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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Solo Shadow

Continuing on from my recent themes of animals and hunt scenes, I wrote this story for the weekly prompt competition at Ad Hoc Fiction. This week, my word was “solo” and my word count is at exactly 150. Enjoy!


He glides through the air, his powerful wings allowing him to swoop low over the ground as he scans the night. All he needs is the slightest movement – the snap of a twig or unnatural rustle of leaves – and he will dive to the floor in a desperate flurry of feathers. It doesn’t take much. The unwary rodent puts one foot wrong, and the game will be up.

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September 2016

He swoops lower: did that leaf just twitch because of the wind, or because of something else? He focusses in, and spots a vole scurrying from one bush to the next.

He dives.

The vole is plucked up by his fierce talons, just as his wings begin to beat furiously, attempting to carry him upwards. He looks down to see another vole looking up at him. It squeaks at the sight and scurries away, now a solo shadow racing into the darkness.

Hunted #writephoto

I recently discovered a weekly photo prompt competition run by Sue Vincent. She provides excellent “Thursday” challenges for writers to have a go at. This week, I was keen to give the prompt my best attempt, as the photo (depicted below) deeply inspired me. There was no word-limit to this piece, so I just wrote to my heart’s content and ended up at a word count of 781. I hope you enjoy my short story!


I sit in silence. All it will take is the slightest spasm of an aching limb, or an untimely itch that I simply must scratch. I breathe deeply, slowing down my heart rate as I try to make as little noise as possible.

He’s still there, watching me. I can’t see him, but that doesn’t really mean anything. I know he’s there, because he’s always there. He’s always waiting for that one fatal mistake that I know one day will be my undoing. He doesn’t know where I am and I don’t know where he is; that’s the game. Because it is a game: it’s an endless game of dice rolling, where neither party has any control of the outcomes. The only issue is, if I lose, I don’t just lose a day’s pay or my dignity. The price is my life, and his reward is his.

Rabbi
June, 2017.

I can feel that itch now. It’s in my right leg. I want to look down and check that there’s not some horrible insect sucking at my blood, but I can’t. Even when I’m being eaten alive, I can’t move, and I can’t make a noise. All I wish for, is to hear the tell-tale rustle of leaves and snapping of leaves that tell me he’s leaving. He won’t go far, but he will move far enough that my window of escape will open, and I will run, and, as the dice are flung into the air, I will race for my life.

The itch is getting worse. How I want to scratch it, but there can’t be long to wait now; he’ll be tiring, too. He’ll feel an itch, and his muscles will buckle under the pressure. Soon. I try to calm myself down. I’m breathing too rapidly. I can’t let my own fear be the ruin of me, not when so many are depending on me. I soothe myself, closing my eyes and letting out a long breath.

It happens in an instant. Just as a sharp, jarring pain cuts across my leg from the itch, I hear the sudden rustling to my left that tells me my hunter is giving up. Too late. I gasp out in horror from the pain in my leg, and then it is too late and I am running.

I dart out from my hiding place, a clump of densely-growing leaves, and flee into the open meadows beyond. He’s still right behind me, rampaging through the undergrowth as he reaches for me. He is close: too close. There isn’t going to be enough time. He is meant to be further behind. I speed up, putting all my remaining energy into my legs. My right one is still stinging painfully, and I can feel a suspiciously warm substance trickling down it that I have a horrible feeling might be blood. I don’t have time for this, not for injury. The smell of blood will only drive my hunter on faster.

Birds
Photo prompt provided by Sue Vincent.

I duck back under the cover of trees: a detour. It’s risky, and it might cost me, but it’s also my only option, to confuse my companion into letting me keep my life. I dart around tree trunks and leap over uneven ground, always rushing and never slowing. This is it, a little voice whispers from the back of my head. You’re going to die today. You’re going to lose the game. I can almost feel his hot breath on the back of my neck, and almost sense his harsh, sharp teeth snapping at my injured leg. You’re too late, the voice whispers.

I stop running. I stand stock still, but in this single instant, time seems to slow right down. I don’t think of my hunter, storming towards me, desperate to sink his teeth into me. I think of my tiny, little home, tucked away under the trees barely two metres from where I stand now. I could make it, of course I could. But I can’t. Under those trees, four little babies lie all snuggled together, their eyes bright and innocent, and their mouths hungry, desperate for the food that only I can bring them.

They will have to go hungry tonight, but they are old enough by now. It isn’t fair and it isn’t right, but they are going to have to feed themselves from now on. It’s better to risk that, whispers the voice, rather than to lead this monster right to them. Right to your babies. You can’t do that. You can’t kill them.

So, I listen to the voice. I don’t move, because I can’t move. I don’t feel angry. Everyone loses sometimes; everyone must lose. I don’t mind. I’m ready.

