a garden and a prison.
was her regular dream: she was walking in a garden at night, talking
to someone she could not see, with words she did not understand. Any
moment now some men would come and take her away, but then she woke
up to a splash of water.
drew herself up onto one elbow and rubbed her eyes, and saw the old
man holding an empty glass. She shuffled backwards and nearly fell
off the table he had put her on. She looked around; she was sitting
on a table in a small room lit with several candles dotted around the
room. A black curtain was hanging on one wall, presumably the
location of a window. Piles of books sat on the floor against the
walls, some with candles on top, some without. Emily got down from
the table, straightened her dress, and carefully watched the old man.
He set the glass on the table and took a step towards Emily, his arms
outstretched as if he wanted to hug her. She stepped backwards
quickly, nearly stumbled on a stack of books, then dashed round the
other side of the table. The old man let his arms drop to his sides
and looked at her with sad eyes.
expect you're wondering who I am?”
said nothing but glanced at the door; it was in the wall behind the
old man, off to his left. Could she dash over?
old,” he said redundantly, “I wouldn't be able to stop you if you
tried to run. But aren't you curious?”
took a step, slowly, to come round the table. Emily moved round it,
too, to keep as much table as possible between herself and the
stranger. She was now a little further from the door, and there
didn't seem to be another exit.
another door in the corner behind you.” The old man lifted an arm
to point; Emily flinched.
worry, my dear,” he smiled, “I'm not going to hurt you.”
looked behind her, warily, and, sure enough, there was another door.
Looking again at the old man, she took several steps backwards, but
then stopped. Maybe it was a trap and she wouldn't be able to get
away at all. The man had not moved.
sighed. “I was the verger in this church when your grandmother was
born. She was a difficult one,” he said cryptically, and smiled
sadly, “And your mother was the same. Do you know your grandmother
and her mother are buried side by side out there?”
did not move.
you ever looked at their graves?”
shook her head.
quite astounding,” the man sighed, “I shall show you them later.”
eyes widened, and she calculated how to make a dash for the other
door, which was behind the old man now. She decided to go for it, and
ran; predictably, the old man stopped her. He held, not tightly, onto
her arms, and bent his knees slightly so that his face was level with
hers, and looked again into her eyes.
the same,” he muttered, and relinquished his hold on her arms,
ran to the door without looking back, opened it – it creaked –
and was back in the large room. She ran past the guttering candles to
the big curtain covering the archway at the far end, and to the
church's front doors beyond. They were locked. She checked her
pockets for the key, but it was gone; that could only mean, she
you looking for this?”
turned slowly and saw the old man standing behind her, holding the
curtain aside with one hand, and the key in the other. He put it into
his jacket pocket and watched as Emily lowered herself slowly to the
floor, her back sliding down the wooden boards of the door. He didn't
notice what Emily saw with her saddened and resigned eyes: the
candles in the big room behind him all went out together.