My family thinks this is the best thing I have written. I tend to agree.
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Since time unremembered, Iorgas has lived a life of simple labor, tending the garden of the gods which lies between all things. But after his maker, Oikus, asks him to consider the question of his own contentment, he finds a longing nothing seems to quench. When he spies beautiful Antipone reading the poetry of his work in a way no other spirit has, he is transfixed, but he also discovers the source of his disquiet. Iorgas sets out to win her hand, but it remains to be seen if he can stand out among Antipone’s other suitors, the likes of which include the great Pan himself.
The Garden Between is a short literary fantasy from Erik Wecks, author of He Dug the Grave Himself, and Aetna Adrift. Consider it the perfect romantic bite for Valentine’s day.
Here’s a sample to whet your appetite:
The Garden Between
“Are you content, Iorgas?” Until Oikus had asked, Iorgas had never really considered the question, but now that he had taken it up, it felt difficult to put down. He felt entangled with it, like a bur that had become embedded in the blue of his cowl.
“I want you to be content, Iorgas, not simply ignorant. I wish for you to know something of desire and fulfillment,” he had said.
They had been walking at the time—Oikus with his curly red hair and thick beard, dressed in white, and taking long thick strides. He towered over his three-foot-tall creation, Iorgas.
Iorgas didn’t look at Oikus when he answered him. Instead, the deep buried sparkle of his eyes turned away and sought solace in the living things he tended, as they often did when confronted by the great ones. The only thing which extended beyond the decorative stitching on the edge of the cowl was the protrusion of Iorgas’ gray nose. In his usual quiet and reserved voice, Iorgas answered, “Yes, I am content.”
But now, some time later, he wasn’t so sure. Now it appeared to Iorgas that the asking of the question had been like the planting of a seed—or perhaps the germination of a seed already implanted. For a while, it seemed as if nothing had changed, and then, slowly at first, Iorgas experienced a longing which he had not previously known.
Iorgas had no doubt this was exactly what Oikus had intended. Oikus was one of the great spirits who rested awhile in the garden before traveling onward through the gates to places and times Iorgas could not imagine. Charged with the care of all plants and forests, Oikus was ultimately responsible for the upkeep of this place. He had created Iorgas to be its tender.
Iorgas had tended the garden between the worlds for a time beyond times. In every moment he could remember, he had been a gardener, in love with all things which grew from the soil. For as long as he had known life, he had been content to trim, to tend, and to reshape the garden around him.
There was never a shortage of things to do. As far as Iorgas could tell, the garden was infinite. Over each rolling hill, there was always something else to see, another grove to order, another pond to put right, and another grand vista to overawe him.
Now, it didn’t feel like quite enough. There was in Iorgas a noticeable lack. Iorgas couldn’t have told you what he needed, but he knew he needed something—something that he did not possess.
And so it was that a while after Iorgas recognized his longing for he knew not what, he found himself tending a small part of the garden near a great stone arch, a gateway to a different time and place with wrought iron bars. Through the arch he could see a dark forest, a kind of forest he did not know. In that forest, things unwanted might dwell.
Occasionally, Oikus told him about such places, and the adventures he had in them. Iorgas had no desire for such dangers. His sense of adventure was sated by the challenge of ruling the more aggressive plants of his world between worlds. That was enough adventure for his small spirit.
At that particular moment between times, two great worlds hung together in the sky above him, and overhead, Zephyr passed by in billows of white, bringing with him the tang of the sea, which Iorgas had never seen but always hoped would be over the next hill.
Iorgas was at work fine tuning the height of the cattails around the ornate stone bench near the pond when he saw a soft light in the forest through the gate.
Trembling, he hid.
With the exception of Oikus—with whom he still felt incredibly insecure—Iorgas never felt safe around the spirits and their attendants. In their presence, he always felt an outsider, intruding on matters far beyond his capacity to comprehend. Quiet and nimble, he most often hid from them when they passed by.
In this instance, he stepped behind the nearby gate, allowing the lithe, incandescent maidens to step into the garden of their rest without having to gaze on his gray and homely form.
As they entered, Iorgas peeked out from behind the cool gray stones. There were at least twelve of them, not including the goddess from which most of the radiance emanated. They twittered a little as they walked, giggling about this or that.
As they entered, one of the last noticed the bench. “My lady. Shall we not rest a while here by the water? The wind has the taste of the sea. The air is cool, and we have been long at our labors.”
The goddess turned. “Sweet Antipone, how quickly we forget your suffering on our behalf.” She smiled then. “Yes, we shall rest here and allow this wholesome place to heal the wounds you have taken.”
The party stopped and, not far from Iorgas, sat upon the grass, their white dresses flowing around their lovely forms.
Antipone seated herself a little apart, wrapping her hands around her knees and pulling them toward her chest. She looked younger than the rest and troubled. Iorgas couldn’t help wondering what could trouble that beautiful face.
While the rest of the party laughed and giggled, Antipone looked around. From his hiding place, Iorgas watched her brown eyes take in his world. As they did so, they seemed to soften, and she breathed a little easier.
He watched as they followed the dance he had been creating for himself with the cattails. Moving through the reeds, following their path until they came to the little pile of round stones he had placed at the water’s edge. Her eyes twinkled with delight, and she smiled softly.
Iorgas’ heart beat faster. Never before had one of the great ones read his designs—not even Oikus. Oh, they knew the quietude they experienced in this place. Instinctively they felt its healing rest, but never before had one of them taken the time to so carefully read the lines of his poetry, the music of his sphere.
Iorgas stared at the slender neck and upturned chestnut hair. He knew what he desired.