Stone Gods in the Heart of the City

Winifred met me at the door, though I had arrived a full fifteen minutes early. She was clearly eager to begin, her enthusiasm for this evening’s adventure in antithesis of my trepidation. As planned, she had divorced herself of her dress and bustle, wearing instead her riding jodhpurs and one of her father’s coats. With her hair tucked beneath a wool cap, she looked a bit like her younger brother, Thomas.

“What took you so long?” Her hushed tones made it clear she didn’t want anyone inside to hear.

“We said we’d meet at 7:00. It’s barely a quarter ‘til.”

“Keep your voice down. I don’t want my father to know I’m going out.”

“You’re perfectly capable of making up your own mind.” Winifred’s mind was capable of a great many things. It was the thing that most attracted me to her, and she was a woman with many attractive qualities.

She pushed me out of the doorway and closed the door silently behind her with the delicate grace of a pickpocket. Grabbing my arm, she led me down the stone steps to the darkened street.

“What if it’s not there?” Her mind was already on the task ahead.

“What if it is?”

“Don’t tell me you’re still afraid, Marcus. I thought your scientific curiosity had overcome your superstitious nature.”

Winifred and I walked to Fifth Street before catching a hansom cab to the business district. From there, we would walk to the park where I had first seen the creature.

By the time the cab arrived in the business district, the gas lamps were lit against the growing dark. In the shadows of the alleyways and side streets, no one gave Winifred a second glance. Just to be certain, however, I avoided using her name.

“Are you sure you want to do this, W—Fred?”

“Most certainly.”

We made our way down the long walk to the footbridge at the edge of the park. Crossing over, we followed the cobblestone through the woods, our path lit only by light from gas lamps, the circles of each light barely touching the next. We walked like that—circle to circle—for the next several minutes until we were deep in the park. I could just make out the lights of the riverfront beyond the trees.

“Is this where you saw it?”

“Nearly.” I took Winifred’s hand and stepped off the path. Using the same shortcut through the trees that I had taken so often in the past, we emerged from the forest beside the very bench where I had sat on that fateful night.

“I was here, taking my evening walk home from work. I often come this way to watch the families in the evening or just to watch the lamplighters as they make their way through the park at dusk.”

Winifred huddled closer to me as she looked back and forth along the dark river. I could see no sign of the creature. It seemed safe, but neither of us moved to sit and relax on the bench.

“Where did you see it?”

“There, across the river. See those lights on the other side? At first, I thought perhaps some large carriage was moving past, blocking the lights. But the full moon passed from behind a cloud and the creature came into view. It must have been ten feet tall, judging by how easily it eclipsed the lamps. And then I saw others.”

“How many were there?”

“Only one I could see for certain. But the lights all up and down the river were dimming with each passing body. Now that I think of it, there must have been dozens.”

“I can’t imagine. It’s frightful!”

“Frightful, indeed. And when I saw the creature looking across the river, I thought it was looking right at me. No, more like it saw through me to my very soul.”

The creature had moved quickly, despite its stony appearance. When it turned in my direction, I had lost all manner of control. My voice gave rise to a high-pitched scream, and I very nearly let loose my bowels. Only the distance across the river saved me.

My first instinct had been to find sanctuary at the old stone church on Front Street to keep the demon at bay. Fleeing in desperation, I passed Winifred on her way to the library. I told her my story and asked her to follow me to a nearby chapel. She diverted me, however, insisting I attend a lecture with her. Fancying that there would be safety in greater numbers, I joined her for an evening of scientific inquiry. Afterward, she introduced me to the lecturer, a professor at the university, who was keen to hear my account of the creature.

After I recounted my experience, he accepted the veracity of my story. Though he offered no explanation for the stone creature, the professor was a well-traveled man. He had encountered many foreign animals and curiosities for which he had no name or reason.

The professor wanted to leave at once to see the stone creature, but the lateness of the hour and a foul turn of the weather forced us to conspire to meet at a later date.

A month later, before we could contact the professor again, we discovered he had met with unfortunate consequences. Authorities found his body bludgeoned in the very park where Winifred and I now stood.

Winifred stepped toward the river, releasing her grip on me. She gazed carefully all along the bank, as if inspecting every rock and tree for signs of the professor’s demise.

