Hey everyone, it’s been awhile. Life has been hectic (I’m nearly finished my last semester of my undergrad (hallelujah!), I’ve been working, and I’m currently in the midst of an exciting, epic “space fantasy” writing project with a friend of mine). Anyways, here’s a short story I wrote for a creative writing class I took last semester. I hope you like it.
Salma was a child when she first dreamt of the wind. She dreamt that the trees were filled with music, dancing and singing in time to the billowing gusts. In her dream she wore a blue dress and the wind pulled at it like a flag. She rose her hands above her head and let the wind whisper through her tangled hair. My baby, my little baby, a strange voice whispered. Do you hear my heart? It beats with all the sorrow of the world. When she woke, her face was wet with tears.
* * *
She found the boy exactly where she had dreamt he would be—in the grove, curled up beneath her favourite climbing tree. Careful not to wake him, she clambered up the tree and watched him from the safety of the branches. She knew he was a special boy even though he looked to be about the same age as She. He had appeared to her in dreams of wind and sunshine. In her dreams she flew through the sky and floated above him while he slept under her favourite climbing tree. And then he would open his eyes and float up beside her, an impish grin on his face. Salma studied the boy. He was nice-looking, with dark curly hair and a smile on his face as if he too were dreaming of flight. But his face was scratched and bleeding, and Salma wondered if he had been lost in last night’s storm. It had been a blustery night, and the storm had knocked down a few old trees in the grove and flooded the nearby river. Salma had been safe and warm in her bed, listening to the wailing wind and praying that her favourite tree would stay rooted firmly in its place. Her prayers had been answered.
* * *
The boy opened his eyes and stared up at the girl in the branches above. They remained still for several moments, listening to the sound of crickets and the soft hush of the river. A slight breeze rustled the leaves around her.
“Who are you?” the boy asked, still lying in the grass. A cricket jumped onto his arm, but he seemed not to notice.
Salma told him her name. “What’s yours?” she asked.
The boy stood and looked around at the shady grove. Then he looked up at her and grinned. “My name is Adair.” He grabbed the nearest branch and pulled himself up into the tree.
“You’re bleeding,” Salma pointed out once he was seated beside her.
“Oh,” Adair touched his face and looked at the blood on his fingers.
“I can clean it,” Salma said. “I know how.” She dropped to the grass and ran to the river. She dipped her sleeve into the waters and then raced back to the grove. The boy climbed down from his perch and stood still as Salma wiped the blood from his face.
“There,” Salma said, stepping back to admire her work. “Do you want a bandage?”
Adair shook his head, fingering the scratch.
“You shouldn’t touch it,” Salma said, pulling his hand away.
The boy looked at her thoughtfully and nodded. “Thank you,” he said.
They stood there, staring at each other for another moment. Then Adair cocked his head to the side and looked upriver. Frish, frish, came a voice through the still air. A strange look flashed across his face, and then he looked at Salma.
“Good bye, Salma,” he said. Then he was gone.
* * *
The boy returned to the grove every once in a while, and the two children would play and laugh. They climbed the trees and dug in the dirt to find worms. Sometimes they swam in the river and caught frogs. Once they built a raft and sailed down the river all the way to town. As Salma grew older, so did Adair; they remained fast friends. But each day, he would stop and listen, his eyes faraway. Frish, frish, a distant voice whispered. Then he would apologize and disappear. Salma asked him where it was that he went, and he would shake his head.
“I have to do my duty,” he said each time, which Salma thought was a strange thing for a boy to say. She remembered how she used to dream about him and their joyful flights. She remembered how special he was, and she would nod knowingly whenever he said something strange. When she was fourteen, she learned that he was the wind. He told her by accident, and then fled, a gale flying up in his wake. He did not return for a long time.
* * *
She dreamt of the wind again when she was seventeen. This time she fell through the air slowly, majestically. Arms spread out to catch the rushing air that whistled past her ears and through her fingers. The air clawed at her, her dress and her hair, as if to pull her back up. It fought with gravity’s inevitable pull, coaxing and pleading with her to open furled wings and soar amongst the wind and clouds. It tore at her, screaming and gasping for any purchase, any chance that she might pretend she was a part of this world. This world of whispering and flight. But no amount of wind or make-believe could keep her there. Her body was much too heavy for that place, and she closed her eyes as she dropped. She woke, abruptly and afraid.
