reluctant_gargoyle: (frustrated)
[personal profile] reluctant_gargoyle
January 26, 1996

During the Avalon World Tour, we had many adventures and met a wide variety of people, but nothing was quite so scary as the time the skiff brought us to Egypt.  There, we had battled the Pack, on loan from Xanatos, who were in the employ the of the Emir.  The Emir sought to use a spell to become the Avatar of Anubis, the Egyptian god of death (having previously met Odin, this did not come as as big a surprise as it should have).  The Emir wanted to bring his son back to life, but Jackal interrupted the spell and became the Avatar himself.

He killed a near-by village.  He very nearly killed us, aging us rapidly.  I'd felt so weak and helpless, certain my bones would shatter if I tried to move.  But then Goliath had thrown himself at Jackal, giving the Emir the chance to break the spell and set right what he could.

After, we gathered outside the Sphinx to wait for the sun to come up. I asked Angela to give me and Goliath a little privacy.  She took Bronx with her and headed off a little ways.

"How'd you do that, Goliath?"

"Do what?"

"Move like that.  I was afraid that if I tried anything, I'd snap like a twig."

"Ah," he replied.  "That is a simple answer.  Gargoyles age at one-half the rate of humans.  Though the weight of years was great, they were not insurmountable."

I think I did a pretty good job of hiding my surprise, though some of it must have leaked through.  Goliath certainly picked up on it.  "I am sorry," he said.  "I should have spoken of this sooner."

"Don't be," I said.  "It really wasn't important to know before."

Even as I spoke, I was doing a little bit of mental math.  The average human life span was, what, something like seventy-six years?  Double that and you got one hundred fifty-two.  And that was just assuming an equivalent to a normal human lifetime (and some humans lived much longer too!).  It could have been even longer.

The very thought sent a chill down my spin all the way down to the tip of my tail.  I had long accepted, for the most part, some of the differences that came with no longer having a human body.  But this was more than I could wrap my brain around.  The numbers were simply too impossibly big.

I ventured another question. "How long... long do Gargoyles, do we... live then?"

Subtle changes in Goliath's posture and a slight scent change I'd come to associate with unease or nervousness preceded his response.  "To speak truthfully, I do not know for certain.  In the time I came from, it was rare for a Gargoyle to die of age; battle claimed many more.  It was rare even for one to see Hudson's age.   But here, in times of greater peace, it is likely one could even see two hundred years."

The number gripped my heart in cold, icy terror.  Two hundred?  Living until 21-something?  It was too much. The thought that I could possibly outlive everything and almost everyone I knew would haunt me for some time.

Matt.  Derek.  Maggie.  Beth. The friends we'd made on the World Tour.  Hell, even Xanatos. I stood the distinct possibility of outliving them all, of watching them grow old and gray while time ticked on much more slowly for me.

No, I realized, it was even worse than that.  If Derek and Maggie or Beth had kids any time in the near future (or even the not-so-near), I could just as likely outlive them too.  Any children they had, those children could well be adults before any of mine were even hatched.

I was cut completely adrift from any normal reference point, leaving me feeling suddenly very alone.  How did Goliath and the others do it?  How did they watch everything crumble around them?  Or were they insensitive to the briefness of human life by comparison?  No.  I'm certain they were aware.  It was just one of those cultural walls.

A cultural wall I was now beating my head against.

I could--just barely--get my mind around the notion of outliving so many.  At least Goliath and the others would be there too.  But even that thought contained with it the potential for terror.

We lived very dangerous lives.  Xanatos, Demona, Thailog, the Pack, even some idiot with a gun, someone could get lucky and kill one of us.  What if someone killed Goliath?  I had thought about it before, but new horror born from this new revelation sprang up.  The possibility of more than a hundred years without him in it frightened me terribly.  Having Goliath was part of what got me through the night.

I had stared down all manner of dangers before, but loneliness and isolation were suddenly the most frightening things in my world.

