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My late-afternoon trek resumes after I stop for gasoline and a quick snack at just another roadside convenience store. I hold in my hand a Baby Ruth candy bar, something I haven’t eaten for years, something that syphons memories from the cloudy recesses of my dormant childhood. The flexible metallic packaging is quickly separated from the delicacy.

Munching my fond memories, I glance to the right and see this stunning apparition passing me by. It’s an old house.

This old house is just sitting here in the dusk by the side of the blue road I am driving on, somewhere in the Gothic reaches of rural Alabama.

The sun and mellowed-red skies are behind the house, and the streaked clouds glow, casting the front of the house into shadows that aren’t quite ebony, not quite gray, not yet blackened.

I pass by, but it’s too late to ignore the image implanted within me.

The old house sitting in the dusk looks abandoned but sturdy, a place you could still move into and live a life in if you chose, but it looks like nobody has been there for some time.

The caramel and peanuts feel right at home in my mouth, and I wonder how many Baby Ruths I craved when young so many years ago.

The windows have no glow to them, as if lights and lanterns have not been turned on inside for years.

Houses like this are always branded Haunted by my generation and my parents’ generation. Some folks are scared to go into houses that are old and not quite stylish, afraid they’ll run into things that a well-lighted carpeted air-conditioned suburban home couldn’t possibly contain, things like ghosts and spirits and nesting animals and crawly critters.

The candy’s sweetness sticks familiarly between my teeth, but I know it will slowly melt and absorb and disappear.

There is something different about this house, though.

It just sits here empty but ready for occupancy. It is not run down and abused as those feared old houses of yore were. Nobody has vandalized it or marked it for desolation.

Nobody wants this old house right this instant.

My first thought in seeing this old structure is, “Boy, I’ll bet there are some really interesting ghosts in that place!” But something nudges at me, pushes me one notch further.

This is a house so lonely that it would gladly welcome ghosts. This house was once a Home.

This is a house so forlorn that even the ghosts have moved out, gone on to other hauntings.

Both life and death have been sucked out of the old wooden floors and plaster walls of this old house.

Now it just sits in a time zone all its own, and it is just a matter of time before either curious humans or curious haints take a second look and try to decide whether this elegant corpse is ready for reanimation, or whether it is now so much a part of nature that it will just be dismissed from memory and left to the winds and the rains and the scorching days and the humid nights.

Until it looks once more like part of the red clay earth from which it springs.

Until it and my Baby Ruth wrapper fade away and survive solely as some weary traveller’s long ago idea of what the world once was, what it is now, what it may or may not become

© Jim Reed 2017 A.D.

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