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The Wind and the River
The haunting sounds of the storm rattled the windows of the house, and the three children trembled fearfully as miserable thoughts filled their young minds. Could the raging wind rip through the weak wooden boards that were placed in the windows? Would the strong winds cause a tree to crash into the roof, exposing them to the ferocious storm? Were they truly safe, especially since their only separation from this cyclone was the brick walls of their house, suddenly weak in comparison?
The family was huddled in a small closet, wrapped tightly in blankets with a crackling weather radio and canned food between them. The children watched the ceiling with creased eyebrows as the light flickered off for good, leaving them encased in complete darkness. The younger girl screamed. Someone turned on a flashlight, resulting in a collective sigh of relief. But the children’s fear returned when they heard the distinct rattle of china in the kitchen as the gales of wind grew stronger. They heard a sound not unlike the ardent howl of an abandoned young woman, and then a deafening snap outside.
“What was that?” cried the little girl, clutching at someone’s arm.
The parents looked at each other, concern gleaming in their sunken eyes, and they scrambled to their feet and pulled open the closet door. “Stay here!” the father ordered the children as the door clattered shut.
“Wait— where are you going?” screamed the young boy.
The elder child quieted him, and when the two settled down, the younger girl asked, “What was the noise that we heard, before Mom and Dad left us?”
“It was the Wind,” the older girl said mysteriously.
Both children peered up at their older sister curiously.
She ran a hand through her long hair as she studied the two for a moment. “Would you like to hear a story?” she asked, reaching to turn the volume down on the radio, as there was only the sound of static.
After they nodded enthusiastically, she glanced at the dark ceiling, and then she began.
“Once, long ago, there lived the Wind and a River. They were sisters; daughters of the Sky.”
The younger sister and brother smiled at one another, recognizing that this was to be a lengthy tale. They readjusted their quilts and curled onto their pillows, closing their eyes as their sister had instructed them in the past, so that they could properly create the image in their head that she was painting for them.
“Their native land was a meadow, and the meadow was a vast ocean of tall green grass. There were hills— lush, rolling hills dotted with tiny yellow flowers. Large Trees were scattered throughout the land.
“The Wind and the River were equally beautiful. The Wind was quite small, but her major feature was her mess of long bushy tresses, which floated about her in every possible direction as she strolled through the meadow. She had a fiery temper, often spinning into wild rages, freeing the leaves from the Trees’ fragile limbs. The leaves, caught in the tangles of the Wind’s hair, swirled throughout the meadow alongside her.
“The River had skin the same shade as the Sky’s— a magnificent, sparkling azure. Her hair rippled in gentle waves as the Wind passed her by. The River had a much less temperamental disposition than her erratic sister did, and she scarcely erupted into such ferocious tantrums.
“As young children, the Wind and the River loved one another very much, and they each enjoyed the other’s company. However, as the two matured, the sisters’ close relationship gradually drifted apart.
“This point in their lives is where our tale begins.”
“The Wind and the River were past their early years. They had both become young women, being only a year apart in age.
“They were also growing in friendship with a few of the other inhabitants of the meadow— particularly the Trees.
“The Wind enjoyed the Trees. She loved how, when she flew past them, their leaves rustled pleasantly. The Trees’ limbs bent slightly, and the birds fluttered from their nests in the Treetops.
“She particularly cherished one Tree, because it was the most beautiful in the entire meadow.
“It was a cherry blossom Tree. It had not the emerald tinted leaves of the other Trees, but flowers. Its thin golden-brown branches held large clusters of pale pink cherry blossoms. In the springtime, the feathery flowers bloomed in thick clouds of blushing cotton and filled the Tree. The Wind liked how these tiny flowers glistened wetly with dew at the break of dawn.
“At every sunrise, the Wind floated gracefully past the cherry blossom Tree, her hair twisting and swirling around her as she twirled slowly, her arms raised limply. She would spin, and a small, vaporous cloud built up around her.
“Her drifting hair caught the stray cherry blossoms that the Tree released when the abundance of blossoms became a burden on its weak branches. The Wind was sheathed in a multitude of pale pink splendor, the sweet scent of the perfumed flowers overwhelming her. The Wind would laugh in merriment, and take pleasure in the soft pink petals that kissed her hair.”
The younger girl sighed, and her sister paused to smile.
