The polebarn creaked a bird’s call every time the wind rolled by. The equally creaky man sitting lotus-style in the center of the polebarn visualized what type of bird reached out to him. Sometimes it was a robin, or an oriole, or a more ominous bird of prey, such as an eagle or hawk, but sometimes, and only sometimes, it was a crow with oily eyes that barely peeked out from under overgrown, feral feathers.
Today, the crow called once on the hour, every hour.
The polebarn was in general good-repair and served as an outpost for the reflective last-man-on-earth. He knew he was the last, not because he saw the rest die, but because he felt the enormity of the extinction. The world yelled to him that it was over, and so it was. And now he was all that was left. He and his polebarn and his imagined birds.
A hand-dug well provided fresh water from an underground reservoir. A small patch of arable land provided vegetables and grains. An abundance of trees from the copse 10 miles to north provided firewood. An old wood stove greedily burned that fuel. Flat land, fertile land.
20ft. x 20ft. x 20ft. was the last man’s dominion. Hand-hewn oak beams and iron fixtures and a perfectly level concrete floor–upscale Little House on the Prairie is what he would call it if humor weren’t a now-trivial pursuit. A loft housed his bed and dresser. A hole in the ground and a hand-pumped nozzle piped up the wall to form his bathroom du jour.
He left 10 years ago what a standard University attendee might consider civilization to build his polebarn and to meditate. His mid-life crisis hit like a laser-guided meteorite and with nothing more than a notarized document and an estate sale, he left his wife, two children, four grandchildren, two cars, one dog, one house, one timeshare, and one adjunct faculty position behind to rot–they all wished the same for him.
He drove to the homestead that he bought in the heartland. He sold the truck that he drove, bulldozed the 150-year-old farmhouse, and accepted a delivery of the materials necessary to do-it-yourself a polebarn. He taught himself to work with wood, taught himself to pour and to level concrete, to weld, to run plumbing. The polebarn was complete within a year (a year during which he lived in a tent in sub-zero winter and blisteringly-hot summer). Something told him to do, and he did.
9 years later and it’s today. Something is different with his world. The crow let him know.
Rap. Rap. There was a knock on the door. He should’ve expected it.
He stood, the 10 hours of sitting letting itself known with a few pops and snaps.
He opened the door and stepped outside. He went to shut the door behind him, but the door was no longer there. He should’ve known.
And now, he extended his hand, “Welcome! You must be the deliverymen. I’m expecting some lumber and fittings.”
“Yes, sir. We have everything on the truck. Where would you like us to unload?”
“Just stack it all behind the tent to your left. I’ll grab the inventory sheet and we can have this done quickly.”
The man walked to his tent and retrieved his inventory sheet, not recalling anymore what had puzzled him a few minutes before.