The Old Man's Barn

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

The first excerpt of an unexpected adventure that is truly a Tale Across Time.

Summer has just begun and it is a gorgeous, sunny day. I’m a bit of a loner and I like to take long walks in the countryside to pass the time. Today I’m headin’ over to check out the back forty of old Famer Williams field. I’ve never been that far from home but I’m feelin’ adventurous today. Farmer Williams is a kind old man who retired about fifteen years ago. He’s never mentioned any kids of his own, or even a wife, but he does wear a ring on his left hand so I’m pretty sure he was married once. Either way, Mr. Williams is always smilin’, although there is a lonely sadness behind his small, wrinkled eyes. He likes to give me and my friends trinkets when we manage to make it as far as his front gate. So far, he’s given me an old pocket watch and a knife he claims is from the Civil War. We enjoy listening to his stories of being a soldier in times all but forgotten, although some of his tales are pretty strange. We’re not sure if his yarns are real or if he’s just gettin’ a little senile, but it’s a fun way to pass the hot summer days so we all just go along with it.

It’s about ten miles to the far edge of the old man’s farm so I’m gettin’ an early start, I plan to be there around 1pm this afternoon. Finally, after what seems like forever, I find the fence that marks the end of Farmer Williams’ property. There’s a small, wooded area up ahead and I can’t wait to explore it!

It turns out that it's only a small patch of trees but it looks like there is some kind of building peeking through the leaves. As I slink my way through the gnarly old branches and brush, I can see that there is in fact an old, dilapidated barn nestled just inside the tree line. “Cool”, I say and I head over towards the structure. As I near the door, I feel a bit uneasy. Like maybe I shouldn’t get too close. I take a deep breathe, slowly creak open its creepy door, and step inside. Much to my dismay, it is actually just a dusty old barn. Suddenly, I hear an eerie, high pitched screech just above my head. I spin around, fumble for the knife on my hip and immediately fall flat on my butt as I try to step back. I look up into the rafters but the afternoon sunlight pouring through the missing shingles burns and fills my eyes with tears. I quickly wipe the wetness away and finally see that it’s just a large barn owl gazing down at me curiously. It’s a female and she is breathtaking with really unique spotting on her chest. “Hey there pretty girl”, I say as I laugh out loud at my own ridiculous reaction. I plop down on a pile of hay to enjoy the lunch that I packed for myself this morning as I admire the owl’s carefree attitude to me being there.

The rest of my visit in the barn has been relatively uneventful. Although it has been peaceful, I think it’s time to head back home but I do want to go by Farmer Williams house first to see if he’s around this afternoon. It takes me a surprisingly short time to reach the farmhouse from the barn. Sure enough, old Farmer Williams is sittin’ there on his stool under the tree by his front gate, starring off into the distance. His hands are atop his walking stick that’s shoved into the gravel in front of him, just like always.

“Hey, Mr. Williams”, I yell as I run up the lane.

“Daniel”, he says in his gruff voice. He always calls all of us kids by our “proper” names.

“All alone today?”, he does his best to holler out to me.

“Yep”, I say, out of breath from running the long way in this humidity.

“What ‘er ya up to, young man?”, he asks as I sit down on the cool grass next to his feet.

“Nothin much”, I say as I settle in and try to catch my breathe.

“Been out to that old barn, have ya?”, he asks. He’s facing straight ahead but I can see him peering at me out of the corner of his eye.

“Yeees sir”, I say nervously as I wait for him to scold me for having gone into the barn.

“Hmmmm, and what’d ya see?”, he wonders.

“Nothing really, just an old barn with a bunch of hay inside. Looks like it’s been there for a while.”, I reply.

“Does it now?”, he asks in a low voice, looking somewhat mischievous.

I’m a little unnerved by his question and I hesitantly ask, “hasn’t it?”

“Well I don’t know boy; how many times have you been there?”

“Just this once”, I say as I gaze at him inquisitively.

