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.

That’s all folks! – Sunday Scrawl #1

The first week of the Sunday Scrawl challenge is officially over! Thank you to everyone who took part; it’s been an immense pleasure to read your wonderful responses to my photo! I’ve reviewed all entries and chosen a ‘winner’ for the week – it’s only a little late because I moved flat on Saturday, so everything has been a bit of a mess!

This was not an easy decision to make as so many of the entries were not only well written, but engaging and pretty intense! I have, however, selected Varad’s story to reblog this week; there was just something about the ending to the story that left me reeling. Thanks again to everyone who has taken part this week; as there were so many great entries, I’ve added links to all of them below!

L.E.R.T

11272892_847812051963254_1840294869_nGoodbye, cruel world! Is that how suicide notes begin? Whatever! I’ve had enough. Usually, the person committing suicide blames someone in their suicide note. Well, where to begin! Should I start with my absolutely useless and horny parents? Maybe! If you don’t have the brains to purchase a condom, then maybe you didn’t deserve to have sex.

Hey, my so called mother! Ever heard of abortion? Nope, don’t think so. If you were dumb enough to get pregnant with a child you never had any plans of raising, then I guess you wouldn’t have been smart enough to visit the nearby clinic. My worthless father, great job sticking around mate. Hope you had a great night of fornication.

My foster parents, If your idea of bringing a child up is whipping the cane out for every small mistake, you needn’t have bothered taking me in at all. Might as well…

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Spilling Over

Here’s another story for the Friday Fictioneers photo prompt; each week, Rochelle Wisoff posts a photo, with the challenge of writing an associated story in 100 words or less. This is a very varied challenge that inspires authors to interact with each other, as much as it helps them to improve their writing. I hope you enjoy this story!


Credit: Kent Bonham

It was too soon; too sudden. I didn’t want to have to look at it. Yet, even as I decided that I wouldn’t, my eyes were opening all by themselves, sneaking a glance at the drive.

The car was remarkably unharmed; the windshield was gone, as was one of the doors, but, from the back, at least, the only damage to be seen had been committed by the gulls circling above.

I blinked hard, my emotions spilling over at last. How dare it come here, seemingly unharmed? I was screaming, beating my fists. I wanted it to feel my pain.


Click the blue froggy for more stories based on this prompt!

Hard Truths

This is my second attempt at the Sunday Photo Fiction challenge, which runs each Sunday with a photo prompt and the task of writing a story in less than 200 words. I’m a little later entering this week as I was busy working on my own prompt challenge, but I enjoy taking part in this prompt, considering the excellent photos that the challenge provides. I hope you enjoy!


The afternoon sun bore down into the back of Ashley’s head as she squatted on the step, her eyes on the road. The heat was making her head spin, but she couldn’t force herself to move. It was if she had become stuck to this hard, uneven step.

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Credit: Mike Vore

He’d said today; he’d promised, but that had been three hours ago. She realised he wasn’t to come, but, against all logic, she still couldn’t rake her eyes from the road.

The others were probably laughing at her by now. They wouldn’t be worried about her; this wasn’t the sort of family where someone would bring her a cool glass of water and tell her that it was all okay. They didn’t do that. They didn’t care.

Ashley glanced back at the decrepit shack behind her. It wasn’t a home. It was just where she lived. Then, she thought of her family. They weren’t exactly a family, but they were who she lived with. Her real family, of course – her real dad – well he wasn’t much better, or he would he would have come. He wouldn’t have left her sitting out in the burning heat, waiting for what she could never have.


You can click on this blue froggy to see the other entries! 

Sunday Scrawl #1

For a long time now, my two main hobbies have been writing short stories and taking lots of photographs. It therefore makes perfect sense to me to start a photo prompt challenge of my own. Here are the rules:

Sunday Scrawl Logo

  1. Below, you will find this week’s photo prompt!
  2. Responses to the prompt can vary from prose/poetry writing to more photographs – there are no limits and no word counts.
  3. There are no tangible prizes for this challenge, but I will be reblogging the top entries!
  4. Feel free to use the photo below or the “Sunday Scrawl” icon to illustrate your responses (although I’d love to see some of your own illustrations, too)!
  5. Please remember to include a pingback to this post in your response.
  6. To enter, click on the blue froggy link at the bottom of this page!

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You can view my response to the prompt here.

Riverbank Guardian

This is my third attempt at Sammi Cox’s weekly writing challenges! Each weekend, she posts both a word and a picture for writers to attempt either her prose or poetry prompt. This week, the word was “guardian” and the prose challenge was to write a fairy tale story in 150 words or less!


