Forgotten by generation after generation of men and women, the old stone building sat in the middle of the grassy meadow. Time, however, had not forgotten it, but had caressed it, each year adding to its predecessor. The stone turned browner in the summer and grayer when the rain and snow washed away the accumulating dust of summer. Vines grew and shriveled and grew again on the building’s walls, wrapping it like a comforting green blanket as the seasons and years passed.
The stone building had no doors. It had no windows. It had no chimney. It was entirely closed, impossible to get in. Eventually, when it was rediscovered by humanity, it was seen as a curiosity. When architects and historians tried to discover who had built it, they couldn’t find records of it. An old manor house had burnt down some miles from the site of the stone building, but there was no record of the wealthy family to whom the manor house belonged having ever built the structure. Farmers in the vicinity all said that they didn’t use the meadow because their cattle didn’t like grazing in it. They said they trusted the animals’ instincts and stayed away.
When it was written about in guidebooks, it was called a folly – a building constructed for decoration, for aesthetic purposes only, that had absolutely no useful value. The name commonly given to it was “The Stone Hut in the Meadow”, as if it was impossible to think up a more imaginative title that wasn’t strictly descriptive. The truth was that it didn’t really matter. Even now that the place was marked, mapped, written about and remarked upon, it didn’t draw many tourists to it. One or two hopeful tourists would stop by every couple weeks, hoping to find a picturesque spot to take photographs in, but they were usually disappointed by the simplicity of the house. There were teenagers who sometimes trekked to the stone building on a dare, hoping to be the ones to find a secret way into it, but they were always let down as well.
So it was that even though the stone hut was recognized, it was largely an empty, desolate spot.
Ruvy Ben-Shalom, a dark and grizzled man, walked along the highway and wondered whether he was going to reach a Denny’s or Dunkin Donuts at any point in the near future. At the last intersection, he’d managed to flag down a car. The woman had two small boys sleeping peacefully in the back seat, and she’d opened her window only a crack, to ask if he needed her to call anybody for him. She’d refused to give him a ride, but pointed him down this route as the best way to find the nearest rest-stop.
He knew he looked like a hobo. He wore black gloves that were two large for his small, delicate hands, and his eyes must look large, hungry and sleep deprived. Probably, he mused, because he was hungry and sleep deprived. Sleeping out in the open during the cold nights was no picnic, especially along these apparently endless highways that went from one nowhere town to another nothing town. He always arrived at inhabited places too late, when everything was already closed. Rest stops, though, had diners and McDonalds and bathrooms that were open all the time, and he yearned to sit town on a toilet and wash his face at a sink. He couldn’t wait to get a cup of coffee into his aching stomach, even though he was exhausted.
On his right, through the gloom of dusk, he saw a stone building. It was smallish, about the size of a two room house – he couldn’t help but compare it to the home he’d left two weeks ago – but it seemed to be pleasant enough. He wanted to go and see what was there, because it was beautiful. Something about it called to him. There was a great deal of grassy meadow to get through, first, and he walked into the grass rather unwillingly, getting his pants wet almost at once. He cursed softly, under his breath. The dew was collecting on the long stocks of overgrown weeds, and his cargo pants, which were already cold and too thin, got soaked, immediately. At least his boots were waterproof.
The little stone building’s walls were covered with ivy, except for a perfect square where the doorway was. Someone had very neatly pushed and tidied the ivy away from it, and it looked far newer than the rest of the house. The door was bright red and looked freshly painted and shiny.
Ruvy knocked three times, before thinking about it for long. The door opened, and he began to sob.