The Gated Gardens

This piece of creative writing is for the purposes of the Sunday Scrawl prompt challenge, the competition that I run on a weekly basis. I’m a little later at answering the prompt this week as I have just moved into a new flat, so I apologise if I have been late responding to comments etc. Thank you to everyone who has taken part so far, and I hope you enjoy my story!


Individual droplets of dew collect together on the leaves, clinging onto each other as their bodies stretch out, their reach elongating, until finally they snap. The water cascades to the floor, showering my hand as I hold it out, brushing past the leaves as I walk, slowly towards the familiar, black gate.13827185_303455753342581_2017557188_n.jpg

I hadn’t had any intention of returning to this place, but I’ve walked this path so many times that I now can’t seem to avoid it. My legs carry me here as if possessed by some higher power. I can’t resist it, and I don’t see why I should.

I stare hard at the gate, taking in its elaborate patterns and thick, bolted entrance. It’s the only way out. I’m certain of that; I’ve explored every inch of the gardens, traversed each of its many acres, in search of an escape. The perimeters of my prison are guarded by thick, impenetrable bushes that circle all the way around the manor, lowering only at this singular, haunting gate: my only exit, sealed with a bolt and key from the outside.

My feet take me right up to the gate, stopping only so I can reach a hand through the bars, scrabbling only half-heartedly at the lock. It will not open. It may never open; for twenty-three years, I have existed within my prison, speaking only to my fellow inmates. Why should that ever change? This isn’t just my prison; it’s my entire existence.

When I was child, I hadn’t minded the prison, because I’d thought that that’s all there was. I didn’t know that there was an outside, so I had no desire to reach it. I’d lasted most of my life in this happy state of ignorance, and all that while, from the gardeners, to the nurses and handmaids, no one had thought to tell me that there was more. Perhaps each of them hadn’t wanted to be the one to ruin it for me. That had been until my sixteenth birthday. It had been my first birthday alone, my mother having died in early September. I hadn’t wanted to talk to the servants. I hadn’t wanted to talk to anyone, so I’d run. I’d run all the way out here, to the strange, tantalizing gate. I’d seen the break in the hedges and looked beyond, to the trees and the flowers that I couldn’t quite reach.

I’d asked since, of course. I’d asked everyone I happened to run into, and then I’d discovered the truth. It had been too late by then, though. The only person who really mattered had already left me, which meant that I couldn’t ask her.

I couldn’t ask her why she’d done it.

IMG_1163.JPGWe’re all women here; I’m told it’s to stop the endless cycle of betrayal. That’s what one of the nurses told me, anyway. They don’t want more children growing up in here, which means that I’m the last one. Before long, all the servants will have left me; the youngest one left is fifty-eight, which, in my mind, can only mean one thing. Before long, I’ll be the solitude prisoner of this infernal, hated prison cell. Because it might look pretty and provide me with enough space to run around for days at a time, but it’s not enough. It’s still a prison, and I’m still alone.

I sink slowly to the cobbled ground, my legs crossing automatically as my head falls into my hands and I begin to sob furiously. I don’t want to do it anymore. I don’t want to have to think about my cold, lonely future. I don’t want to have to think about roaming around that manor all by myself. I don’t want to have to think about how many days I will sit here, staring hard at the immovable, impossible gate. I look up, angry tears still falling from my eyes.

Then I freeze.

Something that has never, during my entire existence, happened before, just has. I’ve seen a child.

I blink hard, standing instantly and rushing manically over to my bars, mouth slightly agog. The boy stumbles a few paces back, apparently alarmed. He’s clutching a small, stuffed rabbit around his chest, which he drops as he scuttles away. Then he looks down at it, apparently conflicted.Rabbit2.jpg

“What’s your name?” I ask greedily. I know I should move back so the boy can grab his rabbit, but, if I do, he might leave me. “My name’s Alika.” The boy doesn’t move. His eyes are still fixed on the rabbit, every muscle frozen, as if every portion of him is occupied in his own internal war. If he moves forward, he can get his rabbit, but then again, if he moves, the strange, wild woman might attack him.

I sigh, stepping away from the gate slightly.

His eyes are fixed on me as he creeps forwards, bent low as if he thinks it will make it harder for me to see him. I don’t say anything else. I don’t see the point.

In a sudden move, he rushes to the rabbit, yanks it up by the ear, and races off in the opposite direction, without sparing another glance for the wild woman behind the gate.

I lean heavily against my cell door, regret pounding through my veins. I should have kept him with me. I could have at least looked at him a little more, taking in his tiny little features and smooth, innocent face. It was one thing to see a child, but a male – well that was something as equally as foreign to me. I rattle my cage, and, on the strangest of impulses, begin to shout.

“Please! Please, help me! I’m trapped in here and I can’t get out! Anyone… you have to help me!” My voice begins to break, and I mutter, in a barely audible whisper, “I don’t want to do this anymore.”

They’re a funny thing, wishes. In the days of my childhood, I would waste them on frivolous things, such as wishing for the agility needed to climb the highest tree, or wishing to be able to run as fast as the rabbit that just alluded me. I’d never wished for an escape, though. It’s as if a part of me already accepted my fate. Why try to fight the inevitable?

So, I didn’t wish for an escape, even as I beat my head against the hard metal of the gate. I didn’t wish for anyone to help me as I felt the blood begin to trickle down my forehead, but it didn’t matter. My unasked wish was answered, nevertheless. I hadn’t really thought about what the boy had been doing in this forest, all alone. If I had, I might have yelled a little louder.

