The low, squat buildings materialized out of the mist like sullen stumps, tumors on the landscape that pointed to an invisible sky with flattened heads. As we approached, we played a guessing game.
"Silos," she said. Her high hiking boots sucked at the wet reeds and mud of the moor with every step.
"Too low for silos," I said, "unless they're ruined. But the tops look smooth."
"You've never heard of a low-dome silo? Those're things, you know."
"I guess I haven't. I think they're the fronts of greenhouses."
We moved closer. It became apparent that, whatever they were, the buildings were built from concrete bricks.
"A concrete greenhouse seems unlikely," she said. "Though they do seem to have length behind them." She squinted. "Are those chimneys?"
"Yes, I think they are." Stout cylinders rose from the sides of the domed roofs, though they emitted no smoke.
"Maybe that makes them smokehouses. Or they could be dwellings, mean and unhappy kinds of homes."
"It's a mean and unhappy kind of place," I said, "the damp would drive me crazy." I took the full measure of the moor. If someone lived out here, they'd really have to enjoy the bleak fog that carpeted it most days of the year.
"I suppose there's a darkly romantic vibe to it, but I wouldn't want to stay long," she said. A low and broken fence was rising out of the marsh ahead of us, strung with a sad rusty wire that sagged low enough for even the shortest of beasts to step over. Disrepair aside, it demarcated the area and lent it an air of ownership. Someone had put that fence up, and put it up for a reason. "No one's been here in years, not as a resident. I wouldn't let this fence go the way it has." She crossed the wire, one hand on a wobbly, worm-eaten post. "It looks like it's part of a pen. Sheep, maybe?"
"Maybe," I said. The ground on the other side of the fence was more solid, but still slick with mud and wild grasses. The buildings that we'd been guessing at now showed us their faces. Rotted wooden double doors sagged on rusted hinges, like cavity-ridden buckteeth in old stone mouths.
"Barns," she said with finality.
I had to agree. "But for what? You don't keep sheep in barns, do you?"
"Assuming it was sheep, you might. If wolves were about." As if in answer, a low howl cut across the moor. It blew in through the fog like a chill wind. She glanced at me with a wicked grin, and I tried to melt the mask of fear that had frozen on my face.
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