(c) A.F. 10/25/11
The lively smell of animals fills my nostrils as I enter. The hay crunches under my boots like the crunching of small twigs. A summer sun sneaks in between the wooden boards, casting an ambient glow throughout the room. A pure-white lamb is snuggled up close to its mother. A large chocolate mare stomps its hooves excitedly. The pinched-pink piglets are playing tag in their pens.
I hum as I make my way around the barn, admiring the animals in all their domestic glory. I notice the mare's mate - a sleek pinto with ebony hair tumbling over her shoulders. I lose track of time just brushing her lustrous locks, drinking in the smell of her sun-basked hyde. I cross over to the cow that has recently given birth to the tiniest, delicate calf. The calf looks up at me coyly behind thick, black lashes. Her eyes are remarkably a deep, sapphire blue; a mutation in the biological sense, but a miracle for her species.
The chickens cluck in harmonies as they peek out from their coop in interest. I toss them a handful of cornmeal, which feels satisfyingly smooth in the palm of my hand - like a soft, cloudy dream. I smile at the goats who chomp their hay straws happily. The eldest bows his head in approval.
I take a seat upon a pine milking-stool, drinking in my surroundings. The barn is comfortably warm, like the heat that emits from a stoked fire place. I take a deep breath, and let it out. There is so much life here, so much to look forward to. Outside the air is summery-sweet as it blows in through the open doors; riding the breeze like a bottled-message. I feel for the first time that I have purpose. The barn and I are as one. I am the barn, and the barn is me. I am elated, drowsy with the wonders of the world that surrounds me. I am whole. I am content. I am home.
A butterfly lands upon my breast, fluttering in from outside. It glances at me for but a moment before taking off into the endless Summer sky.
Return to the Barn (Seven Years Later)
The air is stale like molding bread as my feet crunch on the freezer-burnt hay. A chilly wind whistles through the rotting wood. The animals have long gone; some sold to other farms, others slaughtered for their meat. It is as if they had never been here at all. The lamb has died of old age, shaved year after year, exploited for its wool. The brown mare became a performer, bullied and bridled into tolling tricks for bratty children. The pigs' throats were slit, and they became bacon for a grocery market franchise.
The pinto was shot after she broke her leg. Her ebony hair is now riddled with worms, her hyde eaten by maggots beneath the cold, hard ground. The cow and her calf were fattened up before becoming meals on a fast food's $1 menu. Gone are the thick eyelashes, the sapphire blue eyes that once sparkled so with life.
The chickens were massacred by a wild fox, their musical clucking no longer echoes off of the ghostly walls. All that remains in their coop are a few blood-splattered feathers. The goats fell ill in their brains, many rammed their heads against the pens over and over and over until the disease (and the life) was smashed out of them.
The milking stool is rotting; a food-poisoned, shit-stain green. One of the legs has snapped in two. The remaining corpse is bound in lifeless cobwebs. The barn is hollow, frigid, and - above else - empty. I take a deep breath, then sigh. My breath stumbles out like a ghostly tumble weed. Outside the air is an icy-kissed Autumn, soon to be Winter. It creeps in through the open doors, like the outstretched, bone-chilled fingers of Death. I feel shattered like that old wooden stool. The barn and I are both broken and bitter. Both battered by the changing hands of time. I am nothing. And the world is but a nightmare; A vicious and cruel, crime-infested place that eats away at all beauty as if by a hunger-driven cancer.
I look down at my feet, overlooking a crumpled-shell of a thing. Upon closer inspection, I realize that what I had mistaken for a leaf is nothing more than the breathless body, and torn up wings of what once was a Summer dream.
(c) A.F. 10/25/11