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She wasn't awake. Not just yet. It was the gray area between the dream world and cold reality and she was floating. It was in these captured moments that she felt most relaxed. Life, in waking state, was unbearable, and sleep, usually a haven for the clinically depressed, didn't offer any relief either. Sleep offered only dreams and her dreams were glimpses of the past…arguments, the hitting, pain. But sometimes she would fly.

Reality came with the soft hoot of a pigeon outside the bedroom window. Clara took a deep breath, fumbled around her nightstand and came up with a half empty pack of Virginia Slims. The blue blurry glow of the streetlamps came from the open window, where the summer night air revived her. Taking a huge drag on the somewhat stale cigarette, she leaned over the sill and thought. She was better off, she was sure of it. Sure there was no more husband, no more home, no job…wait a second, was she better? A frumpy middle-aged neurotic female. A cliched attempt at a human being.

Clara leaned out the windowsill and looked down at the empty street below. The screen had long since been removed from the building. She had mentioned it to the super once but he hadn't seemed to care and to pursue it would have taken too much effort. She had been lucky to even find the place and she liked it. Sure, the fact that it was dirt-cheap was a plus but the building had an eerie look that had appealed to her dark side. The stone ornaments on the outside looked fairly new, they probably had replaced stone gargoyles, which had become somewhat passe on city buildings. Still they were every bit as creepy…

Right outside her window to the left was a large stone bird. It was where a gargoyle should be if she were in some weird Tim Burton movie. It occurred to Clara, now very much awake, that she had never noticed the bird before, probably because she never really looked outside her window, but she wondered why she hadn't seen it. The bird was about as tall as she was, twice as wide and looked straight ahead with open unfeeling eyes. The craftsmanship was unremarkable. There was no great detail in the stone, it looked kinda like those birds depicted in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. Blinking twice, Clara stretched and leaned forward to get a better look. Was it just her imagination or had the bird moved?

A light across the night sky diverted her attention as a falling star, or was it just another stupid news plane, flashed quickly in the darkness. A wish was to be made regardless. "I want him dead", she whispered lightly, as if someone might hear and condemn her for it "Take him to hell". Then she stubbed out the smoldering cigarette, closed the window and went to sleep.

The next day passed uneventful as the day before and twice as gray. But at night, her dreams took an unexpected turn. She was flying but there was no pain, only freedom and somewhere below her a man screamed.

She woke at the same time she had the night previously, feeling somewhat light and elated, a feeling she hadn't had since late childhood. The room was stuffy, confining in the evening heat and she opened it with some relief, however, something was different. She felt it. Happy, but still uneasy. Looking out the window, she realized that something was different. The window looked normal, the street was the same, the bird was still there, yet…had it been moved? Not just then of course, she had been tired and stressed yesterday when she thought it had stirred, but it wasn't in exactly the same place. A patch of less than dingy pavement appeared next to it, on the right hand side, as if the thing had been shifted. But, that couldn't have happened she told herself, the landlord was too damn cheap to suddenly decide to powerwash the ornamental statues. Also, it had to be secured with something damn it or it would just fall onto the street below. A weird sort of déjà vu feeling came over Clara and she pulled her gray dormshirt tightly around herself, slammed the window closed and went back to bed.

She was awakened the next morning by the stark ring of the phone. Kicking the blankets off of her bare legs, she reached over a pillow and grabbed the receiver.
"Hello?" she whispered in a 'I'm not quite awake so this better be important' sort of voice.
"Mrs. Darlene?"
"Yes?"
"This is Lieutenant Vawson from the city police department"
"Is something wrong?" Clare felt that uneasy feeling in the pit of her stomach again and sat upright in bed. "I'm sorry ma am", came the disembodied voice from the phone, "Your ex-husband was killed last night." Clara gasped and grabbed the phone tightly. "But how…what.."

"He was found under..er..somewhat strange circumstances", said the infuriatingly impassive voice. "It was dark, so we don't have witnesses. We were wondering if you could please come down and talk to us. Just a little question and answer since you seem to be the closest relative to him we could find."
"Yes of course I'll come", Clara replied with what she hoped was sadness in her voice. "But how did he die?" Betcha the stupid bastard had a heart attack, she thought to herself. But can you have a heart attack without a heart?

"It appeared to be an accident Mrs. Darlene, but no one is sure. Large piece of a building fell on him, on the street, as he was exiting a local bar. I know this must be hard on you maam."
Yeah. hard. Hallelujah. Shit.
Lieutenant whats-his-name was continuing to talk, but she couldn't seem to make sense of anything he was saying. Yes, of course she could stop by and talk, this afternoon would be fine. Identify the body? Yep she would. No, it was ok, she could stand to see him, she had a cast iron stomach. She hung up.

The bird had done his job. It had avenged her. Now it was time for her to take over, to be the new bird, and to help others who had suffered as she had.

She walked over to the window, not noticing the dirty crowbar leaning casually against the wall, not noticing that her fingernails were scratched and bleeding. Her arms were sore and tired but she didn't care.

She made her way to the window and sat on the sill to look at the bird. It nodded at her once only once, and she knew that her time had come. She stood on the edge of the window.

Clara spread her wings and took flight.



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Comments

The following comments are for "Heart of Stone"
by Cher

Deja Vu
I swear I've read this exact story before. I liked it, seemed eery. But I swear I've read it before.

( Posted by: Washer [Member] On: July 25, 2003 )

Deja vu
I wrote it in a half an horror when I was bored on a Wednesday night. It had been posted in the horror section but I moved it to short stories. I was looking for feedback, ratings and comments so I moved it to see if it would get more views. Any input is greatly appreciated!

( Posted by: Cher [Member] On: July 25, 2003 )

half a horror?
scuse me...should be half an hour. Brain dead me.

( Posted by: Cher [Member] On: July 25, 2003 )





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