The last of the day’s light bathes the centre of the barn as it floods in through the single window of the hay loft. He knows not how long he has been in here, meandering through years of things. Material manifestations of a family that no longer exists.
The tyre swing behind him squeaks as a low draught persists through the cracked windows, and a door which no longer settles on its hinges. The rope seems to creak and cry out, begging to be cut. It is despondent from the prolonged lack of childish interaction. These pleas echo through the place until he can no longer stand it and taking a hand saw from his work bench, he snaps the chord. Gravity forces the rusty tyre seat to the concrete floor before it bounces once and then giving up the ghost, lies on its side forever.
He must tackle it. The motorbike with an array of tools and parts that wait now, for nobody. He scans the barn for a box to store all these intricate pieces, to keep them safe. Then he almost laughs as he remembers; what’s the point? His stomach tightens and produces a knot which begins to climb up through his thorax and wedges now at the place in his throat where tears come from, barricading them in there.
Sifting through cardboard boxes, he comes across Christmas decorations and a rubber pumpkin they used to display at the front gate. The time for trick or treat was drawing near, hurtling towards long nights and the enduring chill that accompanies the thinning of the veil between the living world and the other.
Comic books. Boxes and boxes of them, superheroes and warriors adorn the covers proclaiming the world now safe from evil. Strength and honour and the lies we tell ourselves. Those myths we feed to our children. Anybody can be a Hero, someone must stand up for what is right. I should have said no, don’t be a soldier, he thinks. I should have destroyed these years ago. He decides to make a bonfire in the dusk.
He rakes the leaf cadavers into piles by the door, brushing out those that have blown inside during some previous ill wind. He easily gathers piles of them in his strong arms and throws them into the flames. They spark and hiss as they throw their heat towards the heavens and crumble into white leaf-shaped heat.
He turns his back to the flames and watches their shadows play inside the barn, powerless now as one of the shadows consumes another in the twilight and it is gone forever in a blaze devoid of glory. Colourful licks of fire reach skyward as the ink from the books ignites, like a rainbow of destruction. He turns out the light and locks the door. The bonfire burns out in the falling darkness but the white heat of grief solders at the edges of his memories, blackening them forever.
Anna Foley ©