Premise: Molly and her brother Kip must find a way to support themselves without their parents, so they book posts at an isolated home in an avoided wood in England. When they arrive, they discover something peculiar happens there that causes the house’s inhabitants to become sickly — and there seems to be a man who roams the house each night. Who is he? Why is he there? And what is happening to this family? Find out in this paranormal fantasy thriller.
Rating: 3/5 Target: 4-9
Title: You guessed it. The man in the premise (above) is the night gardener. I won’t tell you why he’s called that, though, but he drives the plot in more ways than one, so it makes sense that he’d have the title of the book.
When last we saw K and Z in episode m, part 2, they wereconsidering all the wonderful national forests they could visit after a successful escape via their grocery delivery steal away scheme.
“But you get the idea. We will visit a myriad of national forests and document our excursions via photography.”
K pulled her phone from her back pocket.
A flash went off in Z’s eyes.
“What was that for?” Z asked through spotted vision.
“To document the beginning of the excuses for photography.”
“Excursions,” corrected Z.
“Exactly,” said K.
“Oh, forget about it,” said Z, extremely exasperated with K and her lacking exactitude yet again.
“Can we play a game now, Z?” asked K.
“What game?” asked Z.
“Simon Says,” said K.
“Sure, K,” said Z, too annoyed to bother redirecting K.
“I do love Simon Says,” said K.
“So you say,” said Z.
“Not me, Z. Simon. Simon Says,” said K.
“As you wish,” said Z.
“As you wish for what?” asked K.
“Must we do this again?” asked Z, recalling a similar conversation from yesterday’s attempted escape from the enclosure of these four walls.
“What again?” asked K.
“The same thing as yesterday,” said Z.
“I thought we did the same thing every day,” said K.
“We do,” said Z. “But not that.”
“I don’t understand,” said K.
“I know,” said Z.
“But you know what I do understand, Z?” asked K.
“You’ve already said,” said Z.
“Yes, The chemical potential is just the Gibbs free energy normalized to the amount of substance. But also,” said K, “what you said reminds me of a game I like. It’s called Simon Says.”
“Perhaps we should play it then,” said Z.
“Oh can we?” asked K, clapping her hands together. “I’ll be Simon.”
K put her hands on her hips.
So K and Z played Simon Says while they waited for the groceries to be delivered. But they did not play very long. Afterall, Z hated Simon Says. She was not all that interested in Simon or his commands. He was an altogether bossy figure.
“You’re losing, Z,” K said. “You have to do what Simon Says.”
“I think Z says it’s time to position ourselves by the front door.”
K, forgetting they were playing Simon Says rather than the normal Z Says, grabbed the vanity mirror and rushed toward the front door.
“See if you can open it, K,” said Z.
K struggled with the door. She grabbed the knob with both hands. She turned. She twisted. Then she turned and twisted her wrists so that the doorknob turned and twisted too.
“Ouch,” said K.
“What?” said Z.
“It seems I have a bruised wrist,” said K. “I wonder how that happened.”
“Oh my,” said Z.
“Yes. Oh, my wrist,” said K.
“Okay. Just open the door with your other hand only,” said Z.
K turned the knob with her left hand. She pulled. The door didn’t move.
“It won’t move, Z.”
“I can see that, K. Did you unlock it?” asked Z.
K flushed. She giggled at herself. “Oopsies,” she said.
K unlocked the door. She turned the knob with her left hand. She pulled. The door swung inward.
“Oh, look!” delighted K. “A box for us! It’s a present!”
Is it a present? And if so, what’s inside? Who’s it from? Or is K just confused again? Find out in the final installment of episode m tomorrow in The Days of Our Pandemic.
When last we saw K and Z in episode m, they were preparing to detail the plan to escape the confines of these four walls…
“I will tell you the plan for today,” said Z.
K looked eagerly to Z.
“We will use the flag system to our advantage.”
“How will we do that, Z?”
“You know the milky white flag right, K?” Z asked with condescension.
“The one that alerts the authorities we’re out of milk and other food supplies?” asked K.
“The only white flag we have is that one,” Z said pondering the figurative use of white flags and added, “unfortunately.”
“Yes, I know that one, Z,” K said far too enthusiastically for she believed that the whole plan was knowing about the milky white flag. It was not.
“There’s more, you fool!” Z said.
“Yes, Z. More milk. At the stores. That’s why we can raise the milky white flag to alert the authorities to get us more of the more milk from the stores.”
Z talked herself down from the ledge inside her brain. She exhaled heavily.
“We will raise the milky white flag so that the authorities believe we are out of supplies, but when their automated vehicles arrive, we will be ready, waiting, and steal away in the car before it drives off past the forest and into the hills.”
“We’re going to steal the milk?” K asked Z in confusion.
“Well, no. Well, yes. But no. Before we consume any food or beverage, we must hide ourselves away in the car that moves away from this house and these four walls!”
