This story is by Cynthia Callard and was part of our 2019 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Our house was a disaster! Pieces of wood, dust, counter tops, tools were scattered everywhere. We needed to move out until the refitting of our kitchen was complete.
Our friend Judy said, “Move into my house. I need a house sitter for a month!’ The timing was perfect!
So, we moved, pleased to get out of the dust and mess of construction in our house.
She has a spectacular garden sitting on a double plot of ground surrounded by neatly laid out flower beds and two tall trees with broad branches under which to sit in the heat of the day.
Unpacking our clothes and putting them away I admired the old-fashioned wardrobe and beautiful antique chests of drawers.
The lovely bentwood rocking chair at the foot of the California King sized bed with a perfect mattress and cuddly soft as silk bedding, enticed me to curl down into it as I flipped through one of the magazines she had scattered around the house.
The window was wide open and looked out on the garden as the scent of fragrant flowers wafted in to perfume the room, hardly stirring the heavy brocade curtains.
It’s funny how staying in someone else’s home, even as beautiful and comfortable as this one, unsettles me and soon I found myself strolling through the garden.
The little colored brick path wandered between the flower beds and led to a swing under one of the trees. I could hear the bees buzzing lazily in the midday heat and a flutter of butterflies decked out in their bright summer colors floated past as I sat down and slowly began to swing backwards and forwards in the wide swing.
The scent of the flowers rose up into the clear blue sky as my feet brushed them. A gentle, soft breeze wafted past making the leaves on the tree shimmer and dance as they chuckled amongst themselves.
A jeweled hummingbird darted and dipped its beak into the brilliant orange hibiscus flowers on the bush growing on my left. I tried to count its wing beats but, it made my eyes blurry, so I was just satisfied to watch it as it darted this way and that gathering the sweet nectar.
It was heavenly to just sit in the swing in the shade of the old tree and relax with absolutely nothing to do.
Suddenly, the birds stopped chirping and calling to each other in their liquid notes.
Even the bees had stopped their busy buzzing. The stillness was very eerie and sent little shivers up the back of my neck as goose bumps sprang up on my bare arms.
The gentle breeze turned angry. It whipped the leaves of the tree above into a frenzy and some of the leaves and small twigs fell to the ground around me.
The flowers were agitated and trembled in their beds and their petals shivered in the cold wind as it blew over their upturned faces.
Tightly wrapping my shawl about my shoulders, I stood up to leave the garden as a wicked, bright bolt of lightning slashed down from one of the clouds lighting everything up in dazzling electric colors. It split into arrows of sulfurous light dancing and flitting across the garden as it blinded me with its brilliance.
Just a few seconds later a massive clap of thunder made me jump, deafening me as I ran for the shelter of the house. Huge raindrops splattered the earth making the mud on the pathway splash up onto my feet and legs. The rain beat down on my head and shoulders as I ran. It was cold on my skin causing me to shiver.
But, something strange seemed to be happening. Even though I was running as fast as I could along the path I could not seem to find the house. It had just disappeared in the storm. My legs kept on running but, I did not seem to be moving. Even the pretty bricks of the pathway had dissolved into the mud.
Abruptly the rain turned into hail. Sharp, cold pellets of ice bombarded me and made the earth slippery beneath my feet. I stumbled and slipped and landed painfully on my knees. The hail pelted down pushing my face into the earth. I was shivering violently now, and I tried to scream for help but, no sound escaped my throat. I could hear my breath laboring in my chest and my heart was beating crazily.
The hail began to cover me up. I thought I would die in that beautiful garden buried under this cruel blanket of icy cold hail.
Then I heard footsteps. Heavy footsteps like someone wearing combat boots coming nearer and nearer. I once again tried to scream for help, but my voice was just a squeak. The next thing I knew was that someone was holding a cloth over my face. Pressing it down over my nose and mouth. I could not breathe and I began to choke. Tears ran down my face adding to the cold wetness of my skin. They were warm at first but, almost immediately froze.
I tried to move my arms and legs but, they too seemed paralyzed.
I was determined that I would not die out here in this garden, smothered by a stranger. In my anger, I managed to jump up and started to run. The heavy footsteps kept pace with me, just behind me. I still could not see the house but, I knew that I had to get away so I sprinted as fast as I could along the pathway and in-between the flower beds. Was I running in circles? I did not know. I slipped again and landed on my back.
The stranger was on top of me covering my face with some heavy cloth again. His fetid breath causing the gorge to rise in my throat as his weight kept me pinned down. Was this the end?
A slamming door punctuated my husband’s voice from far away. “Sweetheart, it’s raining cats and dogs outside and you are soaking wet too! Here, let me close the window and dry the floor. You had better dry off and change into some warm clothes or you’ll catch pneumonia!”.
I opened my eyes. The heavy, rain wet curtain had draped itself across my body and over part of my face and Judy’s big black, very wet Labrador had jumped up onto my lap afraid of the storm.
I pushed the dog down and as he shook himself I began to laugh and laugh and laugh.