Written in response to Chuck Wendig's latest Flash Fiction Challenge - I picked Rapunzel because the boy had been watching Tangled a lot, and rolled a 17. Been a while since I read any Lovecraft, not convinced I got the tone right, but this is the first story I've finish in a long long time, so I'm counting this as a win.
recount my experience here as a bitter warning to all
– do not enter the Richardsons' garden!
a young boy I was intrigued by what lay beyond those tall, imposing
brick walls, and what secret wonders may be hidden in that tower
that peeked over the top. My parents warned me to stay away and the
one time I was caught trying to scale the wall I was beaten brutally
for my troubles. But other than knowing that the widow Richardson was
a recluse, and a bad-tempered one at that, I
had no inkling of why that estate was so forbidden.
I grew, though, I pieced together rumours and local legends: some
stories had hints of truth about them while others were clearly the
product of fevered or inebriated imaginations. The facts, as I was
able to gather were few: Mrs Richardson was widowed young and had
alone for many years;
while I was still a babe-in-arms a neighbour of the Richardsons was
caught stealing Valerianella
the garden to feed his pregnant wife's cravings; the child was sadly
stillborn and the mother committed to an asylum, mad from grief and
claiming the widow had stolen her baby as punishment for
her husband's theft.
The more fanciful elements to the tale, however, were those that kept
my interest going:
the elderly woman was a witch or demon-worshipper; the lush plants
that grew in her garden were fed with the blood of newborn goats; the
baby was given over as payment for not having the thief hanged;
terrible cries could be heard from the tower where the baby girl had
been imprisoned all these years. The last especially struck
me as I had often awakened in the middle of the night sure I had
heard something – but not
the eve of my twenty-fifth birthday, after a night of too much brandy
much careless talk with
my friends, I made my fateful mistake and bragged that I would steal
away into the walled garden of the Richardsons' estate and find out
what lay within that tower.
My friends initially
laughed, and joked I'd be turned into a toad by the witch who lived
then grew concerned when they realised I was serious. They tried to
persuade me not to: that I would be caught and imprisoned
that I'd surely fall and break my neck as the walls were so tall. But
I could not be dissuaded and, arming myself only with a lantern, I
went straight to the place
that had haunted my dreams my whole life.
climb was straightforward, despite struggling to carry the light, as
the bricks were weathered enough for plentiful hand- and footholds.
As I reached the top, I stood and surveyed the forbidden land. It was
not a disappointment. The gardens were vast, overgrown and verdant;
as I gazed down in wonder at a greater variety of plants than I had
existed, I could not make out the far side (and indeed, I realised, I
had no idea how far away the boundary of the estate might be). But
as I looked closer a strange dread crept over me: the exotic foliage
alien, almost unreal, and unsettled me when I looked too close.
Still, triumphant in my success I turned my attention to that other
edifice that had caught my imagination from afar – the thin tower
that arose out of the garden.
was further than I'd anticipated, but the way was mostly clear and I
judged I could get there easily enough, despite the lack of obvious
paths. I used a nearby tree to get down from the top of wall and set
avoiding the denser patches of foliage. The
lantern cast bizarrely shaped shadows as it swung and
the more familiar looking vegetation struck me as somewhat sinister.
Yet I strode on, determined now to reach my goal.
as I was beginning to fear I had lost my way, I broke out of a
group of trees,
and there before me was the tower. It was even smaller in
circumference than it appeared from afar, barely fifteen foot across.
I walked right
the base, pushing past rose bushes and brambles, and discovered there
was no door at all, nor any means of gaining access at
although I could
just make out
tested the strength of the almost rope-like vines that twisted up the
tower, and, satisfied, started to haul myself up. I made a surprising
distance in a short space of time, and although the vine I was
climbing seemed to weaken and split into a fine stringy substance, I
was soon within a few feet of the
swung the lantern up onto the windowsill, and as I hauled myself up I
got my first good look
at what I had been
from the “plant” I presumed, it
was golden, tangled,
and dirty, and
unmistakably human hair. And
than growing from the ground upwards,
I realised, it was falling out
from the window,
in matted plaits stuck
to the wall with rain and that
and awe, I looked up into the room and
the trail of golden hair to its origin – and beheld such a
monstrous and impossible creature that I fear words alone can never
seemed to be composed entirely of hair: although the shape underneath
was at least partly human. Two
thick tendrils reached
out towards me as a
low moaning noise emanated from it. As
the hair beneath me undulated, I recoiled quickly in terror, sick in
the stomach and crazed in my mind, forgetting that I was perched
perilously on such a high and narrow ledge.
fell, screaming, and passed out. I remember nothing from then until
the next morning, when
I woke at home with the permanent scars I now bear. How
I managed to make my way back out of the garden, scratched and
blinded by the thorns of the bushes that presumably broke my fall, I
will never know.