The sharp noise finally broke his focus bringing his attention back to the present. Tim sighed and laid the book face down in his lap. He’d been a long time reading and it was a struggle to reorient himself into a changed reality. He was propped against the window seat’s side listening again for that noise. One leg hung over the side of the seat built into the deep window. Several cushions lent comfort and assurance for resting. His other leg stretched forward almost touching the other side of the window seat. Below his hanging foot, leaning against the wall and each other, a line of books stretched out across the floor. Other books lay open scattered around the room.
Arching forward to unfasten the catch, Tim firmly pushed open one of the window panes. The wind tried to wrestle it from his hand and swing it hard against the outside wall. Gripping the catch firmly he eased the window back and set it on a small hook. Drawing in a breath of the cold, bracing air he peered out across a broad sky. Small, evenly spaced clouds hung above the expansive plain casting their dark, mottled shadows across a patchwork landscape of wild grasses and rocky escarpments. Tim took in another invigorating lungful of air as the wind pushed past him. Loose pages of half opened books fluttered as the breeze swept through the musky room.
Sharp, annoying, piercing.
The high-pitched, metallic squeak was apparently not far below the open window but out of sight from where he sat. Sighing once more, Tim put his book aside so as not to lose his place, or worse, have it fall out of the window beyond all reach. He pulled himself forward onto his knees and opened the other pane, this time having to push against the strong breeze. Forcing himself to peer downward from the wide window he saw a rusted pulley fixed to the wall some three meters below his precarious vantage point. The pulley gave another short, sharp report that had cut through the book Tim had found in the library just yesterday morning.
A washing line had been looped through the wheel of the pulley and it was tugging at the fixture. Following the washing line across the sheer wall Tim saw colorful sheets, shirts, shorts and socks flapping in the wind. Further beyond, set into the horse’s flank at the other end of the line was another window. Smaller and placed lower from his view it was also wide open. He wondered what of that room beyond.
Looking away, past the washing line and other window, and downward far below the sheer wall of the horse’s side. Further still, far beyond the foot of the wall, Tim’s eyes gazed upon the flat grasslands stretched out a thousand meters below. The perspective was daunting. Were it not for the low hanging clouds between the horse’s solid, square base and the ground further beneath then the passage of that landscape sliding by would hardly have been noticed. He could almost imagine the wall, from which he looked out, stretching all the way down to the ground below. Rather than smoothly flying through the skies Tim imagined the horse’s hooves lifting to a gargantuan canter crashing down on the landscape far below.
Before vertigo seized him Tim looked again across the horse’s side to the window opposite. It’s shutters and panes were propped open. Within he could see blue washed walls of a room and, squinting through the sunlight, he could just distinguish a painting on the wall beyond. A shadow moved across the picture.
Unable to whistle, he never had been able to do so since a child, Tim cupped his hands around his mouth.”Heyyy”, he called against the breeze. “Hey across the way”, he hollered loudly.
A man stepped up to the window opposite. Tim saw a young face that might deceptively hide his age well even from close up. Tousled, mousy hair had been spiked into lighter tones and earrings hung from an ear. The bright face looked up grinning.
“I’m cooking!” It was a statement of delighted laughter, almost edged with surprise. The stranger waited expectantly for the response.
Tim wasn’t sure what to say. “Yes?”, he offered.
Taken aback Tim responded brusquely, “No”. The man continued to grin broadly at him.
He tried again, ”Maybe”.
The man opposite nodded encouragingly then disappeared back into the room. The sizzle of sausages on a scolding skillet sliced back across the divide.