Hello my friends,
I know this story has nothing to do with the current events taking place all around us however, I feel it may help give you something different to think about. Feel free to to give ANY advice i am new to this and would love your comments and support.
Beams of sunlight streamed between the planks of the barn spreading ribbons of light across its musty interior. The light stung at Sam’s eyes reminding him of when and where he was. A smile spread slowly across his face as he soaked in the early rays of the morning sun. He carefully lifted himself from the warm sleeping bag, his muscles and joints ached, reminding him of his age and situation.
He reached into his pack and instantly realized something was wrong. His nicely packed clothes were disheveled and askew, someone had gone through his backpack while he slept. Searching frantically through his gear, tossing his belongings haphazardly across the barn floor he discovered what was once hidden and protected was now missing.
Why would anyone want that? Does somebody know? Sam forcefully dismissed his thoughts as he hastily repacked his belongings trying to ignore his trembling fingers. With a grunt and moan Sam slung the heavy pack across his sore shoulders. His backpack felt heavy and burdensome, the narrow “padded” straps dug deep into his shoulders and back forcing him shift to the weight back and forth searching in vain for a comfortable position. With grim determination Sam pulled the shoulder straps tight and fastened the waist strap before stepping out of the barn into the warm morning sun.
It was just some farm boy or something. Sam thought, trying to comfort his anxiety, despite the knot forming in his stomach as he left the barn behind. The fear however lingered, eating away at reason, and fueling his vivid imagination.
After hours of walking through the desolate green pastures looking for any signs of the property owner, a thin grey wisp of smoke caught his eye as it drifted lazily up from behind a nearby hill only to mix with the cool, humid air. The sun was high in the pale azure sky, the remnants of last nights thunderstorm left the ground soft and delicate beneath his feet. The sweet smell of the chimney smoke beckoned him, calling to him in some intangible way. Fighting the urge to run towards the smoke, Sam slowly made his way across the lush field, the tall grasses brushed gently at his exposed legs leaving little droplets clinging to his skin.
As he approached the top of the hill, Sam realized that he hadn’t seen a single animal in these pastures, no sheep, dogs, birds or insects, only the small cat in the barn and a stone cottage, which he now stared down on from atop the small round, grass covered hill.
The small stone cottage sat comfortably at the base of a ravine. The old gray stonewalls and freshly shingled roof created a sharp contrast between old and new. Reminding Sam of how he now stood on the precipice of his old life, barely able to or willing to, hold on.
Gnarled trees stood like towering sentinels around the stone building, forming a ring or halo. Each tree was different in shape and size though they all looked twisted and disfigured. Cutting through the yard was a stone path showing the way to the front door.
Taking careful steps so as not to fall, Sam made his way down the steep incline to introduce himself to who he hoped would be the property owner. Halfway down, the wet earth gave way beneath his feet causing him to slide and tumble unceremoniously down the slippery slope. After cursing aloud and regaining his feet Sam attempted to remove the dirt now caked onto his shorts and shirt.
With careful even steps Sam approached the circle of trees where the stone walkway began. The grey and white stone cut through the emerald green lawn like a winding serpent. Each side of the walkway was lined with flowers of red, purple and orange each swaying gently in the unfelt breeze as if they were dancing at his arrival. He approached the cottage cautiously not knowing what to expect as the house appeared to be empty and dark.
With two knocks, he broke the silence. Moments later the simple wood door opened smoothly revealing a large man in a wheelchair wearing a blue t-shirt and gray sweatpants, his thin silver hair was pulled back into a tight ponytail. His grey-blue eyes glaring at him over the top of his hooked nose.
“How many times do I have to tell you? I don’t want you coming on my property…” His sharp eyes fixed on Sam each second felt like a lifetime as the old man looked him up and down. “…and where’s your name tag? I thought you Mormons had to wear those things.” He leaned back in his wheelchair, interlaced his fingers across his large stomach and waited patiently for Sam to answer.
“I’m sorry to disturb you sir, my name is Samuel Kingston and I promise, I'm not a Mormon,” shifting the heavy pack which now dug painfully into his shoulder blades, each breath threatened to cut off the flow of blood to his arms. “I just wanted to let you know that I stayed in the barn down by the road during the storm last night. I didn’t disturb anything and I don’t have any money to pay for the lodging but, I can help you in some other way, like chop firewood or clean the barn,” Sam recited the pitch with practiced words and gestures. He shifted the pack again feeling the weight dig harder and harder into his shoulders and back.
“Samuel, you say,” reaching out toward Sam with his large hand. “My name is Gus,” his features softened as a smile spread across his face, Sam accepted his hand and shook it, nodding in acknowledgment. “Please, come in and have a cup of coffee with me,” turning his wheelchair and allowing Sam to enter.
