We always used to sing together, the wind and I.
Every morning I would close the front gate behind me as softly as I could and take a deep breath of chill morning air. The outskirts of the city were empty, the chain link fences creaking softly in the breeze and birds calling somewhere far off. My footsteps tapped on the asphalt as I crossed the road.
I hurried past shuttered windows and faded graffiti, the streets widening as I went. I followed the empty highway for a short way before finally stepping onto soft earth. The hill was pretty steep, so I pulled up the side of my skirt to tie it at my hip. If my foot slipped I’d snatch up a tuft of grass, pulling myself forward. In a rush of stumbling footsteps, I’d reach the crest of the hill…
A carpet of yellowing grass spread across the rise, gathering by a jumble of rocks that scattered down one side. Four larger stones rested on the top of the outcrop with a small gap between them.
The wind hushed and hissed in my ears, a vague whispering. And then I felt it shift, ease off like the tide pulling back before a wave, and the north wind came rushing through the gap in the rocks. A deep, rich note permeated the air. Everything was instantly brighter, like my world had only ever been made up of lines and the sound would wash colour into it, all gold and red and green and orange.
I would smile.
The note would grow higher and then yield, curling in and out of the air in a slow, sighing song. My heart felt so full that I thought I might burst. I sang harmonies over the sound until the wind shifted or until it grew dark, and then wander home, reliving the memory. I was always home by the time the other children were back from school, and my parents never asked me about anything.
But the hill was not a private place; it was visible from the highway. A man pulled over one evening and climbed up to meet me just as I was leaving. The wind was still, but I could feel it around me. It was with me. The sun was setting behind the city and the man cast his face in shadow with his arm. I could see his teeth as he smiled.
‘Hello. What’s your name?’
‘Anna,’ I replied, smiling back. ‘What’s yours?’
‘Vlad,’ he said. ‘I’ve seen you here many times on my way down that road.’ He indicated behind him with his thumb. ‘Are you singing, Anna?’
The way he said my name hit me a little bit. There was a strange sound of ownership in his voice. He knew my name, and I was somehow his. But he was my friend now; I wanted to tell him all about it. ‘Yes, I’m singing with the wind.’
‘I see… With the wind. Aren’t you a beautiful girl.’ He paused for a moment, looking around. ‘Listen, if you’re going home, I can give you a ride.’
‘Wha…’ I gasped. ‘Oh, you want to drive me home? Oh thank you so much! Thank you.’ I laughed, and so did he.
He turned to lead me to his car, but as I lifted my foot to follow, the wind picked up. I stopped and looked back. My hair whipped around my face, my clothes clinging and flapping against my body. The grass flicked up and flattened again in swirls. The whistling filled the air, high-pitched, and the wind roared in my ears. It was screaming and hissing and growling all at the same time.
I turned back to the man and watched, rigid, as he put his arms up to shield himself from the onslaught. He stumbled back a bit, and then suddenly his feet were whipped out from under him. He flipped in the air and slammed into the ground further down the hill with a heavy crunch.
The wind didn’t cease. It shrieked at me and I covered my ears with my hands and started to cry. Walls of air spun away from me, pressing the grass flat against the ground. A blur of dust expanded around the hill, glowing in the orange light.
And then the wind died. It just… stopped. Completely. The clouds of dust drifted to the ground as the sun disappeared behind the city. For a while I stood there, glancing awkwardly at the man on the ground. And then I tramped down to the highway and walked home.
I returned the next morning, my whole body weighed down by silence. Vlad was still lying face-down on the slope, clothes dirty and hair wet with dew. His head rested against a rock on an odd angle, so that most of his face was visible over his shoulder. His skin was as grey as the stone, as dull as his open eyes. Now that I could see him, he looked ugly. He didn’t look like a friend at all. I swallowed and kept my eyes on my feet as I climbed past him to the top of the hill.
Only then did I realise what had happened. When I looked around I could see the grass moving in the wind. The movement stopped abruptly in a small, perfect circle around my feet. My hair and clothes didn’t move at all unless I did. I was standing in a bubble of stillness. It was like the world had become less real; I couldn’t really be sure if I was breathing because my breath stilled the moment it left my body. The wind was avoiding me. I couldn’t feel it around me, though I could see and hear it everywhere else.
I tried shouting apologies from the hill, saying I had learned my lesson; I was lonely, and I begged for it to acknowledge me. But it hated me. I hated me.
The wind never came to me again.