“The Wind loved the Tree, and the Tree loved the Wind. Together, at every sunset, they watched as the Sun lay to rest. They waited eagerly through night for dawn, for the awakening of the Sun, and as the Sun slowly crept up into the pastel blue Sky, the Wind danced among the fallen cherry blossoms again.
“Now, the River, for many a year, watched all of this forlornly, and as the years passed, she grew in antipathy of her sister, the Wind. She too loved this Tree. She adored its beauty, and she wished for the Tree to love her as the Tree loved the Wind. But the Wind and the Tree were inseparable, and the Tree took no notice of the equally beautiful River.”
“Several years passed. The Wind and the River were very near adulthood, and the Wind continued to dance among the Tree’s glistening cherry blossoms.
“However, the Wind was growing restless. She yearned to depart from the meadow, in which she had lived for her entire existence. An irresistible surge of energy had overcome her- an urge to fly, to soar, to live… everlastingly. The meadow had become too diminutive a place for her— she needed the entire world, not the tiny meadow. She felt trapped, denied of her liberty, not unlike a caged bird.
“Before she left, she promised her beloved Tree that she would return… someday.
“The Wind whirled more rapidly than she ever had before. A thick fog formed around her, and she tore through the meadow at an alarming pace, only this time she did not pause at the frontier… she flew onwards.”
“The Tree could not have been happy about that,” murmured the girl.
“No… the Tree lived alone for many moons on its hilltop in the midst of the vast meadow. Before every nightfall, the Tree watched the light of the Sun subdue.
“The Tree would watch the large, glowing orb in the darkening Sky sink below the pale violet mountains in the far distance. The Sun slowly stretched Her long, fiery fingers, grasping desperately for a support that seized to exist, as She sank in the shadowy Sky. Soon the Sun would surrender to the overwhelming exhaustion that caused Her descent. Her hands would sink… sink… below the snowcapped mountains... and She would make a final weak attempt of reaching Her hand out to the sky… and the Sun would fade away.
“Every nightfall, the Tree would watch the Sunset… alone.
“And when the Tree’s lovely pink blossoms were shed, they would float to rest on the dying ground. The flowers slowly wilted and browned. Layer upon layer of the beautiful cherry blossoms of long ago surrounded the saddened Tree, as there was no longer a glorious Wind to stir them up in a silent tornado and whirl them away.
“The Tree missed the Wind. The sound of her soft, sweet whispers as she gently intertwined herself between the feeble branches of the Tree. That unparalleled sensation that occurred when the Wind’s long, glorious tresses stroked its flowers ever so gently, causing them to softly float about her in a mystical cloud as she danced… danced… so slowly…
“The Tree was heartbroken.”
“The River watched as the Tree became increasingly dispirited, all the while a dark emotion building up within her that she had never felt so strongly before— a dreadful sentiment contradictory to her gentle beauty… an emotion known as anger.
“How could the Wind ever leave this poor Tree in such a desolate condition? How selfish was she that she would place her own impractical desires in higher importance than the well-being of this lovely, sensitive being? The Wind did not deserve the Tree’s love— no— she did not even care about Its happiness, Its necessities. The River doubted that the Wind even bid the Tree farewell before her spontaneous departure.
“If anyone deserved the Tree’s love, thought the River, it was the River herself who deserved it. Would she ever leave the Tree, had she been in such great companionship with It, as the Wind was? Never would she cause such despair to an individual as affectionate as the Tree, never!
“She thusly decided to gain the love of the Tree for herself. She thought that its heart must be empty now, since the only creature who had it occupied in the past was the Wind— and the Wind had left It! So surely its heart could not continue to beat for this traitor, this neglector? No— no— of course not. How absurd to even consider so. The River therefore felt that she should be the one to fill that vacant cavity— perhaps even cause it to overflow.
“Three moons later, for the first time in her entire life, the River spoke to the Tree. Her quiet voice wavering, she whispered to the Tree that all the Trees in the meadow were alive only because of her leniency, her love.
“Every dawn, she stretched her forever-long fingers beneath the ground until they caressed the roots of all the Trees. She cupped her fingers so that the thirsty roots could sip from the pools of water within her hands. This cold, revitalizing water was the sole provider of life for the Trees. The River paused for a moment, and then she continued, murmuring in an even softer voice than before.
“She secretly provided the cherry blossom Tree with more water than any other Tree in the entire meadow. She said that she did so because she deeply loved the Tree, with all her heart.
