The Lost Gardens of Stourhead

By RosieJSargent | The Writers Bloc | 27 Nov 2022

Lottie was strolling the gardens of Stourhead, she wanted to avoid her family members and their terrible friends. She wondered if they had realised she was absent, and then concluded they probably hadn't noticed. She was the eldest of her half a dozen siblings. She felt alone, under pressure and thought she was a burden. She felt as if she didn't feel like a person at all, just an empty vessel with a plain face. Lottie stopped and marvelled at the temple of Apollo. She gazed up in awe, admired by its structural beauty. The way sunrays and shadows make it seem as if the statues were in a dance. Lottie wondered if she would ever be as graceful, would anyone look at her in such a way? She believed herself to be a plain young woman in a real-life painting far more beautiful than she; still stuck in its past but always moving.

Along the bend of the lake and over the wooden bridge with chains, Lottie continued to ponder who she really was - what she was meant to do with her life, and if she would ever feel human again. She casually looked upon the pavilion and then continued walking towards the Watchers Lodge. The lodge was shabby, small, and well-aged. Despite the beauty of all of the classical homages and beautiful bridges, she adored the Lodge the most because it had the best view. Lottie felt lonely often but didn't want to be in the company of others. She pondered if the lodge feels the same as it's overlooked by the surrounding beauty...

Suddenly there was a loud buzz. The annoying kind that stops you in your train of thought. It was a drone descending with rapid speed as if like a stork it delivering a package addressed to dear Lottie. She caught it in her arms and the drone flew off as quickly as it had arrived. Lottie was hesitant, so she examined the handwriting of the mysterious individual who had written her name and sent this package. She eventually plucked up the courage and tore open the cardboard box. Inside was another box, but this one was wooden covered with carvings of moon phases. The box looked old and owned. She shook it slightly but there was no rattle. The weight of the old box told her that something was definitely inside.

Lottie!" cried her sister Olivia. "Lottie!"

Lottie quickly rushed into the Watchers Lodge, shutting the door behind her. She slumped down to the floor hugging her knees with the old wooden box sandwiched in between her legs and her thumping chest. She did not want to be found. She wanted to fade into the stone walls and wooden doors. "Lottie!" Olivia continued to shout as she passed the lodge, not paying it any attention.

Lottie breathes a sigh of relief and remained sat on the concrete floor. She looked at the wooden box and its cravings once more. She unhooked its lock which required no key. The hinges were stiff and squeaked as it opened, revealing a blue velvet cloth padding holding a silver antique mirror. The mirror was decorative with engravings of two fairies holding onto the moon. Gently she ran her fingers over the fairies and followed the shape of the crescent moon appreciating every detail. She loved beautiful things.

Lottie turned over the mirror dreading to see her own face but saw no reflection. Utterly bewildered she checked behind her, around her and still nothing. No reflection. How can this be? She thought, how is it possible? She glared into the mirror and hoped that her reflection would appear gradually like a ghost. She glared and glared but nothing. Until, a face. A face that was not of her own but of a woman, a maid, but only her face. Lottie dropped the mirror in fear and quickly scrambled to her feet, running out of the lodge. She stopped. She looked around her in confusion, it was almost noon, but it was now night. Her phone had no signal but still showed the time 11:47, and yet it was indeed nighttime.

The crescent moon glistened against the blackness of the night sky; in solitary silence with no stars. Apollo had given way to Artemis. Shadows dominated every inch of the gardens. Only a slither of moonlight allowed Lottie to see. The lake reflected all that was above, hiding what was below. Nothing but the waterfall, the ripples of the lake, and Lottie fast beating heart could be heard. She felt she was in a dream. She chewed the skin around her nails and bit her lip in anxious confusion. She continued to bite and bite until the skin around her nails began to bleed and hurt. She was awake and this was no dream.

A twig snaps. Lottie holds her breath. She stays still so that she will become a part of the shadows. Another snap of a twig and this time she spun on her heel anti-clockwise. She saw a silhouette of a person, someone she did not know or recognise. Lottie stared for a second before she slowly stepped towards the unknown shadow. The shadow moved, and she stopped.

