#FlashForFriday – ‘Wonderland’

As I mentioned in my last post, I recently came across this link to pictures of the 33 Most Beautiful Abandoned Places the other day. I had seen some of these pictures before but they were still amazing to see again and I thought, wow, talk about story fodder. If you’re feeling like doing some writing but struggling for ideas have a look through – there’s amazing potential there.

One of them is the inspiration for this week’s #FlashForFriday. I have taken some creative lisence and switched the country, just because that was where my imagination went. I thought I’d plucked the title for the piece out of my head, but when I went back to the picture either I hadn’t or it just suited the title so well someone had got their first.

Enjoy!

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‘Wonderland’ outside Bejing, China

Wonderland

‘Who’s there?’

The figure that had been ghosting my footsteps stepped out from behind the remains of a candy floss kiosk. She wore a dark coat that reached the floor and there was a scarf high around their face so the voice came out muffled.

‘English?’

I nodded, feeling my panicked heartbeat start to calm. The woman took a step closer and put away her night stick under her coat. ‘What are you doing here?’ Her voice was heavily accented in odd contrast to her fair hair and western features.

‘I’m sorry,’ I murmured, shoving my own hands into my pockets. ‘I didn’t mean to trespass.’

‘You did.’

‘I’m sorry.’

‘What are you doing here?’ she said again with those lilting and clipped syllables, folding her arms and narrowing her eyes at me.

I rubbed the back of neck, glancing around me at the derelict stalls and fairground rides half-shrouded in mist. ‘I’m afraid I can’t really tell you.’

Nani?’

‘I’m sorry?’

She shook her head, thought for a moment then tried again. ‘What do you mean?’

I shrugged, not letting my eyes leave hers. They were uncommonly pale. ‘I’m not sure what I’m doing here. I saw the tower…’ I gestured towards the gateway, its towering plasterboard spire looming against the dull steel sky. ‘I saw it from where I was staying. I just wanted to look around.’

‘It’s not safe.’

‘Do you work here?’

‘I watch it. I get money for food and wood.’

‘You stay here all the time?’

She raised pale eyebrow. ‘Stay?’

‘Sorry,’ I said, rubbing my hands together in the chill. ‘I should have learnt more Japanese. Uh…is this where you live?’

Hai. Now, come. You must leave.’

I stood there unable to move but feeling very foolish. My breath misted into the air and she stood waiting whilst I tried to dredge something from her cool gaze. I glanced again towards the black lines of the ferris wheel beyond the sagging bumper-car arena and chewed on my lip for a moment. ‘Could I possibly look round a little longer?’

‘Why?’

I sighed and tried to find the words. ‘I knew someone. Long, long ago. We were children together. She disappeared.’ I watched her face but I couldn’t even tell if she understood me. ‘She had always talked about running away to somewhere magical.’

‘She ran away?’

I shrugged again. ‘No one knows. It was a long time ago. She…she didn’t have a nice life. We used to talk about Narnia or Never Never Land, whatever magic places were in the books we had been reading that week.’ I smiled, looking up again at everything around me. ‘She loved fairs. I don’t know…it’s been years since I thought about her. But when I saw the spire…’

She did follow my gaze to the tower this time and silence settled between us for a moment.

‘Are you happy?’

‘Sorry?’

‘Are you happy for your friend? Or is it bad that she went?’

‘I don’t know,’ I mumbled my reply. ‘But whatever happened to her…at least she no longer had to live with what she did.’

The woman nodded. ‘Follow me. I’ll show you around.’

‘You will?’

She nodded. ‘The horses are good.’

‘Horses?’ I said, trotting to catch up with her.

Hai,’ she said, a little impatiently and mimed a horse-riding motion as we moved a long. ‘The horses.’

I followed her around the bumper cars, thin grass sprouting from cracks in the tarmac brushing against my jeans. The silence was as thick as the fog around the sound of our footsteps. We turned another corner and the tarnished brass and wooden jumble of a carousel took shape in the gloom. Some flecks of gold and silver shone here and there on the horses all frozen in mid-gallop, interspersed with peeling sweeps of ruby red, leaf green and burnished orange.

She went up the crumbling steps ahead of me, waving at a hole in the wood and mumbling a warning before stepping over it. Her pale eyes went far away as she wandered amongst the wooden horses, running her gloved hand over the carved manes.

‘It’s beautiful,’ I said just above a whisper as I looked amongst the silent carvings.

‘The people are gone,’ my companion replied slowly, lingering over the syllables and looking me in the eye to read my understanding. ‘But the magic is not.’

Though most of her face was still concealed in the scarf it looked like she was smiling.

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17 Responses to #FlashForFriday – ‘Wonderland’

  1. M. C. Dulac says:

    Such a sweet ending! I had a sense of dread all the way through (I wanted to say ‘go back! go back!’) but it looks like she’ll escape after all (if she wants to).

  2. Anna says:

    The silence was as thick as the fog…mysterious, binding and pulls you in. Cinematic…really enjoying your writing!

  3. I, too, like the ambiguity of the ending. And for some reason, the image of her “uncommonly pale” eyes stuck with me. Great job! 🙂

  4. Dave says:

    Wonderful little story, JS. Loved the atmosphere. The ending was ambiguous, as you wanted, though I was a bit disappointed that it wasn’t definitely her childhood friend. But that’s just me 🙂

  5. A nice short story. Enjoyed it very much =)

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