Thought I’d share a quick excerpt from my work-in-progress novel, The Queen of Clubs. This scene is where the main character (named Jack) first discovers the magic of the garden shed’s door.
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Night always seemed to bring a kind of stillness to the world, and Jack marveled at how different the garden looked in the darkness—it wasn’t spooky, as he might have imagined, but quiet and tranquil as if time had stopped for a moment’s repose. The moon’s light filled much of the walkway, casting a mass of shadows where the taller shrubs impeded its progress. In this lunar light, Jack was able to see clearly just how right Tommy had been—the shed didn’t cast a shadow.
How did I miss that? And he recalled Gran once telling him how the moon had a way of revealing what the sun could not. The evidence of her claim was right in front of him, clear as day, yet he still had a hard time swallowing it. He kept his eyes on the shed like a child who’d just been stunned by a magician’s ruse and, in a way, that’s exactly how he felt. There was something spellbinding about the structure, after all.
Yet he also knew he was being dumb. There’s nothing here, Jack—just a bunch of plants and that dumb shed. The gloom made it a little more interesting than just that, of course—darkness always had a knack for playing tricks on the mind’s eye—but he needed to be getting home. His mom would start to worry.
Again, he checked his watch. “10:23,” he said aloud, as if his subconscious needed to be reminded orally. “She’s going to be really mad.”
But he wouldn’t leave—not yet, anyway—and after a few more minutes of waiting something did happen, and his first thought was that he must have known all along that something would.
He stood from the bench as his next breath stalled in the back of his throat. At first, he couldn’t be sure what he was seeing; the shadows swallowed up the visual like a gluttonous wraith. Only, he had seen something, some form of movement, something slipping out through the cracks of the shed’s door. He wouldn’t have to wait long before the picture became clearer, however, and he uttered a “What the…?” once his suspicions were confirmed.
“The smoke is back?” he said with a gasp, but the question went unheard in the empty garden. His first instinct was to run inside and tell the lady at the front desk to call the fire department, but whatever force had drawn him to the shed in the first place was telling him to stick around and watch. Jack’s Gran-Gran would have put it another way: “It’s hard to look away when the bizarr-oh comes to play.”
In no time, the garden was filled with a dark haze, blotting out the moon and stars and drawing out from Jack a series of coughs. The shed was almost invisible now, but when he glanced in its direction he saw a quick blast of flame shoot horizontally toward the fence. As curious as he was about the source of that flame, he had no wish to die here and so he turned and ran toward the glass doors of the atrium.
“Not that way, boy. Over here!” The voice was muffled, but clearly feminine. It came from where the dark outline of the shed could still be seen amidst the thickening smoke, where the flame had threatened to torch the flowers and fence.
Jack stopped dead.
“This way…there isn’t time,” the voice said again and, not a moment after, someone grasped his forearm and began tugging him to the far side of the garden.
“Leena?” Jack asked, stumbling a bit as he tried to keep up.
No response—only tugging. Finally, they reached a triage of rhododendron bushes—the girl yanked him hard so that he toppled between them, letting out a few groans and whines at the prods and scrapes he endured from the branches.
“Hush, boy,” she said. “He could come through at any time and we don’t want to be seen,” and then under her breath, “Goodness, Papa will be furious when I get back.”
Jack hunkered forward on his knees, peering out through a gap in the rhody branches. The breathable air was a little better so low to the ground, but he still fought off a few coughs from time to time. The air was beginning to clear up a bit and there were no more blasts of flame, but the farthest reaches of the garden was still hidden in smoke.
Leena crouched next to him.
“Who’s coming?” Jack asked, but once again was not afforded a response.