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SHORT STORY


TITLE: A Life In The Wind
By Spencer Russ
06/25/12
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Thank you for taking the time to critique my work. I am a huge fan of blunt honesty. Please be totally real about what you feel needs work. Thanks :)
I was born in the wind. But more than that, it was through the wind that I was born. It was the wind that breathed into my lungs and gave me life. It was the wind brushing against my skin that caused me to open my eyes. It was in the wind that I came to know who I was and how beautiful the world I had been born into is.
I unfortunately remember much about my existence before my birth. I remember darkness—darkness that had two causes. The first cause of the darkness I knew was that where I was, there was no light. My home was nothing more than a cold, lonely cage where I existed, unfulfilled and uninspired. The second cause of the darkness that I knew was my own blindness. I dwelled in darkness, but because I was blind, darkness was just as much a part of me as it was a part of where I lived.
So I knew darkness and darkness knew me, and darkness was all that I knew. I could not wish to see because I did not know what sight was. I did not know what I was missing. But we have been given more than the sense of sight, and I believe that it was because of this that I am now alive. We have also the sense of touch—the ability to distinguish warmth from cold. My blindness did well in deceiving me, for it hindered my desire to see light, but no lie could hide the fact that I felt cold, and whether or not someone has felt warmth, he still knows that the cold brings pain, and pain is something I wanted to escape from.
I did not know warmth, but the cold I felt made me search for something more than I knew. Once I began my search, I would find hints of warmth here and there, but like in an ocean, when one swims through a warm current, it is difficult to distinguish from where and to where the current flows, and that current is easily lost. Eventually, however, I found the current of warmth and followed it into my birth. Now I am alive.
But that is enough talk about darkness and cold for now. I write this to share my life with you—not my death.
I grew up in the foothills of a beautiful mountain range. Most of my time was spent dancing in the wind on a hill that struck me as particularly wonderful. Two-thirds of my little hill sloped casually to the foot of a neighboring hill while the western side cut off suddenly into a cliff that dropped into a river which strolled peacefully to the lake where it made its home about four miles away. That cliff was a perfect place to watch the sunset every evening.
In the times when I was not dancing in the wind, I was chasing after it excitedly through forests and fields or letting it push me along to another hill for me to dance with it on. Everything was perfect. I had no worries or troubles—just peace and joy and an ambition that kept me smiling even through the rain.
It was midway through autumn and I was sitting with my feet dangling over the cliff of my hill as the sun was beginning to set. Though it saddened me to see the sun set, it was a very beautiful moment. The sun was my inspiration—the great flame that lights the world—and to see it move beyond my vision made my heart grow solemn, but I knew that though I could not see the sun, it was still there. And so was the wind, blowing at my back as if chasing after the sun—its love—its delight. So when the night came, I knew the sun had not left me, for the wind continued to kiss my lips and stroke my hair, for where the sun goes, there also goes the wind—even if it is still. And where the wind goes, there also goes the sun—even when it is hidden, for the wind and the sun are one. There cannot be one without the other.
That night I slept peacefully in the arms of the wind and woke to the warmth and brilliance of the sun. And when I awoke, the wind began to blow toward the forest and I began to chase it. I laughed joyfully as I ran after that which gave me life, and when I came to the trees, I could hear the wind laughing with me along with all of the trees it passed. But only a moment later, I heard a sound that was unfamiliar to me.
The sound resembled laughter of a sort, but it was not like any laughter I had ever heard. I stopped running, and when I did so, the wind I was chasing moved beyond my touch and my world grew still. Again I heard that strange laughter.
I crept through the forest, chasing the sound of laughter until I came upon a small clearing. In the center of the clearing, there stood a girl with her back toward me. A part of me wanted to call out to her while another part wanted me to flee and continue my pursuit of the wind. I did not decide which part of me to obey, so instead I simply stayed where I was.
I stood there watching the girl for no more than half a minute before she turned around and discovered me. I forgot about time as we looked into each other’s eyes. She was beautiful. It was only the sound of her voice that was able to free me from the trance of her gaze, but her voice only put me into another trance.
