Saga: The Cat, the Curious and the Coin
Story: Exact Change. Chapter 1
Genre: Supernatural/ Drama
Characters: Ruby Smith, Crystal the Cat and six very large Gargoyles.
DISCLAIMER: I DO NOT OWN GARGOYLES. THEY BELONG TO DISNEY. NO PROFIT WANTED FOR THIS FICTION. NO INFRINGEMENT INTENDED. ALL ORIGINAL CHARACTERS IN THIS FICTION ARE PROPERTY OF DENIGODDESS2OO1.
New York is NOT my kind of town.
The 24/7 hustle and bustle of the place was more than my poor senses could take with all of the endless traffic and rustling of people. I am not a simple woman, but I find that I'm suited temperamentally for a simpler life. There is only one thing wrong with that fact: life is never simple. Simple is great in theory, but life gets in my when I try to plan other things. Ce la vie, such is life.
I own a small collectables store that has been in my family for four generations. It was founded by my great-grandmother, Anna, in 1920 and passed on to her daughter, Belle, in 1960. After that, it came to my mother, Jade, in 2000. Tradition stated that the women in the Brandon family owned the store for twenty years before passing it to the next generation. That tradition ended abruptly when my mother died of congestive heart failure a year ago. Now, as the next in line, I am the current proprietor of Curiosities.
I remember well that summery weekend in New York when I sat in an uncomfortable chair in some auction house, attending the estate auction of a distant relative that I had never met. As the auctioneer called out new sums, bidders discreetly raised their hand to signal their bid. I knew enough to keep my hands firmly folded in my lap unless I wanted to pay for a lamp garbed in a stiletto and fishnet hose with a tacky, beaded lampshade.
Oh, how I craved a margarita and a cigar at that moment. Give me some relaxing jazz and a classic Cary Grant movie and I would have been in Heaven. Instead, my backside had gone numb and I was surrounded by a motley group of antique hunters, greedy collectors and a few rich-looking socialites. However, I was there for a reason: I had a dream.
No, I'm serious. I had a dream and I pay attention to them. I dreamed about coins, an apple tree and an auction house called Authur's. Nana Anna, my great-grandma, told me to always pay attention to my dreams because that was when magic was afoot. Grahams Belle, aka grandma, told me it was how the Universe hit obtuse people upside the head with a magical brick. Mom refused to believe in the mystic and said it was the subconscious processing the information from the previous day. Me? I'm still reserving judgement. However, I knew enough to pay attention to them because the dreams had by my ancestors often were portents of things to come.
The item that I wanted most was a tenth century British coin that had made it's way into my cousin's coin collection. The auctioneer made the comment that it had once belonged to the elusive billionaire, David Xanatos. I surveyed the bidders as each held up their hand in turn as the bids started at a thousand dollars, then increased incrementally. I also placed my bid, knowing that somehow that coin was important, but wasn't sure why.
Surprisingly, few people seemed interested in it and it became my for the tidy sum of three thousand dollars. The dream told me that I had best buy the coin, but dreams are hardly straightforward, so now I had to figure out why it was so important that I buy that one small circular coin. I went to the cashier afterward and paid for my purchase. An employee of the auction house discreetly handed me a small wooden box, intricately carved with flowing knots and other symbols.
"I'm sorry, there must be some mistake," I said to the blonde cashier sitting at the table in front of me. "I purchased a coin circa tenth century."
"No, Ms. Brandon, no mistake," he nodded to the box I held. "It came in that box and I have specific instructions that it must remain in it until it is in the hands of it's new owner."
"I see," not seeing at all. The ice king sitting before me looked as though he were irritated by my question. I opened the box and looked at the small coin laying on a bed of plush black velvet. It showed the Latin writing used during that era and the likeness of an ancient king named Ethelred. It was the coin from my dream all right and I knew better than to question the dream.
I left the auction house with a faint feeling of anticipation which is unusual for me. Something was afoot with this coin and I didn't know what to make of it, all I knew was that I wanted out of New York and to get home to Merlin's Grove. I wanted to walk the brick-paved streets of my hometown and get back to Curiosities and my cat, Crystal. Large cities held no attraction for me.
I took the first flight home from New York and arrived late at night at the Lincoln airport. I live in an apartment above Curiosities and I had since I was a child. It felt good to be home and Crystal met me at the door, meowing loudly as I shut the door behind me. After feeding her and taking a hot shower, I decided I needed to know more about this silly coin that I had been compelled to buy. Nana Anna kept her kitchen book, Grahams Belle had a Book of Shadows, Mom wrote things down in her poetry books. Traditions run strong in my family because I followed suit as my ancestors did and I kept a journal. I also knew how to access the most powerful oracle of the age. I logged on to Google.
