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The Garden

"The garden shrinks at night," Tomy said, looking from his mother to his father to observe if his announcement had the desired effect. 

   He had wanted to tell his parents this for three days. Tomy had noticed this particular oddity already in the first night since they had moved into the large brown house at the end of the street. However, he had wanted to make sure he was right. Now, after three nights, he was.  

   "What was that?" His father said, looking up from his newspaper.  

   It was Sunday. It was ok to talk to his father while he read the papers on Sundays.  

   "Did you say the garden shrank last night, dear?" His mother said, laughing. 

   "Not only last night, every night." Tomy said. The distinction was important. He had gotten up at one o'clock night for three nights in a row to make sure.  

   "Don’t talk rubbish," his father said. 

   "Paul! Let him speak. It's good for their development if children talk about their dreams," Tomy's mother said, shooting his father a poisonous look. 

   "It wasn't a dream," Tomy said quietly. 

   "How small did it get then?" Asked his mother. 
   Tomy's father huffed and hid his face behind the newspaper again, earning him another scolding look from his wife.  

   "Those flower beds were completely gone," Tomy said, pointing out of the large kitchen window at the softly swaying tulips. "And so was the well." 

   "And what was there instead?" Tomy's mother said, smiling indulgently.  

   "Nothing, it was just black. Maybe the plants didn't want us to see something" 

   Tomy's mother laughed again. She placed three glasses of orange juice on the kitchen table, reached over and tousled Tomy's hair gently.  

   "You have a great imagination. You are going to be a storyteller just like your father." 

His father snorted quietly. He had stopped writing after his promotion two years ago. Now he spent his mornings, days and evenings at the office, the old leather chair and desk in his study upstairs collecting dust. Unused. Sad.  

   Tomy decided that further arguing his point was pointless. He needed proof.  

   The next night, two hours after he had gone to bed and half an hour since he had heard his parents do the same, Tomy grabbed the flashlight from under his pillow and got out of bed. He looked out of the window. The entire garden was still visible, flowers, trees and bushes swaying softly in the moonlight.  

   Then, while Tomy was looking, the flowerbed disappeared. And so did other parts of the garden. Quietly, Tomy opened his window and jumped out onto the gravel. When he reached the edge of the visible garden, he stood still for a moment. Stretching out his hand, he touched the strange darkness that hovered over the place where his mother's magnificent tulips grew. The hand disappeared. Surprised, Tomy drew it back and looked at his hand for a moment. It looked and felt normal. After a short look back towards the dark window of his parent's bedroom, Tomy made up his mind. Holding his breath, he stepped forward, entering the darkness as if diving into cold water.  

The colours almost drove him back out. In front of Tomy's eyes was the part of the garden that had been missing when viewed from the other side. However, instead of starlit calm, Tomy found something that was positively radiant, vivid, and moving. The flowers were dancing, swaying their tinny youthful-looking heads from side to side. The petals had moved lower on the stalk and formed playful skirts and elegant dresses.  

When the flowers noticed Tomy, one of them wearing a long, red ball gown made from tulip petals floated towards him.  

   "What are you? And why is it day? And where are we?" 

   The flower's voice was so high and sounded so much like a bell that Tomy had trouble understanding it at first.  It told Tomy that the place he and his parent now lived bordered the realms of the old gods, the fair folk. And that they were its guardians, tasked with keeping the frontier intact and protecting the natural world against the human invaders. They told him stories of epic battles of the past, of creatures so fantastic that they had no names and of gods and goddesses that still lived in the forests and hills beyond the garden.  

   "Can I tell my parents about you?" Tomy asked after what must have been hours of listening. 

   "We would greatly appreciate it if you did. But we fear they will not believe you," the flower fairy said. 

   "Maybe if I can bring them some proof? 

   The flower fairy looked around at her companions. Most of them nodded silently. 

   "We tried before. But here you go," she said, pulling a long petal from her dress. 

   "It has magic, but not much. Maybe it will do something. It is high time we tried again." 

   Tomy thanked his hosts many times and promised to do what he can to share their stories. When he was back in bed five minutes later, Tomy put the petal on his nightstand and fell asleep looking at its radiant colour. 

   "… and there are gods and fairies and everything," Tomy said. He had told his parents the whole story. His mother had looked at him with loving eyes and smiled and laughed. His father, however, had been silent the whole time.  

   "Fairies in our garden, hm? And they are protecting the land of the gods? And beasts without a name?" 

   "Yes, look, they gave me proof," Tomy said, showing them his petal. It was still very red but the glow seemed to only be visible at night. Tomy's mother chuckled silently and turned around to make pancakes. To Tomy's surprise, however, his father touched the petal, his eyes staring out into the sunlit garden.  

   Then his whole visage changed. For the first time in a long while, Tomy saw his father smile a genuine, warm, honest smile.  

   "That's the best story I have heard in a long time," Tomy's father said.  

   "It's true," Tomy said, preparing himself to argue his point. However, his father had already gotten up and run out of the room. Tomy looked at his mother in surprise. It was only five minutes later when they heard the rattle of the dusty computer keyboard upstairs that they realised where his father had gone.  

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