Prose Feature: “Wall in the Dark” by Zane Russell

Zane Russell

The Garden of Glass

I recall all those summers ago, summers ripe as this, seasons upon which I and my sister would prance amidst the flowering daisies of our grandparent’s oriental flat.

We would roll through the grass, plucking wildflowers by the dozens as I prevented Jane from touching every petunia she came across, less she kills the lot.

Our present prance between the bushels should have presented a parallel towards any other, and in the beginning, this rang true…

I recall the day clearly, a day like any other. There we were, playing among the garden vines. I was sitting down for a rest, content to read my novel for a poignant minute, the grape arch and cherry bush to either side, familiar as ever, when Jane ran forwards bearing a smile bright as the sunrise.

“Mary, I found a burrow, I found a burrow!” She rattled off, plump with enthusiasm. “This way, quick!” she sang, scampering off through the brush.

“Jane, wait… but grandpa told us…” Yet, she had already disappeared under the briar, leaving me no altnernative but to hastily pursue.

I cut after her through the garden, past the old pine, through the veiled flowering arch, and finally arrived towards her, hunched above a hole in the wildgrass.

I recall reprimanding her, telling her she should be more careful round the garden, lest she fall amidst a briar. Yet, the object to her front quickly stole my attention. This was not a simple burrow, rather it proved a hole, a cut of earth venturing towards nothing below. It was a chasm of unknown origin, bisecting soil and root along its path, and Jane was perched directly atop the cusp of this abyss, gaze clawing at the unknown.

“Jane!” I had cried, “come away from there, the drop could prove fatal!”

Yet, she didn’t move; instead, verbalizing upon me, voice alight with enthusiasm. “B-but Mary, what do you think is down there? Could it be the place Alice went… Wonderland, was it?”

“No Jane, Wonderland was fictional, it doesn’t exist, now retreat from there before you hurt yourself,” I desperately called.

“Oh, all right,” Jane had sighed, rising to her feet. “I just truly feel as if I’m meant to…”

Yet her words faded as she lost her footing atop the pit’s crest. The loose bed of crushed wildgrass giving way amidst her shifting as she rocked towards the abyssal maw with a cry.

In my haste I had sprung forth, grasping towards her, barely missing her dress’s hem. As she fell towards the depths below, I pompously realized I was

now similarly sailing towards the gaping gloom of the pit, and with a shrill cry of my own, we both tumbled unto darkness.

However, that was a bit of a lie, for I couldn’t actually tell how dark it was during the forefront of our descent. In my abhorrent terror, I had my eyes squeezed tighter than a rung dishrag.

Yet, as I continued to fall, crying out against my own woeful incompetence, I began to wonder when I would hit bottom; was there even a bottom? Eventually my cries simmered towards a barely audible whimper, permitting an account of the silence weighing my surroundings. As curiosity succeeded terror I steadily cracked an eye, intending to perhaps grasp my current predicament.

Surprisingly, my sight was greeted by a wondrous kaleidoscope of color, every level of the rainbow beaming towards me from all directions. It was as if someone had shattered a number of glass panes, then meticulously reconstructed them towards a wondrous stained glass facade, ever in flux. It was more magical than anything I had ever seen. For a moment I even thought myself lucky, obviously having fallen into Wonderland. Yet, as I further studied the patterns surrounding me, I divulged a remedy; a realization in the madness.

In fact, the patterns hadn’t been aimless by any means. These patterns in particular… were scenes; images stretched out of proportion, cut into numerous shapes, and layered around me in vivid detail. A city street, a back alley, a blue ocean, a flowering pasture, a rocky slope, all shattered towards a

wondrous collage. And as I studied the fractal depths of my surroundings, I quickly lost touch with time, plummeting ever downwards into the envelope of wonder.

After dozens, maybe hundreds, thousands of scenes had sped before me, my surroundings faded to utter darkness. As I fell through the abyss, I viewed two bands of white below myself, fast approaching. I looked upon these with interest, as by now my fear had been completely replaced with curiosity.

Seconds before the nearing bands passed to my sides I slowed, the two stripes growing at a much slower rate. Finally with a last upwards pull, I came to a stop, afloat amidst nothing.

With the twin bands now to either side of myself, I cautiously ventured a toe towards their immediate center, feeling my skin contact a smooth and importantly solid surface. Bringing my other foot downwards, I left my suspended position, weighing onto the material.

Coming to rest upon the expanse of abyss, I heard a solitude word utter out amidst the barren expanse of darkness.

“Mary?” was the call.

Looking up I had noted Jane now directly to my front… Where had she come from? How had I completely missed her on my descent and how far beneath the garden had we fallen? I just now had realized Jane was never below me, the place she should have been given the origin of our plummet.

