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Flower Girl (subject to change)
As soon as her slender bare foot hit the lush green grass, she felt every inch her anxiety melt away with every step she took. Turning around she quickly slid shut the clear glass door with one hand and in the other held a thickly woven picnic basket.
Sarah breathed in a huge gulp of swaying air and surveyed the expansive surroundings before her, which told that winter was swiftly fleeting and spring was soon emerging. The warm spring air whipped around, moving as quick as lightning, billowing her light sandy colored locks then soon disappearing leaving nothing more than a feather light whisper. The sun's rays, half hiding behind the fluffy white clouds, played a teasing game of peek-a-boo. Sometimes coming out and heating Sarah's skin making her glad she wore her light white sundress and others escaping to the clouds leaving nothing but a cool breeze.
She walked farther and farther away from her house down the sloping hill towards the massive oak tree that humbly wait for her on just the edge of her plantation. Bright patches of colorful wildflowers surrounded the oak's gnarled roots which stretched out then sunk deep into the rich soil.
At last Sarah reached her sacred spot, tossing her woven picnic basket onto the ground and softly collapsing onto a bed of blooming white peonies. As much as she loved these magical, golden spring days she loved the land even more. Her sole passion; her sole purpose in life was gardening. She loved the feel of her gloved fingers through the rich soil and the ability to cultivate the land and reap it for all it was worth. A connection that had been inherited from her mother, who years ago had started a community garden for their small Southern town. This of course was her favorite place in the world with its wrought iron fences, tall looming cool trees that provided the shade and most all the gorgeous flowers.
For the longest time she only gazed up at the clouds floating lazily in the baby blue sky above as they morphed and transformed into odd shapes. As she squinted up at a particular pelicular cloud that appeared to be something like a duck riding in a spaceship, Sarah's stomach rumbled like an engine being brought to life with unmistakable sounds of hunger. Sighing, she hoisted herself up and grabbed her picnic basket.
The basket, thickly woven with multicolored stalks, was a treasured gift from her grandmother. She adored it dearly and used it just for these special early spring lunches. She pulled out her lunch and a book.
Sarah gently picked up her worn, weathered, dog-eared copy of The Secret Garden and as she devoured her meal, read over the yellowing, brittle pages for the seventeenth time. As the favorite and one of the only books she'd ever read, sixteen times was not enough to quench her desire for the beloved story. Lying back on the finely-cut grass, her stomach full of her vegetarian meal, Sarah became entranced in the pages once again when something made her freeze. The voice, soft and fleeting, almost seemed nothing more than gently breeze whispering in her ear but she was certain that she'd heard it. Either that or she must've been hallucinating. She slowly lifted herself up and hesitantly peered around the tree finding no body attached to the voice in sight. In fact if anything the voice almost seemed as if it was beneath her.
Cautiously, testing this theory, Sarah left her right ear lay flat against the cool ground until she heard it. Her eyes widened in unbelievable surprise as they called out to her once more.
The flowers. They were talking to her. The flowers were talking to her. Their voices, one dull incessant hum, that she couldn't believe that she'd ever heard before and when they came together, a sound of a unified mass it sounded clearer, sharper like someone speaking right in her ear.
Still slightly amazed and dazed, Sarah sat up blinking. Nervous laughter suddenly bubbled up inside of her and tumbled out in a mass tidal wave of choking sound. What was going on here? Was this some kind of joke? We're the peonies actually speaking to her? In all her years of gardening as much as she'd wish that the flowers she cared for would one day speak she’d never actually thought it happen.
"Sarah, Sarah," the peonies spoke swaying in the breeze as they called her name out like a sweet siren song, "Sarah....."
“What do you want? What's going on?” she questioned, reverently. She no longer needed to rest her head onto the ground to her them their voice as clear as day.
"You. We need you," they answered before ominously whispering," Sarah, save them......."
Later that evening, on the evening news there was the rare occurrence that something actually piqued Sarah's interest. It was on a rather somber note as usual but it was an event that was happening in her area.
"In Jasonville, new reports say that the number of missing children in the area has increased to a total of six," a stony-faced beautiful news anchor announced. This made Sarah stop in her tracks as she crossed the living room from her small trip from her room. "This is after an early report on four missing children that had been kidnapped on Sunday. The other two were taken last night also in the place and police believe that the cases may be linked. No witnesses were at the scene and the Jacksonville Police Department is still compiling evidence."
Her mother, Mrs. Malbury, who sat on the couch, gave a weary sigh as her daughter collapsed next to her. She generally appeared distraught over the kidnappings which Sarah couldn’t help baffling at.
Mrs. Malbury sniffed and gave a stiff smile, “I feel for so sorry for the Parks and those other families. How about tomorrow we bake some cookies, and get some flowers then deliver it to them?" A genuine smile planted on her face at the thought of someone being her next charity case.
Sarah nodded but her thoughts were a million miles away as she pulled away from her mother's frail arms and slowly walked back to her bedroom. There was something about these kidnappings that plagued her mind. Even as she snuggled into the covers ready to go to sleep that night she couldn't help but let herself think back to that afternoon. The flowers had mentioned something about saving ‘them’, mysterious people who were in need of her heroism but who was that exactly? It would almost seemed like a floating dream, some lazy afternoon hallucination if it hadn't been for those haunting words that kept repeating her head like a pressing mantra: save them, save them, Sarah, save them.....
The rest of the week passed by fleetingly, an army of thundering storms causing the late afternoon lunches to come to a halt until another one of those bright spring days came again.
Sarah sat at the base of the oak again this time without the hope of getting too immersed into the pages of The Secret Garden but rather with the sole intention of becoming immersed into the peonies words.
She if thought that she would have been able anticipate the next time the flowers spoke and able to be not the least bit surprised she was wrong.
