~ PART TWELVE ~
Our experience at the hotel wasn’t what we’d imagined it to be.
Have you read Part Eleven? You can catch up *here*.
Inside the walled garden, it was still. Though, with our backs to the shut door, we were not at ease.
Fred stuttered, but couldn’t form the words.
George’s “Wha…” hung in the air.
“It looks like we’ve gone back in time to that old walled garden.” I said. My words as quiet as the breeze, despite carrying the gravitas of our new found situation.
We cautiously wandered around as if something was going to leap out of the dense roses or the watchful box-hedge characters. Finally, we made our way along the brick weave path to the centre of the walled garden – or, the rose garden, as Elizabeth had named it – to the focal point that was the sundial.
The four feet high base of it was of white marble with grey veins running through it – as if it were a near translucent pale human skin pricked up with goosebumps. It wasn’t shiny and polished but roughened and pitted and stained by the elements – as if pricked up with goosebumps.. In green and brown smears. The veins looked like they may have once had life pumping through them, but now, the blood had darkened, coagulated. Yet, this was fanciful – and morbid – thinking. There was no living (or otherwise) flesh; just a dead stone.
The actual sundial itself – the face of it – consisted of a square and polished brass plaque attractively engraved with a moon and a sun, and Roman numerals which marked the time, around the outside. The brass gnomon, or pointer, indicated the time was seven in the evening.
“We’ve gone back, maybe 130 years, but forward by three hours. I wish I could be more accurate but my watch stopped when the wind went crazy.” I said.
“So, this is the garden where Elizabeth met with William.” Fred said, nervously glancing about.
“Seems that way.” George answered.
“But, what if she’s wrong? What if William’s ghost doesn’t haunt the ‘garden’? He could be properly quietly dead like most people are once shed of their mortal coil.” I surveyed the lollipop trees circling the roses that circled the sundial. I kept imagining a face was going to pop up between them.
I had never felt so intensely stared at in my life. And, the starer or starers, weren’t even to be seen themselves…
When we’d entered the garden it had been a complete contrast to what we’d escaped from outside in the pool area: it was bright and sunny and deadly quiet. Now, the rolling clouds overhead, cast their shadows into the garden, covering the flowers and trees, sundial and weaving brick paths, and us, until it was so dark it was akin to early nightfall. The sound began as a tinkle of faraway bells, then realised itself into high peals of frivolous laughter. The aroma of the roses intensified until the usually pleasant scent became sickly, cloying.
George and I looked to one another – and then to Fred, who was equally as bewildered and on edge with his nerves, casting glances here and there, waiting for another preternatural onslaught.
Had the entity from outside managed to follow us to inside the walls of the garden, after all?
I happened to glance down at the sundial, for we still stood around it. It was harder to read now because of the blanket of darkness. The time had altered: it seemed we’d spent an hour in the walled garden of roses and mystery. But, of course, that was ridiculous, we’d only been there fifteen minutes or so – including before seeing the sundial.
“Ahh!” Gasped Fred, whose body visibly jolted.
“What?” My heart began to hammer.
“I just saw a giant green rabbit, between the trees.”
I looked and saw nothing.
George poked a finger in my side. “It’s there.” He whispered.
When I turned my head, ever so slightly, and looked obliquely out of the corner of my left eye, I saw it. It had been one of the stationary box-hedge characters; now, it was nibbling on the petals of one of the rose bushes.
I didn’t know that rabbits were partial to rose petal salad.
Simultaneously, the peal of laughter, ever heightening in its volume, abruptly halted at its crescendo – and, the big green bunny stopped its chewing (mouth still full of petals, for its cheeks bulged so), and happened to spy us out of beady black eyes.
I was about to warn the others to keep quiet, hoping that its interest in us may be of the fleeting kind when Fred let out another nervous “Ahh!”
“Shhh!” George demanded under his breath.
Nevertheless, it was too late. The Big Green Giant hopped along the brick path – the leafy details of its body apparent every time it emerged from behind a lollipop tree – towards us. The leaves, as if fish scales, rippling with every movement. Whether it was one of those friendly types of rabbits that didn’t bite, we didn’t know. We didn’t want to wait to find out.
It was seven feet tall – possibly eight – and I was pretty certain that in this twisted place that it would have large teeth. The pointed ones of the ceiling depiction of Black Shuck came to mind…
All I can say in hindsight, is, thank goodness the brick weave path wasn’t in a direct line to us – but one that wove back and forth, and around and around, the flowers and trees.
By the time it reached the sundial, inquisitively sniffing the air for us, we were safely hidden behind a hedge, some thirty feet away. Luckily for us, it was a stationary hedge.
I let out a huge sigh of relief.
Then someone laughed in my ear.
Neither George nor Fred have remotely female sounding voices, so I knew it couldn’t be one of them who had just laughed.
I looked – and at the same time was wondering when this nightmare was going to end.
If it hadn’t have been for my stubbornness and foolishness, we would be already safely miles away from here. Perhaps, relishing in the glorious boredom of life at home. No doubt discussing our strangest of holidays, at the Unicus Hotel.
“No worries Madam.” Mary said, in her melodic voice. “You are quite safe now. The creatures are quite harmless today.”
Then, as abruptly as they had appeared – swamping all with their darkness – did the overhead clouds disappear – taking the darkness with them. The sun, again, now permitted to shine on us, bathed everything in its pleasant golden warmth. The normal sweet scent of the roses returned.
The enormous bushy rabbit wasn’t any longer within our range of sight.
“But, Mary,” I said, softly, “where is William? Doesn’t he come to the garden anymore?”
“If you will, Madam; please look ahead of you.”
The three of us looked.
A young man with good looks that ventured on the pretty, olive-skinned and black hair flopping in one eye, stood before us. He wore lightly soiled farmer’s clothes – loose trousers and tunic and earthy scuffed shoes. He seemed to have just stepped out of the field, from the middle of his labour. With the back of a hand, he wiped away a trickle of sweat from his brow.
He was the first to speak. “Mary says you’re looking for me. Why, might that be?”
~ To be continued! ~
Photographs and digital manipulation by me, 3rd May 2016, Great Yarmouth Row Houses.
My day out at the Great Yarmouth Row Houses.
Writing prompt: Our experience at the hotel wasn’t what we’d imagined it to be.
Writing inspiration: A strange dream. And a little Hotel California.
What’s a Short Story Series?: A short story written over several parts, around 1,000 words for each part.
Copyright Faith McCord 2016
Story and artwork belongs to Faith McCord who is the author and artist holding the copyright. This is not a public domain work. Worldwide right