• Vol. 10
  • Chapter 10

In the Early Hours

After a drive in the countryside, it took Graive eleven hours to coax her ancient, beloved car the forty-mile distance back to town.

It would have been quicker to walk, she thought and immediately regretted that her mind should form such a thankless comment.

‘Not your fault,’ she said aloud and patted the steering wheel. ‘You’re of mature years.’

Graive eased the vehicle into the town square and over the cobbles, but the engine stalled. Instinctively, Graive knew that the vehicle’s end had finally arrived.

She glanced at her watch: two-thirty in the morning. With no choice but to leave the car where it had expired, she stepped out and looked at the centre of the square. She intended to nod a greeting at the stylite who had spent an ascetic thirty-seven years living atop the pillar that stood there. Tonight, though, Graive frowned. The stylite had gone.

A noise came from the pillar’s far side. Graive hurried over and saw the stylite climbing down. He moved with extraordinary dexterity for a man who had sat cross-legged for almost four decades and whose muscles must have become very stiff.

The stylite reached the ground, stretched his muscles and marched away.

The situation made Graive anxious. The stylite had become a major tourist attraction and had helped to boost the town’s income. If he left, the


In the Early Hours

chamber of commerce would be upset. No doubt the business owners would demand to know how the mayor planned to remedy the matter; and Graive happened to be the mayor.

‘Excuse me,’ Graive called after the stylite. ‘What are you doing? Where are you going?’

‘I’ve had enough,’ the stylite said over his shoulder as he strode from the square and disappeared down an unlit street.

Graive shuffled to the steps of the town hall and sat down. Until now, her tenure as mayor had been plain sailing. But tonight, in the early hours, her car had died and the stylite had gone. Bewildered, she reached out a hand and rested it on a talon of the stone gargoyle that stood by the town hall’s entrance.

‘A crisis has arisen,’ she muttered to herself.

The gargoyle shook her hand from its talon.   

‘I have a solution,’ it said.

The sudden animation of this granite creature didn’t shock Graive. The events of the previous few minutes had left her so weary, she believed her imagination had gone haywire.

‘What solution?’ she asked impassively.


In the Early Hours

‘You’ll see,’ the gargoyle said.

It jogged to Graive’s revered car and took hold of the roof. It then flew to the top of the pillar and placed the car across the top.

‘You’ve a new tourist attraction,’ the gargoyle said when it returned to Graive. ‘An automotive sky burial.’

The potential of such a concept for the town’s financial well-being cheered Graive.

‘That could work,’ she said and gave the gargoyle an appraising stare. ‘And perhaps you … ’

‘Not a chance,’ the gargoyle interrupted and settled back into immobility.