Between A Rock And A Hard Place

The Q Collection, Volume Six

All day I’ve watched Chloe trudge boxes from the truck to the house, moving her entire life one cubic foot at a time.

I don’t know how many years I’ve waited for her to return home. How long has it been since she discovered her imaginary friend wasn’t imaginary, since she blabbed about it to her parents who promptly shipped her off to boarding school, then sold the house and moved far, far away?

Admittedly, the way Chloe found out I was real could have gone better. I hadn’t meant to startle her, and I certainly hadn’t meant for her to fall off the damn roof, but she’d tried to kiss me! And call me old fashioned but a girl’s first kiss should be with a boy her own age, not an ancient lump of rock like me.

Although, as I watch the seductive sway of her hips as she carries a chair up the front steps and into the house, I know I wouldn’t mind if she kissed me now. Little Chloe isn’t so little anymore. Only a full-grown woman walks with that much swagger, and I wonder with a smile if she’s still as gloriously weird as she was as a child.

You see, that’s how Chloe and I became friends all those years ago. Imaginary friends, but still. Children her own age thought her peculiar. And sure, I could see why they’d think that. Collecting animal skulls and sleeping with jars full of spiders beside the bed is not exactly usual behaviour for a child, especially a young lady, but Chloe never cared what anyone else thought and did it anyway. Just like she defied her parents and climbed up to the roof at every available chance to sit at my side and chatter away about the people buried in the graveyard behind her house, to wonder at the lives they must have led.

Not that she knew I was listening, not really.

She was a special child—one of the last of her kind, if I had to guess—for she carries the blood of the masters. The people who created me and my kind.

Some people call us gargoyles. Some people are idiots. And before you get all pissy and say, “I know a fucking gargoyle when I see one!”

Firstly, no, you fucking don’t.

Secondly, a gargoyle is a glorified waterspout designed as a part of the plumbing. Don’t believe me? Fine. Take another look at my cover. Check out those abs. Go on, I’ll wait….

Now, you tell me. Do I look like a fucking waterspout to you? No, didn’t think so.

Shit. Where was I…?

Oh yes, humans are stupid and I most definitely am not a gargoyle.

I am grotesque. A guardian who protects the people and wards off evil. It’s an unusual name, I grant you, for someone as spectacular as myself, and not the name given my kind originally. When we were created, when the masters carved us from the purest marble, and gave us the faces of angels with bodies to match, we were known as something quite different. For you see, Winchester may have had his geese, but Canterbury had his wolves.

Confused? I don’t blame you. So here’s a quick history lesson.

It is universally acknowledged that even in the toughest of times, prostitutes make money, and in the twelfth century, the churches and the bishops knew a good thing when they saw it and taxed said prostitutes, took a little—or a large—piece of the pie for themselves. But here’s the thing, humans in the middle ages were not the cleanest of individuals, and if the missus didn’t kill you for visiting the stews, the syphilis would. And the Bishop of Winchester took his cut either way.

That’s where Canterbury came in.

The Archbishop was a clever man, and using his knowledge of courtier life and who was—or was not—sleeping with whom, he had the idea to keep the money coming in by tapping into a frequently overlooked and underutilised source of capital.

High born women.

After all, what’s good for the gander is good for the goose. But, ever aware of the scandal that would arise if the fairer half of his flock suddenly contracted an STD, or worse, fell pregnant while their husbands were otherwise occupied with one crusade or another, he gathered the best sculptors money could buy and gave them a task.

Me and my stony brethren.

But it didn’t matter how exquisitely carved we were, every detail of our marble bodies painstaking and precise, we were still lifeless lumps of rock. No better than statues. But it turns out all those secret societies the conspiracy nuts are always banging on about were actually a thing way back when, and not only were the masters handy with a chisel but some of them knew their way around the art of anthropomorphism too. One by one they breathed life into us, gave us emotions and thoughts and a sense of touch and before we even knew what we were, we were being instructed in the finer points of pleasuring a woman for coin.

Yep. That’s right. I was a medieval man of the night.

A Canterbury Wolf.

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