"Hidden Garden"

Footsteps echo softly as the gate creaks on worn hinges,
Letting in a single figure with a feeble groan of protest.
He looks around, silent, studying.

Not a single bird chirping.
Not a single squirrel chattering.
Not even an insect directing a cacophony.
All is quiet.

He steps forward, listening carefully.
He examines the exotic foliage for living creatures,
And he's surprised by the deserted place.

No gardener in the flowerbed.
No elderly woman tending to the vegetables.
No children playing among the tall grasses.
All is quiet.

He follows the stone path winding through the bushes,
Eyeing the weathered stones and wondering whose feet had worn it down
When it didn't seem as if anyone knew of its existence.

No lock on the gate to keep out trespassers.
No sign designating its owner.
No dogs to ward away vandals.
All is quiet.

The path takes him to a small pond without fish,
And he leans down to stick his hand in the water.
The ripples move out to encompass the emptiness of the garden.

No breeze to rustle the branches.
No rain to wash away the loneliness.
No clouds to hide the garden from the bare sunlight.
All is quiet.

He wanders the garden to find a reason to stay,
Reaching out and brushing the leaves that dangled from still branches.
Seasons didn't touch the muted green behind the gate.

No footprints hinting to another drifter.
No dents in the foliage from wandering bodies.
No debris left after a ravenous soul.
All is quiet.

He takes all of this in, contemplating,
Before he opens his mouth and takes a deep breath.
It's almost as if he can taste the solitude of the garden.

No harsh chemicals from a sanitized room.
No smog of civilization to choke on.
No advertisements clamoring for attention.
All is quiet.

He hesitates then, feeling the oppressing loneliness,
And wonders if he should speak.
Is this Heaven? Is this Hell? Or do neither exist in this place?

No angelic chorus to bless him.
No suffocating brimstone to damn him.
No otherworldly presence to judge him.
All is quiet.

Instead of the millions of questions in his head,
He takes another deep breath and lets a single word slip.
All he asks of the garden is, "Hello?"

No shifting of weight to announce a spectator.
No cracking twigs preceding a being.
No answer floats on the stagnant air.
All is quiet.

But something has changed.

He feels it in his bones, his heart, his soul,
And the alien sensation sends him running back to the gate.
The gate, which he had left open, was now shut.

Locked.

No words over his ragged breaths.
No stirring from his erratic heartbeats.
No laughter countering his raw howl.
And the quiet is gone.