“Hello.” She said sweetly.
“Hi.”
“Where did you come from?”
I thought about that question for a moment and thought it to be a very peculiar question. Do we not all come from the same place—from death to life? From where else is there to come? Eventually I stuttered awkwardly, “I… came from my hill.”
The girl chuckled. “What’s your name?”
Again I hesitated. I am who I am and I had never before needed to confine my being into a simple title. “My beloved child,” I finally answered, for that was the only thing I could remember ever been referred to as.
Again the girl laughed. “That can’t possibly be your name!”
“But I have never been called anything else.”
“Well then I will just have to come up with something to call you—how about Gullible?”
“But what does gullible mean?”
She smiled strangely. “You will find out in time, I promise.”
“Well I don’t see the point in having a name I do not know the meaning of.”
“But your name is who you are! Your name is everything! I’ve given you a very special name. Please don’t hurt my feelings by rejecting it.”
By this time, I felt very conflicted. I missed chasing after the wind and this girl who spoke to me made me uneasy—but she was also very beautiful. Perhaps I was feeling uneasy because I was so attracted to her. I sighed as I decided to put an end to the conflict inside of me and obey the girl’s plea. “Then you may call me Gullible.”
She clapped her hands together in delight and skipped toward me. She was only a foot away from me when she finally stopped skipping and our eyes met once more. We stared at each other for a long moment.
“You know, you’re pretty cute.” The girl said. She then immediately turned and began skipping away, pausing for a moment to look back at me and say, “I want to show you my home! Come with me!”
I looked longingly in the direction the wind had been leading me for a moment, but then turned and followed the girl in the opposite direction to her home.
After a long walk, the two of us came upon a valley with a massive pile stones stacked neatly on top of each other, forming a very large circle. Inside of that circle were smaller stacks of rocks and dead trees and clay and dirt that were formed into unnatural shapes with unnaturally perfect dimensions and from where I stood, it looked like people were going in and out of holes inside of those rocks and trees. I stared at what I saw in near terror.
“Don’t tell me you’ve never seen a city before!”
I looked back at the girl who was staring at me in unbelief. “Is that what that is down there?”
“You’re even stranger than I first thought! Now listen, I need to get some things from home before I take you any further. If anyone sees you how you are now they’ll… well that would be very embarrassing for both of us. Stay here. I’ll be back shortly.”
I obeyed and within a couple of hours, the girl was back with some very strangely colored materials in her hands.
“Here, put these on you.”
“What are those?” They looked rather disgusting to me.
“They’re called clothes. They help make you into who you are. They’re a lot like your name only you can change these depending on who you want to impress at the time.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Just put them on so we can get to town. It’s getting late.”
I struggled with the clothes for a time. The girl had to show me how to properly wear everything, but when I had gotten everything on, the girl said I looked like, “A respectable citizen.”
After entering the city, the girl led me to one of the many smaller piles of rocks and sticks which she called, “houses,” and we entered it together. An old woman greeted us heartily.
“Welcome home, Temptress! I see you’ve brought a guest!”
“Yes, my lady. He’s come to live with us.”
At this, my heart jumped. “I did not come here to live!” I protested, “I am only visiting because you asked me to!”
“Yes! Yes! Of course you are!” The old woman cackled, “Don’t mind your friend. She’s just getting ahead of herself. Now why don’t you relax and have a cup of tea?”
“Look, Temptress—that is your name?—I found myself attracted to you, but I think it was a mistake for me to come here. I cannot bear to sleep through the night in place such as this. How would the wind ever reach into these rocks? How would I wake to the rising sun with so many things hindering my view? Thank you for your hospitality, but I must leave at once.” With that, I fled.
I ran through the city toward the gap in the massive pile of rocks that formed a circle which was called a gate—the circle of rocks being called a wall. When I came to the gate, a man deliberately stood in my way and pushed me to the ground. I looked up at them from the ground in astonishment.
“Where are you going, lad?”
“I’m going back where I belong.”
“Do you think that where you belong is beyond that gate?”
“Yes I do, because it is.” I lifted myself back onto my feet.
