by scott vee
The last Living Wind looks for a way to destroy humanity.
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This Piece of Wind lived for millennia in the company of its turbulent brothers, shifting sands and bullying the sea. It had seen much of mankind, and thought of these creatures as wonderful toys. Now, alone in the calm, the Wind rested and recalled its many victories and tricks.
Scene: ages long past, deep in the One-Vortex of youth: This Piece of Wind and brothers, running toward a forest fire, lashing the flames skyward in a frenzy of feeling, one by one, sucked into the updraft, circling around and down for another shot. The beat of the dance had consumed them, churned them together into a single turbulent mass of loving Winds, while the fires gently stroked the tiny houses of man. When there was nothing left to burn, and the maelstrom had simmered to cinders, the many Winds pulled themselves apart, each to its own mind again; then they spent many seasons whispering of the experience, the love. Days long gone, but phrases remembered always.
Scene: more recent, still centuries buried: This Piece of Wind recalled tensions on a field of battle. This Piece of Wind had made human conflicts its hobby, its obsession. Thousands of armed men stood in nervous, hateful arrays, while their leaders conferred in a central tent. Between the opaque canvas walls, the leaders barked and growled insinuations, but gradually they realized that peace could be arranged. The compromise came slowly -- two or three candles later -- while This Piece of Wind rested upon the tent and listened. Peace was concluded, and sweaty hands shaken. The leader of the aggressors strode from the tent with a mixture of feelings. Within the tent, behind his back, the defender spoke of his opponent, "What a worthless mule!" His lieutenants laughed. The words were harmless, unintended, unfelt; they were the result of the tension of the negotiations, meaning no true offense. But This Piece of Wind swept down upon the opportunity, cradled the words in its arms, and delivered them to ear of the aggressor, who flew into a frenzy and called an immediate attack. This Piece of Wind drank the sounds of war once more. Later, when lives were lost, left open to the air, This Piece of Wind carried the stench of the carnage to the hungry jackals and vultures, and word to the slum-ridden human scavengers far and wide. Yes, humanity was easily controlled in those days.
Other memories, more recent and vivid, more subtle and mature: Human children's voices, carried to the ears of impatient mothers when unimportant and irritating. Too much gaa-gaa, too many booms and screams would easily drive mothers to the brink of madness; and the mothers would scream, and the children would jump from their skins, amazed and afraid. But when the children were in trouble, and their cries turned desperate, This Piece of Wind turned its face and let the mother read her tabloids undisturbed. And when the children slept, This Piece of Wind enjoyed taking their kickballs and styrofoam toys, and even mother's lawnchairs, and sweeping them all to ruin, flying them to some distant glade. Yes, the Winds had a certain fascination with hurting man, for man was growing ever stronger, and the Winds shunned all strength save their own.
So This Piece of Wind gathered friends to slap at man's aircraft as they struggled from coast to coast. This Piece of Wind formed a smile of clouds when it thought of sweeping the hydrogen Hindenburg into oblivion after playing dead and luring it to the ground; the thought of the flames still burned like ecstasy.
Times changed as the eons passed. Soon there were men dissipating the stormclouds, the castles of the Winds. Man salted the hurricanes, the Winds cried and died. Head-to-head combat broke out, with families of tormented Winds wandering the tornado dance through man's cities; and the Council of Wind rising to the stratosphere, shuffling, opening holes in the ozone to raise the oceans, scorch the land. Storms of desperation, rather than love. Floods raged and buried, lightning danced and killed.
Humanity threw up barriers and calculated chemicals which drove the Winds away, stenches which made the Winds give up and die. In the end, there was a round of final insanity -- ice, fire and death until the very earth shook -- but man conquered every element, and he voted to burn the wind from the sky. Man was victorious in his destruction, and set his own weather in motion. Mindless weather which he could control. Now wind fought Wind, until only one Wind had the will to fight on. This Piece of Wind, hidden in its cave, crying.
This Piece of Wind swallowed its clouds and shuddered, retreating to its cave, thinking, "They must not find me. Never." It tried to sort out its memories, assess its chances of survival. It had seen its brothers and cousins die, by giving up or spreading themselves too thin. They stopped churning and returned to lifeless chaos, but This Piece of Wind disciplined itself. It studied the past and waited for the day when humanity would grow over-secure and let down its defenses again.
So This Piece of Wind thought of the old world, years when the air filled with love, everywhere it touched. And it thought of the wars which exterminated this love, and the weapons which tamed the sky, the chemicals and depressurizers. It knew only hate now, he hated its taste, but could not overcome it, for there was nothing else left in the world.
One day, there was an open door. This Piece of Wind felt it from miles away, and unfolded from its lair. It hovered, but the door remained, a summons it could not resist. It swooped down with the carelessness of dormant decades, and found itself captured in a starship by a man who was half machine, half flesh.
This Piece of Wind raged against its cage, but things in the cabin had been designed to withstand kilogravities of accelaration, and all of its fury had no tangible effect. Weary and wild, This Piece of Wind attacked the man, but the man spoke in thoughts, rather than in words which the Wind could turn against him.