* * *
He returned to her when they were no longer children. The previous week, Salma noticed the strengthening winds. The old boatman on the river told her parents that something big and magical was coming. Her parents laughed about it once the old man was gone, but Salma watched the sky as it darkened and roiled above. She knew how the old boatman would call out to the wind to fill his sails. “Frish, frish!” he would cry, and the breeze would come to his aid and carry him to his destination. The old man knew the wind like she did. They both knew Adair was finally returning. On the seventh day, the storm died, slowing to barely a whisper. Salma ran to the grove. He was waiting for her beneath her favourite climbing tree.
* * *
Adair loved to tell Salma about his many adventures and travels. He told her about the different paths as he carried out his many tasks.
“This is my favourite place though,” he told her while they sat on the riverbed. He held her close and recalled the wonderful times of their childhood. “Even when I was far away, I dreamed of returning to this grove,” he said.
She smiled and looked up at the stars.
* * *
They married a year later in the grove. The trees were laden with paper lanterns and garlands of flowers the children had picked. After the ceremony, the newlyweds boarded their new boat and set off down the river. They spent weeks exploring the rivers, drifting by towns and fields and orchards. After their honeymoon, her husband built a cottage for her beside the grove. Salma watched, a deep joy in her heart. But behind the joy was a terrible fear. As the days went by, she waited for the gentle frish, frish to call Adair away. I have to do my duty, he had told her all those years ago. When the day arrived, and her husband cocked his head and stared off into the distance, she held her tears until he was long gone.
* * *
She found joy in her growing belly. The months passed slowly but she felt the child growing inside her and was glad. She dreamt of her child—her dreams told her she would have a son. In her dreams, he was a happy child, playing in the river beside their house for hours. He was much like his father. She dreamed that he ran along the river’s edge and befriended the old boatman, learning the ways of the river. When she gave birth, her husband by her side, she wept for joy. She named the baby Kell.
Adair stayed with her and their child for a month, growing ever more restless as the moon changed. One day, he stood in the doorway for an hour, listening to sounds that Salma could not hear.
“Are you leaving?” she asked, holding Kell to her breast. She already knew the answer.
“They are waiting for me,” he answered without turning.
“Who?” There was a time when Salma loved to hear his stories.
That night, once he had gone, a distant storm filled the river and flooded their little cottage by the grove. Salma spent the next week clearing the debris.
* * *
Salma gave birth to a baby girl a year later, after dreaming of a beautiful child in love with the fields and birds. She named her Linna and watched as she grew into that frolicking, gentle child of her dreams. Both Kell and Linna had the magic of their father. They spent their childhood running through the grove and beside the river, blowing gusts of wind until they were out of breath. One day they ran in circles around the house until the clothes on the clothesline were dry and smelled of sunshine. Kell was a wandering child. He aided the boatman on his trips to the city upriver, blowing into the sail like his father. Linna used her breath for song. She imitated birds and crickets and sat singing by the door for hours. Salma loved to sit with her and listen to the sweet voice sing songs that reminded her of Adair.
* * *
He visited them often, delighting in his magical children and telling them tales of lands far away. And Salma was happy.
“Your mother is magical too,” Adair told his two children. Salma looked up from her work. Her husband smiled at her and then pulled Linna onto his lap.
“I always knew she was magical, from the day I met her.”
Salma remembered wiping blood from the young boy’s face.
“She has special dreams too,” Adair said proudly.
* * *
That night Salma dreamt of pain and sadness. My baby, my little baby, came the strangely familiar voice. When she woke, her face was wet with tears. As Adair kissed them from her face, she would not tell him what made her so sad. Between the dreams of sorrow, she dreamt of her third child. Little boy, sweet child, she murmured to herself as her belly grew. Months passed but her husband did not return. As the day drew near, she held onto her hope of seeing Adair again. But she heard about the great storms in the far away country, and knew that her husband was busy. She touched her belly and murmured soft words for the beautiful child she had seen. This child had a different kind of magic, she knew. She saw him bringing a gentle wind to comfort those who mourn, lifting prayers to Heaven, lulling all the sadness of the world.
* * *
She spoke to her newborn child as she held him in her weakening arms.
“My baby, my little baby. Do you hear my heart?” A soft breeze caressed her brow. She spoke the words as she remembered them. “It beats with all the sorrow of the world. How long the wind is in coming.”
She closed her eyes tiredly, still clinging to her little boy. She could hear Linna flying along the river and calling for her far away father. Kell stood resolute by his mother’s side, a hand on his newborn brother. She heard a lone gull’s call. Frish, frish, drifted a voice over the gentle breeze.
A sudden gust blew through the grove. Salma, it whispered. She heard little Linna singing and felt her baby’s breath on her skin.
This story is based on the old African folktale “The Children of the Wind.” What did you think? Let me know in the comments!