Flash.Fiction: The Tunnel

Time for another Indies Unlimited Flash Fiction Contest entry.

The prompt:

Photo Copyright K. S. Brooks

I had hunted up here before, but in the cloak of mist I had lost my bearings.

After a while, the quiet became unnerving. I quickened my pace, hoping to come across a familiar landmark or perhaps even a logging road.

I saw the looming shadow of a structure ahead and called out. No answer came, but I proceeded forward, hoping someone might be there to help me find my way. I stopped short when I saw the barn. I knew where I was now, yet it was impossible. That barn burned down thirty years ago.

And my response (249 words):

Having grown up in the city, I had only ever seen pictures of the barn. But my mother had told me stories of how she played there when she was young. How in its cavernous rooms and loft, she and her cousins reenacted stories of swashbucklers and detectives. Of treasure hunters and monster-killers. How, one year, her father built tunnels through the stacked, bailed hay so they could pretend they were in an old castle with secret passages.

So how was it, considering I’d never been there, that in this dream it was so real? I’d never had a dream this real before. Yes, I’m known for my wild imagining, but I’d never been able to process smell and touch like this. Never smelled freshly mown hay or had mist dampen my face. Never felt the roughness of weathered wooden walls beneath my fingers. Not in a dream.

As I always imagined it, hay filled the loft. I couldn’t resist. I climbed the ladder, and as I did, I noticed a hole about halfway up the stacked bails. I scrambled up and into the tunnel. Even though I was no longer a kid, the shaft seemed to accommodate me with ease.

For what felt like a long time, I crawled on hands and knees, somehow unafraid of spiders and snakes. And when I emerged, my mother, my dead mother, and her dead father greeted me. Behind them stood past friends and family, smiling.

Welcome to Paradise, my mother said.

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