Geraldinium Holmes lifted her hammer and regarded the stone with a critical eye. It had been a keystone for the entrance to an orphanage and so was about the size of a man’s torso and wedge shaped. It had maintained the integrity of the arch of a huge doorway through which hundreds of children had passed. According to the records – which were sporadic, and rather ashy from where they’d been rescued from fire at least twice – this had been a Victorian orphanage where the ideals had been rather higher than the reality. There had been several owners; Geraldinium had been fascinated to learn that the second owner, a Mr. Walscotte, had viewed it as a profit-making venture and had actually been selling a number of the children to the poor-house and various unscrupulous factory owners when he felt that there was little hope of getting them adopted out. Two owners later there was a possession by the church which had resulted in sixteen exorcisms being performed, three deaths, and the defrocking of a priest. Geraldinium couldn’t begin to imagine what the priest could have done that was more hideous than performing exorcisms and killing children, but apparently he’d found something and had been expelled from the church. When it was finally turned over to the newly formed Council for the area, the children in it were downtrodden, browbeaten, and generally unhealthy and desperately unhappy. The Council hadn’t bothered trying to run it, they’d simply shipped the children out to other places and closed the building down.
Geraldinium had taken the keystone by the simple expedient of breaking into the grounds of the Orphanage with a hammer, chisel, large square of heavy tarpaulin and a frame and chiselling it out. The arch had been holding still as she dragged the keystone down the stairs and back to the hole she’d made in the walls, and for all she knew it might still be holding now. She rather hoped it wasn’t. The place had felt unhappy to the core.
She laid the blade of the chisel at the top of the stone and tapped gently, experimentally, with the hammer. The chisel rang, and the stone cracked a little, splintering as she’d hoped for. It was solid, good quality stone. It would definitely do for sculpture.
She worked quickly and crudely initially. It had been obvious to her when she saw the stone that there was gargoyle hiding in there, waiting to come out. A gargoyle that had been hiding, always sitting above the door to the Orphanage, counting the children as they went in, and feeding on the misery that the Orphanage created, like some huge, edificial engine of torment. A gargoyle with curling ram’s horns, with six legs and two arms that had fourteen fingers on each hand. A gargoyle with hidden, secret eyes in folds of stone flesh, under arms and hiding between toes. A vigilant gargoyle, in league with the forces that turned neglect in to malice, that turned unconcern into acts of violence in dark, basement rooms to preserve a crumbling façade of rightness. A gargoyle that held together black webs of grey actions and unwashed thoughts, trapping evil in the interstices and letting it drip like poisonous venom from its fangs until it had polluted every soul that breathed its tainted air.
The hammer tapped and the chisel sang, and the percussion was the noise of hate pounding on the walls of its cell, demanding its freedom once again.
Four hours later, Geraldinium laid down the hammer and looked. The gargoyle was roughed out now, but there was much more to do to bring it fully out of the stone, uncover its lines and creases, its folds and its misshapes. She allowed herself a thin smile; this was bringing back too many memories for now. She would allow herself a small break and then return to it.