The air washed over his face as if he dove into an assault of waves on the beach. The rejuvenating experience kindled something long forgotten. It was the beginning of something new, a budding sprout of life breaking through cracked and arid soil.
Clusters of woods, populating ravines, gullies, streams, and river banks interrupted the flow from one farm to another and one pasture to the next. Sheep and cattle were grazing everywhere, but not in large numbers. Nearly all the farms were quite small. And many of them appeared abandoned, or at least in great disrepair.
As Jared road past a patch of woods, another farm appeared on his right, this one appearing active and well taken care of. The roadside fencing was painted white, and all of it looked in good shape. The main barn and other outbuildings were also in good condition, standing tall and upright, at least as far as he could see from the road. Most of the house was hidden behind an assorted umbrella of trees, providing good shade in the summer for yard activities and sitting on the porch.
Jared got a good shot of the porch, peeking through the branches, and there sat a woman, a fan in one hand that was busy at work and a glass in the other. Sweet tea, he suspected as he slowed to a stop, careful not to put the nose of the bike in the irrigation ditch.
He could see that she had a thick book on her lap, and though she wasn’t wearing any glasses and her hair was long, draping over her shoulders, she reminded him of his grandma. And with that reminder came the tension, creeping slowly into his head. It remained with him as he pulled back out on the road, an unwanted travel companion for several miles before fading away.
It seemed, however, that he couldn’t be left alone. As soon as one unwanted companion left, another appeared as if out of nowhere. The hand of darkness crawled toward him; the vivid day swallowed up in a mass of clouds.
A couple of cars rolled over a small hill, headed my way. Their headlights burned yellow, and their wipers beat in overdrive. It wasn’t looking good for Jared, and he started thinking about his options. The cars flew past, buffeting him with a soggy wind that coated the screen on his helmet, which he smeared away with his hand.
Jared slowed down, knowing how treacherous a slick road could be, and spotted a sign pointing to the next town. The first wave of rain hit him as the sign came into focus. “Twenty miles,” he said, shaking his head, his thighs and knees soaked in a matter of seconds. While he knew that he could make it, drenched as he would be, he kept his eyes out for some immediate shelter.
A flash of lightning chased away the gloom long enough for Jared to see something that gave him hope. A barn stood alone just off the highway, surrounded by a grassy field. The flashing light shined between the slats of the walls, and its weathered wooden structure was the color of ash. But at least it was standing and had some semblance of a roof on it.
A small bridge crossed the irrigation ditch, providing access to the clearing. As Jared pulled off and made his way across, he looked down. A warning sign, weathered, rusted, and covered in dirt, bearing the words No Trespassing, was pelted with raindrops. It gave him pause as he looked around, not eager to find himself at the wrong end of a shotgun.
He rode right up to the doors, bumping it with his front tire and shoving it with his outstretched hand. They both gave, wobbling open with the least amount of hesitation, when a quick roll of thunder broke loose into thunderous applause. With a short spurt of gas, he rolled inside and shut off the engine.
The dirt floor was covered in spotty layers of hay, manure, and more ash-colored planks. Climbing off the Triumph, Jared balanced the bike and reached for one of the shorter planks, using it as a bed for his kickstand. A drop fell on his cheek, and he looked up, the roof of the barn looking like a star-filled night. Each hole gave way to the occasional drop of rain. It could have been much worse, Jared thought as he looked around, his hands already untying his sleeping bag.
The space between his bike and the closest wall looked to be the most waterproof. Jared looked up. At least the area had the fewest holes in the roof. Leaving the sleeping bag resting on the leather seat, he began gathering the dryest hay from around the barn. As he did, he took inventory of everything he could find, which beyond a couple of hanging lanterns and old rope, didn’t amount to much.
The lightning ravaged the black sky, and the booming voice from heaven seemed to shake the ground. Dropping the hay in place, Jared walked over to the barn doors, now flapping in the rising wind, banging against the walls. One moment he was dry. A second later, the wind’s course changed direction, giving him a hard shove toward the barn’s interior and layering him with a new coat of rainwater.
“This is going to be a bad one,” he muttered, stepping out into the storm, grabbing the doors, and pulling them closed. He stood there, momentarily blinded by the deluge of rain, securing the doors with the wooden latch. Leaning over, he shook his arms, wiped his eyes, and ruffled his hair. Unbuttoning his shirt, he took it off, wrung it out, and hung it on a nail before turning to his saddlebags for a teeshirt.
As the storm raged on, Jared collapsed onto the sleeping bag, the small Bible in his hands. What remained of the light of the day was nearly gone, blanketed by the deluge of rain. It was too dim to read it, and he was too tired to get up and do anything about it. The last thing he saw before falling asleep was a falling drop, landing inches from his face.
This story of Fallen One, is a first draft. I encourage anyone to provide comments, make suggestions, and point out problems.
Jared Cooper in riding west, through a long stretch of farm land. Running into a storm, he is forced to find shelter, which he does in an old, abandoned barn.
Have a great day.