by Taylor Longford
I backed away from the monstrosity. “What are you?” I croaked.
“Harpy,” it answered with a smirk, as if being a harpy was at least as good as the Miss World title.
Of course, I’d read about harpies although I’d avoided the last movie about them because the previews looked pretty awful. But they were mythical creatures that were supposed to be half-bird and half-woman. Yeah, I hated to be the one to tell her the combination wasn’t exactly working. At first glance, it appeared that the female ingredient had been left out altogether. She looked like a tall, ugly bald man wearing a black leather coatdress. Which might have worked except that her ankles belonged on a turkey. And those clawed feet were never gonna fit into a pair of heels. I hoped she didn’t have any peek-a-boo pumps lying around because that would just be really ugly.
“I thought harpies were supposed to be female,” I said without thinking.
I wasn’t trying to insult her but I managed to get the job done. Her fist lashed toward me and I only just managed to dodge it before it took off my head.
“Stop it!” I screamed, throwing up my arms and ducking a second blow that flashed my way.
She tried a few more punches on me before she gave up. “Fast,” she complained, pinning me with a dark glare.
“Yeah, well six years of elementary-school dodge ball will do that to a girl,” I muttered, backing away from her while keeping an eye on her mallet-like fists.
A menacing growl scraped from her chest as she gave me a shove toward the rusting rectangle of old metal in the side of the cliff. And grappling at the edges, she pried at it with her long, craggy fingers until it creaked open to reveal the dark tunnel of an abandoned mine. I shrank away from the gaping black hole, horrified at the prospect of being held prisoner in there.
As the mine door swung wider, a pale slice of starlight fell on a figure standing just inside the entrance. At first I thought someone was hiding in the shadows. Then I noticed the gray, ghostly color and thought maybe it was some kind of mummy or otherwise preserved dead body. I almost had a heart attack because I’ve never seen a corpse before. But it wasn’t a corpse; it turned out to be a statue. Of a really nice looking guy. Really nice. And for a minute, I almost forgot about the mess I was in as I tilted my head and studied it. It had wings, like the thing that had captured me. But the resemblance ended there. Because the stone sculpture was as beautiful as the monster was ugly.
My imagination started running wild again and I wondered if the flying slagheap was some sort of alien that was traveling around the universe collecting creatures from other planets and turning them to stone. That would explain the chain around the statue’s ankle and the pissed-off look on his face. He definitely looked annoyed about something, a scowl pulling his eyebrows down over his glowering gaze, his hard mouth drawn out in a flat line. His expression seemed to say, “This is SO not a good idea.” And I couldn’t help but wonder if I was facing the same fate as the good-looking winged guy from the other side of the galaxy.
I didn’t like that idea so I started searching my imagination for other explanations that would explain his presence, even though the statue didn’t look like anything that was created on this earth. It was too life-like. And no human artist could carve individual eyelashes from solid rock. It wasn’t possible! On the other hand, I was looking at a flying monster that was equally not-possible. So maybe the sculpture had been crafted by some ancient or exotic race, maybe on a distant planet. Or maybe somebody had a very expensive 3-D printer at their disposal.
My gaze locked on the statue’s beautiful face as I pointed a shaking finger at him. “Who is he? One of your ancestors?” I asked, even though I didn’t think they could be related—wings or no wings. There’s no way his perfect genes could have been twisted to produce the abomination hulking before my eyes.
“Mine,” the harpy answered in a harsh croak that sounded just like a vulture, if a vulture could talk. Her black eyes narrowed on him with possessive greed.
“Where’d he come from?” I asked, crossing my arms over my chest and trying to rub the chill from my shoulders.
The monster turned her wide leer on me. “Stole him,” she answered. “He’s mine.”
Okaaay then. He was hers. She’d made that pretty clear. I decided I’d better drop the subject. Moving on to the next topic, I asked, “What do you want with me?”
Her gaze shifted toward the handsome statue again. “Need girl. Need girl to wake the pretty boy.”
I sent a frown in the direction of the gray sculpture. Okay, so evidently harpies were lunatics. At least this one was, if she thought statues could come to life.
Two deep lines creased the monster’s forehead as her eyes narrowed on me. “Not sure.”
“Not sure about what?” I asked tentatively and took a step away from the mine’s gaping black portal while I was at it.
“Not sure girl is pretty enough,” she rasped like she was gargling stones.
She wasn’t the only one who had doubts. I had the same concern. I mean, I wasn’t bad looking. Maybe I was even cute in an upturned-piggy-nose, needs-to-lose-ten-pounds sort of way. But I wasn’t beautiful enough to bring solid stone to life. Now I just needed to convince her of that while trying to remain positive about the whole situation.
“Well, lets get started so I can get back to the library before it closes. What do I need to do? Sprinkle him with holy water? Fairy Dust? Or will a kiss wake him up?” I ran my tongue over my lips at the prospect of collecting a kiss from the statue. He was the epitome of male perfection. And that pouting, sulky mouth of his was so…hot. A kiss might even make this whole episode worthwhile…if it didn’t turn out to be a bizarre dream.
But the harpy wasn’t so keen on the whole kissing idea. Her head swiveled around sharply on her neck and she glared at me with a look of black malice. She actually looked jealous. If she was, it was the first time anybody had ever been jealous of me.
“What do you need me to do?” I asked, going for unthreatening body language and hoping to assure her I wasn’t going to steal her boyfriend.
A wicked light flashed in her beady black eyes. “Suffer,” she answered.