“Well, I’m sorry, but the sun’s setting and no one’s allowed out of the city until tomorrow morning.”
“But I cannot stay a whole night in this place!”
“I’m afraid you have no other choice. Please go back to whoever was going to take you in for the night.”
Before I had time to protest a voice cried out from on top of the wall, “Lower the gates!” Immediately large metal bars began descending from the top of the gate. I knew that once the metal bars met the ground, I would have no way to escape this prison before the night. With all of my strength I charged at the man who stood in my way and threw him to the ground then sprinted toward freedom.
By the time I was half way to the gate, the gate was half way closed. I knew then that I was not fast enough to escape. But as soon as my heart sank, the wind began blowing violently against my back, pushing me forward at a speed I had never before known. I reached the gate while there were still a few feet left between it and the ground and I quickly ducked under the bars and rolled into freedom. I heard the hollers of men calling after me from the city walls as I continued to flee and I did not stop fleeing until distance had diminished their voices entirely.
I climbed out of the valley the city lay in and when I reached the top of a hill where the wind blew strongly against my face as if trying to comfort me, I fell to my knees and wept.
A little more than a week passed and I had known nothing but the wind and the sun and the joy that they brought, but that changed when I came across Temptress once again.
“Gullible!” she cried out from the bottom of the hill I stood on and ran toward me. “I’ve missed you! Why did you run away from the city?”
I stood where I was, watching her as she climbed toward me. Her beauty was even more enticing to me than the last time I was with her. “The city terrifies me.” I replied when she came close enough to hear me without me having to yell.
“What could possibly be terrifying about the city?”
“There is no wind there and your houses block out the sun entirely. How can that not be terrifying?”
“Well, you could not have hated the city too much, for you’re still wearing the clothes I gave you.”
I looked down at myself and was shocked to find that she spoke truly. I had forgotten about them entirely. Quickly, I began trying to take them off, but Temptress laid her hand on my arm to stop me.
“Don’t. I like seeing you wear them. They make you look more wise and attractive.”
Though I disliked the thought of having those clothes on me, I determined to obey her. She was beautiful and I found myself wanting to do what I could to please her. But what I foolishly did not notice was that these clothes kept both the sun and the wind from touching much of my skin. It was a wall of another kind.
Temptress’ eyes glistened with delight as I obeyed her and lowered my arms from my shirt. It was then that she kissed me and I felt for the first time the thrill of living the way she did.
Time passed and Temptress and I grew close. I continued to refuse to sleep in her city, but many of my waking hours were spent there. As long as I left the city before the sun began to set, I would not be trapped. If only I had known then how foolish I was being.
“I want to live with you, Gullible.” Temptress said to me one day as I was about to leave her for the night.
I paused for a moment then replied, “I want to live with you too.”
She smiled her strange smile that I had come to appreciate even though I did not understand it. “But how could we ever do that? You will not live in the city with me and I could never sleep in the wind like you do.”
At this I was disheartened. She was right. I could never live in her city, but I knew how much she loved it. I could not ask her to sleep in the wind like I did.
“Why don’t we compromise?” Temptress said cheerfully.
“Compromise?”
“Yes! We can build a wonderful little log cabin outside of town. That way, you will not have to sleep in the city and I will not have to sleep in the wind!” Her proposal made enough sense to me, so I agreed to build a log cabin for the two of us.
In time, our cabin had been built and we spent our first night together. That was indeed a very terrible night. Sleep did not come to me, for the entire night I heard the wind blowing violently against the home I had created and for the first time since I had been born, I was frightened by it. I felt as though in its wrath it was trying to tear down my home and crush me beneath my own creation. I know now that that was not the case. The wind was mourning. It was begging me to come back outside and turn away from the life I had chosen.
The next morning, I felt very much oppressed by guilt and worry. Temptress saw my despair and did what she could to cheer me up. She took me to the city and introduced me to more of her culture. She did succeed in cheering me up for a time, but I only felt even worse once the night came again.
