The Shade Garden

By Kohan L. Eybergen

It was about half past midnight. A time when all six-year-olds should be in deep sleep, dreaming about far-off places and adventures. Despite the late hour, Thomas was sitting upright in his bed, watching the dust fall lightly through the moonbeam shining between the slim gap in the curtains. It was a full moon, and one that happened to fall upon the winter solstice. Thomas, however, did not know or care about the full moon or the solstice, and neither did his parents.

In fact, the reason that Thomas was sitting awake was his parents. They were yelling at each other and arguing, something that happened quite often, and Thomas was afraid. He didn’t understand how a mum and a dad could always be so angry at one another or why they would have a child if they hardly paid attention to him anyway. Thomas disliked being home. He preferred school because his teacher was nice to him even though the other children weren’t, and he loved to read the picture books in the library while the other children played together at recess.

His parents’ racket reached a higher level of volume, and Thomas began to cry silently, trying not to make noise so that his father wouldn’t hear him and punish him for still being awake. I want to run away, he thought to himself, run away forever and leave my awful parents behind. And that’s exactly what he decided to do. Slipping smoothly out of his bed, he tiptoed to his tiny, one-door closet, changed into his warmest sweater and windbreaker, and put on his worn-out Goodwill shoes.

Reaching his bedroom window, Thomas carefully slid the heavy glass pane up and swung himself over the windowsill and out into the chilly night. He trudged through the deep snow that blanketed the front lawn, only stopping to look back briefly at the aged, small, one-floor house he had just escaped.

  

He started walking down the moonlit street, and he began to wonder where he would go. He thought of places he liked. Thomas liked school, but only because his parents weren’t there. Besides, the teachers and nuns would probably make him go home again, and even if they didn’t, they wouldn’t be much fun to live with at the school anyway. The nuns were mostly mean, and half the teachers were as well.

Thomas liked the candy store, but he had never had any money to buy anything, he just liked the bright colours and the warm, pleasant smell that was always there when he went in. Finally, Thomas decided to go to the park next to the woods that he passed on his way to and from school every day. He liked the park even though he never played there very often, since other kids that were bigger than him were usually there, and they frightened him with their loudness and rough horseplay.

More than he liked the park itself, he liked the thick woods around it. He could climb much higher in the old trees than he could on the park equipment, and he liked to look down on the world below; it made him feel like a great giant and not a little boy who was afraid of his own parents, nuns, and big kids. Thomas figured that he’d build his own house deep in the forest or find a hole or a cave and live like a fox. He was fond of foxes even though he had never met one; he had read about them in some picture books at school. They were a lot like dogs to Thomas, and he loved dogs; they always seemed happy to meet him.  

 

Reaching the park, he stopped for a few minutes to play on the swing. He had only used it a few times before since the other children would rarely let him have a go on it. The chains of the swing clanked and groaned as he swung higher and higher through the cold winter air. He felt like he was flying, and that if he let go while he was at the highest point, he could fly all the way to the full moon; he could live there instead of the forest. But little boys can’t fly, no matter how high they can swing through the air. Once he finished swinging, Thomas headed towards the tall, dark-trunked trees at the edge of the park lights. It was easy for him to see, for the full moon illuminated the night brightly and pierced through the leafless limbs of the trees. He entered the woods, and made for the river that was about half a mile in. The deep snow slowed him down, beginning to cake thickly around his shoes, making his feet cold and damp and sore, and the roots beneath the snow snagged and tripped him up. When he was beginning to think about turning back, he saw the trees start to thin and the fresh, untouched snow ribbon that was the treeless riverbank. Thomas had never crossed the river before, but he thought it was a good idea to make his new home on the far side of it so that the other people from his town wouldn’t find him and bother him.

The night was silent save for Thomas’s breathing and the crunching of the snow beneath his little shoes. Arriving at the river, he was pleased to see that it was frozen over so he would have an easier time crossing it. At first he was a bit worried that he might break through the ice and fall through into the water. After taking his first few steps across, however, Thomas figured that he was safe. When he made it to the far side, he hesitated for a moment before stepping onto the bank.

Suddenly, the calm night was broken by a fierce wind that whipped around the trunks of the trees and tugged at Thomas’s coat. He closed his eyes against the snow that was being blown off tree boughs into his face. The wind made a horrible, screeching noise that sounded like Mother Nature herself was wailing at some unknown misery. The wind soon ceased and the night was calm again, but when Thomas opened his eyes, he was shocked to see that he was surrounded by half a dozen people. These were not ordinary people; they were fairies. Not the sort of fairies that Thomas had seen in picture books–ones that were tiny and had butterfly wings and flew about from flower to flower trailing pixie dust. These were real fairies. They were almost like grown-ups, except with distinct differences. For one thing, they were all quite skinny and they were all barefoot. For another, they had rather high cheekbones and pointed ears and noses, and their skin had a strange, sort of otherworldly glow. But they did not look happy to see Thomas at all.

Thomas was frightened, and for good reason: all of the fairies had weapons in their hands that looked as if they could hurt him quite badly. Some had bows, some spears, all of them had daggers hanging from their belts, and they were all wearing very angry expressions.

 

To Be Continued..

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