The introduction to a story I’m working on called “Wind City”, nominally for NaNoWriMo but more realistically just a personal writing project!
Ch2 is here.
The wind, they say, is clever here.
Oh, you can hear it, if you listen. In the emaciated light of morning, when the hour has worn thin as the distant traffic hum, you can prick up your ears and listen to its voice. The wind’s crooked fingers flex and curl against the windowpane, a message in Morse impossible to understand. Shrill but stifled whispers whistle by, oscillating slyly at the ragged edges of your perception, slipping in and out and in again like an indecisive thief. You lay awake as it plots and it schemes, riffles the leaves and the telephone lines, full of spite but empty of malice. The wind is a trickster, promising much, and delivering little.
It was not always this way, you know. The wind was honest once, back when the city was new and the river its lifeblood less sluggish than now, swollen as it is with the putrescence of the unwashed teeming masses. To hear them tell it, those worn-out defeated souls that sag in dingy pubs, we went where the wind took us and that was good enough back then. They spin their tales and their eyes burn with dutiful nostalgia, but their loyalty to the wind and this city is misplaced. The wind doesn’t care, it never did, and the city? Even back then in the sepia-drenched days of our ancestors, this city was much too afraid to care.
The wind is everywhere. It blows the crumpled fast-food wrappers down the street, plastering them against the bared ankles of its citizens. It wriggles through tight coiffured hair, plucking strands loose with deft, clever fingers only to tug them this way and that in whip-crack spasms. It worms its way in through the moldering bricks and spiderwebbed glass of the city’s tumbledown architecture, infiltrates through pores too small to see, and brings a chill to the cowering people inside. There is nowhere the wind cannot reach; the people know this, and they are afraid. Wherever they go, the wind follows.
The visitors who come to the city, crawling in through roads like veins clogged with stop-start traffic, do not understand their fear. The wind is a virtuoso performer and it is vain, for it can never resist a chance to demonstrate its mastery. To those who come, it is not an insistent gust that pushes apartment-dwellers close against their feeble balcony railings. No, to the unsuspecting foreigner the wind plays the toady, the ingratiating subject bowing and scraping upon the ground, always ready with a cooling breeze across a sunburnt neck or a gentle, shivering caress. It reminds them of the mindless winds they left at home, and so they tease and scorn the citizens who cringe at shifting air. After all, it is only the wind.
Their ignorance is not their fault. They do not think as we do, and they do not know what we know, that behind its artful facade, the wind is cruel and mocking. We are not deceived by its simpering manner and the pretense of innocence, for we know that at any moment, upon a whim, the wind may steal the very breath from our lungs and leave us gasping on the floor. And so we fear and respect it, but we do not resent it, for the wind is only operating according to its nature, and it bears us no ill will.
The wind is clever here, they say.
And the long streets of Wind City are ruled by the wind.