It wasn’t much, really, just an old barn in the middle of a field on the edge of town. As he glanced at it now, the childhood memory formed thirty years ago of an impressive structure was irrevocably tarnished by the image before him. He couldn’t count the number of times that the present had served to shape his past in such a way, shackling faded glimpses to unflinching clarity.
The wind picked up and Samuel instinctively buttoned his coat.
To be fair, time had taken its toll. The once freshly painted boards now lay bare- even the silvered grain of the wood had been reduced to a dull gray. Although the sky was blinding, a stand of trees behind the barn provided enough contrast for his eyes to follow the roofline from one end to the other. He wondered if the trees had even been planted when he was a child- they had certainly not been tall enough to overtake the barn. He shuffled the thought aside and reexamined the roof. It appeared to be unbowed.
The enemy’s wintry onslaught had actually helped preserve its victim. The falling snow would gather on the roof for months at a time, unable to melt and seep into the boards. Every so often, the weight would be too much and a cavalcade of snow would slip unnoticed off the edge, adding to existing piles. These piles would unwittingly serve as a windbreaker until warmer winds arrived, causing the snow to disappear for a few short months. Then the process would begin again. In his mind, Samuel tried to fast-forward the past and imagine the snow accumulating and melting thirty times in a row, taking with it each year minor parts of the barn but never achieving a major victory. The image rattled him, and he quickly shrugged it off.
The barn was either stubborn or exceptionally built. On his way to the field, Samuel had passed several barns built around the same time that had long ago collapsed under their own weight. One such collapse had been particularly impressive- a barn had half fallen, kneeling forward as if seeking repentance from a merciless god. The snow blanketed it in death and the wind whistled lullabies that gently rocked the remaining walls to sleep.
Samuel wasn’t sure if he wanted to get any closer to the barn. He was old enough to realize that facts led to plans and plans led to certainty and certainty led to nothing but certainty. He didn’t want to feel certain about anything right now. He wanted to stare at the barn a bit longer and feel the wind rip the breath from his lips.
Without warning, one of the barn doors opened with a delicious creak, slamming itself into the side of the barn. A wondrous bolt of fear momentarily absorbed him before being frozen in silence once again.
Samuel began trudging through the deep snow, his hands thrust deep within his pockets. The wind began to howl, drowning out his footsteps.