The cottage smelled of candles and cigarettes, a large white bird stood quietly on its perch in a metal cage suspended from the ceiling by a chain. Its head turned to face him as he crossed the threshold. A large wooden desk dominated the main room, papers and books lay scattered across its surface. Neatly organized shelves and pictures adorned the cold stonewalls, the black and white pictures appeared to be old and antiquated. A brown chair and a red couch sat side by side on the back wall with a large intricate coffee table sitting before them. The giant bird flapped its wings and cleaned its feathers, its eyes never left Sam as he followed Gus across open room.
“Please have a seat,” Gus motioned to the red couch. “It’s rare you know, to meet an American with any sense, much less manners,” pushing his wheelchair to the hearth where a gray kettle hung over the small crackling fire, small tufts of white steam erupting from its spout.
“Thank you,” Sam replied as he removed his cumbersome pack placing it gently on the hardwood floor. He could feel the burden this journey was having on his body and mind, the miles had finally taken taken their toll, without a second thought Sam settled down into the couch. “You don’t sound to be from around here either,” he sunk deeper into the couch.
“And…you are observant, will the wonders never cease…?” Gus turned from the cooking fire with the steaming kettle and two cups on a tray sitting across his broad lap. “So, what brings you to this desolate place?” Gliding across the floor toward Sam his intense eyes never leaving him, as if to reiterate the white and yellow cockatoo raised the yellow plumage on its head like a spiked fan and squawked at Sam, dancing from foot to foot, clicking its beak. He watched as the strange bird performed its unusual dance, part of him felt that he could understand the bird, part of him was afraid of the bird. Its dark eyes just watched as if it were waiting.
“Desolation is a form of peace, and I guess I really needed some peace… to find myself if you will,” Sam shook off the bird’s stare and graciously accepted the steaming cup of coffee with a nod of thanks. “Besides, it’s so beautiful here, so full of wonder and magic,” he looked into the cup, its dark contents reflecting the afternoon sunlight pouring in through the large open windows.
With a heave and a grunt Gus moved from his wheelchair to the recliner beside Sam, the chair creaking under the strain of his large body, he smelled of incense and wood smoke.
“Are you traveling alone?” Gus asked while lighting a cigarette with a wooden match, his grey eyes stared into the flame before discarding it in a nearby ashtray.
“Just me and my thoughts…” Sam took a long drink from the cup, scanning the room trying to take it all in. “…And the road in front of me,” he added before sinking further into the red couch. The coffee felt warm as it slide down his throat washing away the vile thoughts that were always with him. Out of the corner of his eye a dark shadow appeared, spreading long and narrow across the hardwood floor.
“Ah, there he is… meet Flauros,” Gus announced with a sweeping gesture towards the lean, muscular cat with a leopard spotted coat now sitting motionless on the windowsill. With large green eyes, the cat stared at Sam, its slender tail flicked back and forth as if it was contemplating what to do with him. With a barely audible meow it jumped silently to the floor and crossed the room toward Gus, only to curl on his lap and continue watching.
“He really is a sweetheart,” the cat purred softly at Gus’s caress. The green eyes never left him, causing him shift uncomfortably in his seat. “We’ve been together a long time he and I,” scratching the top of the cat’s head and taking a long pull off the menthol cigarette.
Sam’s head began to swim and spin; the sunlight streaming in began to stretch and twist across the room. He sank deeper and deeper into the soft, warm abyss of the couch. The room around him began alter and shift, Gus and Flauros looked different, their features began to writhe and contort like the twisted reflections off a rippled surface. The bird watched as well, its head tilted to one side, its small tongue licking the tip of its sharp beak, without any warning the bird spread it wings, beneath each wing came a radiant light. Sam lifted his hand to shield his eyes from the onslaught. To his surprise the light traveled through his hand like light through hazy glass. His hand and body began to emanate a liquid smoke; the wispy substance reminded him of blood in the water, black and intangible.
They all watched him in silence has he fought to remain conscious and aware, each one taunting him with their silence. With a jolt, panic coursed throughout his being, he had to get out, something wasn’t right.
“Thank you for your hospitality, but I’m afraid I should probably get going…” With quivering hands, Sam attempted to place the empty cup on the coffee table. “…The coffee was deliciou-” With a crash the cup fell to floor shattering into shards and slivers spreading to and fro. Sam collapsed back into the welcoming folds of the couch, his body felt foreign and unfamiliar. Between each labored breath a silver cord grew out from the center of his chest until it stretched across the room twisting and winding around chair and table alike only to end at the bird, who now glowed from within like a lone lighthouse amid the black turbulent seas. Darkness closed in around him, thoughts of the past filled him with the torment of loneliness and regret.
It wasn’t my fault…It was never my fault…I swear it. I don’t want to sleep…I just want to forget, please let me forget the blood…