THE DOOR IN THE WALL
It depended on the weather how Kelly viewed the door in the wall. If it was cold and wet she envisaged spooky things on the other side, but if it was a summer day she imagined fairies dancing amongst the daisies. It was silly, considering she had no idea what was on the other side and she had never dared to explore.
The door was an old fashioned style made of wood with two enormous pieces of ironwork top and bottom. It was set in the huge wall that edges the acres of grounds belonging to the big house, nestled comfortably beneath the boughs of a horse chestnut tree. Village children gathered to collect the conkers in autumn, but Kelly was too grown up now to bother with childish things.
Her home was stone’s throw away, on the edge of the wooded glade that overlooked the house. The path from there to the sweet shop led her past the door but buying sweets was not her reason for walking that way. She was fascinated by the door. Each passing produced an imaginative assortment of unlikely scenes, from dead bodies and dungeons to princesses and knights on white horses. Mama said Kelly’s romancing would lead her into trouble one day.
This morning, she had heard the strangest thing: a cry, from the other side of the door. She passed there often enough but never before had she heard or seen anyone near the place. Could someone be trapped in there, trying to get out? Tentatively she reached up to press the latch, fearful of what she might find if she went inside. Feeling a little guilty, she took a step back as the door creaked open. What if there was a real life monster? What if it ate her alive? She chided herself for being foolish. After all, she was a big girl now. No need to be scared. Didn’t Dada always tell her to be brave and tackle even the things she didn’t like! She wished he was here now to help her face the sudden unknown. Somewhere in the distance, Kelly could hear music. A gentle tune that sent her fears flying. Taking a deep breath, she stepped through the doorway.
Elf was dangling from a tree, his braces caught on an unyielding branch. Suspended like a rag doll, he was powerless; there was nothing to grab, no more branches, or wooden posts, or even flowers, all he could do was swing and the more he wriggled the faster he swung.
Far below, nestling in the ferns, the black Cat gave a malicious grin; he was disinclined to help one who had so recently yanked his tail. For the past half hour he had amused himself by watching the sweat form on Elf’s brow. Unexpectedly the sun went in and Cat turned his head to see what caused it. That was when he saw Kelly clambering over logs in an attempt to reach the swinging Elf. Cat twitched his whiskers and flicked his tail, suddenly unsure. He had never seen a human here before, only fairies, and she was definitely not a fairy. She had no wings and wasn’t nearly as beautiful. Perhaps, Cat thought, he should bare his teeth to let the intruder know she wasn’t welcome.
‘Help me,’ cried Elf.
‘I’m coming,’ yelled Kelly, as she yanked away a mass of twigs. She looked round for something to stand on. Spotting an old crate near the wall, she hurried up the path to fetch it. She didn’t hear Cat hissing as she went by. When she reached the crate, the sun disappeared altogether and she could hardly see anything in the sudden gloom.
Unbalanced by a gust of wind she had to steady herself against the wall. She shuddered and wished she hadn’t been so foolhardy. Hadn’t she heard adults talk of things happening behind the door in the wall?
While she was balanced on the upturned crate, she tried to reach the braces that were holding the Elf firmly in place. Cat watched from below.
If you hook your arm in one of the straps, you might have enough strength to yank it over the branch, whispered the wind.
Kelly looked round to see who had spoken, peering through a misty cloud to where she thought the voice came from. All she saw was Cat darting away. In so doing she toppled on the crate and fell. The pain in her foot was so awful she cried out for someone to help.
Don’t look at me, thought Cat, from his hiding place.
Elf called out, ‘Are you alright, Miss?’
They were either walls or tall grassy banks that made Kelly think she had fallen into a tunnel. She thought only a tunnel could be so dark; yet not pitch black because in the distance there was a light, small and piercing in the darkness. She wondered if she should try and reach it. Or would it be better to go back and find her way to the door. However, since her foot hurt so much she didn’t know how she would get there. The light grew brighter, seemed to be coming closer. And there was that music again, tinkling notes echoing in the gloom like tiny voices. And more lights. Kelly squeezed her eyes together and then peered again into the distance.
