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The Short Story Project ~ A Story

First published: Thursday, September 3rd, 2009
1,265 words ~ spooky scale: ••••• 12+

The day it rained in the garden

The first drops of rain fell onto the parched stones from a cloudless blue sky. They disappeared immediately, drunk down into the mineral silence.

The garden paused, and everything held its breath and waited. More rain would come. Everyone knew, beyond belief or necessity that the time had come. And with it, the rain.

Heavy oily drops bounced from leaf to grass to dusty ground, gathering in stems and folds on the way. Yet still the sky was a hard polished blue with not a cloud in sight.

Still the garden held its breath. It would not be long now.

A spattering of drops plucked memories from deep in the roots, shivering through shoots and tendrils, humus and stone. Wispy vapour trails marbled the blue surface above.

And then it rained for good.

We sat on the porch watching, no longer daring to dart out and leap around in the downfall as drops turned to torrents and the staccato tapping on the roof climaxed to a thunderous roar.

Pools erupted and overflowed along the edges of the lawn, cascading around the raspberry canes and over the flower beds. Earthworms rose up from the water-laden earth where they could no longer breath and wriggled and struggled fro air on the surface, writhing and swimming for a safe haven.

Water burst over the barrels and cans standing under the eaves and gutters, flooding the pathways, carrying away all that wasn’t fixed solid and licking at the stairs to the back porch before climbing each step and lapping against the planks we were sitting on, a wooden raft surrounded by angry water and martial beat drum, drum, drumming on the roof above.

We slipped out feet over the sides and when we felt the fish, some as big as logs, some as small as leaves, nibble at our feet, we leant over to watch them fraying and frolicking under the choppy surface.

Waves lapped at the porch, washing away the boxes, and bowls, and the dog’s basket. The rocking chair, the watering can, boxes of cuttings, and tied-up newspapers, all floated away as we slammed the kitchen door shut and retreated to the front room we gazed out at the river that the street had become. The sky was pewter smeared with charcoal now, and pressed down hard on the rooftops, slowly dissolving everything below.

When the water rippled into the hallway, we splashed our way to the staircase and then up as it nipped at our heels.

Outside the other houses were rocks surrounded by sea with mermaids swimming all around, flapping their scaly tails and hauling themselves up, to fall backwards into the crest of the oncoming waves. And as they swam they sang, their voices born on the winds and the salt and the rain, and we could hear them singing, He is coming, He is coming. And they combed their long hair in preparation.

We waved and called, and they laughed and played, tantalising, their seaweed locks just out of reach. With a flick of the tail they were off, still singing, He is coming, He is coming, until their voices were lost in the noise of the rain and the water.

A great whiskered head arose, then a belly, wet and sleek, long enough to wrap itself twice around the world.

“Is it him?” we asked each other, nudging elbows and climbing onto the chairs. We pulled off wet socks and shoes, letting them float away on the tide, before the great worm turned and the wake engulfed the creaking, cracking house.

We clambered up onto the roof, sliding on the tiles and clinging to chimney stacks, sheltering our eyes from the driving downpour. The sky was black, and the stormy sea all the deepest, darkest blues and greens and greys and flecked with white where the sea-horses galloped.

The waters broke making way for the gnarled head of a whale, spouting water high against the clouds before opening its whiskered maw and in a looming, booming voice called: He is coming, He is coming.

The chimneys washed away, so we scrambled onto the blue-black back encrusted with barnacles and cockles like stars in a night sky and held on tight as he rode the waves, dipping and blowing, dipping and blowing.

The wind and the rain tugged at our hair. And still it rained.

We heard a fearsome creaking and cracking and before our eyes a great patch of sky peeled away, deeping down in the troughs and riding the crests with torn sails set against the wind. It was a galleon with masts like a dead man’s fingers, tarred timbers groaning and a mermaid sat on the bow as he ship dipped and passed. He is coming, He is coming, she sang out.

And just as the wash hit us, prising us from the whale’s speckled back and down into the sea, someone threw down a knotted rope and we hung on for dear life. The singing sailors hauled us aboard chanting, He’s a coming-ha! He’s a coming-ha! And we fell onto the deck like fish bursting from a net.

The Captain stood above us dressed in jewels and finery from a thousand pillagings. He held an umbrella firm against the fury of the wind and sleet.

“Thar she blows!” he piped, pointing a finger over the portholes. “All sheets to the wind!” And the crew scurried off, up into the chaos of rigging and sails above.

Not the whale!” we called out, over our chattering teeth.

“You’re only saying that ‘cos he plucked you from the deep. Lillylibbers, you are! He’s only meat and blubber and oil.” Turning his back to us, he called out to his men, “Man the harpoons!”

No, not the whale!” we cried.

“Off my ship then, you landlubbers!” ordered the Captain. And firm hands seized us, and pushed us and threw us back into the brine.

The ship rose up, darted after the whale, and was gone.

Beneath us, the seas opened up. We skimmed and skipped along the sides of a great whirlpool, but struggle as we might, it pulled us down, down to the blue-green depths where empty eyes stared out of coral-encrusted wreck and fish played in the ribcage of a skeleton bearing down on us with a cutlass in his hands.

He is coming, He is coming,” it said, an eel darting out of its mouth like a long black tongue.

Down we fell, down to where the sea grew darker than spun glass, and fish appeared holding the evening stars in their mouths, swimming in sparkling constellations, and pointing the way onwards.

We kicked at the stones on the sea bottom which bounced away leaving blossoming clouds of mud and sand and small green creatures as small as pinpricks blinking and winking in the half-light. We walked the mud and the rocks until we came upon our street, with all the houses in rows and a great whiskered creature with claws and jaws and paws sitting on the rocking chair on the porch.

We climbed the stairs and ran through the house to the garden where long thin fish with glowing patches darted through the fruit bushes and crabs nibbled at the carrot tops and radishes.

We threw ourselves down, exhausted and aching in every limb, nibbling at a plate of pebbles and waiting for father to come back home to tell him about the day it rained in the garden.

THE END

This story is rather different to the others so far. I wrote it when we had a rather unhappy incident in our lives, and I felt that I couldn’t, at that moment, continue with the usual grisly tales. At the time, I didn’t much like it, and initially left it aside. Over the summer, when I was typing up the other stories in preparation for September I re-read it, and found it — in places — better than I had remembered. So I decided to keep it all the same.

While I don’t think it works completely, I was happy with it for another reason: I sometimes think that the scary stories are becoming a little formulaic, that is: an initial scene, a bit of development, a conclusion and a twist. While I do try hard, that isn’t really pushing the envelope much for me as a[n apprentice] writer. This story at least, doesn’t follow that path at all.

Hope you like it, and see you next week.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 France License.

Last edited: Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

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a full-length novel

black as snow Juliet has just moved to the country. She doesn’t like her new school, she doesn’t like living on a stinking farm where it always rains. Then she starts seeing a pony, waiting outside at night in the rain. And she’s sure it’s waiting for her...

Before she knows it, she is called on for help by a trio of strange creatures who live in the woods nearby. And then the rabbits... Oh yes, the rabbits.

Fantasy, comedy, and more than a touch of spookiness in this strange tale where things quickly get Black as Snow.

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as a PDF file. 12+

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