out the phone. "It must be broken."

Above them the gargoyles giggled madly at DeCormyr's frustration. He lectured David loudly for the rest of the night to that audience of sniggering gargoyles. The sound of his aggravated shouts and warnings sometimes rose over the sound of the traffic outside.

By the end of the night David was certain that DeCormyr's neighbors must have hated him.


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