It's not easy being a middle child, especially once that is not particularly remarkable. My older brother, Jared, is the super-jock: master of the football field, basketball court, and baseball diamond. My little brother, Kevin, is the smart one: at four he dug little irrigation canals in mom's garden to water the plants more efficiently, and at 6 built a treadmill powered mech for our hamster using my K'nex.
Then there's me. I don’t have the highest intelligence, or any great particular athletic ability. What I do have is some anger control issues. While this does get me some attention, it is not the good types of attention that my brothers get.
To combat my anger, I turned to art. I’m not bad either. I can draw and paint a little, but what I really like is stone carving. I would channel all my rage into my sculptures, which resulted in some pretty grotesque little goblins, trolls, and gargoyles.
Of course a small stone monster is not a touchdown or a science award, so it did pretty much make me invisible to my parents while making me a freak in the eyes of my peers.
My room was full of small sculptures, but I wanted to step up and do something big. I saved up birthday and Christmas money to get myself a big block of Carrara Arabescato; this awesome marble with yellow and brown veins running through it. It was a good six feet tall when it showed up; almost as tall as dad.
I wanted to work on this, my masterpiece, in the house, but mom said, “I don't think the floors can handle that, Daryl, and anyway, I don't want all that dust getting all over everything. What if some of it got sucked into Kevin's computer? It might ruin it!'
Okay then, I thought, I can do this in the garage.
“No way,” Dad said, “Jared needs that space for his weights.”
“He doesn't need the whole garage,” I protested, admittedly with a bit of angry whine in my voice, “I just need a corner to set up my tools, and to keep the stone safe and protected.”
“I said no; Jared doesn't need to be getting that crap in his lungs while he is trying to get in shape for the big homecoming game.”
I ended up setting up an old camping tent in the backyard. It was hardly ideal, but at least it was somewhat out of the weather as long as the duct tape patching the holes didn’t fall off. I was able to get dad and Jared to help me get my stone set up on the sandbags, but only because they wanted it out of the garage, and I managed to convince dad that it would be a good workout for Jared.
It was a good workout for all of us.
I set to work on it. For the next four months, all through the winter, I was out in that tent working on that stone; trying to release the creature hidden inside it while channeling out the anger that was inside of me. If I was not at school, doing chores, homework, asleep, or eating meals I was in that poorly ventilated tent working.
On the weekends I would be out there from dawn until dusk, and once Kevin asked me why I didn't put a light out there, I started to work into the night until I couldn’t hold a chisel or riffler anymore. Kevin and Jared had friends and activities, but I had my creation to talk to. I started calling it Rufaniel; the name just felt right.
Dad bitched when I got mom to make him help me put tarps up over the tent to keep rain from leaking through. It kept my tools dry, but it also trapped more marble dust in with me. Thank goodness for breathing masks.
As the time passed, Rufaniel began to take shape. It had long teeth and longer claws, and even half done, it was clear that it would be my best work ever. I took my time on it because I did not want to screw it up, but at times it felt like I could not have screwed up if I wanted to. It truly felt as though I were not carving this monster, but freeing its form from the stone.
Then strange things started happening. I would get up in the morning to find that the tent flap was open, and stuff would be moved around. Nothing was ever missing, but my tools would be moved, or Rufaniel would have shifted on the sandbags it was sitting on. I was furious about this, and demanded to know who was messing with my work. I pointed out that I never disturbed Jared’s sports equipment, or Kevin’s various projects, and I expected to be given the same respect.
Of course everyone said it wasn’t them. I kept yelling, and got grounded for two weeks.
During the time that I was not allowed to work on Rufaniel, I would hear noises at night. They would start when everyone went to bed, or if I was home alone, they would start around dusk; as soon as the sun went down. I would look outside, but there was never anyone there by the time I got to the window.
Someone was trying to screw with my statue; I was sure of it. Once I got down to sanding and polishing, it got worse. Whoever it was wasn’t stupid though. If I was working in the tent after dark they would stay away. The only time I would hear anything other than Missus McNulty from across the street’s constantly yapping dog or passing cars was when mom would tell me to stop working.
Frankly I was amazed they actually noticed that I was there at all. I don’t know if it was an improvement though.
Then the whole neighbourhood took notice. We had gone to grandpa’s for the weekend, so I wasn’t able to work on Rufaniel at all that weekend. When we got home on Sunday night, I went out to the tent to find the flap sitting open again.
Nothing was missing, but someone had killed Missus McNulty ‘s dog, and placed the body in Rufaniel’s claws, and spread blood on its fangs. Of course people tried to say I did it since I’m the weird, arty kid with temper-control issues. My parents stuck of for me though; they said that I wasn’t even in town the whole weekend, so I couldn’t have done it.
The looks they gave me said they weren’t quite sure of that though.
Some of the neighbours wanted the statue gone; they said it was creepy. I argued that it was supposed to be. I was worried that mom and dad would agree with them, and I was so close to being done too. I was trying to figure out a way to move Rufaniel myself, but I might as well have tried to figure out how to learn to levitate. Even with so much of the stone’s original mass carved, chiseled, filed, and sanded away it still weighed well more than I did.