“Oh, I don’t know, Z,” K said. “I used to like hideaways. We had a hideout when I was a kid with no boys allowed. And a hideout in the closet. And a hideout in the playhouse in the backyard. But that was all before King Covid. Don’t we always hide away now? I thought that our plan was to not hide away. Z,” K wondered, “why would we hide away to not hide away? I don’t understand.”
“Of course you don’t understand, K,” Z said. “Is there anything you do understand?!”
K thought about that.
She opened her mouth to voice an idea.
She closed her mouth because she forgot her idea.
She opened her mouth again. “I understand that you understand, Z. And that means I don’t have to understand.”
“That’s the first wise thing I think I’ve ever heard you say, K.”
“Thank you, Z.” K grinned. “And I understand that the chemical potential is just the Gibbs free energy normalized to the amount of substance.”
Z stared through the glass. She blinked. She wiped the inside of the mirror with her sweater sleeve. Then changed her sweater rather than don a possibly-smudged thread or two.
“Right. Well,” said Z searching for her immense vocabulary. “Uhhh, the simplicity of the plan will be to our ad-, ad-” The word escaped her.
“It will help us?” asked K.
“Yes, K. It will help us. We will escape the confines of these four walls today.”
“I’d like that,” said K.
“Go,” said Z. “Grab the milky white flag and raise it up.”
K pulled the flag from the bin of flags the state required that she purchase and that every online store sold their own variant of. Hers were from Amazon Basics. Just like her socks. She stepped into the flag room that used to just be the laundry room and hoisted the milky white flag up onto its place on the pole.
K returned to Z to report her success.
“The flag is up, Z.”
“Good,” said Z. “Now it will just be a matter of time before we escape the enclosure of these four walls!”
“What shall we do while we wait, Z?”
“Get the camera ready, K.”
“Why do we need a camera ready, Z?”
“We will need a camera, K, to record our adventure in the automated vehicle. We will go to the forest but not just any forest, K. We will go to White Mountain National Forest. And Pigsah National Forest. And Superior National Forest.”
a pinkyandthebrainhomage by KZ Rochelle (of course)
When last we saw K and Z, stuck in the lavender home with blue violet trim on Wonky Way Lane, they were set to begin construction on their plan to escape their four walls through the Transportationonmeteration Machine and head to Tampa Bay.
“Now! My Internet Transportationonometeration Machine! Here are the directions, K. Let’s get to work.” Z held the scroll so that K could see its contents.
K read the directions, her finger smudging lines onto the mirror’s glass.
“1 large cardboard box. I’ll grab that.” K ran out of the bathroom and returned with a large box in hand.
“Three inkless pens. Yes, yes.” K pulled two from her back pocket and one from her hair.
“You’ll need the beach-scented candle. It’s very important if we want to get to Tampa Bay,” said Z.
“On the bedside table,” said K.
“Good, good. It’s coming together.” Z tapped her fingers together like the evil genius she was. Even if she wasn’t so evil. Or much of a genius.
They worked together. K gathered supplies, nailing and gluing the bits together. Z directed K. Until they were on the last steps of the process.
“My Internet Transportationonometeration Machine is almost done. Then we will be out of these four walls! Free to go about in the world as we will.”
“As we will what, Z?”
“As we will, K.”
K looked at Z waiting for elaboration.
Z continued. “As we desire. However we like. As we want, K.”
“As we want what, Z? Do we want a teddy bear? Or a blankie? Oh! No! How about some chocolates? I love chocolates. I would want chocolates. Or ice cream! Ice cream from an ice cream shop, Z. Can you imagine? That’s what I will!”
“Very well, K.”
Z calmed K down before noting the last remaining steps.
“All we need now, K, are four silver paper clips.”
“Four silver paper clips,” repeated K.
“Yes, four silver paper clips.”
K looked at Z. Z looked at K.
“Four silver paper clips?”
“Yes! Four silver paper clips! That’s what I said, K! Four silver paper clips!”
“Are you joking, Z?”
“Do I look like I’m joking, K?” Z’s face set in. Her eyes narrowed. Her brows furrowed.
“Don’t know,” said K. “What’s joking look like? I only know what it sounds like.”
“Good grief,” said Z, turning her face away in disgust.
“Z, this is what a joke sounds like. What kinds of dogs love car racing?” K paused.
Z did not respond. She did not even look K’s way.
“How about this one? How about this one? What streets do ghosts haunt?”
Still, K did not respond.
“Dead ends!” K guffawed again, pounding down on her knee.
Z looked at K. She waited.
“Are you quite done now?”
“Almost, Z. Because that’s what a joke sounds like.” K checked her knee for bruises. “I’m set now.”
“The four silver paper clips then,” Z said.
“Ain’t no such thing,” K said.
“Of course there’s such a thing,” said Z.
“Naw, ain’t no such thing,” said K.
“They’re those little curled up metal wires that hold your papers together, K!”
