A novel by
“… To kill time and pheasants and ‘ennui’ of not having quite set the world on fire as yet.” Oscar Wilde, from a letter to Reginald Harding, 28th November 1879.
This book is dedicated to my Dad, with love and thanks and to the South Manchester Writers’ Group. And of course, to the memories of Mr. Wilde and Mr. Ross.
If this is a garden, it's an enchanted one. I can't step into it. I teeter on the brink, scared to shatter the illusion. I crouch beneath an over-hanging leaf, a minute now, waiting for something to happen. I'm not the same person I used to be ten minutes ago. I feel weak before the intense light, the overpowering perfume of the flowers as they nod their heads at me and smile in unison. Lazy upon their beds they’re trying their best to stay awake, trying perhaps to live up to the unnatural brightness of their colours. There’s the sunflower, psychotic as its’ yellow petals will allow it to be; and there’s a green carnation, shot up suddenly from the earth, defying anyone to question its’ right to be there.
The air is thick and weighed down with scent. I blink my eyes sleepily. Still I dare not enter the garden, the enchanted garden. I’m like a voyeur crouching here, having left my real self at home in bed. I’m separate from myself, without intending to be, I’ve detached this piece from that and miraculously extended my personality, multiplying the layers one by one. I’m wrapped in tissue, not skin and you can peel away the surfaces but never reveal the inner core. Like a crystal, wearing a white pinafore, striped stockings and hair-band: strolling through the enchanted garden. I may meet with a large red chess-piece, and I will no doubt, be greatly intimidated by Her Majesty. But this after all, is just fancy. I prefer to crouch beneath the leaf and watch – or lie in my bed and dream. But if this is all a dream, it’s a very strange one. I don’t really think for a moment that I’m asleep. I feel like I’m an old photograph, faded brown background and frayed edges, a nameless individual, a housemaid perhaps, or a match-girl – or perhaps, something worse. An individual lost to memory but still alive - alive and still kicking.
But all this is separate from me, my head is on the pillow, and I seem to be sleeping. I blink, watching myself; a view from the top of the cupboard. How can these flowers smell so strongly and yet be somewhere else, not here at all? How can the exotic scent of them drug you like poppies and then wake you screaming? I would tell you to lie back, it’s only a dream, but somehow I doubt it. The poppies are melting and the blood drips onto my face as I wake. The old faded photograph is slashed to ribbons even as I watch: the knife leaping wildly, with a life of its own, through the paper, through the garden, through exposed flesh. The poppies are melting and I wake screaming.
Now go to Chapter One...