BY ROBERT PARRIS
Copyright is held by the author.
TICTOK GLANCED back over his shoulder as he shuffled down the chilly suburban street. His eyes wide with worry. The wind whistled through the nearly bare trees as if in reproach.
They can see you! They can see you!
The night was alive with humans in all manner of dress and disguise. Most of them were small, like his kind, contrary to what most believed, moving from house to house, reciting the now familiar refrain of trick or treat. He was aware of Halloween and what the day meant to the humans. The last hundred years had been spent watching in stony silence from the imposing grey brick clock tower that dominated the centre of the town. His life was solitary, which he accepted, knowing his job was important. He was a Watcher. The humans called their species Gargoyles, which always sounded vulgar to him. He sat his vigil in silence, day after day, year after year, longing to one day connect with the beings below, so he could set them right and finally reveal his kind. The time would come soon, but not yet. So he would wait.
And he would watch.
The Watchers were strictly forbidden to mingle with humans, but a few had defied the law and used this night — Halloween — to test their luck and see what it felt like to be among the people they protected so diligently. From what TicTok knew, none had yet been caught.
He looked ahead to his destination; the forest at the end of road. If he could make it there he would be safe. The nights adventure at an end. He would quietly vanish into the trees, fly back to the clock tower and continue his eternal vigil. TicTok tucked his wings in further and lowered his eyes as he walked between two taller humans. They wore garish rubber masks and carried bags stretching almost to the ground full of the sweet treats the humans seemed to crave on this night each year. As they passed he heard one of them comment.
“Hey, wicked costume kid!”
Any fears he had about blending in undetected faded away at that moment. He turned toward them and gave a slight smile, and then continued on his way.
His goal was close now, and he felt more relaxed as he walked. Maybe this wasn’t as risky as he thought. Perhaps he would do this again next year in a different part of town. He was approaching the last house on the street and not far beyond that was the first row of dark trees that marked the small forest that bordered this side of the town. He would make it.
TicTok felt the eyes before he saw them.
It was as if someone had run an ice cube down his stony spine. The feeling was as familiar to him as flying, and could only mean one thing. One of the beings that his kind had protected the humans against for countless millennium — the Watcher’s mortal enemy — was here, now.
He slowed his pace as he approached the small brick house. A cold light emanated from the large bay window and standing in silhouette among a group of costumed children stood a tall, thin figure. The thing looked like any other of the older female humans that he had seen, but the disguise didn’t fool him. The eyes that pierced him burned with a cold anger and the malevolence inside called to him. He didn’t expect to see one of them here, so close to the humans, but they were tricky.
So very tricky.
He locked eyes with the being, his resolve strong as he approached the figure. The thing didn’t move in spite of the cries of ‘trick or treat’ that surrounded it. It continued to stand motionless, arms hanging limp, the murderous gaze locked as he approached. The creature knew who he was as much as he knew it. Their conflict spanned centuries and both understood there was only one way this would end.
He marched up the six steps to the porch on which the human thing stood. He locked eyes with it; both stony fists clenched and prepared himself for the fight that was to come.
It held his eyes as the narrow mouth slowly opened, revealing two rows of yellowed teeth. It spoke.
“Where in the world have you been?”
Ten-year-old Jeremy stood silent for a moment, raising his homemade gargoyle mask. “I wasn’t gone that long, mom.”
“You wonder why we call you TicTok! Are you ever on time? You’re over an hour late! Did you even bother to take out your phone and look at the time, Jeremy?”
Jeremy didn’t answer but flicked a lock of blonde hair away from his eyes, before moving his right arm to the side to feel the phone-sized lump in the pocket of his hoodie. He sighed.
Jeremy’s mom rubbed the bridge of her nose, then bent down to his eye level. She smiled.
“So did you manage to make any new friends?”
Jeremy shook his head. His mom reached out and touched his cheek.
“I know it’s tough for you Sweetie, but you have to try. You can’t hide behind a mask forever.”
“I know,” he mumbled.
“All right,” she said, kissing him on the forehead, “Go on upstairs and get ready for bed. I’ll be up in a minute to tuck you in. I love you.” Just then one of the tinfoil wings taped to his back unfolded and hit him in the cheek. He pushed it away with frustration and then shuffled by his mother and through the open front door.
Jeremy kicked off his running shoes and as he plodded up the stairs to his room, he lowered the mask back over his face. TicTok the Gargoyle smiled. His vigil would continue. His fight with the human thing had been successful and the trouble he thought he would encounter was avoided. He entered his bedroom and sat on the bed, Jeremy’s Superman comforter still askew from the previous night. He tucked in his wings and turned his head to look out the window at the street below, still crowded with costumed humans. They moved back and forth under the hazy beams of the street lights, their muted laughter drifting up through the night air. A deep sense of longing threatened to overwhelm Jeremy but TicTok quickly pushed it away. He would keep Jeremy safe until the time came once again to be among that strange race. Until then, he would continue his vigil.
And he would wait.
And he would watch.
Robert grew up in the Niagara Region area of Ontario, Canada, discovering an aptitude for the visual and written arts at a very young age. He attended St. Catharines Collegiate, specializing in the arts then attended the Animation program at the renowned Sheridan College in Oakville, Ontario. He has since moved on to have a 25-year career working on films for such companies as Disney, Dreamworks and Warner Brothers. While growing up Robert would continuously indulge his secret passion of writing fiction and has written many short stories. He is currently in the process of finishing his first, full-length novel which should be out sometime in 2023.