His parents found me a few minutes later. I’d almost knocked myself out by then, but I was still alive. The father drove off to find something called wire cutters. I didn’t know what they were; they didn’t exist in my world. Then – well, it was so easy – then I was outside and being lead to a strange, unfamiliar box with wheels attached. I screamed in alarm, as well as amazement, as the box began to move. I wasn’t really scared, though. There could be nothing scarier out in the real world, than there already had been in that prison. I didn’t care what wild beasts I would face out here, because I wasn’t alone anymore.

There are people – so many people – now. They are busy and colourful and blessedly unfamiliar. I don’t know them. I can walk up to them and introduce myself. The best thing, though, the best thing of all about being free, is that I don’t have to think about those things anymore. I don’t have to hate my mother for betraying her royal husband, and I don’t have to worry about being alone. Out here, I will never be. There’s too much life.

A Snowy Encounter

Here’s my attempt at the Sunday Scrawl prompt challenge, which I recently begun myself; it will run from Sunday on a weekly basis. If you want to know more about this challenge, feel free to check out the page here.


The light sprinkling of snow that had settled over Bridgewater that morning crunched under my feet as I walked. It was strangely satisfying to hear the crisp snapping sound accompanying my every step, almost as though there was some strange echo following me along the pavement.

I was ju11272892_847812051963254_1840294869_nst in the process of asking myself why I found the noise so comforting, when others may have thought it unnerving, or, at the very least, irritating, when a shout made me look up. My path ran parallel to the railway; a temporary clearing of trees allowed me to stare right down at the tracks, from where they disappeared under a long bridge. At first, I couldn’t work out where the sound could have come from, but then I noticed, scampering down from the far bank, a pair of scruffy looking boys. They skidded onto the railway, and, taking deliberate care not to touch the tracks, ducked under the bridge and pressed their backs against its wall. The taller of the two held his hand out across the other’s chest, his finger on his lips.

Astonished, I paused to watch the scene, wondering fleetingly whether I should call the police or not; the boys were clearly off limits, and could cause a serious accident down there. My phone was actually in my hands, the first nine dialled, when another, more high-pitched, shout made me look up again. A smartly-dressed woman was now approaching the top of the bridge, her crimson coat wrapped tightly around her and her fluffy black scarf shielding her from the wind. She stopped at the top of the bank where the boys had slipped down, eyeing the route suspiciously. Daintily, she placed one, heeled foot on the muddy bank, as if she was considering descending to the tracks. Then, she straightened up again and looked across the bridge, moving away from the bank to scurry across.

I eyed the boys curiously, watching as their eyes flew skyward when the woman crossed; evidently, the sound reverberated all around the tunnel. Then, a few seconds later, the taller, scruffier of the two, dragged his accomplice back out of the tunnel and helped him up the far bank. Then, without a backwards glance, they scurried off into the distance, moving as fast as their grubby, little legs could carry them. I watched the railway for a few seconds more, then, sighing, turned towards home. My feet were frozen lumps of meat in my shoes by now, and I was quite ready to get back to my bed, but my progress was impeded, however, by the figure who now stood right in front of me.

I was now facing the woman in the red coat, who’s path had evidently cut into mine from ahead.

“Hello,” she said unsmilingly. “What were you looking at?” It wasn’t really a question, more a demand. I attempted a cautious smile, but, still, she did not return it. I swallowed, biding for time; this woman had clearly been looking for those boys, but for what purpose, I couldn’t decide. She could be their mother, I supposed, yet their shabby, torn clothing and muddy faces didn’t quite relate to her immaculate visage in my mind.

“Are you not from around here?” I asked, finally coming to a decision. “We don’t get much snow. It’s so lovely to see.” I laughed, trying to scoot around the woman, but she blocked me.

11287922_1630813043872475_1208774922_n.jpg“You didn’t, perchance,” she continued, crossing her arms accusatorily, “happen to see two young vagabonds down there, did you? They seem to have gotten away from me.” I couldn’t help but notice the note of disgust in her voice as she mentioned the ‘vagabonds’, and I think that it was this, more than anything else, that made me lie to her. I told her I hadn’t seen anyone and, again, tried to leave. She let me pass this time, but kept watching me all the while I scurried away from her; I could feel her eyes boring into the back of my neck as I skidded on the snow. I’d stood motionless for so long that the once crisp, satisfying snow had turned weak and icy underfoot

I made it home unscathed, however, and, as I warmed my hands around a mug of hot chocolate, I couldn’t help thinking that I would never hear of anything to do with those boys, or that very strange, woman, ever again. I thought often of what had happened, though; I was deeply afraid that I’d done the wrong thing – what if that woman had been trying to help them, and by feigning ignorance to her, I’d just condemned those boys to a life on the streets? It must have been the fear in their eyes as they’d hidden under that bridge, because something about them had forced me to pity them, regardless of logic and regardless of reason.

To my great surprise, however, I did hear of the incident again; two weeks on from that fateful day, when I was stocking up on groceries in my corner shop, I saw the red-coated woman again. This time, though, she was on the front page of the local newspaper, under a headline that read: Infamous Child Snatcher Caught at Last. I snatched up the paper from its stall and devoured it with my eyes, heart beating wildly. Her name, apparently, was Cecelia Bordman, and her hobby had been to lurk outside children’s houses so that she could grab them as they walked by.

There was no mention of the boys in the paper, but then, I supposed, why would there be? If they’d had any sense, and they must have done, considering how they’d hidden under that bridge like that, they wouldn’t have hung around. They would have run for their lives, because, when it came down to it, they really were running for their lives. I put the paper down again, a pleasant sense of satisfaction rushing over me. It wasn’t just that I’d made the right decision in helping the boys; that was too simple. As I looked at the sneering photo of the woman on that paper, I realised that I had this feeling because, for the first time in my meaningless life, I’d done something. I’d stopped something terrible from happening. I hadn’t just been another bystander; I’d been there, right in the midst of it all.