Months passed and I had grown to live in constant fear of the wind. I spent much of my time in the city or locked inside of my cabin because I was sure that the wind would harm me if I ever gave it the chance to. Once Temptress became aware of this, she again invited me to live in the city with her. This time I agreed.
After my first night in the city, I was walking around town and was confronted by a man. He was in his late forties, but his body made him look very old and sickly.
“You there!” he cried out to me from an alley, “Why are you here?”
“I live here.” I responded.
He looked around nervously as if making sure no one was watching us then ran up to me. “You have not lived here long, have you?”
“No. I moved here just yesterday.”
“Then you must listen to me very carefully: This city will consume you. It will make you its slave. I know who you are. You are a man who was born in the wind like me. But the rulers of this city—the tempters and temptresses—they are not like us. They were not born into the wind. They despise the wind and the sun, and they intend to make us do the same. There is no joy to be had here. There will never be peace here like you once knew. Every day that you stay here, you will only fall deeper into the clutches of this city. Get out now while you still have some strength left!”
“If this is true, then why have you not fled already?”
“I have already lost myself to this cursed city. Everything I once was in the presence of the wind is gone. There is nothing left of me. I have died my second death.”
“That cannot be true! Right now, you are here warning me of the evil of this city. That alone is proof that there is something still alive in you!”
The man’s eyes glazed over for a moment as his world disappeared into his thought. When he came back to himself, he looked at me and said, “Maybe something in me is still alive, but I am terrified of being in the presence of the wind again. I do not have the strength to get out of here alone.”
“Then come with me! I also do not have the strength to flee on my own. The shame of meeting the wind again seems too much for me. But if you were by my side, perhaps I would have the courage.”
The man paused for a moment then said, “Though I no longer hold any love or care for myself, the part of me that this city has not yet killed is my love for those who are loved by the wind. You are indeed loved by the wind and for you I will help you escape this city even if I die trying.”
And so, together the two of us headed to the gates of the city, taking none of our belongings with us. On our way out I passed Temptress’ house and she saw what I was doing. Immediately she ran out to me and cried, “Gullible! Dear, Gullible! Do not leave me! Have I not made you happy? Have I not protected you from the wrath of the wind? Do not forsake me for another! You gave yourself to me! It is adultery to leave me now!”
I turned to look at her and said sternly, “It is not adultery for me to return to my first love. No, it is my life with you that has been adultery. I trusted you with so much and was a fool to do so. Now I see you as you really are. You are a monster and a deceiver. You never cared about me. You only cared about destroying me. But today your hold on my life ends. I belong in the wind and so to the wind I am going. Do not try to stop me.” I then turned and walked away with my friend by my side. Temptress screamed curses after me, but I gave them no heed.
When the man and I reached the gate, we were both trembling violently. I knew he was thinking the same thing I was thinking: “It is a mistake to return to the wind.” But I could not turn back to die. I had to return to my love.
I turned to the man and he looked back at me. Guilt and fear filled his eyes. I rested my hand on his shoulder and told him that we could do this. Slowly, he nodded in agreement and took a step forward toward freedom, then another. I mirrored his movement.
As we drew closer to the gate, the wind began blowing gently against our faces. Tears filled my eyes as I felt it’s comforting and forgiving touch. My friend was also on the verge of crying. However, once the guards of the city felt the wind blowing toward us and into the city, they ordered that the wooden doors of the gate be shut immediately. I saw some men rush for the door to shut them, but before they got to their destination, the wind blew violently against them and threw them to the ground.
My friend and I continued out of the city while the guards were all pinned to the ground by the wind. After passing back into the fields outside the city, my friend and I began running out of the valley, chasing after the wind that now led us like old times.
When we reached the peak of a hill surrounding the valley, the wind began circling quickly around us, blowing our hair in every direction as if trying to dance with us. Instantly, I fell to the ground and wept at all the wrong I had done. I wept at my choice to ever leave the wind. My friend wept with me, but the wind just blew against my face and dried my tears.
Some days passed and the wind eventually led me and my friend and in different directions. We said our “farewells” and chased joyfully after the wind in the directions it led, knowing that one day we would meet again when the time was right.
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