The corpse of the barn lay upon the snow swept field, its sun bleached bones exposed to the elements. Carter shrugged off his backpack and gently sat down in the snow. He stared at the remains and wondered when the farmer had given up on the land upon which the barn sat, or had the farmer been committed back to the fertile soil and no one new had picked up the calling.
Carter pulled out his sketch pad and removed his gloves. He began drawing, using his snow pants encased legs as a cushioned desk. The cold wind attacked his fingers, causing them to both ache and become frustratingly numb. This made Carter smile. It helped him capture the barn in its death throes. Soon Carter had to admit that was as much as he could do in these conditions and he put away his picture. With one look around, he tried to capture the rest of scene for adding to his picture back in his warm studio. Mission accomplished, he began snow shoeing home. This physical workout had turned into a mental one as well, and that warmed Carter’s heart. Now just if his fingers would do the same.
Dried out memories rolled across my barren mindscape as I searched for a landmark, something to show me the way. Anxiety caused dust devils to swirl and dance, obscuring the horizon and leaving me feeling disoriented.
I began to stumble along the dusty surface of my thoughts, but every time I thought I had found something familiar, I had only wandered right back to where I had started. The sameness of my mind was foreign and scary.
Disembodied voices shouted all around me, but every time I tried to focus on them, they faded to echoes.
I tried to cry out, but only a shriveled inhuman cry escaped my parched lips. I slumped to the ground, closed my eyes, and cried myself to sleep.
“I’m sorry,” the nurse said. “George isn’t having a good day.”
Nancy looked at her father as tears escaped from his closed eyes and drifted down the deep wrinkles embedded in his cheeks. She gently whipped some of the tears away and gave him a light kiss.
“Dad doesn’t have many good days anymore,” she said with her voice breaking a little. “But I still love him.”
I finally felt comfort and smiled as I dreamed.
The waves ran onto the shore, advancing the front line, and establishing a beachhead under the watchful eye of the old man who was beaming in his full glory. Inch by inch, soaking the ground with their being, they advanced. Alas, after reaching a high point, the water retreated mere hours later, fleeing from the unseen enemy, morale broken. Wave after wave of reinforcements ran into the remnants that had been holding their ground, but those remnants were now fleeing back into the depths. This caused the reinforcements to crash helplessly short of the position the waves had previously attained, giving up precious territory that had been taken at considerable cost. The remainder of those that had taken the beach rested, their souls released to the sky to be born again in the heavens above. The retreat continued until the old man once again rallied his troops, hurling them towards the shore anew. Wave after wave poured their being into retaking what had been lost, the battle not finished. Over and over the battle was waged, but till this day no victor has been anointed, and the many tears shed for the fallen is why the ocean is so salty.
Margret meandered down the hallway, not looking at anyone in particular, but trying to memorize how each face perceived her. Her sudden head swings tried to take it all in, documenting for her future self how others looked into her eyes. Couldn’t they see it? It was right in front of them, but the pity she saw in those that would look into her eyes was so shallow that they would never find the depths where she hid her soul. Margret wished she could just scream, but she knew no words would come out. Everyone knew that about her. Just when it was about to get too painful to bear, Christopher came around the corner. He placed his muscular arm around her and began to guide her back to her room. She began to cry silently as always. Chris leaned in close. “It’ll be okay,” he said to everyone watching the spectacle. Soon they were back to her room, and Chris picked Margret up and placed her on her bed. “It’ll be all better in a bit,” he said as he closed her door, staying in her room. Margret tried to scream, but her voice betrayed her, just like Chris.
The cell phone rang for the tenth time in the last five minutes, but again Graham let it go to voicemail. Lorena had cheated on him, so he really didn’t feel like listening to her. As he sat there though, he began to feel a bit guilty. Graham didn’t like to act impulsively. It was usually bad for business, and Graham was a planner. He decided to give her a chance and play the latest voicemail.
“Graham, I screwed up, but he didn’t mean anything to me. Would it kill you to answer your phone?”
Graham put on his ear defenders and sighted in on Lorena through her kitchen window. She held out her cell phone then put it to her ear. Graham’s phone began to ring again. “He meant something to me,” he muttered, “and it won’t kill me.” Graham breathed out and pulled the trigger. Lorena’s head exploded sending the cell phone flying. “But it did kill you,” he said. He took off his ear defenders and walked calmly out of the abandoned house, dropping a match as he closed the door.
The flames climbed high into the night as Graham drove away, turning his heart to ash.