"Sarah... help us”, the words made her nearly jump up in shock, the way they crept into the air so anticipated but yet unexpected. It made her shiver.
"Help who? What do you want?” Sarah answered, apprehensively. She wasn't laying back against oak anymore instead she was sitting up alert, tense. Her body ready for something unexpected to happen but then maybe that didn't make it so unexpected.
A hot wave of wind brushed against her cheek as the flowers spoke, almost as if they were caressing her, “You have to save them...the children...you have to save the children...from the bone witch."
"What?" Sarah asked but her voice sounded faint, far away. This was really happening, this was really real. They needed her for something this couldn't be hallucination, could it?
"The bone witch....she'll kill them...help the children....save..... them.....soon...,"their words seemed to be coming in short fading frantic burst now something that made her anxious.
"How?" Suddenly the question hadn't been what is going on? And this really can't be happening, can it? But rather if she really was going to save these kids then how? How would she even be able to locate them or even rescue them or----
Before she could even begin conjure another thought or say anything really, there was a loud whooshing noise that filled her ears. And then Sarah wasn't there anymore.
Sarah felt herself imploding; exploding into a billion particles then being suddenly rearranged and shuffled then rearranged again. A kaleidoscope of color from strange places and past times blurred around as she shot like a rocket across time and space. Then a loud pop filled her ears like a bubble bursting out of existence and she reappeared.
Opening her ice blue eyes, she came to in a large field. No, not a field but a bed of soft flowers; white peonies to be exact. She was still slightly shocked that the flowers had actually teleported her here, curiously wondering what other things they had in store. Sarah felt a tiny bit woozy as she picked herself up and surveyed the area around her.
A wave of familiarity washed over Sarah as gazed upon the long, immaculate rows of blooming crisp flowers, the fading black wrought iron fence that surrounded the place and the tall looming trees that provided a cool treetop of shade but yet let just the right amount of sunlight filter in. It was garden but not just any garden but the Jasonville Community Garden. Memories of planting beds of new flowers in the spring with her mother and frolicking in the beautiful grass lawns on lazy Sunday afternoon filled her mind as she asked, “Why’d you bring me here?"
Amazingly she could still hear the flowers breezy whisper all around her, maybe because they're we're so many of them, “The children....find them...before it's too late..."
Behind her, Sarah noticed the large wrought iron gate for the first time. It was apart of the garden that she didn't recognize and a long spotty trail of suspicious crimson liquid stemmed from the gate. Without another glance behind her, Sarah stepped past the gate and into unknown.
She followed the trail of blood into the mysterious section of the garden. Cold, chiseled stone statues sprang out from the ground, long and forgotten slabs of marble---tombstones----were infested with twisting grass proving that maybe that this wasn't a garden after all but a forgotten cemetery. In the middle a weathered marble fountain stood crookedly. Sarah walked over towards the edge to find not water flowing at the base but blood and in the center of that a small child.
Sarah rushed over the aid of the child, pulling him out of the fountain and setting the boy onto the soft grass. Her hands bloody, she checked feverishly for a pulse only to be met with silence and a stone cold body.
Too late. She was too late and now there was a dead toddler in her arms. Before a choked sob could escape her lips she remembered the news report claiming that this hadn't been the only one. There were five others, hopefully alive and waiting. She would save them.
Gently letting the boy fall from her arms, Sarah proceeded towards the small shabby shack that was at the end of the cemetery. Her bloody fingers pried open the weathered door as she slightly feared for what lay beyond. She prayed for the rest of the children, well and breathing to behind the door and not the horrible bone witch come to offer the same fate as the little boy.
To her relief and joy, five children were huddled in a corner. Their faces dirty and eyes round with terror and pure fear. Tattered clothes hung loosely over their skinny, unfed bodies and coughs racked the bodies of the older ones and tears ran silently down the faces of the younger ones.
Sarah ran over to children wrapping them up in a huge hug overcome with love and peace, "Your safe now, your safe...,"she murmured
"Or are they?” A sinister voice cackled behind her and Sarah turned to see her worst nightmare.
A woman, or rather a skeleton of a woman stood over them. Her green, decaying, hanging skin sagged on her frail figure and black hollow eyes stared at them blankly like she didn't have a clue at what she was looking at. Her features were pulled back into a tight grimace that bared her sickly yellow teeth and could only be described as a "smile". She wore a long dress of assorted bones that clanked when she moved and had a femur bone lodged between her nostrils. There was no doubt in Sarah's mind of who she was. The bone witch.
"Run!” Sarah barely got to choke out before the bone witch's arm shot out and she began to mutter her evil curses.
The children didn't need to be told twice they all scrambled out of the shack with Sarah at the back left to fend off the bone witch's attack. One of the bones on her dress flew out to meet Sarah, missing her head narrowly. She sped out of the shack as quickly as possible, the witch hot her heels.
"Go! Go!” she frantically urged the children, “Past the gate!"
The bone witch smiled evilly as Sarah scrambled away from her reach, “Don’t think you just escape me, girl!” she rasped, hurling more of her bone arrows in Sarah's direction.
At last Sarah reached to gate, joining the children and commanding them to gather around the flowers. She was only steps away from the bed of peonies when the bone witch aimed a sharp bone straight for her heart.
A loud whoosh resonated in her ears as she gripped the children feeling her self being sucked into a warping black hole. A pop cracked the air and Sarah found herself alive on a mat of soft familiar grass with the five children next to her.
She stood up, her breathe ragged and hitched and her mind still reeling over the past events. She had no idea what to do next---tell her mother? Deliver them to their parents? ----but that didn't matter because they were safe. And most importantly alive.
And if anyone asked her how she found the children, she'd just crack a wry smile and tell them that the flowers had told her.