Flintholm

He walked up the path, his eyes hazy with clouded memories.

The weeds and grass had overgrown everything, but he still could see the lay of the land, recognize landmarks from when he shrieked and climbed and ran over every inch of the property. That was back before his knees hurt, before the War, before the bombs, before everything changed and his innocence fled, never to return.

The grass beneath his feet shifted, and he looked down at the cobblestone path that lay beneath. Many of the stones were cracked and broken. He’d found a snail, once, crawling along slowly between two stones, and he spent an entire afternoon building a shelter for the little creature out of sticks and leaves.

The floorboards of the home were gone, and his feet scraped across the concrete as he shuffled his way inside. He had to put one hand up on the stone entrance, feeling the chill of the building as he tried to catch his breath. His lungs didn’t seem to hold as much air these days, never quite enough.

Flintholm. He didn’t know where the name came from, but it had always been the house’s name. His father spoke it affectionately, speaking of the little cottage as if it was his own private castle. He’d draped his arm around his son’s shoulders, sometimes, promising him that, one day, he would inherit the castle.

And then the bombs came, and it all changed.

The walls still stood, although the roof had crumbled. Wood couldn’t resist the damp and vegetation, not without care and inhabitants to look after it. He looked up as he waited for his breath to return, looking at the hole but seeing the white, clean walls he remembered.

No furniture remained inside Flintholm. Perhaps looters carried it off, or maybe it all rotted away, reclaimed by the forest. He didn’t know, had no way of knowing. The furniture hadn’t been much, just basic chairs and tables, hard wood without any ornamentation. They’d played on it, crawled over it, come to know every knot and whorl and splintered edge.

He’d thought that he would live here forever, that he would walk to the village outside, tend to his land, live like his father, the man he admired most of all. It had all seemed so simple, so warm in the embrace of his mother as she rocked in her chair by the fireplace.

But word came quickly to the small village, word of a conflict not theirs, spreading to overtake and overwhelm them. Some argued that they needed to stay, to defend what they held as their own.

His father chose to stay.

It was his mother, in the end, who sent him from Flintholm, bundled him up and sent him away in the night with the other children. Tears slipped from her eyes, luminous and silver, as she watched him vanish. Many of them cried, but none made a sound, for the woods around them were always full of ears.

He’d gone away, and without him, Flintholm withered, died like an overripe tomato left on the vine.

He shuffled slowly around the interior, not knowing what he searched for. Perhaps he hoped that, if seen from the right angle, all of the destruction would go away, that he could glimpse back along the fourth dimension to see the house as it had stood for centuries, through the times of his ancestors, before destruction finally came to erase all that they had built.

He couldn’t see it, no matter how hard he tried.

His knees hurt. They always ached these days, even when rain wasn’t coming. He went back outside, ran his hand over the chiseled name in the side of the house as he sank down to sit on the cracked stoop.

He’d come back to Flintholm, the last of his line, ready to die with his house.

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