“I don’t see anything now.”

“Nor do I, W—Fred. It’s too dark, and there’s no moon. If not for the lights, I couldn’t see ten feet in this darkness. But you do believe me, don’t you?”

“I believe you saw something, Marcus. And I believe the professor met with his death nearby along this river.”

More’s the pity, as the professor was likely the only one who could have helped me figure out what I saw.

Winifred wrapped her arms around her body as a cold wind blew from the east. The temperature had dropped by several degrees since we began our journey.

“I don’t think we’re going to find any clues tonight,” she said. “We must be missing something.”

“Perhaps we should call it a night.” I wrapped my arm around her and led her along the river, back toward the city.


A week went by. Winifred refused to see me. I called on her at her home after work each evening, but her father had the maid send me away. Winifred wasn’t feeling well. Winifred was busy in the sewing room. Winifred was out with friends. I had a feeling that her father knew less about his daughter’s whereabouts than I did.

I had nearly given up on her when she met me outside my office as we closed up for the night. I stepped onto the sidewalk and nearly collided with young Winifred, dressed once more like a boy—coat, cap, and all.

“Marcus! I think I’ve figured it out!” She fell into step beside me as I hastened to get as far away from the eyes of my fellow employees as possible.

“What did you find, Fred?”

“I knew we were missing something. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I knew there was a connection between the night you saw those creatures and the night of the professor’s disappearance.”

I stopped in my tracks, surprised that there was any connection at all. I ran the events through my head, trying to find some common thread between the two nights, but nothing came to mind.

“A connection? Other than the fact that they both happened under the cover of darkness, I can think of no common thread between them.”

“But you must remember. You’re the one who told me.”

“I did?”

“The moon, Marcus. You said there was a full moon. I checked with the newspaper. There was a full moon the night of the professor’s disappearance as well.”

“Could that be it?”

“Possibly. And do you know what tonight is?”

“Another full moon?”

“Very good. Full marks for Marcus. Go to the head of the class.”


For some reason, I felt no fear as we walked through the crowded streets toward the park. The air was unseasonably cold, and I thought perhaps the change in the weather might mean the stone creatures would be gone. As if they were migratory birds or hibernating bears.

We walked past the university’s massive library. I read the Latin words Scientia est potentia carved in stone over the doorway, taking comfort in the idea that knowledge was power. The warm yellow light from within seemed to call to me, but Winifred would not be deterred.

Winifred kept a brisk pace as we made our way eastward through the heart of the city. Though she gave no explanation for her demeanor, she practically skipped along the street. Her enthusiasm, however unwarranted, was infectious. I found myself giddy with excitement, knowing that tonight might be the night we put this mystery to rest.

We walked across the footbridge to the park, following once more the path through the darkened trees. The lamplighters had already come this way, and the familiar glow of the gaslight beckoned us onward.

After several minutes, we met with a young man running in our direction. He slipped on the cobblestone and landed headlong at our feet. Instead of taking stock of his injuries, however, he scrambled to right himself.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, grabbing the man’s arm, and helping him to stand.

He broke free of my grasp and without a word set off apace, as if the hounds of Hell were nipping at the man’s heels.

For the first time since we left the city streets, I felt utterly alone. The trees of the park no longer swayed above us in the cool night air. Everything seemed to stand still, as if waiting for the next moment.

“We should go.”

In my mind, I recalled the horrible visage of the stone creature I had seen across the river. If we continued to the riverbank, would we see it there? Or had it crossed to this side of the river, waiting somewhere beyond the woods?

Winifred grabbed my hand. I half expected her to pull me on into the darkness on some fool-hearty adventure, but she remained fixed, rooted to the path on which we stood, bathed in the glow of a gas lamp.

As I took notice of the lamp by our side, it occurred to me that I could see but a few lamps ahead on the path. Hadn’t there been more of them a moment ago? Perhaps it was a mere trick of the landscape, the path winding beyond a hill where the next lamp lay hidden.

The farthest lamp went dark.

A moment later, another.

Then another.

Winifred’s grip on my hand tightened. Then the lamp above us blew out, though not a breath of wind stirred through the trees. Darkness surrounded us and my beloved let out a scream of sheer terror.

