The cake stood proudly in the old kitchen. The kitchen sat at the bottom of the grand old house, which stood out on its own in the country. It was so big and grand that – even in daylight – it was entirely possible to lose the kitchen in the intestinal corridors of the house. The cake stood tall and proud in the kitchen, lost and forgotten at the bottom of that grand old house.
In another room, several floors above the kitchen, a girl found pumpkin seeds fallen into the deep crack in between the pages of her book. Perhaps they were an old bookmark or some kind of trail left by another reader – one who had disappeared, wrenched head first into the narrative. She considered which of the characters could be flesh-and-blood turned print-on-paper, looked for them whispering: “It’s great in here, really great.”
The book she was reading was set in a time after the end of the war, the war that she and the grand old house – and don’t forget the cake, lost in that wandering old kitchen – were all currently ‘in’. None of them felt as though they were in a war, but in the middle of a war they most certainly were. The girl liked reading the book which was set after the war because it cheered her to think that the war might end. Undoubtedly this was not the intention of the author as the book chronicled the lives of a group of dissidents exiled from the country at the conclusion of the war. The dissidents scurried around the countryside seeking shelter from old soldiers who took pity on them, although most of the time they lived outside. There were plenty of fires – fire for light, fire for warmth, accidental fires breaking out across their belongings.
The girl put the book down, went to the window and looked out to the garden, where some of the boys had found old jack o’lanterns. They had cut holes in the bottoms of the pumpkins so that they could fit their heads into them, and were running around with their hugely swollen orange heads and scarily carved faces. The girl knew that old jack o’lanterns became mouldy on the inside very quickly. They were boys, perhaps they liked mould. They certainly looked like they were having fun. She supposed that they may as well have their fun with pumpkins now – soon it would be Christmas.
In another room somewhere in the grand old house – out in the country, in wartime – stood a magical wardrobe which was full of fir trees. Nobody knew why trees grew in that wintry cupboard but every year, just before Christmas, men with axes came to the house to visit the wardrobe and get Christmas trees. The girl watched as they walked up the drive towards the house. Going into the wardrobe and chopping down trees would be the easy part of the job – the hard part would be finding the room with the wardrobe in it.
In that grand old house, the wardrobe was just as lost as the cake.
It may have been something to do with the cake or it may have been something to do with the reader whisked away from their lives and into the girl’s book, it may have been something to do with the pumpkin-headed boys outside or the men with axes tramping their way into the house to look for Christmas trees. Whatever it had to do with, at that moment the cake fell over.
It was a tall cake and, when it fell, it fell a long way. It smashed against the table and the floor. All over that lost and forgotten kitchen, was smashed cake.
Several floors above the kitchen, the girl was reading her book again. She was reading and, at the same time, thinking about how long she would be able to carry on reading. It was getting late and soon the sun would be going down and darkness would fall. Any moment now. Any moment… now. The seconds and minutes ticked by and the girl paid less attention to her book. Eventually she set it down and went back to the window.
Outside the sun was still high in the sky. The girl watched the day for a while and wondered whether it would ever get dark, whether the war would ever end and whether anyone would ever find her in that lost room, high in the grand old house.
Perhaps now that the cake had fallen the war would go on forever, and the sun would stay high in the sky so that it remained always day time, and never night time. Perhaps the girl would be found or perhaps she would follow the trail of pumpkin seeds into the workings of the book.
Into the sunshine marched men with axes, leaving the house with their Christmas trees held triumphantly aloft.