The Door: Or, Time is Where You Find it
I had been trudging from the West Heath and on to Hampstead Heath itself when I saw it. It was an overcast day, and although I had been optimistic that a walk in the fresh air would cheer me up, the gloom around Wildwood Road was beginning to feel oppressive. The door was small. It looked even smaller from where I stood on the pavement because it was set in a wall up some rickety old wooden steps. White and blue paint peeled off its surface, but the unusual portal stood out from the thick, dark green ivy that framed it. Before I could think any further about what might lie beyond it, the door knob started rattling and turning as someone struggled to open the door from the other side. It suddenly burst open, and a middle-aged man shambled through the archway. “Bloody ’ell! That ivy gets everywhere, suffocates everything in its path!” He took off his flat cap and wiped his forehead before realising that I was there. “’Ello!” he said cheerily.
“Hi,” I answered, “I was just admiring the door.”
“Ah, yes, funny little portal isn’t it?”
It was strange that he used the word “portal” because that was the word that had come to my mind right before he came through it. “I was wondering what could be on the other side of such a door.”
“Well, come on through,” he gestured, “I was just sorting out some wormholes.” “Wormholes? You mean worm casts?” “Yes, that’s them, ruin the lawns, they do.” From the way he was talking, I was expecting a dilapidated, unruly wasteland, but what lay beyond the door was breathtaking. Magenta bougainvillea hung over the door on the inside, magnolia trees were in full bloom, red camellias attracted red admiral butterflies, purple clematis ran up the interior walls. In the beds, hibiscus f lowers bobbed in the breeze while Stargazer lilies and peonies burst forth, jostling for attention. The man looked at my face, “Gorgeous, ain’t it?”
“How do you…?” I couldn’t understand the variety of flowers and all blooming at the same time.
“Mr. Powdrill,” he nodded his head, “he’s a
master of time and space, quite the magician.” “Mr Powdrill? That’s an unusual name.” “’ Tis, isn’t it. Comes from the old French, poutrel, meaning colt. He’s true to his name, frisky; a right trickster, he is. Came to England after the Norman Conquest, 1066.” “He came to England in 1066?” “The name love, the name came across the water in 1066.” He looked distant for a moment. “Anyway, his people settled in Derbyshire, the Peak District, near Arbor Low. Do you know Arbor Low?” “I’ve not heard of it, no.” “A stone henge, more important than the Stonehenge in the grand scheme of things, but let people think what they want, ay? Keep ’em away from the real magic,” he smiled at me warmly like he was letting me in on a secret.
Around the garden was an elevated pergola. Climbing roses covered every inch of trellis and filled the air with fragrance. “Do you mind if we walk up there?” I asked. “Not at all, ma’am, do come up.” I followed him up the Escher-like stairs, bees hummed amongst the plant life. “It’s so warm here, it’s almost Mediterranean,” I said, “not like outside just now.”
“Yes, ’tis a positive micro- climate here. The sun always shines on the righteous – and the ungodly too,” he winked.
This man had a strange way of speaking. I wasn’t quite sure what was happening, but I was enjoying it too much to care. As we reached the top of the stairs, I was sure I would see a magnificent view of London but I only saw rolling green hills below.
“Where’s London?” I asked, starting to feel uneasy.
“I don’t know. Where is London?” he answered. He turned to me, “The fields are always sleeping beneath you know, no matter how tall the buildings. Depends how you look at things.”
I was puzzled. “This is quite extraordinary,” I said, feeling like Alice down the rabbit hole.
“It is,” he replied, “and we like to keep it that way. Too much ordinary… it’s not good for anyone.”
We strolled along the covered walkway, tiny iridescent birds wove in and out between the vines and pillars. They didn’t look indigenous at all, but I was beyond asking questions. We walked down the stairs, bringing us back to where we started. I could see the crescent moon opposite the sun which was now low in the sky. I could have sworn it was late morning when I had come across the door.
“Well, I must be getting on with the gardening,” the man said, “there’s much to be done to keep it like this, you understand.” He took his secateurs from his belt and cut me a crimson camellia. “Here y’are.” “Thank you,” I said, “And thank you for –” “It’s alright,” he nodded, “any time, any time.” I never walked back that way, and I know that if I did, I might not find the garden again. But the camellia cutting grew into a healthy bush. And it f lowers all year long.
Claire is fascinated by the unseen and the unsaid, which she explores in short fiction. When not writing, you can find her playing table tennis, drinking coffee, baking, or taking long, unplanned walks.