"Be still, spirit," the man commanded from where he was merged with the ship. "I am no enemy of yours. In fact I am saving you from those who search for you. If they find me, they will kill or imprison me for what I am trying to do."
The Wind was too angry to listen. It pressed against its cold container and threatened the man. "You will release me or I shall ignite myself, taking you with me. If you survive, will have nothing to boast about."
The man checked his instruments and nodded. Portions of the Wind were rising to dangerous temperatures. "No," he said. "I don't think so. I choose to store you at twenty Celsius, one atmosphere. Do not struggle so."
This Piece of Wind felt its fury fail. As much as it tried to heat itself, the man's machines cooled it off. No matter how it churned or concentrated, the machines kept it feeling calm and harmless. It knew anger, but was forced to be patient.
Time passed, and strange things happened in the cabin outside the Wind's prison. The foolish man spoke again. "If I did not store you so, you would have died during liftoff, and flown apart in nullgrav. But now we are safely on our way."
"For what reason am I, the last Living Wind, being taken from the home I love, the world which you destroyed for my people?"
The man radiated an aura of knowledge and power. How had a man of technology opened a door for the Wind? That talent had been buried for countless ages in the alluvium of time. This Piece of Wind wished to learn more about his adversary. The man must be defeated, but how?
The pilot's reply was simple. "Cultivation."
No more was spoken, and the Wind felt itself crushed, stunned, attacked. It fought to keep itself together, but peace returned quickly, and the Wind could hear the voice of the sun drumming on the hull of the ship, more clearly than it had ever heard the voice before. Now the Wind could feel light seconds spiralling into minutes and hours, and the voice of the sun fell behind. Later, it could hear the whisper of passing stellar winds, approaching and falling away like ghosts. When it understood the speed at which they were moving, and the powers the man was controlling, This Piece of Wind found that it was afraid.
When it had tested the pilot's words, and found them evasive, the Wind spoke again. "How do you propose to use me to cultivate anything? Why should I do anything to help you?"
"I don't, and you won't." The man-half of the pilot showed signs of emotion. "I regret was my species has done to yours. Deeply. But in the age of high science, it was proven that elemental forces were mindless. Oh, they used affine geometry, and nonlinear dynamics in the proof, but in the end it was a leap of faith like everything else.
"Maybe you noticed that we have left the Earth ourselves? Maybe you saw our ships leave, by the hundreds? Few people stay behind, because when mankind tamed the weather, he ruined the world. Nothing has any life anymore. Plants no longer fruit, ores no longer give up the metals they must contain. By taming chaos, science here came unravelled. There seem to be no laws anymore. But we colonists have been separated long enough, we have seen the power and feelings of young worlds. I came to see if there was any spark of life left on Earth, and I was glad to find you."
"Glad enough to hold me here in this cruel magnetic field?"
"Those fields are designed to be as soft and undisrupting as my science allows. Without them you would not still be alive."
"I have held myself together."
The pilot transmitted some mental equations. "The sensations which you received were dampened by nine orders of magnitude. Do the calculations yourself."
This Piece of Wind saved the figures, hoping they were a key to the man's powers. Nothing. But what he said about the forces was apparently true.
The man explained his motives. "My world is dying. Its moonless face is becoming tidally locked to its sun. Its winds are nearly dead now, they howl at the day-night line and have lost their minds. Without them, nothing can grow. The oceans fester and the land remains forever dry. It is you that I wish to cultivate."
"Suppose I do not wish to do your bidding?" the Wind challenged. It struck forth with a slice of mental energy, but where the man's soft mind should have been, there was a wall like jagged metal. The Wind stopped before it could be chopped into micro-swirls, then circled the man's wall and looked for a place of entry. It was not surprised when it found no weak point. The man had only one guilt strong enough to penetrate: the guilt for what his ancestors had done to the Earth. This Piece of Wind understood, and backed off. This man was no usurper, but every bit as concerned as he claimed to be.
"We have been terraforming the next planet out. The project has been going for 400 years now, and we feel it is time to move. The weather system is difficult, but slowly forming patterns. We don't know, we've never done anything like this before. But just think of it: I offer you an entire world to teach and tame. We feel that the air spirits are just now becoming conscious. They need a leader. My people can give your their computations and you can set them in motion. As the winds awaken, you will be there to guide them. You will be worshipped again.
"Only in this way will you survive. Only in this way will we have a planet we can live on in time to save us. Your people and mine will live together this time. This time we understand so much more."
This Piece of Wind was satisfied, even a bit happy. The magnetic restraints felt oddly like friendship now, and the whisper of the approaching solar wind, though alien, was encouraging in its promise of challenge.
The pilot angled his ship through dimensions, approaching reality from below. The ship blinked into existence on the outskirts of the system called Alpha Centauri. As he piloted the vessel toward his world, other ships joined formation with him, a silent but hopeful escort bringing the hero home.
This Piece of Wind shivered with delight. Soon, it would be free.
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Note: This tale was accepted for Weird Fiction Catalogue #2 (c1988), but probabaly never saw print.
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