"You shouldn't be here" the unknown shadow called.

"Do I know you?" Lottie replied.

"You do now." The stranger responded.

Lottie walked towards the shadow, as she got closer she could see it was a woman dressed as a maid from the early half of the twentieth century.

"Who are you?" Lottie asked scared and confused.

"My name is Sarah. I am one of the maids to Lady Alder."

"Who's Lady Alder?"

"A vain woman who hates anyone who is beautiful but adores anything else that is as such. This is her court, and we are her imprisoned subjects." Sarah pauses.

"There are many of you?"

"Yes. The other maids, servants, and I were abandoned after the fire at the house. We thought Stourhead would not survive and the gardens fall into decay. We were left and we lost ourselves. When Lady Alder returned, the house was still in ruin and the gardens in an array. She saw us as nothing but useless dolls and broken toys that she could put away and hide. We disappointed her, we were nothing to her and as such, we were deemed unworthy of our humanity in her eyes. For humans are often disappointing and disappointment looks ugly." Sarah steps forward into the moonlight. Lottie is struck with great horror.

"You shouldn't have looked into that mirror Lottie, and I shouldn't have stared back at you." Sarah continued. Lottie began to back away. "You must break the mirror in the centre lake so that the moonlight hits it just right. You haven't got a lot of time."

"This is insane! You're not real! You're not real!" Lottie screamed.

"No? Because it's all in your head?" Sarah laughed.

The moonlight revealed that Sarah had no face. It had been stolen and placed into the realm of the mirror, while her body remained in the lost gardens of Stourhead. A faceless figure in a timeless painting.

Lottie was terrified and started running back the way she came. She ran and ran frantically panting. She tripped and fell over her own feet, face first on the gravelled ground. When she stood back up, she was right back outside the Watchers Lodge. She ran the other way, running around Sarah who had not moved an inch. Lottie struggled as she ran up the steep hills and felt a sense of peace when the hill started to travel down. Among the shadows another faceless figure and then another, all stood around as a silent faceless audience as they watched Lottie. She paced endlessly around and around the lake, each time ending up back where she had started.

On the third attempt at her escape, Lottie manages to reach the stone bridge with a grass path. She walks to the middle of the bridge, stood there for a moment and started to cry in silence. She thought about the family she avoids, and the pressures that gave her great achievements. Lottie begins to recognise her accomplishments and the people she loves. She begins to feel the pain of the emptiness of her vessel fill with every emotion that could possibly be felt all in one moment.

Overwhelmed by the sensation of a cascade of feelings she drops to her knees and sobs. She spoke to herself and said: I am strong, I am resilient. I can get through this. Every night meets its dawn. Everything ends, and everything changes. Unlike me, I will not change. I am who I am and I accept it, with all my virtues and vices. I matter, and I shouldn't think otherwise.

She slowly raised herself with her held head high and her face was fearless, but her eyes spoke the truth. She walked back the way she had run for what felt like the longest night of all existence. Her legs were tired and ached. Her breath was short, and her pace had slowed.

She returned to the Watchers Lodge once again. She quickly retrieved the mirror without looking into it and headed straight for the lake. The water was cold and disturbed by Lottie's intrusion. She swam as fast as her arms and legs could take her. She swam and swam until she reached the centre. She examined the engravings again, admiring its beauty, and its shame for allowing its own destruction. Just like me, she thought.

Lottie kept her head and chest above the water and started to punch the mirror under the moonlight. Her knuckles began to bleed but that did not stop her, she was used to blood surrounding her fingernails. Punch after punch, crack upon crack. The glass of the mirror had transformed into a distorted mosaic. Lottie dropped the mirror into the water below, taking a deep breath as she does. The faceless figures had vanished into the darkness, and everything felt at peace. Even the stars started to shine. She leaned back into the water, floating there, her eyes closed. It's over. It's over...

Add a caption (optional)

Lottie is swallowed by violent waters pulled under by an unknown force and drowned. The next morning when the police arrived at the scene Lottie is missing and the mirror is found unbroken.


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