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Through the Barn Door

My eyes could never take it in fast enough. Aside from getting to peek into the past, I’ve always loved the way antique resale shops smell. Crazy, I know; but there’s something to be said about the character that develops with age – even when it comes to the way things smell.

Take old books, for example. My heart pumps an extra beat when that musty odor escapes one of these gems when it’s opened for the first time in ages. This exercise never loses its charm, either. Every time is a treat.

Of course, the books are always the first things to beckon my spirit whenever I enter one of these resale shops. So, it didn’t surprise me during my last vintage adventure when Edgar Allen Poe’s Famous Tales of Mystery and Horror was the first thing to demand my attention. There were others, too; squirming upon the shelves, pleading for their chance to make it into my take-home pile. I lost myself for over an hour in my quest to give each one of them an equal chance at the challenge.

After my love affair with the books was satiated, I began wandering through the numerous aisles of eclectic furniture. It had been a while since I’d seen such an impressive collection of vintage items, and with every conceivable era represented.

Soon, I came to a door that opened up to the rear warehouse. This stockroom had twice the amount of pieces laid out within it. There didn’t seem to be a sign that specified whether this portion of the store was for patrons, so I took my chances and ventured into this promising part of the store with its treasures that awaited discovery. At worst, I’d be reprimanded by one of the employees busily loading up sold items through a side door.

Ah, the smells, as they mixed together, were intoxicating! I closed my eyes and inhaled these belovéd scents. Not wanting to miss a thing, I wandered each aisle until I found myself alone at the back of the warehouse. That’s when I noticed a hand peeking through the partially cracked barn door, waving to get my attention.

I’m not sure why this mysterious hand that invited me into the adjoining barn didn’t scare me, but it didn’t. Without hesitating, I approached the huge iron door and tried peering inside. The hand disappeared into the dark room, leaving me with no choice but to crack the door so I could get a better look. When I poked my head through the opening, I was in awe of what I saw. A dim light illuminated the most glorious time capsule: a huge storehouse filled with antiques arranged like a museum. My breath caught in my throat.

As soon as I stepped inside, the door sealed itself shut. Although this should have been cause for alarm, I felt a supernatural peace about being trapped in this room. Even the presence of thick cobwebs didn’t fill me with the usual anxiety.

After taking a few steps into the room, something dripped onto my arm from an overhead pipe. A rose-colored series of drops trickled down my arm. I suddenly found myself standing in a room full of loud voices. There were angry people all around me. The shock caused me to jumped back.

When I tried to turn and leave, I was greeted by an angry man. “Hey Dolly! It’s a little late for the dramatic act.” His bloodshot eyes danced with an eerie excitement.

Just over his shoulder, I caught sight of two black men hanging from the rafters. Their dead bodies were covered in fresh welts and open gashes. One of their faces was frozen in a scream of terror. A woman was clinging to the other man’s feet, wailing in some unintelligible fashion.

Feeling the vile rise in my throat, I bent over, hoping to vomit. This gesture made the room grow silent again. When I stood back up, the room was empty. Aside from the sound of my heart beating rapidly in my throat, the only other noise was the ticking of a clock on a vanity dresser.

The ticking came from a mantle clock that looked a little out of place atop an exquisite oak dresser. Next to it, sat an intricately carved jewelry box that I couldn’t help but get a better look at. A stack of neatly folded pieces of faded stationery lay inside the box. I wiped the sweat from my forehead before picking one of the letters up and unfolding it. It read:

To Miss Isabella Graham
July 13, 1918
My dearest Isabel,
It pains me to have to write this to you. I want you to know I have loved you since the first time our paths crossed, and I shall love you until we meet again in eternity. I have taken quite ill with influenza. Doc just confirmed pneumonia has also settled into my lungs. Capt. Johnston only had two days left after they found his pneumonia. Farewell, my beautiful dove.
Yours forever,
Edmond

A solitary tear slipped from my cheek onto the page. As soon as it hit the yellowed stationary, the letter disintegrated in my hand. All traces of it, as well as the other letters in the box, were gone.

Wiping my hands on my pants, I stepped back from the dresser. My back hit a wall, and I felt warm arms wrap around me. When I tried to pull away, the arms tightened. Panic made every hair on my body spring to life.

“I never meant to hurt you; I swear,” pleaded a grieved male voice. “Don’t leave! Please.” He rested his head on my shoulder, wetting my shirt with his sobs.