Stowaway

This piece of creative writing is for the purposes of the competition at Ad Hoc Fiction. With only 150 words and this week’s prompt word, “crate”, this competition gives its winner free entry into the Bath Flash Fiction Award, which boasts of a prize of £1000! Although this is not a lot of words to demonstrate any writing prowess a person may or may not have, this competition runs weekly and is a chance to interact with different writers. I hope you enjoy!


There hadn’t been a quiet day at the docks of Kellford Town for almost ten years. It was the centre of business, with people bustling about, merchants flooding in, and goods overflowing from every stall. It was a hubbub; a bursting collection of noise, colour and people.

There were women calling out, desperate to sell their flowers; beggars waiting for the inevitable clink of a dropped coin; and strong-looking men busy loading crates from one ship to another. These were well-built crates, but heavy.

Perhaps they were even heavy enough for a little extra weight to go unnoticed.

I nestled down in my crate, listening to the noise all about me. They’re too busy, I thought. They’re rushing around out there with their money and their noise, but by the time night falls and the docks finally clear, only then will they realise that their little serving boy has disappeared.

Word Count: 150.

Burnt Out

This short piece of writing is for the purposes of the competition at Ad Hoc Fiction. With only a 150 word count and a weekly word prompt, this week’s word being “burn”, this competition gives its winner free entry into the Bath Flash Fiction Award, for a chance to win £1000!


The rain beats heavy against the window, rapping angrily as though it is desperate to come inside. I see it as an angry loan-shark, beating at the glass as its greedy eyes stray towards what little furniture I have left. It wants to tear it apart, taking it away from me on a stream of gushing floods.

I turn away from the window to bend low over my work, trying to shut everything out as my paintbrush moves up and down, almost mechanically. I don’t have long here now. They know I can’t pay what I owe, and I know they’re coming for me, but still my paintbrush moves up and down, creating careful little brush strokes on the page.

Before me, my last remaining candle continues to burn. Its flickering and dying, but it still provides some light. When that goes, I will know that my time is up.

Guess How Much I Love You

This short story is for the purposes for the competition at Creative Writing Ink.

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“This is important, Daniel,” Selene hissed, slapping her husband with the playsuit she clutched in her sweaty palms. “If it’s pink then we’re making assumptions about her future, but if it’s blue we’re doing that, too! And, you know, I was reading a report that suggested that green has military links, and–“ she stopped short to give her husband another slap.

“I know I’m going overboard,” she sighed, putting the pink playsuit back onto the pile in front of them. “I just…” she sniffed, hiding behind her curtain of thick, red hair. “I want this to be perfect… I want everything to be perfect.” Daniel smiled, putting his arms around his wife.

“Hey, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to laugh, I know that it’s important,” he paused, “but maybe not that important.” They smiled at each other, and Selene began to laugh, too. Daniel placed his tanned hand over his wife’s stomach. “The decisions we make now won’t stay with her for the rest of her life,” he smiled. “She’s not going to want to be a soldier because she once wore a green outfit, and she’s not going to be angry at us by conforming to stereotypes and buying,” he paused to pick up the pink playsuit once more, “a pink one”.

“I just…” Selene sighed, taking the playsuit from Daniel to look at it properly. “I want her to be happy, Daniel, and I want to do everything humanly possible to make that happen.”

“I know,” Daniel sighed too, hugging his wife tighter to him. “You want our daughter to have everything that you didn’t have.”

***

Selene stared down into her daughter’s tightly sealed eyes, shuddering with the power of her emotions. She was so tiny, so fragile, and so beautiful.

“She’s perfect,” smiled Daniel from the side of her hospital bed. Selene smiled back, but she didn’t raise her head to look at him; she couldn’t take her eyes off the fragile life form that she clutched in her arms. She was certain that, if she looked away, even for a moment, her daughter would disappear into a tiny, billion atoms, or Selene would wake up, and find that she was still alone in her dusky attic room, hugging herself to keep warm.

Suddenly the image of her daughter before her was tarnished by her memories, as her emotions hit her hard, causing her to loosen her grip on the baby. Daniel rushed forwards and caught her, but Selene barely noticed. Her head lulled back uselessly onto her pillow as images began to flash across her mind.

She was a little girl again, living alone with her mother. She’d never known her father, but her mother was always there. She cared so deeply for Selene that it seemed to break her; she worked tirelessly, barely sleeping, barely even sitting, and yet the money was never enough. Selene’s father had taken everything from her mother, and left her in so stricken a state of poverty, that, Selene now believed, her mother never expected to recover from. They rented the top floor of a block of flats; it wasn’t a complete flat, with only a kitchen and a bedroom, but it came with the attic space that Selene’s mother had attempted to furnish into a room for Selene. They lived, not content, but together, and Selene couldn’t ever remember being unhappy when she lived there.

