Bales

In the early evenings of summer it was haydust. The color – golden-smoke dust, thick and hard to see through. Stand just right and you can see the golden air you breathe. See that it does not move unless you disturb it, for the heat keeps it in place. When you do disturb it the dust swirls around you angry and petulant that you bothered its daze. For all the dust’s distress it will eventually settle and drift smoothly back to your skin. The creaking boards are muffled by warm, poking bales. Bales stacked like stairs, leading off in different directions. Some ended at age-coated windows. Others met the raw wood beams of the roof. Rectangular bales, yellow and ruddy when in the shadows, softer in the mornings when plump with dew – home to potato bugs and eight-legged wolves.

My eyes, just about closed, my head on the fuzzy side of sleep, I hear a noise below. Without moving I fix my ears to the floor. Footsteps. Heavy. Sliding gently as possible to the floor I take my position over the watch-knot whittled into the boards. A shadow passes near the top-left corner of my right eye.

The mysterious intruder calls out, first questioning, then commanding. The words sound familiar, but I know better. I respond by moving across the floor to a lone bale set by the floor entrance. I was ready this time. Crouching, so only my eyes stick above the golden battlement, I pull at some of the hollow spears that obstruct my view.

Again the cry comes, this time loud enough to scare away the baby owl resting at the very top of the roof. My muscles start to jitter, betraying my anxiousness. When I hear the screech of metal I know the trespasser has found the entrance. Light from below floods the golden-dim and slight coolness of my oasis. The boot-footed sounds on the latter break my nerves. I pick up ammo and hurl it down the hole, my heart skipping with joy when I hear the victorious sploosh of a successful strike. The savage howls with anger. My triumph kicks my adrenaline up a notch. Brining my arm forward with more ammo I send another round, not stopping until it was too late. I was out of weapons.

Silence down the ladder made my heart explode in my ear. Before I could think of the next move the intruders head comes up from the entrance. Black hair was plastered to a large dark face. Water was dripping from the untidy locks into brows knit with frustration. We stared at each other for seconds, centuries, long enough for the dust to hang still in the air once more. My demise was near at hand, the slow march to prison and homework.

Just as suddenly as before a noise broke the calm. So loud it resonated off the brittle, wood planks, irritating the very air. The face above the entrance hole had cracked into a smile letting out a joyous war whoop. It infected my lungs and muscles, dragging me up from behind the guarding bale. I joined in the celebrating cries, raising my arms over my head, standing atop my victorious golden mountain.