The weight of Ruth’s entire life had once been contained within those walls. Over time, the building seemed to have collapsed under the burden of age and misuse- similar to herself she supposed. Perhaps that is why she continued to return to this horrible place year after year- to remind herself that she wasn’t the only empty shell still struggling to resemble life.
The war had stolen years from her childhood as she hid inside this very factory along with her family nearly 70 years ago. Before war began, she would walk to the building with her father on evening strolls. Dust from the roads would cling to the bottom of her dress and stain her lacy stockings. Her ice cream cone would be melting in the heat, dripping sticky chocolate onto her hands as she skipped to stay in step. When they would reach the row of windows on the north side of the factory, her father would point inside to various car parts that were being assembled. Ruth would stare through the windows, completely entranced by the movement taking place inside the factory, sometimes forgetting about her ice cream completely until it was merely an oozy puddle at her black patent feet. Often she and her father would stay by the windows until dusk watching the entire operation slowly shut down until no one was left inside.
When the war began, the factory shut its doors almost immediately. Ruth couldn’t remember exactly when her family went into hiding or how long they were there. She did remember what it was like to come out once everything had ended. The world was nearly gray, covered in piles of ash and glowing embers. Entire buildings had been reduced to red rubble. Streets no longer led to a destination. The lightest footsteps would kick up debris and make you cough for what seemed like hours.
Her family had moved to a completely new city, living out their lives which had been spared. They never talked about the war with anyone, including each other.
Ruth began returning to the old village when she turned 18. The first time had actually been an accident. She and some friends were on a holiday and had stumbled through on their way to the big city. She’d returned every year since then, spending a few hours to observe what had changed versus what had always remained the same.