Becca Morris stretched in the chaise lounge on the patio of the courtyard, her back to the main building. Five women in various states of dishevelment sat cross-legged in the middle of the grassy lawn, chins up, eyes closed with hands resting on their knees. They chanted in unison, following the instructor’s lead. She’d read about this; some sort of meditation class that promised to help them train their inner spirits and balance chakras or something like that. Whatever, she thought with an eye roll.
Her gaze traveled between the yoga group and the winged creature statues sitting atop the eight pillars surrounding the courtyard. An ominous feeling blanketed her spirit. She sensed that ethereal chants wouldn’t be enough to save her.
“Becca Morris,” the lady wearing a beige lab coat called out. “You have a visitor!”
Becca leaned to her left and craned her neck to see behind her. She couldn’t see the woman, but didn’t care to try harder. “Right here,” she called out, waving her hand. She returned to her monitoring of the courtyard. She could tell by the wafting scent of apple blossoms that her friend, Danielle, had just sat in the lounge chair next to her.
“So, how are you doing?”
She shrugged. “Other than the fact I don’t belong here, I guess I’m fine.”
Danielle clasped her hands. “You had quite an episode, I hear.”
“An episode.” Becca snorted. “Is that what they call it?”
Her friend leaned back in the chair and released an exaggerated exhale. “Why don’t you tell me what happened?”
Becca kept her attention fixed on the perimeter, surveying the winged stone guardians. “I saw them in my peripheral vision. They were taking over Mount Ord. I had to stop them.”
“The rocks moved up the mountain, so I pulled my car over and watched. That’s when I realized they weren’t just rocks; they were creatures with hump-backs, almost like turtles. Some of them walked on two legs, others on four–” Becca halted her words and jerked her head to the right. She squinted her eyes, barely breathing as she focused. “That one moved!” She pointed to the winged creature atop a pillar to her right.
Danielle followed Becca’s gaze and finger point. She didn’t detect any change. She looked back at her friend. “I don’t know what’s going on with you. They said you were arrested while tossing rocks off the mountain onto the highway.”
“They can’t congregate. They plan to take over the world.”
“You don’t think that sounds crazy?”
Becca’s gaze continued to rove from statue to statue. “They think so, which is why I’m here.”
“This is serious!” Danielle rubbed her forehead. “After your evaluation, they’re taking you to jail. Destruction of property, resisting arrest, assaulting an officer, and a bunch of other things I don’t remember.”
“Won’t matter. They’ll have taken over by then.”
“It’s gone,” Becca whispered.
Danielle lifted her chin to look at the pillars. She gasped when she noticed the pillar to their right was indeed empty – the winged creature no longer posed with wings lifted.
“Do you believe me now?”
“I-I don’t know what to think.”
Becca jumped from her chair, then lifted it over her head and hurled it to the ground. She kept smashing the chair until she was able to break off the longest support pole. She gripped it in her hands and ran across the courtyard.
“Where are you going?”
Becca didn’t answer. She swung the pole at the pillars and winged statues, sending shards of plaster raining down. Two men burst out of the building and tackled her. She fought back, but they managed to wrestle the pole from her and pin her to the ground.
“She’s had another episode. We’ll need to medicate her, so you should go,” the woman in the beige lab coat said with her hand on Danielle’s arm.
Danielle nodded and let the woman lead her through the double doors into the building. She glanced over her shoulder one more time and saw one of the men removing a syringe from her friend’s arm. Becca barely moved. The woman pulled Danielle’s elbow and ushered her toward the exit.
Becca’s eyes widened as two winged creatures circled above. In her mind, she pointed and screamed, but her arm remained limp and her voice couldn’t overcome the injection’s effects.
With powerful talons, four of the winged creatures grasped the shirts of the two doctors hovering over her and dragged them away. Groggy from the sedative, she couldn’t tell if the same creatures came for her, or if it was another set, but she felt the breeze on her back as she ascended.
*** *** ***
Becca’s eyelids fluttered open and then squeezed shut against the bright light. She reached her hands to cover her eyes, but they didn’t move. Restraints around her wrists dug into her skin. She flexed her leg muscles, but discovered her ankles were bound as well. Starting to panic, she tried to scream but only a timid moan escaped. As her eyes became accustomed to the light, she looked around her. Dozens of tables arranged in rows filled the room. A groan came from the table next to her. Becca strained to glimpse the person and their gazes locked. She gasped when she saw stone where skin should be. A perfectly chiseled face stared back at her, eyes unblinking. Frightened, she jerked her head to the left. Another stone face. She looked at her arms and grew numb with disbelief when she saw her skin marbled with stone.
A turtle-like stone figure moved down the row toward her. The steps clomped on the concrete floor and echoed in the cavernous room.
“Where am I?” Her words were unintelligible to her own ears.
The figure stopped and squeezed Becca’s leg then ran its stony limb along her forehead, making a scraping sound. Stone on stone, she thought. Panic rose in her chest.
The idea cut through her anxiety, and she realized it must have been a telepathically transmitted response to her question. “Why?”
Start with the heart
then conquer the mind;
when the body is stone
the time is right.
“What’s that mean?”
The stone figure continued down the row, checking each subject, leaving the question to evaporate, unanswered. The footsteps grew distant and then the double-doors closed with a jarring clang.
Becca’s thoughts stalled and her body grew rigid. The restraints around her wrists and ankles snapped and the table tilted, sliding her to her feet. As if in a trance, she shuffled toward the double-doors.
Thanks to Emilio Pasquale for providing the photo as inspiration for this story. If you haven’t checked out his photography blog, you should!
Inspiration: The photo was the obvious inspiration. I started two other stories, but grew bored with them early on. Finally, I came up with the story during a drive to Phoenix. I caught sight of a boulder on the side of a mountain, and at the angle, it almost looked like it was moving up the mountain. That’s when I got the idea to write a story about stone-like creatures taking over the world. I know my mind isn’t right, but let’s just go with it. okay? 🙂