Wisps of ash floated down from the growing cloud of smoke. There was no breeze, but the heat of the flames buffeted the smoldering flakes of wood and cloth, gently guiding the delicate remnants of the blaze away from the still raging fire even from a distance. Even without a wind to tear them apart, the flakes were gossamer thin, fragile, vulnerable, often disintegrating into dust before they could reach the ground. Every so often there was a sharp pop from the inferno, and a shower of white hot cinders shot out into the darkness of the night, a spray of short-lived flares, melting snow wherever they came to rest. The cabin burned for hours, sputtering and dying only when the timbers had burned well below the snowbanks, extinguishing only when the still frozen ground would allow the conflagration to go no further.

Between the low lying storm clouds, gathering strength to unleash another torrent of snow the next day, and the thick obscuring smoke from the blaze, the inferno was almost invisible even at full strength, vanishing entirely from view any further than a few yards by the time the last few guttering flames gave out at last and all that remained were quickly cooling embers. The blizzard that broke the next day lasted for a week, dumping layer after layer of fresh snow upon the land, burying all sign there had ever been a fire or home for many months after. When the spring came, later that year than any on record, the gathered snows melted slowly, clumps and drifts lingering over any depression and against any protrusion that could be used for cover. What had once been a cabin offered little shelter for the retreating snows, but it was enough to mask all signs that life had ever dwelt there for a few weeks longer. The days were turning toward the simmering, sweltering summer season before anyone happened upon the ruin.

A small child, enjoying the first weekend the weather had allowed him to ride his new bicycle, stopped in front of the blackened outlines in the ground of what had once been a house. He was far from his own home, far from any neighbors he knew, and far from the paths and roads he normally played along. This deep into the wild, down the badly maintained dirt road, he had not expected to find anything. The weeds and brambles had already started reasserting their natural right over the narrow road, adding to the illusion that no one had lived here for longer than was true. The child wondered about what he found, but made no note of it. There was nothing special about charred debris in the deep woods, and his were not the worries of the grown up world. Laughing away whatever fears or worries the oddity aroused, the child pedalled away toward home, leaving the last testament to what had once been a home behind, to be overgrown, not to be seen again.

Share with: