Life and death were in the ruins.
The old cottage was filled with a riot of primal green ferns and stinging nettles. The only bright notes were a few yellow flowers and the bleached skeleton of a lamb that had perished inside.
Another lost to accident or entropy.
He dug into his pack and found his lunch. He was hungry after a morning of tramping over a low range of mountains to this deserted coastline.
The village had once held a handful of cottages. It was impossible to say how long they had been abandoned. Since the Famine? The coast was spectacular. He imagined the coming winter of Atlantic storms, the sea white with foam and power. He thought about the respite these stones and slate would have once provided. A roof, with whitewashed walls, and inside, a peat fire smoking in the chimney. He ate the last of his sandwich, an excellent concoction of cheese and onion, and he opened his water bottle for a drink. It was still a bit cool. Delicious.
The wind picked up; he could hear a keening sound from somewhere. A more romantic soul might ascribe it to the banshee, or perhaps the wailing of the ghosts who once lived in this derelict place, but he had long ago given up such fantasies. It was the wind. It caused something to vibrate at a resonance that sounded like someone screaming. He knew his brain wanted to hear a human voice, even where there was none. In the same way, he was liable to see a dragon in those roiling clouds, or an old man’s face in the shape of the cliffs.
He had many miles to hike. He repacked his bag and slung it over his shoulders. The dragons darkened.
The rain started to strike him. The storm slammed in from the sea like the beating of leather wings. The drops were cold. They hit his face hard.
He leaned into it. An echo of a smile.
(Originally published October 2015, Caesura Letters, a philosophy magazine sadly no longer in print, but certainly in keeping with the existential theme of this story.)
Photo by Keith Ewing via Flickr