Mom and Dad surprised me again though. They told the neighbours no. I know they didn’t want my creation around anymore than anyone else, especially with the dog’s blood having stained the unsealed stone, but they let me keep it; let me keep working. Maybe they were actually starting to respect my abilities.
That was the only time that I found a body with Rufaniel, but there were three more times I found his with blood on its claws and teeth. I cleaned it as best I could each time, and hope no one noticed that the stains in the marble were larger than before.
Of course things spilled over into school. Manny Spanner, this douchebag who’s on the football team with Jared, ambushed me after school.
He punched me in the face, “Dog killer,” he called me as I fell to the ground. He then kicked me a few times and spit on me.
I had to tell my parents I got the black eye from a baseball on the way home. Telling them I got beat up because of Rufaniel it might have made them make me get rid of it. They either believed me, or weren’t interested enough to question.
As usual I vented about the incident to Rufaniel, who just sat there as I ran the sandpaper over its cold, stone flesh, trying to achieve perfection. I talked about how Manny had bullied me before to, and what I’d like to do to the jerk if I had the chance. Statues are very good listeners.
School was canceled the next day. Somehow Manny Spanner had been impaled on the flag pole during the night. Word was that he had somehow climbed up onto the roof, and jumped off. It quickly became apparent to me that something different happened.
I wasn’t sad that Manny was dead; he was a dick, so I was going to use this free day off to work on Rufaniel. I was just on to the polishing now, and soon he would be perfect, or at least as perfect as he was ever going to be.
Mom and Dad were at work, Kevin was at his school, and Jared had gone off with some of his football friends to mourn Manny in whatever way jocks do: I had the house to myself. I tossed my backpack on the couch, and ran to the backyard.
The tent door had been closed in that morning, so I hadn’t gone out to check on it, and my jaw dropped when I opened it up. Rufaniel sat there in the middle of the tent as always, but he seemed to be positioned a little differently. Oh, and the claws were coated in blood again.
Fury boiled up inside me. I still hadn’t sealed the statue yet, and this was the most blood yet. Could I convince mom and dad that this was all from the dog? Who was doing this? Why? Was it a warning or just someone being a douchebag?
I cleaned Rufaniel again; at least they had not put the blood on its mouth this time. Then I ran the rags through the wash so that I could put them back in with dad’s shop rags.
I stayed with Rufaniel the rest of the day, polishing its skin until it shined like a mirror. As I polished my creation I could feel my anger flowing out of me; it was like air flowing out of a tire with a small puncture.
Dad came out when he got home to see if I was okay. The school had apparently called parents to let them know that school had been canceled for the day, but I guess I was not important enough to check on. I’m sure they got a hold of Jared to make sure he was okay though.
I told him I was fine, and then I told him that Rufaniel was finished save for sealing. He didn’t much care.
In fact no one cared that this statue that I had spent months carving and shaping was at the last stage of creation.
“I finished polishing Rufaniel today; I just need to seal it now,” I said at dinner. It was dusk, and we were having dinner early since mom stopped off for pizza on her way home so that they could take Jared to the candlelight vigil for Manny later that night.
“What, dear?” Mom asked as she cut at her slice of pizza with a knife and fork, “is that a book you were reading?”
“What? No! My statue; the sculpture I’ve been working on all winter.”
“Oh, that’s nice.”
That was the end of that. Discussion moved over to how Jared was handling his teammate’s death, and whether or not Kevin was upset by it at all (he wasn’t, people like Manny were even bigger dicks to people like Kevin than they were to me).
I got yelled at for not wanting to go to the candlelight vigil, and then when I said that Manny had been an asshole and I couldn’t care less that he was dead, I got grounded again. At least I got to stay home.
Mom and Dad forbid me from working on Rufaniel, but screw them. As soon as they were gone, I went out and started cleaning up my tools. After all this time, it was finally time to put this all away. I still had no idea what to do with the marble statue of a crouching, wingless gargoyle-looking monster though.
“I hate them,” I raged as I packed my tools into the storage bin I keep them in when I’m not using them, “No one even cares about you, Rufaniel; they’re not even interested. If Kevin made you, I bet they’d love you!”
Rufaniel continued to sit there as I moved around him, watching me with his sightless eyes.
“The only person that’s even interested is whatever sicko keeps putting blood on you. I mean, it just pisses me off, you know? I wish they were all dead!”
Then I heard it, the noise I kept hearing outside my bedroom at night. It wasn’t scratching at all, but the sound of stone sliding against stone.
I turn to see Rufaniel, but he was no longer crouching. Instead the stone creature stood at his full height; his head pushed against the top of the tent.
I staggered back, soaking my shorts with the soda I had drunk at dinner. I hit the tent wall, lost my balance, and slid to the dusty floor.
“You have freed me,” Rufaniel said in a voice that sounded cold and dark, “so I shall do your bidding.”
I was too terrified to do anything, so I sat there in my pissy pants while my monster clumsily struggled to open the tent door, being careful not to rip the fabric of the tent with his claws, and then disappeared into the night.
It wasn’t long before the sirens started….