This story was written in the summer of 2011 and was shortlisted for The Somerset Short Story Contest and published in the contest anthology. The copyright belongs to me.
The Stone Angel
Many centuries ago, there lived a King who built a grand, beautiful castle. The walls were thick, the foundations were strong and the towers almost touched the sky. He could watch over the whole town from invasion and keep his family safe.
Everyone who saw it was in awe of the castle’s magnificence. Even so, after the last stone was laid, the King decided upon one final addition – a stone carving of an angel on the top of the castle chapel.
The King was insistent that the angel be carved with the finest detail. He envisioned long wings as elegant as a dove pointing towards the sky, arms outstretched in a welcoming gesture and a sword by it’s side to show that it was an angel of both compassion and protection. The sculptor did exactly as the King asked, forming every single feather with great precision.
When at last the statue was finished, the King had it placed on a tall pedestal on the chapel roof where it could be seen from all over the town and many of the surrounding fields, even if it was just as a dot on the horizon.
The King looked up at the fine creation, the masterpiece of a great artisan. It matched his vision perfectly and would be admired by all who looked upon it. However, he now had to make sure it served its intended purpose.
“Angel,” He said, “There is a reason I had the sculptor make you, and why I have put you on the roof of this chapel. Even as King, there are many things I cannot do for my people. So I ask of you, if anyone should pray to you and tell you their wishes, listen to them and take their prayers up towards heaven. Please, become a symbol of hope for everyone in my kingdom.”
The King silently prayed with all his heart, and that desire was strong enough that it gave life to the stone angel. All of the King’s love and kindness shaped the Angel’s soul.
It was a startling feeling for the Angel to be brought into existence so suddenly. He couldn’t move, but he could see the view all around him and the people of the town going about their day.
Down below, he saw the King and felt an immense love for the person who had given him his life. In return, the angel vowed to take on the burdens that the King couldn’t carry. If someone should wish for something with all their heart, just as the King had done, the angel would direct their prayer straight to heaven.
With each prayer, The Angel could feel the person’s fears or sorrows flowing up towards him and when their wish was granted, he felt their happiness and gratitude.
The long wings became a welcoming sight after a weary journey or a long day of hard work. Even in the strongest storms, the Angel was always there, diligently watching over the town. Over time, he became more than just a statue to the people, he was their faithful guardian. It became a tradition at the beginning of the day to look at the Angel and wish for luck and to thank him at sunset if the day had been fortunate.
He had never expected to be considered a friend to the people he helped. They were never aware of it, but they were making him happier than he thought he could ever be.
Time passed. The world changed. The King died, as did many others after him. People stopped praying to the Angel. He had no more wishes to grant.
Little by little, the castle emptied until it was abandoned and left to fall to ruin. The Angel could do nothing but look on with sorrow.
After a while, people came to try and restore the ruins. The Angel could see that they cared about the castle, but they could never recapture the majesty it once had.
People started coming to the castle as tourists, hearing fabricated history about what it might have been like. Some of them didn’t even care about being there. They scratched into the walls and threw things in the moat. No one knew of the Angel that carried prayers to heaven. All they saw was an old worn down piece of stone, and stone couldn’t grant wishes.
He wanted to weep, but he couldn’t shed tears. Day by day, year by year, he silently cried in his heart. He felt he had let down his beloved King. No longer could he be the symbol of hope that he had wished for.
On a hot summer day when the castle was filled with people, the Angel was looking on as usual without any interest. He had spent so long watching the world pass by that he could find no joy in it anymore.
But gradually, he realised that something wasn’t right. Something was very different than usual. Far below at the base of the chapel, a young girl was standing perfectly still, staring up at him. Not just a fleeting glimpse like most people, but a fixed, focused gaze. It reminded him of the way the King used to look at him, all those centuries ago. No one had looked at him like that for such a long time. This girl had no way of knowing that he was alive and staring back at her, yet it felt as if she could see straight into his soul.
In an instant, the gaze was severed as the Girl ran off to catch up with her mother. The Angel’s heart was broken all over again. Why had he fooled himself into thinking such ridiculous things?
The Girl caught up to her mother and tugged on her sleeve. “What is that up there?” She said, pointing at the statue.
“It’s a statue of an angel.” Her mother answered, with just a quick glance at the chapel roof.
From so high up, the Angel couldn’t hear what they were saying. He could do nothing but look on curiously.
“I know what it is. I mean why did they put it there?” The Girl said persistently.
“There’s nothing about it in the guide book.” Her mother replied.
“But they must have made it for a reason, or they wouldn’t have put him all the way up there.” The Girl said insistently.
“It’s probably not important. Now come along.” Her mother said firmly before moving on.
But the Girl stayed where she was, staring up at the Angel once again. If the Angel had a real heart, he knew it would have been pounding at that moment.
Something was overcoming him, a sensation from long ago. It took him a while to remember – It was the Girl’s feelings flowing up towards him. Her sadness and empathy that no one cared about him.
The Angel had believed he would never feel another person’s emotions ever again. It made him so wondrously happy, and so painfully guilty. He didn’t want this kind hearted young girl to feel sorrow on his behalf. Why should she worry herself so much over an old, forgotten statue?
But his doubts didn’t matter. He heard the wish in her heart, as clear and pure as the wish that had brought him into existence – “I want nothing more than for you to be happy.”
The pedestal that had stood firm for almost a thousand years broke in two. The Girl watched as and the Angel fell to the earth. With his wings outstretched against the golden rays of the sun, for a brief instance it looked like he was flying, and then he hit the ground, shattering into pieces.
The sound resonated across the whole castle. Within seconds a crowd had gathered around the pile of rubble by the Girl’s feet.
“Are you alright? What happened?” Her mother ran over frantically.
“It fell.” She answered, pointing upwards to the spot where the Angel had been.
“What could have caused it?” Somebody said.
“It’s very old,” another member of the crowd said, “I suppose it just finally wore out.”
“It’s a shame,” The Girl’s mother said, staring up at the roof, “without that lovely statue it actually looks rather empty.”
The incident was mentioned in the news and talked about throughout the town. By the next day it had been forgotten to make way for new worries. The Angel existed only in pictures now – Nothing more than a memory.
But before the broken fragments were cleared up, the Girl managed to slip a piece of what used to be the Angel’s wing into her pocket. She kept it always and whenever she touched it, it felt warm, as if it was still bathed in sunlight. She didn’t need to feel sad for the Angel anymore. Somehow she knew that this was his way of telling her that he had finally found his way to heaven.