That fateful day came though, and Selene no longer did live there. A car crash. It was so simple a thing, so common, so seemingly trivial, and yet it ripped Selene’s mother from the world and left her alone. She sat in her attic space, having fled from the police that waited in the room below, and cried more than she had ever thought possible. That had been the worst moment of her life, and, as she was stirred back into consciousness by her nurse, and tilted her head to glimpse her daughter in Daniel’s arms, she knew that this was the best. She would do everything to make sure that her daughter lived the perfect life.

***

­­­

Annabel sat sprawled out on the bigger of the two sofas, eyes closed and mouth open. She sang to herself, thinking about school, thinking about the weekend, and waiting for her dad to finally walk through the door.

She opened her eyes just as she heard the key turn in the lock, and raced out to meet him.

“Alright, alright, champ,” Daniel laughed, pushing her off him so that he could walk through the door. “don’t panic, I’ve got the chips.” They feasted in front of the telly that night, and Annabel got to choose the film. They laughed together, and flicked chips at one another. One time, Annabel hit Daniel right on the nose, at which point he wrestled her to the ground and tickled her all over. Then, at last, he let out those dreaded words:

“Okay, champ, time to go and get ready for bed.”

“But Dad,” Annabel complained openly.

“It’s too late already,” Daniel chortled, ruffling her hair. Annabel sighed and got up to leave, but she found herself pausing in the doorway, her back still turned to Daniel.

Annabel,” he threatened.

“What happened to my mum?” Annabel asked, turning back around to face him. His smile drooped, eyes closing for a few minutes. Annabel waited awkwardly in the doorway, afraid that she had done something terribly wrong. Daniel sighed, and then patted the patch of sofa beside him.

“Come here,” he said, and smiled again, but this wasn’t his usual smile; it was strained – broken. As Annabel came to sit beside him, he reached over to the bookcase, and pulled, from the very top shelf, which Annabel was too small to reach, a very thin book.

“This,” he began slowly, “belonged to your mother.” He handed it over to Annabel, who read aloud the words, “Guess How Much I love You”, and then turned over the page to see two inscriptions, one on top of the other. The first was addressed to a Selene, from her mother, and the second, to Annabel, from hers.

“It was given to your mother when she was a very little girl,” Daniel continued, solemnly. “It meant a great deal to her, and when you were born, she decided to give it to you.” Annabel turned dusty page after dusty page, looking at the strange illustrations of rabbits, and endearing quotes as the little rabbit’s mother explained how much she loved it.

Annabel smiled, but still did not understand.

“Where is she?” she pressed, looking back at Daniel. He rubbed his face with his palms, then leant towards Annabel, placing a tanned hand on her arm.

“When you were very, very small,” he began, “your mother was desperate to give you everything that you could possibly want. You see this house – how big it is? I couldn’t give you this, Anna, but she did. She worked so hard for you, so determined to give you everything that you deserve. She loved you so much, but–“ Daniel clenched his fists slightly, his fingers digging into Annabel’s arm. “She made herself ill, Anna.”

Anna stared at him, eyes wide.

“She died, didn’t she?” she asked, a strange sense of numbness falling over her.

“Yes, Anna, she died,” Daniel sniffed, hugging his daughter tightly to him. “But she loved you so much, just like I do, and that’s never going to go away.” He wiped his eyes and thrust the book back at her. “I want you to keep this book, and whenever you’re feeling alone, scared or miserable, I want you to read it. Your mum loved you, Anna.” He kissed his daughter on the forehead, and took her hand as he led her up to bed.

He tucked her in, turning off her bedroom light before he crawled into his own bed, sobbing silently into the darkness. Annabel lay awake for hours that night, finally getting up and turning her light back on. She reached for the book left on her bedside table, and examined each image, turning the pages with extreme care. As she, too, cried herself to sleep that night, her tears landed heavily on the book, meeting much older tear stains, that had existed long before Annabel. When she finally fell asleep, she still clutched the book tightly to her; she lay in a ball, hugging her knees to her chest, as her thick, red hair, sprawled across the sheets.

Invisible

This piece of creative writing is for the purposes of the competition at Ad Hoc Fiction. With only 150 words and this week’s prompt word, “blend”, this competition gives its winner free entry into the Bath Flash Fiction Award, which boasts of a prize of £1000! 

This is not my world. I am not part of it. Whilst the people rush by above me, loud with sound and colour in a mesh of endless chatter, I stay here. I crouch in the suburbs and hide in the dark, waiting… for what, I do not know, but I wait. I watch. I blend.

Occasionally I will meet my “equal”, skulking about beside me. We are not the same, though. We will never be the same. No one is like me. Whilst they tiptoe through the shadows, hiding from the busyness of the world, they are loud and clumsy. They can’t do it like I do. They do not become the shadows. They can’t blend.

They are the rejects, the outcasts, but they still belong. I don’t. I’m not part of this world. I do not hide in the night: I am the night. I am new. I blend.