“Hmm, hardly seems like enough to make such an assumption”, he answers as he turns towards me and smiles. He holds out his closed fist and places somethin’ in my hand. It’s a compass, but it looks really old, too old for it to have been used by Farmer Williams himself.

“I can’t take this, it must be a family heirloom or somethin”, and I try to hand it back to him.

“Take it boy, you’ll need it more than you could ever know’, he snaps in the sternest voice I've ever heard him use.

“Yeees sir, thank you”, I reply, obviously unsettled.

“I’m sorry Daniel”, he says in a much more meager tone. “I’m tired, will you help me back to my porch chair”?

“Of course, Mr. Williams, whatever you need”, I tell him as I slowly walk him back to his house. He expresses his gratitude as he carefully settles in. While I’m telling him it’s no bother, he grabs my hand and says, “Danny, there’s more to this world than you could ever imagine. Be smart, be careful.”

“I’m sure you’re right, Mr. Williams”, I humor him as I lay his blanket over his lap.

Leaving the driveway to Farmer Williams property, I take a look back to check if the old man can see me. The weeds are too tall and I’m too far out of sight so I can’t see if he’s still on his porch but I FEEL like he’s still watching me somehow. My mind is racing, he called me Danny. He has NEVER called me Danny before. And what was he going on about with that barn and what about this compass… it looks like it’s at least two hundred years old! It’s all too much for me and I don’t know what to think. It’s already dark and I don’t even know what time it is. I just want to get home to my own room and my own bed.

“Danny, you’re late for dinner”, I hear my mother call through the trees at the edge of our field. “Thank god”, I think as I clear the trees and run toward our back door, finally I’m home.

There’s a strange feel in the air tonight as we all sit around the table, quietly eating the meal my mother prepared for us. My father is clearly exhausted from working in the field all day and he seems distracted. My mother, though, senses the tension in the room and tries to lighten the mood like she always does.

“Danny, what did you do today sweetheart”, she asks lovingly.

“I hiked out to Farmer Williams back forty today to go explorin”, I tell her proudly.

My father stops mid-bite and glares at me as my mother responds nervously, “Oh, well you probably shouldn’t be wandering out quite that far by yourself. Did you stop and check on Mr. Williams on your way back?”

“Yeah, we sat for a spell but I don’t think he was feelin’ well, so I just came on home”. I tell her. I was about to say something about the compass but the look on my parents faces made me think that maybe I should just keep it to myself for now.

“Well it’s good of you to check on him”, my mother says as she starts to clear the dishes from the table, still seeming uneasy.

“Why don’t you go get washed up for bed”, she says as she looks at me and smiles.

I wash up quickly and head to my room. I’m exhausted and I can feel myself falling asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow. As I drift off, my mother opens my door and whispers, “Danny, please don’t go out to that barn again, strange things happen there. I love you so much.” Her words echo in my head as I fade into a deep sleep.

My dreams were very strange and I wake with a start, eyes wide open, feeling… I don’t know, just odd. My mind immediately starts going over yesterday’s events. I can’t stop thinking about what Farmer Williams told me. And my mother, how did she know that I went to that barn?! She said, “strange things happen there”, what the hell does that mean?! If you're trying to keep someone like me away, this is not how you do it. I'm more curious now than ever before. I’m going back to that barn and I’ll go every day till I find out what the adults are goin’ on about.

And I did just that, I went back out to the barn every single day for a month! I sat and ate my lunch, starin’ at it, waitin’ for it to do somethin’. But nothin’ ever happened. I told myself that today was gonna be the day, but still, the old barn just sat there creaking in the wind. I am totally confused and really bummed so I slowly start my walk back home.

About three miles from my house, I’m really wishin’ I had a faster way to get home. Out of nowhere, I hear a loud truck rumbling down the road from behind me. Once the dust settles, I see that it’s Farmer Williams in his ancient old jalopy.

He pulls up alongside me and bellows, “Hello Daniel, hop in my boy and I’ll give ya a lift”. I didn’t know the old man still drove but I am really happy to catch a ride.

“Man am I happy to see you sir”, I admit as I climb into the passenger seat.

