A weathered palace sat on top of the hill. In memory, I always saw it in red, with a defined boldness and character, stretching past my eye in stark strokes of wood and paint chips. In person now, I only see a black, hidden bleakly behind a barrier of fog and greys and only grey.
For a moment, I think I see a red faintly peeking out through crevices and cracks, but it was nothing more than an illusion. The sun has not called it to wake just yet, I tell myself. Perhaps the sun may never call it back to wake again; perhaps the sun also mourns, too.
The grey sheath of fog wrapping the barn’s waist pitches a splintering holler of decay into the wind every so often, only to be carried downhill, running well past me along the hillside. I ignore its warning, though, letting the wind carry the words from my lips into its stream.
“It’s too late to turn back.”
A jury of my emotions debates this statement, declaring a stubborn 3:1 on the truth behind it, but I deny its rethinking.
The dirt road squishes beneath my boots, each step requiring more effort than the last. I turn my gaze from the barn to my boots, covered in browns of mud. I’ve forgotten what colours the boots were before the mud now. It escapes me, and suddenly, mud is all I seem to now know. The wet dirt, as heavy as it is, and strong, holds me back. The wind blows, and for a moment, I thought it was you, begging me to stay away.
“Stop, please, don’t go!”
Those words were once my words, you know, and now the ground I buried you in and the wind your barn filters, mocks me with the same. I pause for a moment to scoop up and fling the mud from my boots, getting rid of dead weight, but end up just peeling chunks away, hardened by the wind.
Between the mud and the barn were patches of dried yellow grass, browning from neglect. They made no noise under my heel, none that could be heard over the soggy whining of mud and screeching wind, anyway. The dead grass took on a pattern with the mud, constantly crossing one only to end up back in another, riddling the hill with their entanglement.
The repetition leaves me in a haze without time, only an unending; that is until I finally accept its unending, at which point it does, leaving me to face the barn. I place a hand on it and wipe away the black, but end up smearing wet mud on it instead, peeling away red paint chips from its face. One by one, all of the chips fall. Beneath it, green and brown wood begins to thin in the wind, until the barn is nothing more than a fine dust that is lost to the wind, letting out one final, rattling screech. It’s another entity of yours that I’ve ruined, I guess, and another thing to live on — only in memory.
I look up to grey darkness. The wind stops the howl and suddenly, it begins to rain hard, and fast, and brutally, and also, silently, too. As I watch the haze of green and brown dust disperse into the wind, small droplets run down my face. I look down from the hilltop, catching only quick glances as I flinch and wince from the beating of the rain.
I’ll have a harder time getting down now than I did coming up.
Piece by Francisco Lethbridge