the wind’s story

the air was thick and sharp with the smell of salt. wind gusted across the beach, kicking up dusty piles of sand. it was midnight.

 

a young girl with fiery hair stood there, digging her toes into the cold, white sand. she had the anxious, exhilarated look of someone breaking the rules, and yet she couldn’t bring herself to regret coming here; the alternative was being at home in bed, watching the walls around her shiver every time her father sucked in a loud, rumbling breath. best case scenario, she’d simply be dreaming – and this was better than dreams.

 

she took a deep breath and called the wind by name.

 

it was loud at first, coming in a roar that plugged up her ears and nose and mouth; it pulled her hair; it stung her legs with sand.

 

after a dizzying moment, however, it calmed down. the girl collapsed onto her spindly knees and let the wind tickle her apologetically.

 

“well, come on, then,” she whispered. the wind stole her words as soon as they left her lips, but she knew it heard. “some say you keep the words you steal,” she said musingly. “they say you swallow them up and the words make you grow strong. and when you’re strong you can steal even more.” she shook her head and laughed. “but i know it’s not true. you steal words so you can tell your own stories. isn’t that right?”

 

there was silence. the girl tilted her head. “well? go on, then. i’ve missed your stories. you’ve been gone too long.”

 

the wind’s fingers stroked her face. the fiery girl closed her eyes and listened.

 

after a moment, amongst the whistles and the moans and the crashing of the waves, the girl thought she heard a voice. it was buried deep in the wind, but it whispered right in her ear, softly, delicately. it told her it had been away collecting words, so that it might return to tell her more stories; it told her it had an infinity of tales and not enough voices.

 

“just tell one, then,” the girl murmured. “tell an old one, those are the best.”

 

it was quiet for a moment; just waves and breathing and anticipation. and then the wind began.

 

i was in the middle of the ocean

when i saw her for

the first time.

 

i had been playing

[for i was still 

quite young]

shoving the water

seeing how hard i could push

against it

before i dissolved

 

and then she came up.

 

she wanted me to tangle

up her hair

to draw goosebumps on her skin.

 

she was, i think,

quite beautiful

hair as dark and wild as

the depths that she called home

with thick eyebrows

sunless, watery skin

a pointy nose

red, red lips

and a purplegreenbrown tail

with scales that dissolved

into skin around her waist

and more scales hidden

around her neck.

 

she was also, i think,

quite frightening

untamed and sharp

her smile was too wide, too full of teeth

but she laughed with me,

played at being friends

and she often asked me for stories

 

i think she was lonely out there.

 

one day she told me

of a dream she had

‘it’s quite simple, really,’ she said.

‘i want a seashell.’

 

“a seashell?” the girl interrupted, frowning. “why?”

 

the wind gusted admonishingly, but answered her.

 

sometimes

the simplest things seem most magical

when you can never have them.

she was a person of the sea,

made of salt and power and fury

and she could never go near land

 

but her lonely mind fixated on the shell

the perfect shell, hidden in the sand of a beach somewhere.

pink, it would be, and smooth

and she would never need anything else again.

 

silence fell on the beach. the girl waited for a moment, but nothing else happened.

 

“well?” she demanded, looking around. “what happened? did she get her shell?”

 

not all stories have happy endings, the wind said simply. in fact, not all stories have endings at all. i went away for a while, and i never saw her again.

 

there was a pause. “that’s it?” the girl said incredulously. “that’s it?”

 

the wind was silent for a moment.

 

there is another story

a folktale

that your grandparent’s grandparents told

[and their grandparents before that].

 

they say that sometimes

the people of the sea can change

become human

become babies

and they can come to shore like that.

and perhaps they’ll be happy, but

they’ll never be whole.

 

their memories are hazy and dreamlike

hidden deep in their minds

but

they can remember who they are.

all they need is a little reminding.

 

the girl frowned. “what are you talking about?”

 

it’s time.

 

and then the wind was gone.

 

“wait – wait!” the girl sprang up and ran forward, but she was alone; not even a breeze was there to ruffle her hair. she sighed. “time for what?”

 

something sharp was digging into the sole of her foot. after another moment searching for the wind, she allowed her attention to be dragged to the sand. she crouched down. her small fingers quickly unearthed a seashell.

 

it was smooth.

 

it was pink.

 

her blood felt electric. she slowly stood up, holding the shell in her hands.

 

and then everything shifted, and she smiled a smile that was too wide, too full of teeth.

 

finally,” she whispered.

 

and she walked into the water, clutching her prize.

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