AT AUNT ENID’S
© 2013 Karen J Carlisle/ Rewritten 2017
Sally was not fond of visiting Aunt Enid. Oh, she was nice enough, but she had never really embraced the electronic age. She had no internet access or pay television – only dusty cabinets crammed with ceramic knickknacks. Sally loved her dearly, but holidays at Aunt Enid’s were boring.
‘Use your imagination,’ her aunt would say. ‘Reality can be so much more exciting.’
Thank goodness for the local library.
Aunt Enid had a passion for garden gnomes. It was almost pathological. She collected them from everywhere. There were small cute ones, large ugly ones and novelty ones with axes in their heads. They hailed from England, Germany and local garage sales. There was even one from Iceland.
Sally picked her way through the gnome assembly, which stood in formation over the entire front yard. They stared at her. Or was it just her imagination?
“Mind the gnomes, dear!” yelled Aunt Enid.
Every night Aunt Enid went out to Bingo, leaving Sally to entertain herself. Tonight she hugged Sally as she left yet again.
“Are you sure that you won’t be bored?” asked Aunt Enid.
Sally pictured herself sitting in the Town Hall, amongst an army of cardigan-clad pensioners, marking off Bingo cards in an effort to win a basket of goodies. She winced.
“I’ll find something to do,” replied Sally.
Aunt Enid smiled and trekked up the garden path.
There was nothing but reality shows and repeats on the local television station. Sally had read the contents of her aunt’s bookshelf on previous visits. It hadn’taken long to organise them into alphabetical order. Again. She wiped the last knickknack with a cleaning cloth and nestled it back into its cabinet.
All done. She folded the cloth, placed it on the coffee table and wandered to the front window and stared at the ranks of gnomes. They stared back. Sally sighed and proceeded to name each and every gnome in the collection.
Storm clouds gathered. The moonlight faded. A wind caught the rose bushes. A branch lashed out and knocked one of Aunt Enid’s precious gnomes onto the path.
He looked so sad, lying with one ceramic arm shattered on the concrete.
Aunt Enid will be so upset.
Sally braved the brewing storm to retrieve the pieces. The door rattled behind her as she laid them on the table.
Muffled noises banged in the street. Sally peered out the window. The wind had died down, yet the front picket fence was shaking. The rose bushes were not. Strange shapes writhed at the edges of the street light, just beyond the fence perimeter.
“Ash wood,” said Aunt Enid in her ear.
Sally jumped; she hadn’t heard her return home.
“It is good for protection, but it won’t hold them for long.”
Aunt Enid struck her walking cane on the floor. The air reverberated. A wave pulsed outward from the, now glowing, stick.
Sally grabbed the edge of the side table, struggling to keep her balance.
A cracking sound echoed through the front yard. Then another. The picket fence buckled. Dark shapes rolled over it, onto the lawn.
The gnome guards took a step forward, in unison. Those with fishing rods now brandished swords in their place. Others removed the axes from heads and pointed them towards the shadows. In turn, each gnome rushed the intruders, demolishing them from below. As each row of gnomes fell, another took its place. With military precision, they fought on until the dark shapes dissolved into a grey mist.
“Open the door,” said Aunt Enid.
Sally unlatched the door, threw it open and clung to the wall beside it, leaving a clear line of sight. Aunt Enid held her cane at arm’s length and blew gently along it, towards the doorway. The grey mist stirred then retreated beyond the picket fence.
The surviving gnomes halted and turned toward the house. They marched back to their spot, leaving the broken remains of their comrades behind. When they had all returned to formation, they turned, as one, to face the street.
There was silence.
Aunt Enid slammed the front door shut and locked it. She strolled into the lounge room and fell into her favourite chair.
“Is that exciting enough for you?” she asked.
Sally nodded slowly, trying to let the night’s events sink in.
Aunt Enid sighed.
“Then you had better fetch the superglue,” she said.
This was an original short story, written in 2013, that sparked an upcoming cosy paranormal mystery series. It is set in Adelaide, South Australia.