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Stone sculptors aren't usually the ones to discuss patina. Normally, you see, the word refers to metal oxidation—the blue-green bloom that copper develops under the rain's hands, for instance. Applied to stone it’s naught but a metaphor: there’s no real word for the slow smear of lichen darkness over the faces of the library’s gargoyles.

It’s not as though they need one, after all. Stone weathers, ages, turns grey; it’s the way of things, and the ordinary way of things doesn’t merit special description. Words are made to fill gaps in our understanding, to communicate things odd enough to be worth saying.

Things, maybe, like the way the grey never touched certain bits of stone. The eyes of the lions outside the neglected side doors. The fingers of a leering grotesque atop a minor gable. One strand in the mane of something chimerical that perched over the fiction section’s windows.

There should have been a word for the way that time and soot fled those spots. One could almost swear they were whiter even than the day they were quarried on the night Jean Andrews vanished.

I could swear to it myself. I remember a few things: mostly the pallor of the stone, but also a few other flashes of white. A low blank wall — somewhere in Young Adult, I think — that should have been painted over last summer. The moon through a thick, distorting glass eye. Jean’s face twisting in the wind — just a glimpse, that one; she was on the middle gable by then.

I wish I could say more. Maybe they’d be able to find her. Maybe they’d be able to find me, or whatever it is that I lost that night on the library roof.

The lions know, I’m sure of it: one of their eyes is weathering now, graying into a slow eerie wink.

I think I’ll make a word for that. Someday.

If I can ever remember just how to speak.

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