Author's note: This was the first real written work I ever attempted, and near its completion I pigeon holed it... Show full author's note »
Crosses and ShadowsJack Galerunner moaned as his opponent’s knight overtook his queen. The man in front of him, an older man with pure white hair and a slightly bowed back, just shook his head and sighed.
“Come now Jacky boy, you can not be so aggressive in your opening game.” He said as Jack attempted to regain his position on the board.
“I know, I know, keep calm and try to see your opponent’s moves before he does,” sighed the defeated youth. The man gave a slight smile and slid his bishop over.
“Check and mate my young friend.” Jack just stared at the board in frustration replaying the last three games over in his head.
“All right Al, I give.” he mumbled, seeing that he was no match for the kind elder that was Al Calpon, with no relation at all to the infamous criminal Al Capone. At least that was what he said, but Jack had some suspicions about the old man whose heritage was unknown, though he seemed to be of Greek decent. Al smiled at him and took a sip of his coffee as a slight breeze played through the old church courtyard. He put a hand in the center of his back and stretched then gave a contented sigh. Jack was still staring defeated at the chess board with a look of sour concentration upon his face.
“Don’t look so sour Jacky, you’re getting better,” he assured his curly haired friend. Jack gave a lopsided grin and started resetting the chess board.
“Shall we play again Mr.Calpon?” Al stretched again then shook his head and picked up his ancient, twisted cane.
“I think my times up for the day Jacky, I have some business to attend today,” said Mr. Calpon.
Jack nodded, and then stood shaking his friend’s hand as the wise elderly man set off for the front door of the church. Jack sat down again in the shade of the crumbling overhang. His fingers toyed with the cross hanging around his neck on a sturdy chain of a metal he could not identify. It had been a gift from his grandfather on the day he was born and was made of two crossed swords. On the back of the still polished metal were the words “Psalm 62:2 The Lord Alone is my strength and my salvation. He is my fortress and I will not be shaken.” And next to this were the words “You are never alone.” These words were written in a tiny swirling script. The cross fascinated him for as long as he could remember and was the only thing he had to know that he even had a grandfather. He had never met him and his parents would never talk about him. Their silence was not of disgust or fear towards him but it was a silence of respect. Jack gave a small sigh and was just about to pack up the set when he heard a wispy, far off voice behind him.
“Hello Jack. Shall we play a game?” said the voice.
Without even looking up Jack said, “If you want to, Lisa, I was just about to pack up.”
From behind him came a dark skinned young girl about 15 years old, nearly as old as Jack. She had shoulder length black hair and always wore a far off expression as if she were forever day dreaming, which of course, she was. She wore a simple yet practical deep green dress with an ankle length skirt. She sat down with a strange dignity and seemed to randomly move a pawn. Jack looked at her curiously, wandering what she was doing here.
“I thought you were off to your dad’s for the rest of the year Lisa.” Asked jack after a few moves.
Lisa sniffed indignantly and all but dented the board as she set down a knight.
“I refused to leave until after Sunday. I need to hear Pastor Reams at least once more before I leave. Plus I wanted to say goodbye to all my friends.”
A few more moves and Jack moved his bishop over. “Check and Mate Lisa.”
She looked at the board then looked at Jack in the eye and gave a wispy smile. “Well I suppose this is goodbye until Sunday. You will be at church on Sunday, wont you?”
She asked wanly. Jack answered “Wouldn’t miss it for the world Lisa. See ya then.”
She gave him another smile then got up and walked down Truth Avenue which was at the corner where the church stood. Jack watched her leave feeling a pang of loss at the fact that she was about to flee town. He was glad she was going to stay for another couple of days but that just seemed a prolonged waiting before the blow was fully struck. Lisa was one of his closest friends and hated the thought of going a full year without her company. Jack raised his gaze to the clouds and fell deep into his own thoughts. His face becoming distant in what his parents joked was his “searching for the secrets of the universe” face. A muffled grunt as somebody sat down in front of Jack startled him from his thoughts. Jack’s head snapped around as his springy legs prepared to run. He settled down when he recognized the heavy set boy in front of him.
