The World’s a Stage

Drawing of a path into a forest area. Caption reads: "She knew the bushland very well."

The World’s a Stage short story by Iris Carden

The world’s a stage, Shakespeare said.

Karen wasn’t impressed with the part written for her. Whatever deranged puppet master was pulling the wires for her needed to be locked in a padded cell.

That bright sunny Saturday had started well enough.  She and her sister Katie had gone to brunch.  The cute waiter who’d served them had flirted, and they’d both flirted back.  It had seemed so innocent.  Karen and Katie certainly hadn’t seen the danger.

They hadn’t noticed that as they giggled and joked, someone else was watching. Someone had followed them as they left the restaurant and drove back to Katie’s house. 

It had only taken a second, Katie had answered the knock at the door, and a man the size of a truck had forced his way in.  Neither woman was prepared to argue with the long gun he was carrying. 

Karen had looked at it and wondered if it was a rifle or a shotgun and what the difference was, before she pulled herself back to the actual problem of survival.

He’d demanded money, and they’d given him everything they had.  It wasn’t much. Surely nothing about them suggested they would be rich?

Angry, he’d hit Katie in the head with the back end of the rifle.  He’d stood over Katie, and seemed to be making up his mind about something.

That was when Karen made up her mind.  She had to distract him from Katie, because Katie was unconscious and unable to defend herself.

Karen had run.  The man had run after her.  

Karen knew she had just one advantage.  Katie lived in the house they grew up in, so Karen knew the bushland the house backed on to  very well. She and Katie had spent years playing hide-and seek, and being wild adventurers in that scrub.

She leapt over the hollow log the python had lived in for as long as she could remember, hoping the man was afraid of snakes, raced up their climbing tree, went out along the long branch and dropped to the ground behind the big sandstone boulder. She crept through the familiar underbrush, and slipped unseen into the cave where she and Katie used to have tea parties.  Their toy tea set was still there. 

Now, back against the sandstone wall, smelling damp and bat guano from deeper in the cave, Karen was certain she was out of sight.  She allowed herself time to regret that she hadn’t grabbed her phone as she’d run.

As she sat, she recalled Shakespeare’s line, and wondered if someone out there was writing this story for her to act in.  Perhaps they’d write that Katie woke up and called the police.  That would be very helpful, she thought to the unseen writer or puppet master.

She listened, she could hear movement, someone who hadn’t practiced being very quiet to hide in the bush.  But she thought she could also hear something else, the faint distant sound of an approaching siren.

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By Iris Carden

Iris Carden is an Australian indie author, mother, grandmother, and chronic illness patient. On good days, she writes. Because of the unpredictability of her health, she writes on an indie basis, not trying to meet deadlines. She lives on a disability support pension now, but her ultimate dream is to earn her own living from her writing.

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