Sliding towards her was a cloud of dense grey smoke. Originally shaped like some kind of monster, the smoke continually reforming into different guises. At first sighting Kelly thought it was a serpent, but then it swelled and rose in height until it converted into an animal. Bear-like. After a minute spent shaking its weird form the smoke flattened down to nothing before restructuring into a human shape. The weird music continued throughout, which was probably why Kelly was scared and fascinated at the same time.
And then came the greatest surprise of all.
A parade of fairies. Kelly rubbed her eyes in disbelief. When she looked again they were still there, standing to attention beside the newly formed giant. It was a sight to behold. The fairies were all dressed differently, some carrying wands, others holding candles high above their heads. Kelly couldn’t take her eyes off the one who led the procession, gossamer dress floating as she danced towards her, with tiny stars fluttering like tumbleweed from a cascade of long hair. Kelly drew in a breath, now totally bewitched by the spectacle. Her name was Laila, though Kelly had no idea how she knew that.
For a fairy, Laila was quite dominant. Pointing towards the opening through which Kelly had fallen, she demanded to know what all the commotion was about. Her voice was unlike any Kelly had heard, it reminded her of the triangle she played at school, described by her teacher as tunefully abrasive. Still with her arm raised, Laila explained that their Ghost was beside himself with confusion. She inclined her head towards the smoke which had now taken on the shape of an old man with a long beard.
Kelly frowned, not understanding.
Laila introduced Kelly to the man. Our Ghost, she said, by way of introduction, our non-creature. Now, tell me what happened on the land above.
Kelly explained about Elf and described how she tried to rescue him before falling into this burrow. ‘I wonder if you could help me get back there. By now Elf is probably fighting with Cat and he can’t have got himself out of the mess he was in.’
Under Laila’s guidance two of the fairies took Kelly’s arms and flew with her up to the hole. Kelly knew a moment’s thrill when she felt herself whisked off the ground so that she was gliding upwards.
Once on terra firma the fairies went directly to the tree where Elf still swung, then proceeded to form themselves into a set of steps, each one bending at a different angle to facilitate a climb up to the tree.
‘Couldn’t you fly?’ whispered Kelly.
The fairy smiled. Yes, we could, but we need to provide a platform for Elf to walk on once he’s free.
Kelly wished she’d had the sense to realise that.
It took a few minutes to free Elf, who had the wit to look apologetic as soon as he stood upright.
Quite right, said Laila, since you were the cause of poor Kelly’s injury.
Kelly looked down at her foot, realising suddenly that it had stopped hurting.
In a matter of minutes Cat was tried and sentenced for neglecting to assist the Elf. Punishment involved some hard labour ... helping Ghost with his nightly spectral chores. Something Kelly thought would suit Cat down to the ground.
Even though she was excused from giving evidence, Kelly was rewarded with three gold seeds that were reputed to bring happiness and good health all her days. She was also praised for her part in sending for help. Apart from falling down a hole and hurting her foot, she couldn’t for the life of her think how she had summoned help. Unless.... unless it was really Ghost who did it in one of his many forms. After all, when she thought back, he (or whatever he was) had been on the scene before the fairies. He had seemed agitated, evidenced by the way he discarded various shapes in favour of the old gentleman. She knew from her family that older people were kind and considerate so perhaps that applied to ghosts as well.
An hour later Kelly returned home, having promised only to visit when invited. In her hand she clutched the three gold seeds and tried to think where she could put them to keep them safe. She would never forget the incident and she knew that henceforth her view of ghosts and fairies would be entirely different to previous ideas. She wasn’t sure about cats but she would always remember what went on behind the door in the wall.
‘Where have you been, you naughty girl? Dinner was two hours ago.’ Mama was at the sink, her fat arms covered in soap suds as she almost threw plates onto the draining board. She looked very angry.
Although Kelly was old enough to stay out, she had always told Mama where she was going. It was something she’d thought long and hard about on the way home but still hadn’t come up with a good enough reason for missing the family meal. She put her hands in her pocket to make sure the golden seeds were still there. As she gently fingered them she knew she couldn’t tell the truth about going through the door in the wall. Her parents just wouldn’t understand.