Sam is a recluse and makes no secret of his disdain for the company of others. But for his sarcastic butler, Sinclair, Sam sees no one. Cursed by his past, and sworn to protect an ancient codex, his days are spent restoring archaic texts, and his nights are spent cast in stone—literally—for Sam is the grotesque that guards the library that hides the grimoire from primordial creatures who would use its secrets to wreak evil in the human realm.
Zori came to Spain with dreams of attending university and becoming a master philologist. With his scholarship exhausted, and his parents no longer willing to support him, Zori is homeless and now roams the streets of Salamanca in the dead of winter in search of food and warmth. When a stranger saves him from near death, his world changes in ways he never imagined.
When ancient and modern worlds collide, will Sam allow his love for Zori to soften his heart of stone? Will Zori see the beauty within the grotesque?
Sam carefully placed the vellum under the microscope and magnified the ancient text. Bombarded by x-ray florescence, the iron ink of more than a millennium ago came to life, and the Greek script illuminated. He focused the scope and began to decipher, writing each word down in modern-day ink on plain paper.
Two hours later, Sam rubbed his tired eyes. Eventide pulled at him and would dawn soon. He returned the vellum to its reliquary and carried it to the airtight vault that stored such palimpsests.
He disrobed, leaving the modern clothing that gave the illusion of being a twenty-three-year-old savant and scholar in his wake. Nude, he walked to the 32nd floor windows that overlooked the old quarter of
Salamanca and the Rio
Tormes. It was January, the dead of winter, and snow fell in a continuous
stream painting the landscape in crystalline white. He watched cars circle
Glorieta de los Milagros, a ceaseless rhythm of sorts, then his gaze drifted to
the bleak sky. It mirrored his cursed existence. Guarding the fabled codex was beyond
passé and loneliness was eating him from the inside out.
Sam glanced down and hoped beyond reason to see the object of his desire. Nothing. Resigned, he let eventide fill him as he looked down one last time. There he was. Sam fought back the nocturnal pull with all his might. He wanted to feel alive and watch the young man a few minutes longer. For all his years, he couldn’t fathom how he’d fallen in love with a homeless young man he’d only watched from his prison high atop one of
Sam narrowed his otherworldly vision. The young man wore only rags, and given his nimble, emaciated frame, Sam didn’t know how he survived. Another night of freezing cold was in store for him. A car nearly ran him down as he crossed the street toward the library, and Sam sucked in a quick breath. He shook his head to himself. Caring about someone he hadn’t so much as met mystified him. He peered out the window again. The young man had disappeared. He sighed in resignation and headed to the ancient wooden door that led to his prison.
He quietly lifted the iron crossbar that secured the door and it creaked open. Every damn night for seventeen out of twenty-three hundred years in existence he’d spent chained to one structure or another. He longed for ancient Macedon and the nights he flew free. He climbed the stone steps in the pitch of the stairwell until he reached the top. This time he threw the crossbar over with force, no longer able to quell his bitterness, and shoved the massive door open.
Eventide—that moment between light and dark when night pressed the sky—was when he felt his human emotions most. He dreaded another night of perfect isolation. He stood on the stone terrace high above the city with a calm belying the rage that lurked within. Alone. Forgotten. A permanent fixture without purpose. Loneliness could kill a man. He was certain of it.
He stared at the desolate clouds. Not even stars to twinkle on the tedium of his affliction tonight. He swelled with an aching loneliness so severe he wondered why he didn’t disintegrate into dust. It was times such as these when he welcomed the night. He stepped to the parapet, mounted the marble plinth that had been his for nearly eight hundred years, and stared down at the white city. As he spread his arms wide for nighttide to claim him, he wondered one last time where the young man had gone. His wings burst forth and folded around him, and stone wrought him into the Grotesque that he was.
As dawn crested the distant horizon, Sam’s wings withdrew and he came alive. Today was clear and bright, but no less frigid. He turned to dismount the plinth and met with his butler. Sinclair irritated him no end. He’d tried to throw him out on numerous occasions if for no other reason than he was a belligerent old Green Man, but he’d refused to go claiming some absurd notion of fealty Sam had never understood. What in the name of Hades was the creature doing on his terrace at dawn?
“Good morning, Lord Samuel—”
“I detest when you use that title and detest you more when you use it to irritate me.”