Radley Smith was a resident at the small block of apartments near the local park. He was a large boy that hated to miss a meal but was more than willing to give it to someone who needed it. He and Jack had only recently become friends since they walked different paths in social life. Where Jack was smart and withdrawn Radley was strong and outgoing, always saying what was on his mind. They had met only because they were in the same youth group.
Jack said “Rad, if you ever scare me like that again I’ll kick your sorry behind from here to Spain and back again.” Rad just smiled and reset the chess board.
He said “Ready for your daily butt whooping Jacky boy.”
Jack sighed and replied “I told you only Al can call me that. And I have already played more games than I care.”
Radley looked disappointed and began packing up the pieces for him. After a few more seconds Jack could tell Rad was just dying to tell him something.
He let him agonize for a few more seconds then finally broke down and asked “All right boy what is it? Did Timmy fall down the well again?” Rad narrowed his eyes and gave Jack a hurt, reproachful look. It was hard to not mess with him just a little considering he looked alarmingly similar to bulldog.
Rad harrumphed for a little longer and finally said what was on his mind, not really caring that his friend poked fun at him.
“The Sculptor says today will be the day he finishes his families master piece. And he wants us to be the first to see it.” Jack coughs and sputters the water he was just drinking from the sports bottle he always carried with him.
He gave his friend a look of utter disbelief and waited just to be sure Rad wasn’t fooling around. “Us? He wants us to be the first to see his families’ lives completed work?”
This was completely unexpected, though if they thought about it, they and Lisa were the only ones that were on a friendly basis with the Sculptor. He was an old man with long, crazy white hair and often wild eyes. He lived in a small cabin on Wind Walkers point, the highest peak of the small patch of glorified hills (they were to small for mountains and to big for hills) and spends his days trying to finish the master piece that his grandfather began many, many years ago. His family officially owns the peak but when he dies the land will be released to the town.
Jack and Rad looked at each other for a few seconds before they simultaneously exploded into motion. Jack gathered his pack and sprinted through the ruins of the courtyard towards the hills in the far distance with Rad hot on his heels.
As they reached the path to Wind Walkers point Rad called up to Jack “Shouldn’t we tell Lisa?”
Jack shouted at Rad over his shoulder saying “She’ll know by now, like usual.”
And as if by magic Lisa appeared from a side path and matched pace with them, though they quickly began to slow to accommodate Rad. Neither of them questions her, because Lisa was simply wherever something interesting happened. They often joked that she had “The Sense”. They come to a pair of tall wrought iron gates with an eerie guard of stone angles surrounding them. They waited to catch their breath and just try to calm there excitement. The Sculptor did not put up well with excitement. Jack took a few more deep breaths before finally rapping their signal on the imposing gates. In no time at all a man appeared before them wearing a strange dull brown cloak with the hood pulled up.
He looked at them and said “Right on time my young companions. The second unveiling shall begin.”
He must have seen them passing each other confused glances for he declares “You will understand in time,”
They just nodded their heads and took comfort in the Sculptor’s great faith. No matter what he always seemed to have a great wealth of faith. Jack followed the others up the hill past the various sentries of stone angels. These had been here for generations, carved by the Sculptors great grandfather. They walked for a few more minutes in silence not wishing to disturb the strange peace that hovered over the grounds. They stopped at a path of sculpted steps that spiraled up and around the highest spire of the glorified hill. The Sculptor turned to them and said “No mortals but I and my ancestors have walked this path. You will be the first.” Jack just shook his head knowing that the Sculptor had always talked like there were other things out there. Perhaps there were. There was a small movement inside the hood and Jack thought that the strange old man might be grinning. The Sculptor started up the steps motioning for them to follow. As they climbed the steps more and more sculptures showed themselves. There were too many of them to describe. Small, cherubic angels, huge battle scenes of heroes battling monstrous demons and other sculptures that seemed out of place. Every ten feet or so there was a sculpture of a man or woman each in the clothing of different era. There was a man in full sixth century armor, a woman wearing flowing robes of an origin that Jack couldn’t place. There were at least two dozen of these odd statues. And they all had one thing in common. Each of the sculptures had a cross and chain laying plain on their chest. The cross on the knight was made of two crossed broad swords while the woman’s was made of a bow and staff.
