Blue Tulips 1: A Short Story

Hello! I’m trying out something I haven’t done on this blog for a long time: a short, multi-part story. This one will be four parts all about this length or shorter.

Strange. No breeze blew across the narrow, pebbled shoreline of the laundry room, and the shallow water reflected Blue’s face better than the most sterling mirror. Mists of rain fell from the ceiling, straight down as she removed her slippers and stepped onto the flooded tile. Warm water rippled around her bare feet, which felt near to slipping on the still-cool tile beneath. She set the laundry basket afloat on the surface, keeping it near by tucking it between her legs. Thankfully, the dryer hadn’t flooded this time. Spring weather was so unpredictable in the house that it was difficult to plan chores around its fickle comings and goings. With her many long house dresses securely floated back to the beach in the hallway, she turned toward the round window, taking in the raw daylight rushing in. She spread her palm out on the window. The shadow her hand cast in the room wobbled in the rippling pool. She let her hand fall to her side, and waded out of the room.

She shut the door as the mists began to stir into storm-rains.

A field of tulips sprouts in the field seen through the window. After settling for a long winter, the horizon unsettled itself, transformed by the tall green wave pushing its way up from underground.

Blue, the Steward of Tulip House

Every day of her sixteen years tending Tulip House, Blue had kept a journal. By now the journal took up its own, waist-tall bookcase in the centre of the meadowlibrary. Perhaps, though, it was more of a book-chest than a bookcase, as it had to be sealed during wet and snowy seasons. In extreme cases, Blue even had to bury it under a yard of earth in the winter, letting her journal hibernate through the polar freeze before it could emerge, like a bear or a flower, from its hole, and stuffed with yet more notebooks upon notebooks.

Their history of Tulip House bent and looped in on itself, rushing in spiraling cycles, coiling up into terse winter entries chronicling days of lying in bed, fevered dreams, pooling in sloppy ink-pools of delirium or hastily-recorded joy. It was a history from, for, and of Blue, the steward of Tulip House. She was not a natural child of the house, and she could remember her life before she woke up inside it after a night of reveling and hard drinking. Her only recollection was that she had stumbled into a grove of pines that grew almost parallel to the ground, as if bent over by a gigantic explosion or leaning to look more closely at the ground. In a thunderous moment the house had been born from the Earth with its tender already sleeping in her rainbow bed of thornless roses and snapdragons.

***

Once the day’s chores were done, Blue checked the laundry room again. There were still some loads of delicates she wanted to clean so she could step into spring on the right foot. Last year, there had been a surprise coldsnap and the laundry room had first flash-flooded from the snowmelt and then frozen solid, leaving her to strategically re-wear her clothes until mid-May, when the laundry room finally melted enough to pry the door open.

At the moment, the door was still shut to keep the water from overflowing into the adjacent hallway, and a queer swimming moonlight peered out from the crack in the door at the bottom. Perhaps the floods had gone down. But even with the fierce sunlight of a vigorous spring shining on it all day, that seemed unlikelky. Blue pulled the too-long sleeve of her nightgown down to reveal her hand and felt underneath the door with gentle fingers. She pulled her fingers up to her eyes and saw they were wet, dripping tiny serene puddles onto the floor. No luck.

Ten years ago, she had tried to fix the flooding by simply letting the laundry room deluge out. It covered most of the hallway in soapy water, since the detergent had gotten churned up in it, and by the next week the entire hallway was choked with juvenile pine trees that Blue could not bring herself to uproot for many months. She did not need that kind of anxiety. Best to leave things as they are.

Suddenly, however, there was a worldshaking thud against the door, and Blue jumped back so hard she hit her elbows against the opposite hallway wall behind her. She sucked air through her teeth and let herself slide down the wall to the ground so she was sitting up against it. Her nightgown rode up as she did so.

Another massive thud. The door began to creak. Was this some kind of apocalyptic capital-F Flood thundering down from the heavens? She watched as the door began to bend, stressing and stretching on its hinges. Tension grew second by second. Blue breathed in heavily, scrambling out of the way of the door. It was going. Going. Bursting. Time stretched. Stilled.

And in a moment the tension, the knot of time, and the door all gave. Blue felt the water fill the hallway so quickly she had no time to escape into the main back corridor or the furnace room. She could not breathe, opening her eyes under the water to see solid blocks of darkness rushing towards her, helpless as she was against the current.

In the next part, Blue is no longer alone…