I found it in the garden. A small toy, no bigger than my finger. Pink. A fairy. The kind you might find in a cereal box.
Before I moved in, the garden was wild. Ivy poured over the crumbling fences and an army of slugs feasted on the shoots that crawled across the ground. As ripped the weeds away, spiders appeared, each with strange pearls on their backs.
After a whole weekend, thirty garden-waste sacks and a strained back, there it was: bleak, bare soil. It needed colour. That was when I started digging.
First, I planted roses, then lavender. I wanted a scented garden, herbs right behind the kitchen door. I found another toy, this time a purple pony.
There were more after that: a plastic doll, her hair matted, crawling with woodlice; beads scattered like pebbles, a plastic head band tangled around the ivy’s roots.
I was alone one evening, bored. I grabbed my phone, went into a news archive site, and typed my address. I never expected to find anything. Girl, 6, goes missing.
I scrolled through the article, ‘last seen three days ago’. The article was dated from eleven years ago. It was my street, but there was nothing to tell me it was my house.
The next day I cleared away the shell of a compost heap. The air was heavy and beads of sweat broke across my forehead. My spade grazed something spongy, brown. I crouched down and fell backwards as the spongy object sprang to life: a toad. I don’t know which of us was more startled. It leapt away and hid in a crack in the garden wall.
That evening I took to my screen again. I wanted to know more about the girl who’d gone missing.
My search brought up pages of articles. ‘Missing’ jumped from every headline. I clicked through, then froze. On the screen was a photograph of the girl, with my house behind her.
Was she ever found? I tapped ‘next’ on the keyboard, but the articles just… stopped.
I’d transformed my garden to somewhere flowers thrived. My final job was to create a vegetable patch. There was an area in the corner, shadowed by overgrown trees. It cut them back and began to turn the earth. When my spade hit something hard, I threw it aside and used my hands to brush the dirt off an oblong box.
My hands shook as I scooped the box from the ground. It smelt damp, like worms. The frail wood split as I set it down allowing me to glimpse the inside.
My heart thumped. I knew what the whiteish-grey contents were. I sunk down. There was a ringing in my ears as I stared at the blue sky above.
I should call someone. Who?
I forced myself to look at the box again. This time I noticed something glint in the sunlight. It was a plaque. I polished it with my thumb: Fluffy. I sighed with relief.
Sarah Hunter is an author based in Bath, UK. She works in academic publishing by day, but her passion is fiction writing. She’s had short fiction published in Writers’ Forum Magazine, A Spot of Writing Magazine, and featured on BBC Radio. She is currently working on her second novel, whilst seeking representation for her first!