The path spilled out of the forest into a meadow and the breath caught in my throat. I dropped my backpack in the brambles and hurried a few steps forward for a better look. After three days of hiking I’d finally found it. The stories my grandmother told when I was a child, painted this house as a gleaming estate, bursting with color and life in the spring and summer. As a young girl, she helped her parents welcome weary hikers with a cozy bed and a hot meal, the only respite for miles before trekking through the mountains to the East.
Now, heavy gray sky highlighted the dirt and grime covering the walls. The alpine flowers that used to burst from trees and shrubs, taken over by bracken and weeds. The hair on my arms prickled as I took a few tentative steps forward. I chided myself for being scared. Of course the house was empty. A shutter knocked against a window sill and I jumped. My eyes scanned the caving roof, hovering delicately on beams, too old and tired to hold the weight. The dormer, weather-stripped down to the wood, eyed my approach.