Jack had stopped to look at the statue at the end of the path. It depicted an older man wearing World War two style clothes. There was something familiar about the man but Jack just couldn’t place it. The Sculptor appeared at Jacks shoulder. He said “One day I will tell you this ones story. But not now, come along young Galerunner we are nearly there.” Jack turned and saw that they were at the top. Here stood a wall of intermingling trees. Winding through the mass was a small dirt road. They walked down the path and through the trees and what lay beyond it tore the breath from Jack’s lungs. In the center of a smooth plain made of intricately carved stone stood a towering Cross made of a strange shimmering red and brown rock. The Cross seemed to grow out of the earth, spiraling upward. As he stepped closer jack noticed that there was etching all over the massive monument. He leaned closer to the base of the Cross and saw the words of psalm spiraling up the base. The Sculptor stood back and muttered to himself.
Jack only caught the first few words. “It is done at last. Four generations it took but it is done. Yet I fear that it is all for naught. If only……” The wind snatched away the last of the words. The Sculptor shook himself and said “Etched into this final work are several different books of the bible including psalms and the Story of Christ. This masterpiece was conceived back when Judge Town was known was the Wanderers Haven. My ancestor pledged to make something that would make people wonder and think. This was what he decided. But now this town is nothing more than a speck on the map and my family’s promise may never spread the ideas it was meant to.”
All this he rasped in a single breath. He shakily inhaled and pulled the cowl further over his head, hiding what little they could see in shadow. They stood in wonder at the Cross and at the ground it stood on in which there were spiraling images and story’s.
Jack raised his head just as the sun set casting an orange swath of light over the Cross setting the writings alight.
They stared at the spectacle for endless moments before the Sculptor finally moved and rasped “You have been here to long, your parents will worry soon if you do not get home. Come, I will escort you to the edge of the forest.”
They all regrettably tore their eyes from the Cross and followed him.
Lisa asked “May I come here next Sunday evening. I want to see this again before I go.”
The Sculptor gave a rare chuckle and replied “You may come anytime you wish, all of you. And don’t withhold this sight but spread it.”
Jack was walking on auto pilot thinking about the statue of the old man when the Sculptor suddenly stopped. He motioned with his hand to be quiet as he peered into the forest. Rad shuffled nervously and Lisa’s eyes moved furiously as she scanned their surroundings. Jack moved next to the Sculptor, knees slightly bent with the rest of his body forcefully relaxed. The Sculptor’s head whipped around and from within his robe he drew a small stone cross dangling on a silver chain. The shadows themselves seemed to shift and form into something about the size of a Great Dane. It had four legs the back pair far longer then they should have been for a dog. Darkness curled and oozed off of it in swirling waves. The things eight eyes were blood red and it had two mouths, one on top of the other. Extending from its mouth was shifting poison yellow teeth.
The Sculptor stood his ground directly in front of it and growled “Be gone fowl shadow stalker. This is not your domain.”
The thing cackled, a sound like a mixture of a buzzard’s screech and a wolf like scream. It advanced on them and the Sculptor began to chant. As Jack listened he realized that the Sculptor was praying. Jack looked behind him and saw Rad and Lisa huddled together in fear. Why am I so freaking calm, wondered Jack? He whispered to them “We’ll be okay. Just stay calm and pray.” They nodded there heads and began shakily muttering prayers. The shadow stalker cackled again and spoke “Prayers will not save you now boy.”
The Sculptor replied “Says you hell mutt.”
And so saying the cross he was holding glowed a brilliant white and flared out a blast of light at the beast. It screeched in rage and pain, the shadows that made it turning solid and brittle. It then gave one last scream and shattered. Jack stared at where the thing stood then at the Sculptor. “We need to talk” said the Sculptor.
Jack nodded then sank to his knees, wondering why he felt so weak. The Sculptor kneeled down next to him and yelled something Jack couldn’t comprehend. His eyes fluttered closed and knew only the blackness that pressed on his mind.