Jenny in the Hedge by Steven French

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“Do you believe this crap?”

“What? No. Fuck no, Sarge. Some shit about the hedge coming alive and grabbing the kid? Jeeez …”

“Yeah, I know. Still, there’ve been no leads for three weeks now and this is all we’ve got. Let’s watch the tape again.”


“I already told you. I was standing outside with a mug of tea. The French windows were open as it was so hot and muggy. The air was completely still. Nothing was moving, not a leaf, not even high up in the trees in the park. All I could hear were the beech nuts falling through the branches and the sound of the traffic down on the main road. Thunderstorms were predicted and it was getting dark already, even though it wasn’t that late. So, I was drinking m’tea and just chilling a bit and then I noticed something moving in the hedge. At first, I thought it was maybe a squirrel or a pigeon or something but it seemed bigger than that. It was like my brain couldn’t take in what my eyes were seeing but then, it sort of snapped into focus, and I could make out a figure,  slowly moving in the hedge.”

“What, like someone pushing through it?”

“No! It was like they were moving along the hedge, inside it …”

“So, like in that movie, what was it called? Predator! Like that, right, like, just this outline moving through the jungle …?”

“No, not like that! This was real!! Look, it was like … it was like all the bushes were doing some kind of ‘Mexican wave’, you know? But it formed into a shape, of a … well, I don’t know if it was a woman but it kind of looked female, y’know? It had long stringy hair, skinny arms and legs and a narrow face. Jeez, that face. Whatever it was, it turned to look at me as it walked by and its mouth opened, slowly, like it was deliberately showing me its teeth, all sharp and pointy.”

“All sharp and pointy you say?”

“Yes! And it was like everything went quiet, no birds singing, no rustling leaves, nothing. And I felt really cold, like maybe I was in shock. I’d felt that once before, a couple of years ago, when I went swimming off a beach in the Coromandel down in New Zealand. I’d gone out further than I meant to and when I turned to head back, something made me look down into the water. And there, right there, was this shape, you know, swimming underneath me. I honestly didn’t know whether to swim as fast and madly as I could, or to move as smoothly and carefully as possible, and so I ended up doing something in between, which was maybe not the best option. Anyway, whatever, I made it back ok and afterwards, after I’d calmed down a bit, someone told me it was most likely one of these ‘bronze whaler’ sharks, which don’t particularly go for people, but still, they’d been responsible for some of the shark attacks in that area. And I had exactly that same feeling when I saw that figure in the hedge, its mouth open, with all those teeth and those eyes fixed on me, not blinking or looking away …”

“Ok, take your time now …”

“Well, then it was like someone behind me grabbed my belt and pulled me back and the creature’s head turned away as it carried on moving, slowly and steadily, up the line of the hedge. And then afterwards, once I was inside, I locked all the windows, drew the blinds and … well, I was proper scared, y’know? I mean, maybe I was seeing things … I’d been working late a lot and I was tired, so

maybe … I thought maybe my eyes had played a trick on me. So, then I jumped up and opened the blinds and honestly, I half expected the figure to be standing there looking in at me, y’know, like in the movies. But there was nothing out back but the grass and then the hedge and the trees in the park and I could hear the thunder in the distance.”

“ So, what did you do then?”

“I went online right away and ordered some security lights, y’know, those ones with the motion detectors, although I’ve never been a big fan of them to be honest. One of my neighbours has them and they’re always flicking on when the foxes and cats pass by. Drives me a bit mad to tell the truth … Anyway, I stuck them up and I’m not kidding, I could feel the skin on the back of my neck creep when I was up the ladder and turned away from the hedge. And of course, every time they were set off by a fox or one time, a hedgehog, I jumped up and ran to the windows, although as I said to myself, what I would do if that figure were there, well, I really had no idea.”

“Did you speak to anyone about what you saw?”

“Are you kidding?! People already thought then I was a bit weird. And what would I tell them? I didn’t even know what the fuck it was. But I did try Googling ‘hedge creatures’ and goblins and faeries and stuff …”


“Look, I know, alright! But you have to understand, I had no idea what I’d seen and I thought maybe there were some old tales that would help me make sense of it. I mean, there are all these local legends about the Green Men right? Based on these stories of the ‘wild men’ of the North who resisted the Normans. But all the images I could find were of faces with leaves coming out of their mouths and stuff and that wasn’t what I’d seen at all.  The nearest thing I could find were tales about a ‘Jenny Greenteeth’, who’s supposed to haunt ponds and lakes …”

“Yeah, my gran used to tell us to stay away from ponds else she’d drag us kids under the weeds …”

“Right, right … But this thing, it was nowhere near any water and it wasn’t like something moving through the hedge … more like the hedge itself was being twisted … Anyway, after a few weeks or so, I got used to the lights flashing on at night because of the foxes and I managed to convince myself that I’d just been a bit overwrought and that, maybe with the thunderstorm coming, and all that, a breeze had started up and my mind had somehow made patterns out of the twigs and leaves.”

“So tell us what happened later, when you met the kids.”