Other than knowing the coin was minted in the tenth century, the only other piece of information I had that I thought relevant was that it had once been owned by David Xanatos. Per the marvelous search engine, I found an article on in Forbes that gave his age as 58, married with one son. His estimated worth was a few billion, give or take half a million dollars. I also read that he had been connected extensively to the New York urban legend of gargoyles.
Gargoyles? The stone statues carved on buildings? He had a fascination for them.
Interesting tangent, I thought. I searched 'New York Gargoyles' and there were several pages listed. I clicked on link after link, reading each one with growing enthusiasm. What I found out interested me more with each new article. A tabloid called the Daily Tattler carried the most stories about them and I also found a few video clips of them, but all were dated in the mid to late nineties and nothing after September 11, 2001. It was as if they had disappeared. One later Tattler article speculated that the group of monsters, or heroes as some considered them, were killed in the attacks.
I wanted to know more.
I decided enough with the technological and it was time to get down to the mystical. Unlike my mother who was agnostic on the matter, I believed in the power of Nature around us. I'm a Wise Woman as was my grandma and great grandma before me. I don't summon spirits or invoke gods. In fact, I only believe in one. However, the Creator endowed the world with many secrets and any curious human can find them out if one only takes the time to listen to Nature.
A little sea salt and a bottle of mineral water from the dollar store along with a silver bowl were all I needed. Carefully, I opened the box and I thought better of it not to touch the coin directly. I put in a pinch of sea salt in the bottom of the silver bowl and filled it with the mineral water and said a little rhyme.
"What I see that was and shall be
let the truth come obviously
Purify my eyes to see
the past of this coin which interests me."
I pulled the coin from the box with a pair of salad tongs from the utensil drawer and plunked it into the small silver bowl. I watched the water remain still or several seconds, a growing feeling a disappointment coming over me. Then, I heard a pop! I returned my gaze to the bowl to see the water fizzing and bubbling as though I had dropped some kind of antacid tablet in it and watched the water change from clear to vivid blue. At that point, Crystal hissed, her tail lashing back and forth. I watched as she leapt from the floor into my lap, her claws digging into my tee shirt and jeans. The old Tiffany chandelier above me flickered and sounds of footsteps echoed of the apartment walls and I thought the table shook as if I were in the middle of an earthquake. I grabbed the tongs, dipping them in the silver bowl and pulled it from my sea salt and mineral water solution, quickly dropping the coin back in the wooden box. I slammed shut the lid. The shaking stopped, the water quit bubbling over, and the lights quit flickering.
Then, I noticed the lid of the box. It wasn't as pretty as it had been when I had packed it for the trip home earlier in the day. This time it sported four claw marks embedded deeply at a angle across the lid.
I gulped. Then, it came.
The headache always comes first when a vision comes to me followed by a little nausea. I reached across the table for my purse where I kept my generic headache relief, again thanks to the local dollar store, and popped a couple in my mouth. I stuck the box in my purse just so I wouldn't drop it and I closed my eyes.
I heard rending of something as though it were being torn apart. It didn't sound like the screeching metal makes, but more the breaking of stone. I saw six large figures atop a stone wall, almost like a castle wall, facing the the east. I looked over my shoulder in the vision and saw the sun setting in the west along the Manhattan skyline similar to what I had seen earlier that day when I had left Arthur's Auction House. I felt shards of something pelt my skin, causing nicks and abrasions, so I covered my eyes to avoid injury. Well, with a purse on one arm and a cat in the other, that didn't happen as planned.
"Return me to reality
from the place from which I came.
Let this vision now be over
and in that place remain."
Silence fell over me as if I had turned off a loud television or radio. I felt Crystal's sandpaper tongue licking my arm where one of the shards of something had cut me. I knew I was still sitting down because I felt the antique chair beneath me, but something wasn't right. The air didn't smell like it did in apartment, a combination of overcooked TV dinner and incense. Carefully, I opened my eyes.
I wasn't sitting at my dining room table. I was sitting in the middle of somewhere else with a castle wall less than twenty feet away from me. That wasn't the frightening part. The part that made my bones melt and my stomach do flips was to see six pairs of white-hot glowing eyes staring down at me, growls erupting from winged figures that looked like a cross between angels and demons.
"Crap," I muttered, wondering why my magic had turned tragic. "Gargoyles."
I knew I wasn't in Nebraska anymore.