It was one of those days where nothing was supposed to happen. Or at least, nothing out of the ordinary. The first rays of the sun were peering in from behind the greyish-white clouds. I had my morning cigarette tucked in the corner of my lips, the tobacco smoke tickling my nostrils with familiar warmth. A pair of birds flew twittering over my head. I cannot recall exactly what they were because I didn't really care much for birds, but I hoped I had looked up.
At least, I would have noticed that each bird had four wings instead of two.
And that the sun's rays were emitting a pinkish haze, and the faint smell of jasmine was drifting through the air. I would have, once again, noticed, if I had not been smoking.
Instead, I was bent over, slowly preening my potato plants, rubbing beneath the waxy leaves to check for mealybugs or aphids, or whatever other critter decided to drop by without paying. I will not stand for that. This plot of land had been watered with my own sweat, tears, and blood, and no multi-legged or winged creature was going to live off it.
Not when I am still alive and kicking.
And then I heard it.
That child-like giggle echoing around the garden as if it was an enclosed cave with the acoustics of an ancient cathedral. I nearly whipped my neck when I turned to see where it was coming from, and then I laughed it off, taking the half-finished cigarette from my mouth. "Hmmph," I shook my head at myself. "Looks like they were talkin' sense about one smoke too many doin' numbers to yer brain. See, Jed, yer old head's hearin' kids now. And you hate 'em, barkin' kids."
I snuffed the cigarette's glow out with my calloused thumbs and chucked it away, and continued scrubbing the bugs from my plants. For about a few more minutes, nothing much happened.
And then, as I groaned as loudly as I could as I pulled out the eighth cluster of pigweed from the plot, crushing it in my gloved hand and staring at the soiled remnants on my palm, I heard it again.
That giggling, now growing louder and louder, as if some bugging kid was just by my side.
"OI!" I bellowed as I swirled around, armed with my rusting shovel and my bucket with its blue paint peeling off more than it usually did, like a weary knight in battle. "Get yer arse o'er here before I call your parents!"
Of course, there was no response.
I sighed and shook my head again, and decided to walk away from my potatoes and towards my shed, where my old collie was fast asleep in a bed of grass. Her snout was almost fur-free now after she was attacked by a rogue rat, and as she slept, her tail twitched and she pawed at the air, grunting softly. She slept most of her days away now, a shadow of her former, hyperactive self. At least, there was no strain on my aching hips anymore from running after her. Smiling at her, I gently pushed open the door of my shed and walked in.
The knob was far rustier than I remembered, but I did not give it any more thought.
"Hmm," I wondered to myself as I walked in, my boots creaking against the soggy, wooden floor. Around me, vines of ivy and morning glory were also bursting through the cracks as if they had been waiting to do this their whole lives. I tended not to give them too much attention for their presence failed to bother me. There were also a few new cobwebs in corners of the shed, and one of the spiders was feasting on a fat bluebottle. There was also a new hole in the roof of the shed, where a palm-sized section of wood had rotted and fallen away, allowing the critters from outside to realise that they now had more space to roost.
That explained the barn swallow nesting in the upper corner, its tiny chest puffing with every breath it took.
"A bird's got nothin' on me", I remarked and moved on, further into the shed. "Huh?" I stopped when I saw that the table where my tools had laid was now nothing but a blanket of powdered rust and blackish mould, the type you see growing around sinks and shower where water had been left to fester. I saw the bright red handle of my new handsaw and rubbing my eyes with the back of my right arm, I picked it up.
I held back a gasp as my handsaw, brand new and barely a week old, fell to dust in front of my very eyes, with only the plastic of the handle left in my hand. The metal was gone, rusted away into brown dust that floated and settled on the ground by my feet, as if I had picked up an ancient relic instead of my new handsaw.
Heck, even those iron swords my little girl saw at the museum in Sweden once belonging to Vikings seemed to be in better shape. And those were from some many thousands of years ago.
"What the?" I nearly dropped the plastic handle in shock as my shed keys, which I was holding in my left hand, also suddenly dissolved into brown dust, and I was now grasping at air.
My heart and my pacemaker were beginning to race in my chest, as I turned suddenly, my hips hurting and my knuckles gone cold for now reason whatsoever. "Okay," I called out, "whatever yer joke was, I'm done. I'm a sorry ol' man and tis is no way to treat yer ol' men..."
There was no response that came but a bludgeoning, deafening silence that gnawed at my ears like the woodworms in the old shed.
I began to walk towards the door and the stopped. "Ah, I know, tis is a dream. I will wake up soon." Thus, I took in one deep breath, clenching and opening my fists to keep my knuckles from freezing over, and sat down, crossed legged, on the very floor of my shed. I had survived three surgeries and two car crashes. No way a stupid tobacco fuelled dream was going to stop me.
And with my hands on my knees, I breathed in deeply and closed my eyes.
A passing wind will come
And iron and wood will rot
What seen once you shall see twice
There will be naught where once had been
We see all and we hear all
For a decade passes yet another
We shalt take what is ours
And never look again away.
The girl stared long and hard into the slip of paper in her hand, squinting at the strange words. "What do they even mean?"
"Why ask me?" The bespectacled, suited man next to her shrugged. "It is all they found here twenty years ago."
"The old man who lived here? What happened to him? Did he leave?" The girl looked up, tilting her head ever so slightly that her pigtails danced in the gentle, blowing wind.
"Yes, my dear," the man replied, gently brushing away a strand of her strawberry blond hair from her face. "It is said that he left without a trace."
"Did he die?" The girl's voice trembled slightly and the man just smiled.
"No, my dear," he replied. "The man just left to serve the land."
"Serve?" The girl asked again, clearly not satisfied, and her eyes suddenly lit up at something that caught her attention. "Oh! Sir, sir! Do you smell it? It is the flowers again! Jasmine!"
"Of course my dear," the man replied, a grin plastered across his thin lips. "It is spring and the awakening had begun."
"Oh, what happens at the awakening?"
The man smiled, and he blinked, slower than how one usually blinks, and when he opened his eyes again, they were the same blue as they had been, except that he had no longer had irises. His hands had turned a ghastly, pale white, nearly as white as the frost in winter, and the veins against his skin were as blue as his eyes. His hair was now grey as slate, and he bent to plant a kiss on the girl's cold cheek. "Now, we wait, my dear, for our turn."
The girl looked up at him, her face and hair also morphed, and flashed him a toothy, ivory smile. "I am hungry."
The man only smiled as the door of the shed creaked open behind them, and a young woman walked in, puzzled at the rust dust left on her hand after touching the knob.
And then he stood and brushed the rust away from his doublet. "Come, my daughter, it is time."
The girl nodded and grabbed his hand, and as the next gust of wind blew in from the top of the shed, the feast had begun once more.