“Mary, I’ve been waiting,” Jane giggled, eyes twinkling in the dim light. “This way, I… we need to go,” She resolutely supplied, skipping down the path and fading into the dim darkness.

“Jane, wait!” I had feebly called, some of the beforehand fear returning as I carelessly rushed into the gloom she embraced. I shouldn’t have pursued her, I should have attempted something, anything more to halt her! Why didn’t she listen to me? why did she have to stumble across that accursed abyss!

For as I ran in pursuit, the darkness engulfed me whole and I could now perceive aghast shapes swirling through my surrounding depths. The shadows flowed amidst each other like flows of minnows. They were oily creatures suspended in the night. Forms writhing and intertwining through the void. None ever permitted me a clear view. In fact, in this particular instance it was as if a hazy glass film were erected between me and them, enclosing the small path I stood upon. Following the harrowing sight I had angled my sight downwards, seeking with all my being to avoid understanding the dark forms. They simply delivered a feeling of portentous boding to my very core.

Steadily, shuffling onwards step by step, I meandered across the blasted expanse of abyss and glass, in constant pursuit of my sister’s weakening laughter and rigid with dread. Ever closer to the sound I crept and as I sauntered, coming to a rest behind it, gaze still glued to the dark floor, I finally peered upwards. There I saw my sister, and what was behind her… it oozed apprehension… I just knew it was wrong.

A flawless wall of white, near glowing material within the dark space, the bounds of which reached far beyond sight in every encompassed direction. I realized the shadows were no longer visible, the wall preventing their manifestation to some degree.

Forgoing provocation Jane stepped forward, stretching her palm outwards towards the expanse.

“Jane, stop!”… I tried to stop her. I really did, throwing myself forward, clawing towards any part of her I could tear away, save in some sense. She just wouldn’t listen; too young, too unknowing, and perhaps too far gone to properly comprehend reason. I knew if she reached that wall, something, everything… would be…

But I was too late… and the wall split.

From her point of contact, a bisecting crevice spread vertically away in either direction.

What was revealed within the surface of white matter, bulging outwards amidst abhorrent perception, was an eye. Although I don’t recall this too well, I am fairly certain it was an eye; the eye if you must.

And as its iris transfixed upon us, aspectual slashes contracting outwards over its liquidus surface, I froze.

Its gaze was like a brilliant star, searing through my frail shell of existence, burning against my core and deepest being. I wanted to scream, wanted to run and pound my head against the floor until that feeling; that awful insidious

and gnawing feeling; that feeling of dark deeply chained secrets, to which not even to you were aware, beared for all; was shattered with me.

Yet, I couldn’t move, couldn’t breathe, couldn’t even think as the eye transfixed upon me and me alone.

All I could do was gaze onwards, unblinking, towards my sister’s back, her hand still resting upon the heart.

She slowly turned towards me then, face steadily visible. She was crying; twin rivulets of tears dying her rosy cheeks as I stared at the familiar face.

Her eyes were a miasm of confliction. Both wandering and focused, uncaring and dead, filled with the highest degree of understanding and terror, beyond my comprehension.

As Jane stared towards me unblinking, her quivering lips hesitantly parted, and she muttered but a single word. “M-mary…?” she had stuttered, succeeded by an oppressive silence.

Then, she was gone.

Everything was gone, the wall, the eye, and my sister. Gone…

As I regained control over my body, the sound of shattering glass cried out around me. I came to gaze upon a flood of darkness rushing forwards. As it crashed into me, filling my mouth, lungs, eyes, and ears with an uncaring void, my mind cried out. Cried out in vain for this nightmare to end. Perhaps it did, I’ll never know.

What I do know is the next moment I was lying amidst grandfather’s garden, gasping for breath, the wildgrass below no longer adorned with that insidious hole. I should’ve been happy, I was free from that terrible place, yet, all I felt was emptiness.

“Jane?” I hesitantly called, “Jane…?” I ventured again, some shred of hope still remaining. I don’t recall how long I called her name, but I can say for certain my life has never been the same. That same day, uncle suffered a stroke and fell towards inability, becoming more of an adornment than a person. I switched between foster parents after that, everyone maintaining that my sister, Jane, never existed. Simply a figment of my imagination formulated in order for my young self to cope with the isolation I experienced.

They’re all wrong. I know what I saw… what took Jane. I’m going back to that garden. I believe I finally understand what my grandfather meant when he said we should never go near burrows. After decades I understand, I need to. No one can stop me, I… I need to do this.

Just don’t forget about me.

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