Wandering along the riverbank, the basket of flowers at her side, she smiled to herself. There were monsters in these parts, twisted beasts that liked to leap from the milky waters to drag unsuspecting victims under the surface. There were bat-like creatures that lurked in the trees, too; creatures whose bites would be fatal to a little girl like her. She had nothing to fear, though, for, as she trotted onward, she sang.

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Credit: Sammi Cox

It was a simple tune: a melody that went up and down with each footfall. She knew it as the song of the grotesque, the strange, phantom-like creature that existed only to protect those in need.

Way up above her, a shadow swept along in her wake. It followed her music, answering its call.

Snarling at the monsters as it passed, it knew that it would protect the little girl as if she were its own.

Messenger #writephoto

This week, Sue Vincent’s “#writephoto” challenge considers the theme of “messenger”. You can check out the challenge here, but, in the meantime, I hope you enjoy my story!


Since the days of my father’s father, my bloodline has had a single purpose: to stay alive long enough to deliver a message. My grandfather nearly succeeded in the task without enlisting his future generations’ help, but his legs failed him just when he needed them; barely ten miles from his target, he was caught in some decrepit shack, pinned to the wall and slaughtered.

My father didn’t get even nearly as close; he was still countries away when he was caught. He hadn’t been fast enough, not alert enough to the danger. He’d taught me one thing, though; he’d taught me that I didn’t to be a failure.

Now, I don’t waste my time with drink or women, because I can’t afford to. Whilst he’d treated his mission as a passing fancy – a joke, even – it’s my life. It’s my sole obsession, driving me on and preventing me from passing this fate onto my children. I want to be the one who stays alive. For them, as well as for me; this is my duty.

As I race across the globe, travelling from country to country in search of my quarry, I don’t waver from my purpose. I pause only at the occasional inn, where I trade my wares for food, drink, and, very occasionally, a bed for the night. I don’t need more than that, and I don’t have time for it. If I stay in one place too long, they will find me, and they will put an end to the message.

I wrap my dark cloak tightly around myself, using it to protect me from the light of day. My kind usually sticks to the shadows; we don’t do well in the light. There are too many people who want to hurt us, searching for us in the crowds and waiting for us to break our cover.

I’m careful though, and before I know it, I’ve gotten closer to my quarry than my grandfather ever did. There’s no stopping me now. I will not rest in some shack or get distracted by some pretty girl. I break into a sprint when I’m five miles off; my limbs burn in protestation, but I don’t have time for their pain. I only race, a black streak in the light of day.

Then, I see her. A shadowy woman alone on the moor, her head bent low and arms outstretched, as though she’s praying. I don’t stop running, even as she turns to stare at me. I run right up to her and reach out, my hands gripping hers and my mouth closing around her ear.

“They’re hatching,” I whisper, my throat slightly hoarse. “Your babies… they’re hatching.”

Mission complete, I collapse from the exhaustion, and, as I lie there in the grass, I feel the harsh spike of talons cutting through my spine. My enemy lifts me up, and I am no longer a messenger; I am just another crow, hanging uselessly from the hawk’s sharp beak.

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Credit: Sue Vincent

The Sunday Scrawl

Hi everyone,

For a long time now, my two main hobbies have been writing short stories and taking lots of photographs. It therefore makes perfect sense to me to start a photo prompt challenge of my own. I will post my first challenge this Sunday, and hope you’ll join me in writing a response to it.

You can post absolutely anything in response to my challenges, from poetry and short stories, to photos of your own. If you want to know more about “The Sunday Scrawl” challenge, you can visit its page here.

Thanks for reading; I’m looking forward to hearing from you next week!

Sunday Scrawl Logo

By the Light of the Moon

Here’s another story inspired by the photo prompt challenge run by Creative Writing Ink. I absolutely adore this week’s picture; it’s so beautiful, but at the same time conveys a kind of severity that’s a little scary – maybe that’s why this story takes a darker turn? Enjoy!


The distant crash of waves told Kayla they’d arrived. She didn’t look up, even as her brother parked up the car and slipped wordlessly out into the sunset. If he saw her looking, he’d make some comment about her interfering, and she didn’t want to interfere. She wanted to go home.

Hugging her knees in the back of the car, she chanced a glance out of the window. The square-shouldered shadow of her brother was already moving behind the trees that concealed the path to the water. She watched him hesitate for a moment, and then dip out of sight.

