Prompt #1: Talking Gnomes

One day, you are out in your yard when the next-door neighbor’s garden gnome suddenly walks over and starts telling you about “what is really going on.” Write this scene.

“What’s up, Andrew?” the gnome asked.

I was standing in the backyard. The garden was full of tulips, peonies and other flowers that I couldn’t name. My obsessive-compulsive mother was a gardener. Not a petal was out of place. I suppose it was rather beautiful, being surrounded by flowers but my main concern was the gnome speaking to me. He was, like most gnomes, rather hideous. If his nose stuck out like a fish hook, his mouth was haphazardly hanging from it. I couldn’t help but think that it reminded me of a fish wiggling about as he spoke. His eyes were beady and sweat dripped from his wrinkled forehead.

Now, I suppose it sounds strange, a seventeen year old guy being questioned by a gnome but I was familiar with this one. He lived on my neighbors lawn. Now and then he’d sneak over for a chat. I’d finally given in to the idea that talking gnomes did, in fact, exist and took his question like I would from any other person. He’d never told me his name so I’d nicknamed him Otto because of an old history teacher with a rather curious resemblance to him.

“Eh, could be better.” I said, shrugging. “You?”

He smiled at this. I hate it when he does this. He gets this evil look on his face. His eyes dart from side to side and slowly, his lips curve upwards, revealing his toothless mouth. It’s quite…different. “The master has a little secret.” He calls his owner the master. “Would you like me to tell it to you?”

I rolled my eyes at this. As if I wouldn’t. Whenever there was a scandal in the neighborhood, a teenage mom, an elopement or, hell, even a new car at the Beecher’s, Otto knew it. And he told me. Otto, the gossiping gnome. Ha.

“I found out where he keeps the portal. The portal to the other side.”

I scoffed. “So you found out he’s got a back door. Hey, buddy, I could have told you that years ago.”

He ignored me. “It’s the portal to Underland.”

I stopped at this. “Under what?”

Otto was getting impatient now. “Human, it’s my world. Underland. It’s the world that is mirror to this world.”

Look, I know that it doesn’t seem very logical to believe that talking gnomes exist but not believe in a fantastical world. But hey, I’m a skeptical guy. Talking gnomes is one thing; parallel worlds is a whole nother game.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“I can show it to you.” So this was what he really wanted to talk about. I could see it in his eyes. He knew I wouldn’t refuse; it wasn’t as if I had anything better to do. He beckoned towards his house.

“Come?” I sighed and nodded. “Great, now I’m off on an adventure to find a mysterious portal.”

We started off towards the house. I suppose I should describe it to you now. The Winchester house is, well, the ugliest house on the street. You can tell that it started off as a one story house with basic layout. Over the years, the owner added new sections on. Each added section has a different siding. The new living room has pink siding. The new kitchen is made from brick. There are four stories to the house, four stories of vibrant colors. We call it the Rainbow house. I suppose it’s a cute idea but when you live next door to it the house becomes an eyesore. The shrubs are sculpted to look like elephants. The windows are all painted red, so no one can see inside. I’ve seen the inside once, when my mom was giving Otto to him as a Christmas gift. She gifts all the neighbors. I’m not sure how she’d react if she knew that her gift was talking to me every evening in the backyard.

That gift-exchange was the only time I saw the owner. His name isn’t Winchester; that was the name of the previous owner, when the house was still normal. It’s Earl Finn. Nobody sees much of him and he hires all his gardeners and contractors through the internet. Finn is bald, I mean really bald. He’s completely hairless. No eyebrows, nothing. He looks tan and has a sort of bodybuilder look going on. Must’ve made a gym somewhere up there.

Anyway, Otto snuck under the usual hole in the fence and I hopped it. He led me to the back door.

“You must follow me. Do not touch anything.” He whispered. I nodded again and followed him through the door. I couldn’t believe I was doing this. What was I going to say when the cops caught me: a gnome coerced me into following him so I could see a magical portal to a parallel universe? Yeah, that was going to be believable.

Inside, it wasn’t a rainbow anymore. The house was absolutely empty.

“Uh, what am I not supposed to be touching?” I laughed, looking around. The walls and floors of the house were all white.

Otto didn’t answer. He meandered through the space in a weird way, crisscrossing and hopping at random intervals. I swallowed a laugh and walked after him. Suddenly, I found myself running into something. It felt…like a table. I laughed nervously. Slowly, the wood grain appeared under my hands and the entire table began to reveal itself. Otto looked back. He was afraid. And at that moment, so was I. Maybe this portal thing was real after all. And maybe I wasn’t supposed to be here, in a house no one had ever been in, trying to find a magical portal to lead me to Underland.

“You musn’t touch anything! The master will know.” He hopped and crisscrossed over towards me. He grabbed my hand and led me through the rooms until we came to a halt. “Here we must climb. But do not make a sound or the staircase will reveal itself and show that we have been here.” He took a deep breath and began to climb. This was my moment, my moment to run out of here and pretend I’d never had a conversation about a magical portal with a talking garden gnome. We’d go back to talking about unwed mothers and Asian kids who got B’s instead of A’s.

But that’s not how it happened. I followed him. What can I say? I’m an adventurous guy.

The stairs didn’t creak as we climbed them. I suppose it was because they were still invisible and nonexistent. Let me tell you, it is the most unnerving thing to be hanging five feet in the air over what looks like empty space. I silently prayed that these stairs weren’t going to break under my feet and send me sprawling onto the floor. Or somewhere else….Anything was possible at this point. All of my nerves were on edge. My right ring finger was twitching, something that happens frequently when I’m scared. It’s a fact. After we’d made it up the stairs, the we found ourselves on the second floor. It was the mirror of the first floor except for one strange thing: the walls and floors were all the same vibrant shade of pink. Otto hopped and skipped and I hopped and skipped after him. I wasn’t running into anything on this floor. We made it to another staircase and another floor, which was painted blue. I hopped after Otto until we got to the third staircase, the staircase to the fourth floor.

This one was visible.

It had silver railings with mythical creatures, mountains, rivers and whole battles carved into them. The steps were made of some clear substance and sparkled in front of me. All in all, it was the most beautiful staircase I’d ever seen. The two of us stared at it, bound by the ethereal beauty. I turned to look down at Otto. “Should we go?”
He chuckled nervously and began up the stairs. I climbed after him. I had the most unnerving feeling that I was travelling upside down. As we neared the top step, I got nervous. “Are we nearing the portal?”

He looked back at me and smiled. “We’re on the portal.”

The staircase disappeared and so did the world around me as his foot touched the top step. Off to Underland we went….

(I might continue this later. Nonetheless, it was fun to write, even if I wasn’t being serious.)

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