Safe under the protective light of day, Ashley searched for distraction. The area around her reeked of history. There off the main pathways of London, old, narrow abodes framed pencil-thin streets. She walked aimlessly until a tall brick wall marked a break in the architecture. Mounted on the wall…an ornate wrought iron gate. A crafted metal beast grimaced down at her from the gate’s pinnacle—its silent snarls a warning that trespassers would be persecuted. Peering through the bars Ashley found, to her delight, an English garden. Lush and green, the garden’s beauty drew her with irresistible force.
She checked to see if anyone was watching. She was alone.
She pushed on the gate. And cringed. A long drawn out creak announced her arrival. The garden was a typical landscape, ordered and beautiful. Paths wound their way around a riot of flora…colors burst forth in the sunlight. At the paths’ epicenter stood a fountain. Beside the fountain waited a most unusual statue.
Like a legend…tall and fierce…a gargoyle guarded the surrounding grounds.
Ashley sat down on a granite bench to study the figure. It was larger than an ordinary man; and formidable. A heavy mane of curling hair rested atop its head. A scowl topped a face frozen in stone. Goatlike horns jutted from its brow. Baglike wings grew from its back. If the creature were alive, Ashley imagined its wings would have a texture like supple leather made from skin, sinew and bone. Arms corded with muscle ended in taloned hands. Such strength those hands would bear as they closed around her throat. She shivered at the thought. Some kind of loincloth was its only attire, leaving revealed the magnificence of its form. A tail, long and forked, completed the myth.
Ashley stared; unaware of the passing time until a shout from a nearby dwelling broke her trance. She stood, made her way back to the garden’s entrance to take her leave. Wanting to experience the statue in a different ambiance, she vowed to return as soon as the sun set. Other women indulged in more exotic pursuits. Ashley shrugged. A person can’t miss what she’s never known.
At twilight she left her lodging. Once again she wandered the back streets; the shadows making them seem narrower and more foreboding than before. A thrill of fear shot through her body. Perhaps I won’t be able to find the garden again.
Then there was the wall. Relief washed over her as she opened the gate and stepped inside.
She’d been right to come back. Night darkened the surrounding colors, transmuting them with the moon’s gentle touch. Luminescence painted the sky with brush strokes of silver. Stars peered through breaks in the clouds.
Ashley trekked toward the fountain. Soft moon-shadows danced along the walkway and hid between arches covered in blooms. The sweet fragrance of roses drifted on the breeze. Simple pleasures…simple life. A zephyr brushed her body, tantalizing her with a hint of rain.
She arrived at the epicenter. The fountain gushed water. Same fountain…same location, but the statue was gone.
Gripped by a strange sense of foreboding, Ashley sat down on the now familiar bench. Where had the statue gone? Could workmen have taken it away for repairs? No, the statue had borne no flaws in need of correction. What then? Vandals? Or theft?