“Well, it was late one afternoon, almost evening again. I was walking down a path at the edge of the park, and there was this tall hedge on one side, and, like, a strip of trees on the other, next to the road. As I came round a corner, I saw the hedge start to ripple again and there it, she, was … coming towards me. And I stopped, I mean, I just froze. Just then this group of kids, well, teenagers, came down the path behind me and one of them bumped into me, by accident I think. But still, I was the one who apologised, because they made me a bit nervous, to be honest. And the one who’d bumped into me looked me up and down and asked me if I had a light and maybe a cigarette to go with it.  He was in his late teens, maybe, I don’t know, about my height, brown hair, sort of regular looking really … Anyway, I told him “Sorry, I don’t smoke.” And he sort of gave me a hard time,  “What d’ya mean, you don’t smoke, I thought all you old fuckers smoked. Like 40 a day and then you

get to go on about how it never hurt you …” That sort of thing. The others were all laughing now coming closer and I just kinda laughed along. I was getting a bit nervous then and not just because of these kids, I mean, one minute ‘Jenny’ was there, coming along the hedge towards me, the next, nothing … Anyway I just said, ‘Sorry, I’ve never smoked”.  And the guy sort of sneered at me and said “How very fuckin’ virtuous of you’ and then he stepped closer.”

“He stepped closer to you?”

‘Yeah. I mean he was pretty much right in my face.”

“What happened then?”

“Well, I didn’t want to look him straight in the eyes, y’know, so I looked over his shoulder and that’s when I saw the hedge moving again, behind them … like, the branches were sort of twisting and forming into a figure.   And all of a sudden she was back, one finger on her lips and the other arm sort of made of leaves and twigs all twisted together, reaching out from the hedge. Next thing, her hand had wrapped around the face of this boy, standing at the back, away from the rest of the group. I tried to open my mouth to shout, honestly I did, but it was like I just couldn’t get anything out and all I could feel was that coldness again and … and anyway, I must have stepped back and tripped on a tree root or something because next thing I know I was flat on my back and my head was pounding where I’d cracked it on a rock or something. And the guy I’d been speaking to was standing over me and saying, ‘Mate, what are you like? Did you think I was going to smack you one or something?’ It wasn’t that, not that at all, but I still couldn’t tell him what I’d seen. All I could get out was ‘Your friend, your friend …’ Anyway, he helped me up, brushed some leaves off my coat and patted my arm and told me his friends were all ok and there they were, already walking away up the path, laughing and pushing and shoving each other … I’m sorry, could I have a drink of water?”

“Anyway, I went over to the hedge, as close as I dared but I couldn’t see anything, just some pigeons flapping from one branch to another. So I thought I’d maybe imagined the whole thing again, y’know, because of stress or whatever, and I just carried on. I mean, I figured if the boy really had been taken, his mates would come running back, but they never did.”

“Why didn’t you tell the officers all this when they came to talk to you a few days later?”

“’Cos I didn’t want them thinking I was mad! And I did tell them something, I said I thought I’d seen someone in the bushes …”

“But you couldn’t describe this figure when you were asked about it?”

“What could I say? That it was some shark-like faery?!! … And anyway, I figured if there was anything real to it, they’d find some evidence or something.  But you know what? You people shouldn’t have told the news people I’d been questioned. Do you know what it’s like? All those headlines: ‘Local man questioned about missing teen’ and next thing, a bunch of reporters are banging on your door.  And then your neighbours start telling them how you’re ‘weird’ and ‘solitary’, ‘keeps to himself’ … Yeah, of course I keep to myself when I have neighbours like that! I even had to start going to the shops in the evening when there were fewer people about.”

“That certainly should not have happened and we have apologised. But now we do have a piece of evidence and that’s why we have to go over all this with you again …”

“Yeah, I know, but those bones were found way over on the other side of the park, right? If I’d had anything to do with, with what happened, how did it get all the way over there, hey?”

“We’re not saying you had anything to do with the boy’s murder. We’re just asking you what you saw that day. And you’ve been very helpful so far. Now, you say that you saw this figure another time, after that?”

“Yes. I thought things would die down eventually, that the news would move on … and it did for a bit. Then after those bits of bone were found, it was like I was back in the spotlight and there were reporters all round the house again, shouting questions at me and pointing their cameras at the windows. Some bastard spray-painted ‘paedo’ across my front door, which is like, I mean, whatever … Anyway, some of the reporters found their way round the back where they could peer into the house and I was about to shout at them that they were trespassing when I saw her again, just off to the right, and it was like she was coming up towards one of the journalists who was just like the boy y’know, standing back at the edge of the pack. It was like I couldn’t get the latch open fast enough and I was yelling ‘Get away! Get away!’ but I guess the other reporters all thought I was yelling at them. Anyway, it seemed like it took forever, but I managed to yank the French windows open and everyone moved forward, asking questions and wanting a comment. Still, I shouted out to the one at the back and she moved forward away from the hedge, just in time, to ask me something but I wasn’t really listening because all I could see was this mouth with all those teeth opening wide as Jenny turned to look right at me. And then she winked …”

“She winked at you?”

“Yeah, sort of like one of those “I know what you did there” winks. And it was as if … as if she was letting me know she’d catch me later … and then she just disappeared back into the bushes.”

“And it was after that, you decided to move away?”

“Well, I told myself it was to get away from the neighbours and maybe the reporters would leave me alone but really … Anyway, I’ve had trouble selling the house, no surprises there, and so in the end I had to rent this place which is much smaller and not as nice but it’s all brick walls and wooden fences and no hedges anywhere. And that’s it, that’s all I have to say … So, are you going to arrest me or not? If not, I’d like to go now, please.”


“There’s nothing there we can use. And we’ve no evidence, nothing in his old house, nothing linking to the boy …”

“I know. We had no choice but to let him go.”

“Yeah. So, how’d you get him out past the reporters?”

“Oh, I took him out the back entrance and told him if he walked down Rosamund Street he could get a bus round the corner …’

“Down Rosamund Street? Past the park with that massive hedge?”

BIO: Steven French is semi-retired and lives in West Yorkshire, U.K. He has had various stories accepted by eastoftheweb, Bewildering Stories, Land Beyond the World, Literally Stories and now, Liquid Imagination!