"Big Guy?" I began and Goliath must have sensed my apprehension, for he put an arm and wing around me and held me close against him. "Promise me you'll always be with me."

The rising and falling of his chest was so peaceful.  "I cannot," he said.  "The future is too uncertain to make such a claim.  But I shall always love you.  Whatever happens, you and I are one.  As long as I am able, I shall be by your side."

About as good as I could hope for, though it was less than I wanted.  "So you'll still love me when I'm old and gray?"

"Every year shall only see you grow more beautiful."

"Good answer."

A stray thought occurred to me.  I was twenty-seven.  To be a Gargoyle of about that approximate age equivalent, it would mean... "Good grief.  I'm fifty-four."

The rising son meant that exploration of that particular concept would have to wait.

Stone sleep did not often give way to dreams, but it sometimes did.  When I had first been transformed, that sleep had been plagued by nightmares for weeks.  I still dreamed sometimes, sometimes pleasant one, sometimes nightmares still.

I found myself alone in a graveyard, unsure of how I'd gotten there.  "Goliath!'  I called out.  "Angela!  Bronx!'  There was no answer.

I stopped and looked around at a headstone.  The dirt felt oddly loose beneath my bare feet.  The headstone read, "Matt Bluestone. Born: 1964, Died: 2046."  Another, larger, read "Derek Maza, Born: 1970, Died: 2051.  Maggie Reed Maza, Born: 1975, Died: 2060."  Another, "Elizabeth Maza ~~~~, Born: 1975, Died: 2062."  "Nicholas Maza, Born: 1997, Died: 2073."  "Diane ~~~, Born: 2000, Died: 2084."  And on and on and on.

"What?" I asked aloud, a dark terror filling my heart.  "How?"

I felt a vibration through the ground and saw the earth of the graves begin to shift.  A skeletal hand broke through and the body belonging to it, or at least the rest of the bones, followed.  It's skull was like that of a cat and the skeletal framework of wings sprouted from its shoulders.  It had no lips or tongue, but it spoke with Derek's voice.  "Burried us all, Sis.  Guess it's a good thing you traded in your humanity.  Else it might be you in here."

More skeletons emerged from the ground.  Maggie.  Matt.  Beth.  Claw.  Ones I didn't recognize.

"Why does she get to live?" the Maggie skeleton shrieked.

"Too good to die like a human!" Beth shouted.

"Aunt Elisa the ever young!" one of the ones I didn't recognize cried out.

They shambled toward me, surrounding me.  Skeletal fingers clawed at me and I struck out blindly.  My tail smacked hard into Derek, shattering the skeleton into a heap of bones.  The skull landed on top, it's empty eye sockets fixing their gaze on me.

"Burying me again, Elisa?"

"No!  No!"

The others closed in, overwhelming me.  "No!  NO!  NO!"

Darkness overtook me and my scream transformed itself into a roar as I burst forth from my stone skin.  Weakness seized my legs and I sank down to my knees as my breath came in short, ragged gasps.

"Elisa!" Goliath cried out in panic.

I forced myself to take deep breaths through my nose.  The dusty, dry smell of the desert.  The light smell of desert flowers.  The warm, musky, male scent of Goliath.  The solid, real smells brought me back to reality.  "A dream," I said quietly.  "It was all just a dream."

"Elisa," Goliath repeated, kneeling down next to me.  "Are you all right?"

I looked into his face.  "No," I said, opting for honesty.  "I had a nightmare.  All our friends had died and they were skeletons and..."

"Our talk before upset you."

"It did."

"I am sorry."

"Not your fault," I insisted.  "I just need time to process it.  I'll be fine.  Eventually."

I accepted his help in getting to my feet.  "If you say so," he said.  I knew he felt terrible for not being able to make things right.

"I do," I said.  I spotted Angela and Bronx returning.  "C'mon," I said.  "Let's get back to the Skiff."

The nightmare had passed, but the thoughts that had caused it would linger for some time.
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Elisa Maza

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