This story is by Gabrielle Sanders and was part of our 2020 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Listen to this story and speak it aloud. The air will caress it and remember his child.
Once, long ago, the East Wind flew over countries and seas. He danced round the world and laughed at lesser beings. They would never know true freedom. He played in the leaves of the tallest trees and tugged on the hair of beautiful queens. There was no one as free as he.
The Great Sky watched his youngest son. The East Wind was foolish. He mocked every creature under the sun. Until one day, as fate would have it, he ran into a mountain. This mountain was taller and vaster, gigantic. It was greater than any the East Wind would ever encounter. He tried to fly over, but the air was too thin, causing him to grow still. And then, in a panic, he flailed and he roared, stirring up a whirlwind of snow so violent, it caused the side of the mountain to plummet.
Disoriented, a disaster of snow and ice, he tumbled down from the lofty height. But now, he knew upon reaching the bottom, his momentum would stop, and he would grow still, the end of his freedom.
“Father!” He cried out in desperation, “I do not wish to die!”
But the Great Sky was silent in his response, letting his child crash.
The East Wind hit the ground. Little tendrils of his life puffed out in wisps. They danced in curling patterns and dispersed in the frigid air. The last breaths of him were gone in no more than a whisper.
He awoke to the sounds of faint calls. Voices muffled through layers of snow. His body shivered and he felt small, confined to one space, feeble and frozen. He reached out with a hand he did not know.
Two sets of hands broke through his darkness. They heaved him from his white grave. An old man and his daughter became his salvation. Free from his coffin he lifted his eyes heavenward to fly, but realized that this gift was no kindness. Cursed, he saw himself in their reflection, a slave to the earth, to this body, the sea and sky. No longer would he be free to fly.
Alas! He mourned and groveled his plight. The man and his daughter watched him with pity, knowing not what had caused such a sudden outburst. They gathered him up and took him home for the night.
“Take a deep breath.” The young woman mimed, hoping to calm him.
The East Wind did and was put at ease. In that moment, once he was able to breathe, noticed her features and was taken aback. For she was as beautiful as the flowering trees whose petals he would shake with his breeze.
Frozen with warmth, he fell in love. Experiencing for the first time, the need to pause. He breathed again, letting out a sigh of wonder. Her features were soft, and gentle, and kind. Her being brought him comfort when he felt like a storm. Oh hapless wind in this new form, you have found a home.
As time went on he found the sound of her laughter to be the essence of joy. He spent time looking for ways to hear her giggle, or finding things to make her smile a little. For in her smile he saw sunsets and sunrises, the day and night skies coming together in the most glorious fashion.
He learned from her father, a humble man of the earth. He learned from their village, of their traditions and tales. All life was sacred, none was lesser. From beginning to end and back again, a cycle as true as the rotation of the blessed earth. A cycle reflected in the swirling winds, and echoed by the ebbing waves.
The East Wind learned to be still and find peace. He taught others how to dance and be free. He fell in love and rejoiced in his children. He connected with the village. They took care of each other, unlike his experience with his father. He became a man and understood joy, freedom of humanity.
Generations passed, and eventually so did he. And as the last gasp of air left his human body, the East Wind felt himself fly once again. Up and up, away from the earth and the mountains. Away from all those that he had come to love, and found himself with his father. This was as it should have been when he died the first time.
The Great Sky did not look as the East Wind remembered. He was slower and grey. He did not shine with the brilliance that beckoned the people to worship. In fact, it was the opposite. The people of the earth spewed their poison into him, and he grew bitter.
“My son,” he glowered down upon the earth, “I am old and tired. The people try to kill me. Do they not know that I am all that is protecting them from the sun and stars, from the winds of space and beyond? Do they wish to evoke my wrath? Shall I cease to exist and destroy them all?”
The son followed his father’s gaze and saw the plumes of poison rising towards them. He saw the hot hazes of burning fuels scorching the clouds. He saw leaders mock the earth and sky openly. The state of the earth reflected the sky, and took its toll on the people. Sickness and plague ravaged the lands. Wars and catastrophes stole millions of lives. Deep anger and sorrow rose up within him, but then he looked closer and saw his village. He saw his children and theirs after them. They lived on the side of the mountain by their traditions, free of the poisons.
“My father,” he looked up to the sky with hope, “I am old, though not as old as you. I have lived a full life among them. I have learned from them and see no need for these poisons. I have laughed with them and found joy in life. I have loved and been loved in ways so deeply it would destroy me to see them destroyed. Look closer. See how there are some that still look to you in marvel and wonder. And look there! There are those that are working against the cancer.
“I am angry too, but please, do not destroy them; though, it is well within your right, within your power. Instead, I beg you, send me back. I will go to them and this time do more than live amongst them, I will live for them. I will live for you and for the earth. I will work tirelessly to reverse this devastation. I will teach them what I learned from the village on the mountain, to live simply and care for each other, for the earth and for the sky.”
The Great Sky listened to his son and was silent after for a long time. Destroying humankind would be much easier. He was so old and so tired, and they were making him so very sick…
“Very well.” He spoke plainly. “You may go. Do what you can. I will try to hold on a bit longer.”