The old man smiled. “I beg your assistance.”
Sinclair was a fierce warrior and could best nearly any beast in existence. He didn’t need Sam’s help for shit. “With what?”
“Please follow me to the boiler room.”
“Oh, please. Not the rats again. Call the exterminators!”
“It isn’t rats. It’s a human.”
Sam’s otherworldly senses didn’t detect a heartbeat. He touched the young man’s neck in search of a pulse and found one. “He’s alive,” he whispered.
“Indeed. Shall I call the authorities and have him hauled away?”
The humor dancing in Sinclair’s eyes infuriated Sam. The bastard had spied on him as he’d watched—well, okay, spied—on the young man. No doubt, Sinclair sensed his fascination with the orphan. He stifled irritation in favor of aiding the boy. “Call the doctor.”
Two hours later, Sam positioned the vellum with the torn edge closest to him. With a monocle, he studied the ruin. It would take weeks to repair. He reached for his mobile phone to call the museum, just as Sinclair entered the laboratory. Sam spun, prepared to castigate him for entering the sterile environment.
“He’s awake,” Sinclair said solemnly.
“So? Do whatever it is you do with starving waifs.”
“He is quite ill and the doctor wishes to transport him to hospital. Pneumonia.”
“Well, then, make yourself useful and see to it.”
“I have. The ambulance is in route. Do you wish to speak with him?”
No. Yes. No. Sam had no idea what to say to the boy. “Does he wish to speak with me?”
“He wishes to thank whoever extended kindness to him.”
“That would be you.”
“Very well.” Sinclair turned to leave.
“Wait. Does he know where he is?”
“And what?” Sinclair asked.
That damn humor danced in Sinclair’s eyes again. “What is it you expect of me?”
Sam slammed the monocle on the lab table. “For the love of gods.” He strode to where Sinclair stood and all but shoved him through the doorway.
They descended in silence, the sound of the modern elevator a mere whisper on the air. “Does he have a name?” Sam asked.
“I’m sure he does. You might ask him what it is.”
Sam wanted to choke Sinclair. “You’re an unmitigated bastard.”
Sinclair only chuckled.
Sam looked at the frail young man. His honeyed skin was ashen, his light brown hair dull save for the flaxen streaks of a once wild summer in the sun. Yet his features were those of a sculpted god, not beautiful but striking. Sam swore softly. He should have intervened. The boy was clearly on death’s doorstep.
Sinclair pushed a chair to him and Sam turned. “Give him a few moments,” Sinclair said softly.
Having no idea what to do, Sam sat and waited. After an indiscernible time, the boy’s eyes fluttered open, and the azure blue orbs left Sam at a loss for words.
“Thank you,” left the boy’s lips before his eyes closed again.
Sam stood abruptly. “Get him to hospital.” His whisper was harsh.
Weeks became spring and summer and Sam had fallen gloriously in love. And then it ended in a painful argument.
“Where do you go at night?” Zori had asked.
“I can’t tell you,” Sam had said firmly.
Sam had turned to stone that night, but even that didn’t shut out the sound of Zori’s sobs as he cried himself to sleep. Sam’s perfect loneliness had turned to an excruciating agony he could never have conceived of.
“Do you truly want to know?” Sinclair asked.
Sinclair’s lighthearted demeanor was absent in the question and it frightened Zori. “Y-yes.”
“And you will not be frightened by the grotesque?”
Zori swallowed hard. “He goes clubbing to get laid. That’s okay. I can handle it.”
Zori looked at Sinclair now, the gravity of the single word almost frightening. “Where?”
Zori reached out to touch the stone and withdrew his hand on Sinclair’s sharp no.
“Wait until the sun crests the horizon,” Sinclair said patiently.
“He’s so... so ugly.”
“By Grotesque standards he’s beautiful, powerful, and revered.”
Zori peered beneath a wing to look closely at Sam’s face just as the sun dawned.
Sam fluttered to life—and nearly fell off the building in his human form when he saw Zori. “What the fuck did you do, Sinclair?”
“Oh my God! It’s true! I’m in love with a rain gutter!” Zori all but shrieked.
“Oh my God! It’s true! I’m in love with a rain gutter!” Zori all but shrieked.
Wings by Luisbc Deviant Art