LIFE GOES ON
MEANWHILE, BACK IN NEW YORK…
Part One: Erstkontakt
By Kimberly T. (email: kimbertow -at- yahoo dot com)
Disclaimers & acknowledgments: I don't own the gargoyles concept; Disney does, as well as a few of the characters mentioned in this story. All the non-Disney-created characters are mine, but I'm not making a dime off this, so please don't sue. And I thank Tribun for helping me with the German bits; any mistakes made are mine, not his.
1.1: No News Isn't Good News
Three a.m. of a Wednesday morning in November, the day before Thanksgiving. High in the clocktower over the 23rd Precinct of the NYPD, a German gargoyle stirred and opened his eyes.
Heinrich stretched, groaning and grumbling; he felt a bit better than he had before going to sleep, not quite so exhausted, but now he was feeling stiff and sore! From feeling as limp as a soggy Abwaschlappen, to feeling like a Fußmatte that had been repeatedly walked on with studded boots. This sleeping-in-flesh business was strictly for the humans.
Still, now that he was feeling even slightly refreshed after his nap, it was time to go out and see what more he could find out tonight. Now that he knew there were indeed others of his kind alive somewhere in New York, he had to find out where they were staying now. He absolutely refused to consider the possibility that they were all dead now; that picture in the German tabloid had quite clearly shown a flock of winged creatures leaving the ruins of this tower, and the article later mentioned them or more of them escaping from the ruins of a church, somewhere else in this city.
If only his family had found more to go on than that one article in the Bild-Zeitung! A tabloid newspaper that was renowned far more for sensational stories than for true stories. Usually, nobody ever believed the stories that were printed in it; people bought it more to sneer and laugh at it than to actually learn anything about news around the world. When she'd brought the article home, Andrea had mentioned that the coworker who had brought the paper into the lunchroom had openly scoffed at the article and photo of 'man-sized flying creatures inhabiting New York', just as he had laughed about the article on the previous page about a giant alien having been sighted on Easter Island.
After bringing that article home, Karl and Andrea had gone out and bought a month's worth of back issues of not only Bild-Zeitung but der Stern, die Welt, die Zeit and der Spiegel, and gone through every edition of those papers for a full month afterwards. But they had found no other articles about gargoyles or gargoyle-like creatures. Evidently their countrymen figured the whole thing to be just another hoax dreamed up by those crazy Amerikanern, like the ones about Bigfoot, the Jersey Devil and Gott knew what else.
Well, now that he was here in New York, surely the local newspapers would have something for him. Reading the paper might be a chore—he knew they wouldn't have any Deutsch-language newspapers here; he was never that lucky—but Heinrich had been studying English for nearly two months straight now, and he was sure he could get the gist of nearly any article, with a little help from the dictionary he'd packed. Heinrich went out to the balcony, spread his wings, and leaped out into the night to find a newspaper.
He was huffing and puffing by the time he returned to the clocktower; that verdammte lack of energy was still plaguing him. Barely two kilometers' worth of distance, if even that far, and he felt like he'd flown a circuit all the way around Berlin! But he returned victorious, with five successive editions of the New York Sun clutched in his talons, scavenged from a recycling bin. The latest edition was from three days ago, but they were still better than nothing… he hoped. Surely sometime in the last week, the city's gargoyles had done something worthy of notice by the humans, something that would give him some clue as to where he would look next.
He wolfed down some of the rations he'd brought with him from Germany, musing grimly that soon he'd need to start scavenging for food as well as newspapers; despite the strict rationing he'd set for himself and firmly held to while on the boat, he was down to his last box of crackers and last two Bratwürste.
But once his belly was no longer growling, he set the food aside, picked up the oldest newspaper and began reading out on the balcony. The lights of the city were more than adequate for reading a newspaper by, at least for his sensitive eyes. He was pleased to note that he was getting rather proficient in reading English now; he could go for three or even four sentences before reaching for his dictionary, and there were very few words that he just could not decipher at all…
But this word was one of them. What was a 'Quarrymen'? His dictionary didn't list the word at all. He tried to break it down into its component words, found that 'quar' and 'rymen' weren't in the dictionary either, and tried again with 'quarry' and 'men'. 'Men' was easy enough, but 'quarry'… it could mean die Beute, or it could mean die Schottergrube, or der Steinbruch… or it could mean hauen. Well, most of the words that it could meant really had nothing to do with a city environment; mines, stone-cutters and digging in general was usually done in the country. But if 'quarry' in this instance meant 'prey', then there was one sort of 'prey' that was found in cities all the time, whether anyone liked it or not…
These 'Quarrymen' must be the local name for Rattenjäger, who were paid a pittance to keep the streets and sewers free of rats and other vermin. But from the context of the article, they seemed to be some sort of political organization; they had held a rally in one of the local parks, and were demanding that the local authorities do something to make their streets safer at night; something about special licenses. Did these Rattenjäger really have enough political power to even think of making demands of a city's mayor? And what did they need special licenses for, anyway? Trapping pigeons, too? No, pigeons weren't active at night…
Well, no matter; the article didn't include the word 'gargoyles', so whatever the Quarrymen were, they couldn't help him find what he was looking for. Heinrich turned the page and kept on reading.
Dawn came almost before he realized it, and well before he was finished with reading the newspapers; he had only made it completely through one newspaper and partially through the second when he sensed that dawn was approaching. He marked his place, set the papers aside and turned around to face the city view. Hopefully, a good day's sleep in sunlight would restore his energy, so he could go out and really start searching for his kinsmen. His last thought as he turned to stone was a wistful hope that the gargoyles of this city included a single, comely and at least reasonably amiable female.
To Be Continued…
beute: loot, prey, prize or quarry
Bild-Zeitung: 'Photo-Newspaper'. A German tabloid newspaper; their equivalent to the U.S.'s National Enquirer.
Das, der, die: 'the' in its various gender-cases (neutral, masculine, and feminine/multiple).
Erstkontakt: first meeting
Hauen: to hoe out; to use a mattock or other digging tool; to quarry
Rattenjäger: rat-hunters, rat-catchers
Schottergrube: a gravel pit or quarry
Der Spiegel: 'The Mirror.' A German daily paper, issued out of Hamburg.
Der Stern: another German newspaper
Verdammte: damn, damned
Die Welt: 'The World.' A daily paper issued out of Berlin, that includes international news
Die Zeit: 'The Time.' Die Zeit is a weekly magazine issued out of Hamburg, in newspaper format.