Aphelion Issue 268, Volume 25
December 2021
Long Fiction and Serials
Short Stories
Flash Fiction
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The Barn

by Julian D. Woodruff

A gentle breeze ripples the scarecrow’s shirt
And spurs the corn he oversees to dance.
The sun shines brightly down upon the field.
Long shadows slowly cover the expanse.

At last they reach the wall of the old barn
That stands in solemn silence on the hill,
Its door ajar and partially unhinged,
Its windows thick with dust upon the sill.

So many days has this tired relic seen.
The barn was ancient eighty years before.
No goats or sheep fill its ramshackle stalls.
No cows or horses amble through its door.

The beams and rafters clearly show their age:
They’re bent and split; boards sag, are even gone.
Those left make frames for hoary spider webs,
Now too with time out of their first shapes drawn.

Through gaping holes above slant streams of sunlight.
The moon at night casts down its silver rays.
But there come also rain, and snow in winter,
And feral squatters seeking roost for days.

The shadows slowly climb the weathered walls
Of the old wreck and finally reach the top.
The withered corn long since claimed by the shade,
All stands in failing light, both keep and crop.

The aura of forlorn rusticity
Fades with the sun’s retreat. A sharper sense
Replaces it. The breeze, no longer playful,
Gradually acquires an eerie turbulence.

Now with the encroaching dark the breeze increases:
An angry wind whips through the field full-blown.
The scarecrow’s shirt flaps wildly on the pole;
He’s now bare–headed: his straw hat has flown.

The gale builds strength. The barn door slaps the wall.
It creaks upon its hinge, while in the corn
The husks, all dry, fly up and sail away,
On wings of wind bestirred by demons borne.

Moans rise above the fields and hills beyond,
A chorus summoned at the wind’s command.
The nearby elms bend, violently they wave;
They struggle in the storm to grip the land.

With fearsome force a gust rips through their leaves
And in a moment strips their branches bare.
Twigs snap, becoming missiles, great boughs creak.
No tree finds shelter from the fury there.

The frenzy of the storm will not abate.
Destruction is its bent. It rages more:
As if drunk with its power, it hurls itself
With all abandon at the old farm’s store.

Wind seethes through slits between the shrunken boards
That serve still for the walls. Madly it shrieks
Through all the windows. How it rakes the roof,
Dislodging shingles; through all holes it streaks.

The door is rudely sundered from its frame
And tossed aside, as if it were as light
As cardboard. Beasts to whom the barn is home
Know well: the hour has come to take their flight.

Away they wing or slither, run or creep.
The world is vile and harsh to those that flee—
Bats, buzzards, owls, snakes, spiders, rats, and newts.
If friend before, it’s now their enemy.

The weather’s weird affliction finally passes.
No charm of picturesque dilapidation
Is left there in its wake as a bequest
To stimulate the mind’s due contemplation.

The earliest glint of morning light will find
Among the thistles, thorns, brambles, and brier
A heap of wood, and nails, and rusted hardware
For nothing fit but all–consuming fire.

2021 Julian D. Woodruff

A resident of Western New York state, Julian D. Woodruff writes fiction and poetry for both children and adults. His speculative fiction includes “The Odd Dental Patient” (in Frostfire Worlds, 2019) and “The Line at the Bus Station” (Reedsy website, Aug. 20, 2019).

Find more by Julian D. Woodruff in the Author Index.