A Stranger In The Garden

by Claire Withercross

Disclaimers : Xena and Gabrielle are copyright MCA/Universal, RenPic.

Lyrics copyright Dark Wings/Nottinghill

Warning : There is talk of love between two women in this story. Need I say more?

Other Stuff : Thanks to Skyclad and Kamouraskan for the inspiration.

Important Message : Read "Eve’s Garden" by Kamouraskan.

Thank you for letting me play there.


By the highway there lies a trail. It does not appear on any map, and is not used often, because not many people know of its existence. It's a simple trail that leads away from the city to the wilderness.

I heard of the trail in a bar, and the mythical place that lies at the end of the trail. A place where one can be reborn. I didn't believe it, but had nothing to lose. I was told that in order to reach the place, I must travel the trail at night, without the aid of any illumination, and all would be revealed at dawn. One must have faith in the darkness, and the spirits that will guide those who travel without light, without fear. The spirits are not there to protect the good, the brave, the wise, but those who move in darkness in search of light.

Or so I heard.

So, here I am at the start of the trail, waiting in the warm evening sun for darkness. It is a strange place. There is life all around, yet it seems timeless. As if it's been here forever. The sunlight, the heat, the trees, the grass, the sleeping dog, the people travelling the road. The day itself. If I turn around and see Alexander The Great, or Aphrodite, I will not be surprised.

A truck thunders past on the road, leaving a trail of dust to lazily fall back to earth in the dying light. The last of the sun has disappeared and I begin my journey. Behind me is the city, ahead of me is......I wait to find out.

The spirits must favour me. They guide my feet along the path, avoiding ruts and stones, telling me where to turn left, where to turn right. They whisper to me on the wind, their voices so far away, yet clear. There are two of them, both female, one I have named the gentle one, the other, the dark one.

take small steps now, the path rises, the gentle one breathes.

I feel I know them through their disembodied voices. The gentle one does the guiding, her companion adds the odd comment. Companion? No. Lover. Even though they have not professed love for each other to my ears, I know this. They have a love for one another so deep, so strong, not even death could separate them.

Before tonight the thought of two women in love with one another was abhorrent to me. It was anathema to everything I had been taught, and believed, to be right. Yet there is a purity to their love, as I suppose there is to all love, and I find myself, not revolted, but comforted by their love for one another.

the path levels out now, whispers the gentle one

maybe you should let him stumble. teach him the path to the light is not easy, the dark one comments.

I know the dark one is gentle also, but I sense that without the gentle one's love, she would be like me. Someone to fear, someone who's dangerous, someone who's bad.

The spirits start bickering as only lovers can. Never saying anything that would hurt the other, and the tone of their voices always holding a note of humour.

I know I've arrived without being told. I look behind me and there is only darkness, not even the glow of the city lights. Around me I can hear water flowing and the sounds of night creatures moving.

I sit and wait for the light.

The garden is Eden.

It is heaven on earth.

It's a place of love and peace and contentment.

There are other spirits here besides the two that guided me, but they are more ephemeral.

do you see? asks the dark one.

"Yes." My voice shatters the stillness and destroys some of the beauty. 'Yes,' I think. 'Can you hear my thoughts?'

we can, answers the gentle one.

what do you see? presses the dark one.

don't badger him. let him take his own time.

'I see....eternity.'

no you don't, the dark one scoffs. how arrogant you are to think that.

I feel stung by the rebuke. 'And you were never arrogant?' I reply.

not to that extent, she counters.

tell me what you can see when you understand what you can see. take your time, the gentle one says with kindness, effectively ending any argument between the dark one and myself.

So, I close my eyes and take a deep breath and look at paradise anew. I let my gaze wander over the flowers, the trees, the stream, the waterfall. Yes. I know what I see now. I realise how arrogant I was to think I could see eternity. So much has been done to the garden to get it to how it is, so much is being done to maintain it, so much is to be done in the future to preserve it. It is not eternity, but an illusion of eternity. Just like our lives.

To ourselves, we live forever, but to time, it's merely a blink of an eye. What we do has an affect, but in the overall scheme of things it is meaningless. The tree before me was planted long ago, a boulder was placed in what would be its shade, and the stream diverted to flow past it. A perfect spot created by someone with forethought. This one feature adds to the overall beauty of the garden, yet without it, the garden would be equally as beautiful.

you see now, says the dark one.

'Yes. I see life. I see beauty. I see part of the whole of eternity, but not eternity itself. That is for those who come after me to see.'

he understands, the gentle one weeps.

I see them, standing by the waterfall, tall and dark, short and light, yin and yang, two separate parts of a whole. They created this garden for their family and their descendants. Their vision was not limited to themselves or their lifetime. Their love is not limited to themselves, they have enough spare for others. Others like me.

I know I shall not return to this place. It's meant for the family of these spirits and I'm just a stranger passing through. If I find a worthy person I'll direct them here to share their love.

I'll go back to my life and leave my mark. The impact I'll have on the world will leave its mark for a long time, though it may only be a small mark, visible only to those who know where to look. The important thing is I know my place. Just like everybody else, everything else, I'm part of a whole.

I'll tend my bit and leave it to future generations.

The End

"A stranger in the garden ‘neath the full moon in the sky,
This is the old God’s country -
You can bring me here to die,
It’s a think mans Valhalla -
A long weekend in paradise,
Package tour to Eden -
My spirit yearns for freedom."

A Stranger In The Garden - Walkyier

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