The muted horns of passing cars drifted up to Enthos, where he sat on his ledge, peering over the street. The familiar lights and sounds were both comforting and maddening. The scent of flowers washed over him, the blossoms continuing their cycle of blooming and dying under his watch. How much time do I have left?
The sun fell below the horizon, casting shadow over the city, but he felt no chill of night on his wings. The wind howled, but it did not tickle the fur of his neck. The gargoyle sat still, stationary. Stone.
Across the street the lights came on in the apartment he had watched for so long. He could see it. Inside the room, on the table beside the bed, lay his salvation. The thing haunted his dreams and filled his every waking thought, not letting him give in to his death. The music box sat there, holding the bit of magic that would stop his petrification; hoarding his youth.
The box’s owner sat at her desk, her father beside her. What was it her father called her? He searched his memories. Sarah, he thought, or maybe Sarai. Humans had so many names, he had trouble remembering. They sat in front of a nearly completed puzzle. Just a few more pieces, and they would be finished. Her father made a funny face, pulling at his lips, and they laughed.
The music box sat on the bedside table, still as Enthos himself. Open it, he willed them, Set me free. His thoughts went unspoken, unable to reach his stone lips.
Their laughter brought back memories of his own children. How long has it been? Three years? Four? _When did they give up on me? _His thoughts held no anger. It was the natural way of things. You get old, and your skin grows hard. Movement becomes difficult, then impossible. There was nothing they could have done.
They must have their own children by now, flying free in the night with the wind caressing their wings. His oldest would for certain. Sett, Enthos thought. No, Seth. Yes, that was his name. Good kid. Strong as an ox, and thrice as stubborn, but a good kid.
The girl placed the last piece of the puzzle, a cardboard mock-up of a stained glass window, showing a setting sun, broken into several pieces.
The music box still sat. One turn of its metal key and he would be free. It was the secret. It was all he needed.
Sarah’s father picked her up in his arms, in imitation of the airplanes that fly overhead. She laughed, and he flew her into bed, then pulled a floral blanket over her. Where are my children? Enthos wondered. He hoped they were watching the same sunset, sharing with him what may be the last day of his life.
All she had to do was turn the key.
Her father kissed her on the cheek, flicked on her bedside lamp, then stepped out of view of the window. The lights went out a moment later, and the room darkened, leaving only a small circle of light by her bed. In it he could see the girl, and the music box.
One turn. That’s all it will take.
The girl saw the music box too, and Enthos’ stone heart leaped. He had waited so long, but now it was time. The magic would free him from his age, and from the stone walls he sat upon. She hefted herself up on her elbows and lifted the music box from the nightstand. It looked big in her tiny hands.
She turned the metal key, and Enthos prepared himself for flight. He ached for the feel of stretching tendons. I’ll find him. Find Seth, and all of my children. I’ll make up for the time I’ve missed with them. She turned the key again and again, and he brimmed with excitement. Finally.
She let the key go, and the music drifted from the box. Even with his dead, stony ears, he could hear the sad melody, the sharp notes tinkling across the street. He tried to move his massive talon, but it would not rend from the stone of the building. He tried to flex his wings, but they would not move. The wind howled by, unfelt by his skin.
The stone gears of his mind ground against each other, and his will shattered.
He was not free. He was dying.
His gaze wandered to the trunk at the end of the girl’s bed, and rested there until she flicked the light off, and the room was left in darkness.
The trunk is the answer, he realized._ Inside it is my freedom. She just has to open it. That’s all._
She’ll open it, and then I’ll be free.
About the Author
Addison Smith is a typesetter for a small newspaper in Northern Minnesota. When not doing battle with errant punctuation, he writes fantasy, science fiction and horror. He fails to tweet as @addisoncs but will work on that.