In an effort to bring a more creative streak to the blog, I've decided to, every once in a while, post flash-fiction pieces/short stories. I've asked my husband, a budding photographer who's blog can be seen here, to take a photo to accompany said story. Sometimes the photo will be inspired by the story (as it was today) and sometimes just the opposite shall occur. So sit back, relax and enjoy!
Something lurked in the garden.
My parents didn’t believe us. None of the adults did. Mom was too busy with her book clubs and tea parties and Dad was never even home to hear about it. Only Jeremy and I ever went behind the house.
The garden came with the house. I remember walking through the rooms. They were empty. The bare wood of the floor reflecting sunbeams and dust motes. The realtor’s voice echoed against the freshly painted walls as she showed Mom and Dad the original moldings from the 1700’s. The house felt big to me. Too big. There was so much space you could get lost in it.
But behind the house—that was even stranger. It was a wilderness within the city—held back only by the stone walls surrounding it. I remember thinking how it was very green. We didn’t walk back there during the viewing. The realtor only paused by the bay windows and pointed beyond their warped glass.
“And here we have what was once an English garden. It covers about half an acre and is included in the price of the house.” She smiled, but her words were stiff from rote memorization.
Mom and Dad nodded. They didn’t even give the garden a second look.
When we first moved in the house was a chaos of boxes and displaced furniture. Mom made us go play outside. The fresh air would do us good, she said after she took away my Xbox controller, run around and explore like normal boys.
It was a hot day, even in the shade of the garden. I could see the sweat sprouting beneath Jeremy’s bangs. I felt its salty stick on my own skin.
“How long you think it’s been like this?” my brother asked as he swatted a vine away from his face.
If I’d been a few years younger I would have pretended we were lost in the Amazon rainforest. Instead I was fifteen, bored and disgruntled. I reached out and shredded some leaves off of a nearby bush.
“Who cares?” The handful of leaves became emerald confetti as I tossed it in the air for entertainment.
We walked because we had nothing else to do. Mom had forbade us to return to the house until lunch. We had two hours to kill. Jeremy and I started hacking through the tangles of branches and leaves. Occasionally we found relics of the garden’s past. A rusty sundial. The 19th century version of a garden gnome. A fountain with water still sitting in its basin.
I kept expecting to run into the wall. Yet each tear of branches gave way to another bush. The house had long disappeared from our view. Only wild brambles of roses long untended rose up around us.
“We should go back,” I told Jeremy after an hour.
He agreed with a wordless nod. I could tell by the look on his face that he found the situation just as odd as me. Yet to say anything about it seemed silly.
We backtracked our trail of destroyed vegetation. Dismembered branches snapped and cracked under the weight of our steps. We kept silent as we walked. Our strides grew longer and quicker.
But the house didn’t reappear.
It was as though the garden had become a maze, swallowing us and locking us into itself. No matter how far we walked, or where we turned, our parents’ new mansion didn’t emerge.
“What the hell is going on?” At thirteen, Jeremy was just starting to flex his potty-mouth outside our parents’ presence.
“This is weird,” I muttered. “I thought this was only half an acre.”
“I mean, you can see the whole garden from the street! This makes no sense—“ Jeremy turned to face me and his sentence stopped short. His face grew as pale as an unmarked sheet. His eyes widened and his mouth dropped open.
His scream shook the garden. It rattled my chest and caused me to freeze. I couldn’t move. I could only stand and stare at him.
When the sound of his terror died, I finally turned. There was nothing there. Only the still, broken forms of old rose bushes. Signs of our trail. I looked back, only to find that Jeremy had run.
I dashed after him. Fear had exploded in my heart as suddenly and devastatingly as a nuclear weapon. If something had terrified my brother that bad, it was worth being scared of. Jeremy was always a few steps ahead of me. We ran for what seemed like miles. My face started to throb from the lashing of passing thorn bushes. My breath grew heavy.
When the house finally came into sight, I couldn’t really believe it. Jeremy was already up the steps and half collapsed on the old wooden porch. His face was even whiter than before and he was shaking. He jerked back when I approached, his eyes as wild and wheeling as a hunted deer’s.
“What’s wrong, Jeremy? What did you see?” I crouched down and reached toward him.
He shook his head quickly and scrambled toward the door. By the time I stood up to follow him he was already gone. Disappeared up the stairs to his room.
He never spoke of the garden or what he saw there. His bedroom window always had a blind and he never set foot behind the house again.I didn’t go in the garden either—but I still watched from the window. Sometimes at night, I saw things. Shadows. Forms of people and creatures that weren’t supposed to be there. I never got a good look at them, but a sickness would always steal my stomach at the sightings. Their dark shapes always grow very still once they realize I’m watching. I know, somehow, that they’re there waiting. Waiting for us to go back into the garden, to return into their strange, eerie world of green.
|photo courtesy of david strauss c2010|