Been a few days since I posted a piece for the 100 days of flash fiction. I’ve actually had this one written for a few days, but life has gotten so busy that I hadn’t been able to make time to post it until just now. Anyway, this piece is definitely written in a different style than the others I’ve posted. The prose feels a lot more flowery, which I don’t think is necessarily a bad thing, but it’s definitely a style of writing I haven’t read or written in a bit. I based the girl in the story loosely on my oldest niece since it had just been her birthday when I actually wrote the piece and she was on my mind.
Anyway, finally, here’s Day 11:
Prompt: “The garden shrank at night.”
The garden shrank at night—or so Gail had told her. Pulling the skirt of her dress up to her knees, Penny hopped across the series of flat stones to ford the stream. Balancing precariously on one leg as she landed on the other side, Penny steadied herself before continuing down the narrow path. It was cold enough that she could see her breath, and the air still smelled earthy after the morning rain. Penny tucked her chin into her scarf.
It was getting dark now, and would be her bedtime in less than an hour, but Penny’s curiosity had gotten the better of her and she couldn’t resist at least trying to see the garden when it changed. Working her way through the startlingly tall hedges, Penny found herself at the garden’s gate as twilight settled in.
Penny hugged herself tight under her jacket to keep warm. The sky was rapidly darkening, and part of her was afraid to be outside in the dark—even if she wouldn’t admit it to the rest of herself. Penny rocked from her heels to her toes impatiently. “Why won’t it change?” she pouted, standing on her tiptoes, and peeking through the gate’s green and gold bars.
Soon another wave of curiosity overcame her, and unable to resist the urge, Penny pressed forward against the gate, swinging it open with a low creak. She stepped into the garden just as the last rays of sunlight winked behind the horizon. Penny took a few steps towards the center of the garden, it was dark now, and her ears heard sounds that weren’t there. Turning in circles at every rustle of the wind in the bushes, uneasiness quickly overtook Penny’s adventurous curiosity.
“I told Gail the garden doesn’t shrink,” Penny puffed up her chest, “I’m going home.” She was leaving because she’d proved Gail wrong—not because she was afraid. A point she made very clear to herself.
Hurrying towards the gate, Penny stopped as a flash of warmth ran down her spine. Squirming under the surprise sensation, Penny froze as she looked up at the gate. Gail hadn’t been wrong, rather, it was more accurate to say she had been not quite right. The garden itself hadn’t shrunk in the slightest. Penelope on the other hand had. Turning in tight panicked circles, Penny took in her new surroundings as best she could in the dark. The bench in the center of the garden, that just moments ago had come to her waist, now towered over her head. It seemed taller than even her house. The small pond that had been just feet away looked more like a lake in the distance. And the flowers around her looked as strong and sturdy as tall oak trees, but with distinctly different shapes and much nicer smells.
A glint of light brought Penny’s attention skyward. Craning her neck to look directly above her, penny watched flashes of fantastic color stream overhead like comets. Streaks of gold, green, blue, red, and silver shot through the sky, illuminating the garden as they went. Straining her eyes, Penny picked the light closest to her and followed it across the night sky.
She gasped. A girl, barely older than Penny herself, shot through the sky overhead. Her hair was a deep shade of black, and she wore a white dress of startling intricacy despite its lack of color. Two large insect-like wings beat on her back with a low pleasant hum. The girl banked low, before shooting up high and twirling out of sight behind a giant hedge.
Penny turned in all directions, glancing from streak to streak. The faeries came in all shapes and sizes. Some were older than the girl she’d seen before while others were younger. Some had the insect-like wings she’d seen at first, but others had wings like bats or hummingbirds, yet all of them produced the same musical hum as they flew around the garden. She watched as they stopped to chat on flowers, or occasionally some more adventurous ones took a dip in the pond.
Penelope dashed forward as fast as her now tiny legs could carry her, wonder replacing her fear of being alone in the dark. Penny felt the warm of the faerie light as a band of them flew low overhead. Reaching her hands high above her, Penny tried to touch one of them as they flew by a second time, and for the first time that night she wished she could fly.
As if she could hear Penny’s wishes, the first faerie she’d seen that night dove low and grabbed her by the wrists. Penny rose to her tiptoes and felt her feet lift slowly off the ground. Then, in the beat of a breath, they were off. Darting over hedges and through a forest of flowers as big as trees, the faerie’s wings humming in time to a wild beat. Penny let out a laugh as they skirted over the pond before splashing up water in tiny waves.
The two of them flew this way till the first morning light, hands linked, and never slowing. Then, as suddenly as she had come the night before, the faerie placed Penny on the bench, before streaking away into the warming sky. Penny watched her go, the intricate white dress flickering in the wind. Turning towards the horizon, she watched the first rays of sunlight peak over the horizon and felt a familiar flash of warmth run up her spine.
Looking all about her, Penny saw that she’d returned to normal. For a moment, she thought the whole thing had been a dream, but she could still hear the hum of the faeries’ wings, and remember the cool night air as it had streamed by her face while they’d explored every part of the garden, high and low. She smiled to herself. It had most assuredly been real.