In the Garden

by Elliot Harper

From within the darkness, light gradually returns, and I find that I’m standing in my garden. Confused, I look down and see that I’m wearing my dressing gown over pyjamas as well as my slippers in the garden of my home. I’d recognise the hollyhocks anywhere.

In the corner, I suddenly see the gnome in his usual place. I give him a friendly wave. “Good morning! Fantastic day, isn’t it?”

The gnome turns his head, nods once slowly, then lifts his hand and scratches under his pointed red hat. “Ya not wrong there, mate. Facking lovely day.”

The little gnome jumps down from his spot and walks towards me, whistling a jaunty tune. “Ya got any more tea in the pot? I could facking murder a brew!”

I can’t help but smile. It’s good to see the little fellow. I point toward the garden table, where I’m certain there’s a pot of tea. “Of course, this way.”

The gnome passes through the vegetables, onto the lawn and walks towards the table. He’s tiny next to me, but he walks with a swagger, shoulders square, chin jutting out. When we reach the chairs, he sighs deeply. “Sorry, mate, but can ya give me a facking hand up there? Can’t reach.”

I slap my forehead in embarrassment. Where are my manners? “Oh, pardon me! What am I thinking!? Here you go.”

I carefully lift him onto the chair and quickly pour him a cup of tea in one of the two waiting cups. I then pour myself one and sit down next to the foul-mouthed but friendly gnome, who takes a sip and smacks his lips.

“Thank ya facking kindly, mate.”

For a few minutes, we sit quietly and admire the garden, until I suddenly remember something I’d like to know. “Excuse me, do you mind if I ask you a question…er…what is your name?”

He takes another sip. “Just Gnome will do.”

Fair enough. I continue. “I hope this doesn’t appear rude, Gnome, but what do you have under your hat?”

Gnome guffaws. “Na facking worries, mate. Ya’d be facking surprised at just how many people ask me that!”

He leans forward, lifts his pointed red hat and takes it off. I lean forward myself and peer underneath. Rather than the top of a head like a human, the interior is empty. I strain my eyes and looks further down into the depths. To my utter amazement, there’s a tiny, spiralling galaxy, very similar to the Milky Way. It whirls around at a quick pace.

I lean back in my chair with a sigh. “Ah.”

Gnome returns his hat to his head and nods gravely. “Facking exactly.”

After a few moments, I ask another question. “Why do you have that in there?”

He shrugs. “Got to be facking somewhere, hasn’t it? May as well be there.”

He’s got me there, so I nod. “Good point.”

We return to watching the garden and drinking tea for a while, until the gnome speaks up. “Facking beautiful garden ya got here, mate. If you don’t mind me saying so.”

How nice of him, I’m genuinely touched. I raise my cup in a salute. “Thank you very much. Worked very hard on that. It was a shame to leave it.”

Gnome looks confused and frowns. “Left? What do you mean facking left? We’re here right now, aren’t we?” He begins to look around the garden to check.

Another good point. I let out a sigh. “Of course, we are. Sorry, I’ve had a bit of a funny day.”

He guffaws again. “Don’t ya facking worry about it, mate. Happens to the best of us.” Gnome stares off into the distance and takes another sip of his tea. “Makes you facking wonder, though, doesn’t it. Where the fack exactly is here? When you really sit down and think about it.”

I turn to my thoughtful, miniature, vulgar friend. “Go on.”

He waits a moment for dramatic effect. “Well, it’s just we don’t facking know for sure, do we? Where we the fack we are. When ya facking dream, ya’re facking positive ya are where ya are, but then ya facking wake up, and ya aren’t. Ya facking know what I mean?”

I shrug. “Erm, I think so.”

He waves his free hand angrily. “Just facking listen for a moment. Everything we see is just your brain’s interpretation. We don’t know for sure, even if we see the same things. Is my facking blue the same as your facking blue? It just makes you wonder what we don’t see, that’s all. Might be the whole world out there, and our brains don’t even know what the fack to make of it, so they just leave some bits of it out. The really weird shit.”

That does make some sense. “I see what you mean. The mind can be a tricky thing. Like you say, I might not even be here right now.”

He lifts his cup in a salute. “That’s the facking spirit. Ya getting into it now, mate.”

Gnome sighs and then drains his cup of tea with a slurp. He then puts the cup on the table and slides off the chair, landing with a light thud. “Well, can’t be sat around yakking all day, now can I? As much as I’d love to, I need to get back.”

I nod sadly. I was really starting to enjoy myself, despite his potty-mouth. “Well, thanks for keeping me company, Gnome. It really has been a pleasure. I hope we can do it some other time.”

He turns and tips his red pointed hat. “Be facking seeing ya, mate.” Gnome walks to the end of the garden, his shoulders as square as they were before. As he does so, the colour of the garden strangely seems to lessen. I watch as everything in the garden turns grey, and then to black, as though existence is just fading like some half-forgotten dream.

Elliot Harper is an author and blogger whose work has featured in print in Black Telephone Magazine Year 1 by Clash Books and The Wild Hunt by Air and Nothingness Press. His short fiction has appeared online in Maudlin House, Storgy, The Ghost City Review, amongst others. Find him on his website, or on Twitter @E_Harper_Author.
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