From a friend:
When I look back on my childhood, I’m frequently amazed at how easily entertained I was. To imagine myself truly interested in something today, with the same level of curiosity anyway, is practically impossible.
I don’t generally believe this feeling is abnormal - I think it’s just what happens when we grow up. But I do wonder if what happened in that barn made me reach this point faster and with more cynicism. Curiosity killed the cat, and I killed my sister - maybe I should just be skeptical and try to eek through life as carefully as possible.
The Backdoor in the Barn
It was winter in Pennsylvania, and snow covered the field behind my grandparent’s house in leopard-like spots. My sister Ella and I stood on top of a small nearby hill with our green plastic sled and about a dozen layers of clothing.
The hill was shadowed by a smallish forest, and was covered wholly by snow, making a perfect sledding surface of a few hundred yards. The hill ended a good distance behind the house, but if we could avoid the spotty patches, it was possible to land on the back porch with our combined momentum.
It took us years to get bored with the repetition to explore the hilly area for a more interesting path. It was actually Ella, only 5 years old, who came up with the idea to ignore our parent’s directive and walk up into the forest where we were no longer visible from the house.
I was 8, and should have known better, but I was still young enough that I could say “I didn’t know any better” before I got spanked.
The snow was much deeper almost immediately upon entering the forest. The evergreen trees provided a decent amount of cover from the sun at ground level, and the oak skeletons hid thigh-thick roots under the loosely packed snow.
It was incredibly hard to move with any meaningful speed. We had gone only a few hundred feet up the hill before Ella simply stopped caring and turned around. I agreed with the unspoken sentiment and followed her.
Almost immediately, both of us saw a perfectly clear path that led down the hill to our left. It appeared to end no more than a quarter mile from the house in a nearly snowless section of the field.
We flew down the hill and spat out into a clearing with a large, sunlit barn right in the middle. I don’t know how we missed the barn from our vantage point up on the hill, but it must have been obscurred by the pines that hugged the clearing.
The area opened up into the field on the other side of the barn, and we sat behind it still in our sled. Through an adornmentless hole in the back wall, we could see the sun shining off of the snow and into the large front doors.
The barn was maybe 60 feet long and half as wide, and the roof was corrugated metal sheeting. A fairly steady stream of water dripped off of one of the corners from melting snow.
My curiosity was piqued, but Ella was simply interested in getting home. There was little doubt that someone had noticed we were gone by now.
It was only a few minutes since we left from view on the hill, but I wore a bright red jacket roughly doubling my volume, and my sister wore a painfully pink coat and hat. We looked like Skittles and were probably visible from space. She was smarter than me.
I convinced her to just run through the building, in the back and out the front. It would actually be faster than walking around the side. And there was no snow in there. She agreed with my very solid manipulation.
It was relatively dark, but not particularly off-putting. The extremely bright snow outside cast enough little streaks of light to make the floor and any obstacles visible. Maybe the first sign I should have recognized was the fact that I had to justify running through an empty barn that was clearly empty.
My sister was also suddenly hesitant. I walked in and turned around to take her hand.
The door was gone. There was nothing but a wooden wall there. My heart jumped a bit as I felt around for the door. I could hear Ella talking on the other side, quizzically and without any urgency. I wasn’t scared, I was just confused.
The large front doors of the barn were maybe a 5 second jog away, and I could see just enough once my eyes adjusted to see that there was no obvious danger. It was disconcerting that I couldn’t explain where the door went.
Ella effortlessly walked through the wall a few seconds later. She was absolutely covered in blood.
At first I thought she was just wet, for some reason. After a second the color began to stand out. I asked her what happened in the most emotionless voice I could produce. She didn’t seem worried or hurt, and I didn’t want to upset her until I knew what was going on.
She simply asked why I was acting so weird a minute ago. She was probably referring to my concerned motions while I was trying to find the door that disappeared. I just pointed at the “door” and she turned to look. That’s when I saw her back.
From the back of her head to her ankles, there must of been over a hundred pieces of wood protruding from her skin. Most were no longer than a few inches, but at least fifteen or twenty were closer to a foot in length. Blood was everywhere.
Now, I thought, it was okay to be frantic. I spun her back around and said “run home NOW”. She could tell I meant it. We ran to the front doors, and I dropped the sled to speed up a bit. I made it to the opening a second ahead of her and started orienting myself toward the house.
It was not in direct view, so it took me a moment to determine its general direction as I adjusted to the shock of the bright sunlight.
I turned around and took a few steps back toward the barn to take Ella, who I could still hear running and crying. Much to my horror, where the large front doors were just then, there was only a small featureless opening.
It looked exactly like the backdoor we entered through. Through the doorway, I could see Ella, running away from me toward two large doors on the other side of the barn. I called her name, but she didn’t seem to hear me. The bright green sled I had dropped was visible, and it was moving towards me.
Ella was not moving, but she was running as fast as she could. The entire barn appeared to be on a treadmill.
As the sled emerged from the “back” door at my feet, it stopped. It was filled with blood. I ran around to the “front” in hopes of finding something different.
I ran to the house. I had a very difficult time explaining what had happened, but my father sensed the urgency and followed me back to barn with no hesitation. What we found was a large barn with two swinging front doors and a green sled just outside.
Ella was lying in the sled face down, nearly floating, with splinters covering every inch of her body. My father and I were unable to revive her, and we emptied the blood onto the ground before placing her back inside the sled.
My father wept as he walked home, holding my hand with his left, and dragging Ella in the sled with his right.