“Yep, I bet you were just wishin’ you had a faster way to get home, weren’t ya?”, he asked with that mischievous look in his eye.

“How did you?... I mean, Yes I was”, I stammer as I stare at him in astonishment.

We ride the rest of the drive in silence. As I open the door and jump down, Farmer Williams blurts out, “don’t give up Daniel, it’s only a matter of Time”.

I nod my head and give him a nervous smile, then close the door and quickly head for my house.

As I lay here in my bed tonight, I can’t help but wonder what the old man was on about. Then it hits me! I've been goin’ out to the barn at pretty much the same time every day. What if whatever happens, does it at a different time of day? That’s it, I’ll go camp out and watch the barn for a whole day! I can’t possibly sleep so I’ll just get all my gear together and wait for morning. ‘Come on daylight, show yourself already’, I think as I pick my pack up off the floor. I toss it on my bed and the compass Farmer Williams gave me falls out. “Oh yeah, I almost forgot about this.” For the first time, I realize that the compass doesn’t work. It spins but doesn’t point north. While I’m inspecting it closer, I see the morning sunlight glint off the side of it. Excitedly, I chuck the compass into my pack, grab the rest of my gear and run out the door.

I stop by my best friend Chris' house and convince him to come with me, although it doesn’t take much convincing. Chris is always up for an adventure especially since his father’s drinkin’ has become a daily thing. Chris’ mother passed about two years ago after a long battle with a terrible illness and his father just hasn’t been the same since. Chris puts on a brave face but I know that he misses his mother deeply… and he misses his father just as much. I figure our little trip will be a welcome distraction from the sadness that hangs over my friend’s home these days.

 We make great time and get to the field next to the barn around 8am. We set up camp in front of the barn and prepare for a long day of waiting. We play games and share a lot of laughs as we remember the antics that all of our friends have pulled over the last few years. After dinner, I poke at the fire as Chris lazily kicks back in the grass with his arms behind his head, hat down over his eyes.

“So what’s supposed to happen anyway,” Chris asks long after it’s dark?

“I don’t really know. I just know my parents and Farmer Williams acted super weird about it and the old man gave me this compass”, I say as I hand it to him.

Chris sits ups and studies the compass for a moment.

“Hey, it points towards the bar…”, Chris starts to say but we both freeze as our eyes are drawn to the barn. In the moonlight shining through the trees we can clearly see that the barn is shifting. Not like swayin’ or goin’ out of focus but actually fadin’ away and then reappearing. We look at each other, both jump up and run towards it. I stop short but Chris keeps runnin’. He tosses me the compass and yells, “I’m goin’ in!” Before I can say a word, Chris runs through the door and it slams shut behind him. The full moon comes out from behind the clouds, it’s light washes over the barn like a wave, then the barn is ... gone... it’s just gone. I stand there with my mouth gaping. WHERE DID IT GO?! WHERE’S CHRIS?!!

I run as fast as I can to Farmer Williams’ house. I bang on the door and holler, “Mr. Williams, please help, the barn, it… it”.

A younger man opens the door, “can I help you son?”

“Uh, is Mr. Williams here?”, I say fighting back the tears.

“I’m Mr. Williams”, he answers.

What? Does Farmer Williams have a son?

“Yo… your father, is he here”, I ask nervously?

“My father?”, he questions. “My father has never lived here. You ok son, it’s the middle of the night”, he asks genuinely concerned.

I stumble backwards off the porch and fall on the ground, hard. Scrambling to my feet, I race back to the field where the barn should be… It’s still gone. I don’t know what to do, my head is spinning and I can’t think straight.

I drop to my knees and scream “WHAT IS HAPPENING?!”

But the only sound is my own voice, echoing off into the clear, moonlit night…

Submitted: February 18, 2022

© Copyright 2022 Sylvie Smith. All rights reserved.

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good story

Sat, April 23rd, 2022 8:31pm


Thank you!

Sat, April 23rd, 2022 5:48pm


You're welcome

Mon, April 25th, 2022 2:38am

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