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October 2012

She leant back in her seat, wishing she was anywhere but here. By now, her brother would have joined his friends on the sand, a beer would be shoved into his hands and he would be circling around some innocent – would it be a boy, or another girl, this time? She didn’t want to know. She was just lucky that his friends didn’t know that she was out here, hiding in the dark. Loyal to her brother though they might be, she highly doubted that their loyalty would stretch so far as to refusing to beat up his sister. Any excuse to cause pain, that’s all they wanted.

She kicked the front seat angrily, digging her heel into the soft material. She wanted to be home, snuggled on the sofa with a book or a film. Her brother only dragged her into this because it would look suspicious, otherwise; that was the price of having a twin. Their mother would worry if Kayla didn’t go to all the same parties that Martin did. Well, maybe she should worry. Maybe it was about time.

A sudden scream made Kayla sit up abruptly and reach instinctively for the door handle. She slipped out into the half-light, squinting towards the source of the noise. It hadn’t sounded like it had come from the beach below, but from he heath on the opposite side. She whirled about in the dark, fear clouding all other thoughts. Was there someone else out here with her? She took a couple of steps towards the heath, the mossy grass cloaking her frightened footsteps.

The night was silent now. It was almost as though Kayla had imagined the sound, but she knew she hadn’t. She continued to stumble onward, her feet slipping slightly as her path took her slightly downhill. It was warmer away from the beach, and there were more cars parked down here; she supposed they were her brother’s friends’. She hesitated, looking nervously back over her shoulder. Night had fallen almost entirely now, the stars and moon above her providing only a pale, ghostly light for her to see by. Any number of people could be skulking by those cars, and yet Kayla felt sure that their owners would be down at the beach by now. They wouldn’t want to miss all the fun, she thought bitterly, as she took a few more steps forward.

Then she froze. There was someone stood by one of the cars, but it wasn’t one of her brother’s dumb friends. It was a girl, about her age, with long, dark hair and deep, green eyes. She was watching Kayla from over the top of the large book she held. Then, smiling, she returned to her reading, her eyes flicking furiously across the page.

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Credit: Creative Writing Ink

Kayla swallowed, clearing her throat slightly as she approached the girl.

“Who are you?” she asked rather bluntly, coming to rest on the car besides the girl. She smiled again, but, still, she didn’t speak, and she didn’t put down her book. “Do you know someone down at the beach?” Kayla pressed, looking hard into the girl’s eyes, but she didn’t reply; she only smiled and continued to read.

Kayla’s eyes fell on the cover of the book, taking in its strange symbols and old, crumbing spine. She wondered wildly if the girl even spoke English. Perhaps she was just some innocent tourist who’d wondered too far from one of the nearby campsites.

Kayla had just about decided that it was time for her to go, when the girl moved closer to her, holding up the book for Kayla to see. Her eyes fell on an old photograph of a pretty, dark-haired girl dressed in leotard and tights. Beside the picture, was a cutting from an old newspaper. With a nod from her mysterious companion, Kayla began to read, scanning the headline, which read, Olympian Gymnast found Dead. The article was about sixteen-year-old Jessica Marlin, who had died seven years ago, found beaten and raped at the bottom of a gutter. Kayla remembered hearing about Jessica on the news, although she’d only been small at the time. It had been awful; she’d been one of the country’s high hopes for the upcoming Olympics, but she’d never made it there. Some thug had killed her before she’d gotten the chance. He was in prison now, of course; it hadn’t taken them long to catch him, but that hadn’t brought Jessica back.

Breathing rather heavily now, Kayla looked back at the girl, who was fiddling at something at the front of her coat.

“Do you know what’s happening on the beach tonight?” she demanded, stepping away from the girl slightly. “Do you know what they’re doing?”

The girl merely smiled, undoing her coat to reveal, underneath a thin cardigan, a shining leotard, glinting by the light of the moon. Kayla stumbled backwards, losing her balance and falling to the ground. Her head hit the uneven earth with a horrible smack, causing the world to start spinning out of control. She rolled over, coughing violently and clutching to the ground for support.

By the time the pain had cleared enough for Kayla to open her eyes again, the girl and her book had vanished from the car. Whether they’d ever really been there, Kayla would never know, but, what she did know, as she pulled out her phone and glanced in the direction of the beach, was that she was really, truly scared, and that she had been for a long time now. Swallowing hard, she dialled the number that she should have called nearly a year ago. She bit her lip as the phone began to ring, and then,

“Police, please,” she whispered.