Even the full moon hid behind the clouds, unwilling to witness our fate. Tightening my grip on her hand, I took a tentative step backward. The sound of my shoes scrapping on the cobblestone path seemed like a clarion to my ears. I wondered for a moment if we might be better treading through the grassy woods, but without a path to guide us we might never find our way.

Before I could turn to run, I caught sight of the glowing red eyes I had seen across the river. The stone gods had found a way across and were now in the heart of the city.

The full moon, which mere moments ago had left us plunged in darkness, took that opportunity to come from behind the clouds and illuminate our horrible tableau. Winifred, still rooted to the path beside me, let go of my hand to cover her mouth as she stifled another scream.

The stone creature emerged from the trees, its towering body taller than the gaslights that now stood useless along the path. With each step it took, the ground shook beneath its weight, for the behemoth was nearly as wide as it was tall. Its impossibly large arms and legs of stone made scraping and grinding sounds with each movement. Its massive chest—made of the same impossible stone—rose and fell with each heavy breath. The creature bent over slowly, peering into our faces. Its head, a dark black brick of coal, held large red eyes that stared unblinking at us.

I stood perfectly still, frightened beyond all reasonable thought. Had I eaten supper already, I most certainly would have vomited it up right then.

The creature opened its mouth, and from within it I felt the heat of a furnace, as if the fires of Hell powered this creature like a stone locomotive. The smell that hit me, however, was not one of sulfur, but the smell of earth, clay, and stone.

//where have the small ones gone//

The words, if they were words, had not been spoken or heard. They had simply appeared within my mind, and—judging by her reaction—Winifred’s as well.

“I don’t understand. What small ones? I have seen no creatures but you.”

“Do you mean children?” asked Winifred.

I turned to look at her, as did the stone giant before us. By the look of sheer terror on her face, I think she wished she had remained quiet.

//small ones children younglings//

“You have children? Were they here? In this place?”

//not here//over water//waiting as we slept//

“Waited? They were awake as you slept?”

//not awake not asleep waiting//

“I don’t know where they went. We have been here for centuries. We have never met creatures like you before.”


“Hundreds of years,” I said, trying to explain the concept of how much time had passed. “Rotations around the sun.”

“Moons,” offered Winifred. “The full moon has come and gone thousands of times.”


“Truly. And our people have lived on this land all this time. We built our homes here. We did not know you slept nearby.”

//we are awake//

A chill raced down my spine at the implications of that statement. What would the stone creatures do to us now that they were awake?

//the small ones wait//

“Not here, I’m afraid,” said Winifred, her voice conveying a sense of sympathy for this creature’s loss. “Perhaps they moved to another place.”


The single word shook my brain with the force of its message. I reeled on my feet, and poor Winifred fell to the ground. I knelt down, cradling her in my arms.

The stone creature pounded its fists on either side of us, sending fragments of cobblestone flying in all directions. Rock and dirt and grass hit, even as the ground shook beneath us. I thought for certain the stone creature would kill us with the next swing of its arms.

Then, the giant raised its head. Its mouth opened and emitted a deafening sound. It was neither speech nor song, nor the howl of an animal. If I had to describe it, I would say it was the sound of two massive stones crashing together, shattering into a thousand pieces.

For a moment, all was quiet. Winifred and I lay huddled on the ground, and I prayed that the giant stone god would ignore the insignificant flesh at its feet.

Then, from the distance, I heard an echo of the sound the stone creature had made. This one much smaller, much more faint. Unlike his deafening bark, which stilled after a moment, these cries in the distance came and went. They came from the east, near the port on the river. They came from the north, where our factories stood. But the loudest cries came from the west, the heart of the city, where we built our homes, our businesses, our churches, and our graves.

//small ones cry in pain//




The sound in the distance continued to grow, the weeping of forgotten souls.

//we are coming small ones//

The stone god raised its arms to the sky, its hands reaching toward the moon. Across the city, one by one, the stones awakened.

Kevin Wohler is a copywriter and novelist living in Lawrence, Kansas. During the day, he works at a digital marketing agency in the Kansas City area. When time remains, he likes to tell stories of the weird and bizarre. And sometimes, he writes them down for others to read.

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