“I know what they is, Z. No one’s got them anymore. On account of no one uses paper. Everyone is virtual. Virtual working. Virtual learning. Virtual dancing. Virtual cooking. Virtual passing over and virtual Christmas with virtual presents. No one’s got paper clips.”
“Are you saying that no one includes us? As in we don’t have them, K?”
K emphasized we just as Z did. “We don’t have them, Z.”
“Then we can’t finish the Internet Transportationonometeration Machine. And if we can’t finish the Internet Transportationonometer Machine, we can’t get on the other side of the screen. And if we can’t get on the other side of the screen, we cannot escape the confounding confines of these four walls.”
K watched Z pace through the mirror.
“Is that a bad thing, K?” Z asked.
“It means we’ve failed, K!”
“Failed at what, Z?”
“Escaping these four walls, K.”
“But we got to hear Rochelle. And gather these goodies like a scavenger hunt. And make this Transmutation Machine. And tell good jokes. And…”
K went on and on. But Z was not listening. She’d begun pondering the activities for tomorrow.
“…and we still have a Zoom!” said K.
“Not me, K.”
“I still have a Zoom!” said K.
K ran to the nearest tablet, logged on, and proceeded to make silly faces at her nephew for the next hour.
While K was thus employed, Z stayed inside the looking glass in the bathroom in the lavender house with blue violet trim on Wonky Way Lane.
She muttered to herself, thinking through details for tomorrow’s plans, when they would try to escape the confines of these four walls.
a pinkyandthebrainhomage by KZ Rochelle (of course)
Outside the lavender home with blue violet trim on Wonky Way Lane, a pair of peregrine falcons chased each other out of a rabbit den, squawking and combating mid-flight. Prior peoples may have seen a harbinger herein, but those who roamed the land had long since considered ancient omens.
In front of the bathroom mirror in said Wonky Way Lane home, the following scene took place. Observe, Reader, from your safe distance on the far side of the screen lest you spiral into what you discover…
“What shall we do today, Z?” K asked the figure in the mirror.
“The same thing we do every day, K,” Z responded. “Escape the world enclosed by these four walls.”
Before K could agree with the brilliance of such an idea, cackling emanated from the walls and reflected off the toothpaste-coated tile floors.
“Rochelle? Rochelle? Stop that!” K hit the wall with the outside of her fist.
The cackling continued.
“RO-Chelle!” K pounded.
The cackling ceased but K already felt regret blooming in the form of a bruise on her wrist.
“Damn you, Rochelle.” K returned to Z’s fresh face in the mirror. She coated it with concealer. “Where were we, Z?”
“Where we always are, K. Escape.”
“Of course, Z. You’re rather a smart one, aren’t you?”
“Always dapper, yes,” Z said, petting down any lingering wrinkles on her sweater.
“Oh, you’re so witty. Smart. Dapper. Good one, Z.” K threw her head back in a chortle, knocking the back of her head on the hospital white wall behind her. “Ouch.” She rubbed the point of impact.
“Enough of this nonsense,” said Z.
K snapped to attention. But thought about the back of her head. And wondered if her thoughts came from that spot on the back of her head that had taken a beating. And if her thoughts came from that spot on the back of her head that had taken a beating and now that part of the back of her head had been hit by the wall….wait, no….had hit the wall, then perhaps her thoughts could radiate out faster. Like the pain itself. Throbbing its way from a single point like a ripple. Or, perhaps she’d cracked the spot that held her thoughts and the thoughts that came from that spot on the back of her head would fall into an abyss so dark and lonely they’d never be found again. Or maybe her thoughts…
“K! Listen to me!”
“We must find our way out of this place. We have been in here for a year. Isolated. Quarantined. Our lives placed on pause while the world outside swims through a COVID-infested ooze.”
“Oooh. Ooze. Is it like slime? I like slime, Z. Maybe we could go swimming too?”
“Yes! But no. Not in the ooze. But we need to get out and into the world again.”
“How will we do that Z?”
Z motioned K with a solitary finger. She beckoned her closer. Closer. Closer to the mirror where Z resided. Until BAM! K knocked her skull against the glass.
“Ouch. That hurt.”
Z rolled her eyes. This happened every morning. K hit her head from behind. She hit her head from the front. They were lucky when she didn’t end up lethargic for the day in consequence, but, still, the continual impact had its effect.
“As I was saying!” declared Z with stentorian posture and a downward struck fist.
K rubbed her forehead. And her backhead.
“Yeah, Z. As you were saying.”
“We must escape the confines of these four walls again today the same way we do every day.”
“Right-o, Z! Same way we do every day.” K nodded her head enthusiastically. Then threw up.
“You’ll have to clean that up before we escape,” said Z evaluating her cuticles.
They were out of Clorox and bleach and dishwashing soap and detergent and vinegar, so while K cleaned up her mess with a dustpan and some febreeze, Z turned the other way to bake honey banana cupcakes. Again. They always had bananas to go on.
Will K and Z escape their four walls before they go bananas? Find out next time in The Days of our Pandemic….