The Garden Of Light
A day in the garden was promised to me. I was awake hours before the first sunbeam hit my kitchen window, and waiting outside the Garden Gates before half the small village even thought about breakfast. Equipped with a journal, a new pen, and a satchel to take anything that seemed even remotely special, I impatiently clicked my heels together as I tried to catch a glimpse behind the gates.
All I could see was a house, bigger than perhaps half the entire village it resided in. It was painted what once was lemon yellow, now mustard color and chipping. My face broke into a broad smile when I spotted a familiar face approaching the gates.
“Good morning Mr. Fantelli!” I said cheerfully.
“Back at you, Marie,” he grumbled. One hand expertly unlocked the gates while the other held his old, breaking back.
“Are you excited to tell the world about your life?” I said, persisting in the happy aura.
Mr. Fantelli pushed open the reluctant gates, acting as though their squeaking and groaning hadn't just woken up everyone within a mile. “I’m only doing this for Roger, and you know that.”
Roger Fantelli, the perfect man to inherit this perfect garden from his father. I usually hated him with a passion, but today, he was the reason I could get a stellar article to propel my career into outer space. He had convinced his father to open the gates for me, so I could get the word out to the public that this garden should be protected for its importance.
“Follow me,” said Mr. Fantelli, shutting the gates behind me. I did so, being careful not to trip in my heels as we crossed uneven stone paths. We passed through flowering arches and carved marble to arrive at the back of the house, where row upon row of flowers I had never seen before were planted. I swiftly plucked one while Mr. Fantelli’s back was turned and discarded it into my satchel.
“This is the first section of the garden,” he said emotionlessly, gesturing to the amazing sight before us.
“What do you do in here?” I asked, ready to write down his next words.
He proceeded to explain every single step of fertilizing his flowers to me in boring detail. As soon as he paused, I interrupted with, “How many sections are there?”
Mr. Fantelli hesitated. “Four.”
“Now tell me, today is the summer solstice, am I correct?” He nodded. “Roger mentioned something special happened today.”
Mr. Fantelli’s lips shrunk into a thin, displeased line. “Did he?” He sighed and said, “The garden is of phenomenal importance today and on the winter solstice. In the deepest part of this establishment, there are two flowers. One of them causes the sun to never set, making it forever day, and the other causes the sun to never rise, making it forever night. If one is left to grow, and the other plucked, the sun could go either way. The flowers regrow and I have to pluck them each solstice.”
I eagerly copied down his words. This was the story I was looking for! He paused, so I asked, “So, let’s say you plucked the Sunlight Flower. It would always be night, then? Since the Night Flower is the one left?”
“You never pluck just one,” he snapped, startling me. “Always pluck them at the same time, or you will have a huge problem on your hands.”
I nodded and jotted these instructions down. “Could I see them?”
He started to say no before his face changed. “Would that get good “publicity”, as Roger says?”
I nodded. “I will be very careful. You can trust me.”
He grunted and turned, starting to lead the way through the garden. I followed him, taking in the scene, as he quickly moved through the tamed first section. The fruits and vegetables were in neat planter boxes, next to the sprouting flowers of magnificent colors. Trees lined the pathway, with hanging branches I could touch if I stood on tip-toes.
“We’ve arrived in the second section,” Mr. Fantelli announced. At first glance, the second section was no different than the first. As we walked, however, I noticed that the stone path turned to dirt. Birds chirped unfamiliar songs in tall trees and a giant koi pond lay at the edge of the forest we were about to enter.
My feet started to grow sore so I asked to stop and rest. Mr. Fantelli ignored me and kept walking, so I swiftly slipped the heels off and we continued. The trees grew taller and larger with every footstep. We started to approach a giant boulder with a wooden stairway built up it, making me wonder how long the Fantellis have guarded this place.
“This is the third section,” he said gruffly, starting to walk up the stairs.
“How much longer?” I asked.
“The third section is small,” he answered, “but without a guide, easily turns away unwelcome guests.”
As soon as I stepped onto the first stair step, a shiver swept through my body telling me to get away as fast as I could. I ignored it and painstakingly climbed the stairs, wondering how this old man was in better shape than me.
An aloof fog settled beyond the boulder, curling around willow trees and whispering in my ear. I pulled my jacket tighter around me, hoping the cold would leave. Mr. Fantelli seemed unaffected by it, even stopping for some ice cold water in a flowing stream.
Finally, finally, the fog disappeared. My feet ached from walking this long in the dirt. It was too late to turn around, but every part of me agreed that these flowers better be amazing.
“We’re getting close,” the old man said, his voice echoing in the apparent silence of the trees. I marveled at the quick scenery change as willow trees made way for redwoods, and creeks for distant waterfalls. Everything became wider and warmer, to my great pleasure.
Before I could gather what was happening, Mr. Fantelli veered off the path and into the forest. I stopped at the edge to put my shoes on, not wanting to get a toe fungus, and asked, “What are you doing?”
“The flowers are this way.” He trampled a rough path through moss and creeping thyme for me to follow as I stumbled through.
Mr. Fantelli stopped at the sight of the biggest tree I have ever laid eyes on. It was tall enough to reach the sky and its trunk was thicker than any tree in this forest. At the bottom of the tree was an opening where two flowers grew, reflecting the sunlight barely shining through the trees.
I crept closer to these flowers, my eyes attached to their seemingly endless beauty. One was the orange of the sunset on a late summer’s night, an orange that grabbed my heart and filled my mind. The Sunlight Flower. The other was a deep navy that reminded me of every color I had held in honor, a color that should be printed on every book and newspaper. The Night Flower.
At that moment, as I was close enough to touch their petals, I knew I needed one of those flowers for myself. I would put it in my satchel, and bring it to the village, and scold Mr. Fantelli for hiding its beauty and keeping it all for himself. Then it would be mine, and the village could look upon it every day. Who would mind the consequences? I could barely remember what Mr. Fantelli said would happen if I plucked one.
“Watch closely,” he instructed as he neared them. He was about to pluck them both, and they would be his, and no one could see it again. My mind was imprinted with every color imaginable, and before I could comprehend what I was telling myself to do, there was a blue flower in my hand.
I held it triumphantly above my head, ignoring Mr. Fantelli’s horrified face, and thought of the parades in my honor once the village laid eyes on this flower. As I brought it down, my eyes couldn't trust what it was seeing, because the blue was gone and replaced with a drab gray, and the flower was dead. Anger boiled in my veins, an angry red, as I turned toward Mr. Fantelli.
“What is this?” I yelled. “A dead flower?”
“You only plucked one,” he whispered, his eyes on the remaining flower, and not me. He seemed to be in shock, but I couldn't deal with him right now.
The flower was turning to dust, crumpling in my hand. A lump formed in my throat as I realized that I would never again see such a beautiful sight of that flower, and I knew something would forever be missing from my life.
“You only plucked one,” repeated Mr. Fantelli. “You left the orange one, which means…” His eyes turned to the sky, where the sun was high in the sky, and that’s when I remembered the consequences of only plucking one.
I dropped the remains of the dusty flower, and gazed at the sky, taking a good long look at the sun. It would always be day, at least until the winter solstice. The sun blinded me for a moment, and I felt as if an anchor had been dropped in my stomach.
“What have I done?” I murmured, standing up and backing away from the tree. Mr. Fantelli stood, knees shaking, head bowed.
“You’ve created a time when we will never see the moon,” he said. “A time when our eyes will not rest in darkness.”
“A time where the sun will never set,” I finished, sinking to my knees, and feeling the horror in every bone of my body.