A warm sensation flooded my left cheek, as well as my right wrist. Looking down at my wrist, I could see a discoloration that wasn’t there a moment ago.
Warm, sticky lips kissed at the back of my neck; pleading for my forgiveness. When I tried to pull away again, he was gone. Hesitantly, I turned around. The only thing behind me was a framed black and white photo hanging on the wall. It looked like a wedding picture from the 1950s. The bride didn’t look a day over sixteen, but by the size of her smile, that didn’t seem to matter. Her handsome groom didn’t reciprocate her enthusiasm. His eyes were serious, without a single trace of humor.

On the wall opposite this portrait, hung a picture of JFK riding in the presidential limo just before his assassination. I brushed my fingers along the edge of the frame, removing a trail of dust as I went. The picture came to life, playing out the scene on that fateful day in Dallas. I watched as the limo carrying the president rounded the corner of Dealey Plaza. My heart beat faster, as the tension mounted to the climax of this historical moment. A faint shot echoed off the buildings just before a cloud of red smoke engulfed the President’s face. The First Lady took one look at her husband before trying to scramble out of the car. The picture faded back to its original frame.

Needing to sit down, I went over and flopped into a plush green easy chair. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. A small television on a Formica table came to life, inviting the roaring sound of a football game into the quiet space. Howard Cosell cut into his commentary: “…Confirmed by ABC News, John Lennon, outside his apartment on the west side of New York City – The most famous perhaps of all the Beatles: shot twice in the back; rushed to Roosevelt Hospital; dead on arrival…”

The broadcast was overshadowed by two figures sitting on the Oriental rug in front of me. “He can’t be serious,” the young man mumbled into his companion’s hair. He held her while she sobbed bitterly into his chest. “Who would want to kill him, of all people?”

Against my will, a sob rose up in my throat. Although I remembered that dark December day in ’80, seeing how it affected Lennon’s followers through wiser eyes was almost more than I could bear. When I choked back my sob, the young woman lifted her head from the man’s chest and looked me straight in the eye.

Her eyes were wild with accusation. “Who the heck are you?”

“I, um, I’m…” I stammered, quickly standing up.

The walls disappeared, along with the young couple. I stood there for a moment wondering…well, contemplating so many things. I’m not sure how long I stood there staring into my own mind, but when my vision refocused on my surroundings, I was no longer standing in the barn.

A field of overgrown wildflowers surrounded me on all sides. The sweet scent of violets, mixed with a hint of pine, filled the air. Lush oaks covered the landscape as far as the eye could see. Rising up behind them was a mountain backdrop. The sun had the sharpness of winter, even though the temperature was mild. There were so many different types of birds calling from the forest in unison; I couldn’t make out a single type. The sound of water racing over pebbles competed with the insects’ attempts of out-singing the birds.

As I took a step forward, I heard a feral sound come from the overgrown brush behind me. I turned to find two eyes watching me from the shadows. Focusing harder, I made out the silhouette of a large spotted cat. I couldn’t be sure, but it looked like a lynx with its long facial hair and golden-brown fur.

Even though I knew I shouldn’t move, I began taking steps backward. This only invited the frisky feline out of his hiding place. For every step I took, he took two. His stealth was a sight hard to explain with words; he moved with the grass, not against it. Or, maybe it was the grass that moved with him. Why any of this mattered to me at a time like this was hard to rationalize. I think all the fresh air was dulling my senses. As soon as my awe weaned, I picked up my pace. With a sudden thud, my course was brought to a halt.

“Ow!” Now what? I panicked, grabbing at the fresh bump on my head. In defeat, I closed my eyes and awaited my imminent doom.

“What are you doing in here?” a male voice demanded just inches from my face.

My eyes flipped open. The man that I’d met while devouring all the wonderful books earlier stood in front of me. John, I believe he introduced himself as, was not only the owner of the store, he was also a fellow writer and lover of fine literature. He continued searching my expression for answers I wasn’t able, or willing, to give him. Nestled in his arms was a golden-brown spotted cat. I remembered those eyes. They were the ones from the field, and before that, the one’s that peeked out at me from the pages of the Masque of the Red Death. Those eyes were the closest things to death I have ever seen.

Through the Barn Door

Jenifer DeBellis

Dryden, United States

  • Artist
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Artist's Description

My real life remembrance of my afternoon adventures. =D

Inspired by Edgar Allen Poe’s Famous Tales of Mystery and Horror

Artwork Comments

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  • Jenifer DeBellis
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