“The Tree was silent during the River’s quiet, fumbling words. Breathing heavily after having released such a secret, the River paused for a moment.
“Then, in a hushed tone, the River asked the Tree if It loved her. After a slight hesitation, the Tree mournfully replied that It greatly appreciated the River for her compassion towards It’s kind.
“There was a long moment of silence during which the River felt a strange, deflating sensation in her already punctured heart.
“The River asked hoarsely if the Tree loved her more than It loved the Wind.
“The Tree hesitated again at the mention of the Wind. Then, the Tree asked if the River could dance among the fallen cherry blossoms and cause them to rise in a glorious cloud. The River replied that she could cause the flowers to float along in her mass of sapphire hair. The Tree then asked if she could interlace her lithe body between Its limbs and caress them ever so softly. The River replied that she could extend her fingers and brush the tips gently along the Tree’s roots.
“The Tree said nothing more. The River grew uneasy beneath the burden of the Tree’s silence. Several moons rose and sank in the sky before the Tree gave Its reply. The Tree could not bear to love anyone as much as It loved the Wind.
“The River grew very, very cold inside. She did not understand how such a selfish being as the Wind could be loved so greatly that the Tree could not bear to make room in Its heart for anyone else.
“She went away from the Tree, and with each slow, heavy step that she took, she felt her heart sink lower and lower, until she felt that it had passed through her and buried itself deep into the ground.
“She mourned for herself, for the unfairness of the world, for the love that the she and the Tree could have shared but never would. After she had allowed all the tears stored within her to flow as waterfalls from her eyes, the River, as is the nature of many, began to lessen in sorrow and grow in anger. She directed her ire towards the Wind, for stealing the heart of her beloved, and the Tree, for casting blind eyes upon her unconditional love.
“As she caused fiery blue waves of water to rush the lands surrounding her, a horrid thought began to form in her permanently distorted mind. For her mind was like a sheet of delicate glass, shattered into a thousand jagged shards that could never be pieced together again. And so, with those sad bits of broken glass, the River wondered why, whenever she returned, the Wind should be permitted to continue her days in possession of the love of the Tree.
“If the River could not have the Tree’s love…
“Neither could the Wind.”
The little girl’s eyes reflected genuine worry, and it was not for the sound of the wailing storm outside, but for the Tree.
“What happened next?” breathed the boy.
“In her anger, the River slowly withdrew her long fingers from beneath the roots of the Tree, disallowing any of the life-giving water to flow in Its direction.
“A distinct feeling of satisfaction filled her, and she shut her eyes against the Tree forever.
“At first, the Tree did not notice that there were no longer pools of water beneath the ground to provide it strength and health. It was too overcome by sadness to take notice of any significant event that occurred in the meadows.
“However, two long seasons later, the Tree began to feel weak. The heat of the great Sun seemed overbearing now, and as the days passed, the Tree began to feel desiccated and rather aged. One day, at the peak of the season, the Tree hoarsely cried out to the River, pleading for a bit of water. But the River turned away, her ears deafened by bitter hatred.
“And the days continued on.
“By wintertime of that year, all the flowers of the cherry-blossom Tree had withered. They faded from a vibrant blush of peach-pink to a dim, misty grey. The frail flowers gasped a last, whispery breath, and floated to land softly on the snow, disintegrating into a cloud of dust.
“The Tree now had not enough energy to muster even a murmur in the direction of the River. Each previous day, it begged for at least a drop of water, and the River remained silent.
“Finally came the day when the Tree spoke no more.
“The already feeble limbs of the Tree sank until they brushed the ground.
“Even the trunk began to sag, and the arched stalk drooped so far that the head now lay forlornly upon the cold, cold ground.
“Winter gave way to springtime. A lively rainbow of colors bloomed all about the meadow, and an array of new life filled it to the brim. All around, the trees bloomed, and newly born birds filled the Sky, crooning a childishly sweet song of happiness to the emerald world below.
“But the Tree’s flowers did not blossom this season. Nor did they in any other that followed.
“For all the life had gone from this Tree. And never would it return.”
“Years passed. The Wind had grown weary of her travels of the world, and longed so greatly to be with her Tree once again. So the Wind returned to the meadow, a feeling of eagerness filling her at the very thought of dancing in a liquid pool of silver moonlight, causing a brilliant fog of pink flowers.
“However, when the Wind came upon the hill where the Tree normally sat, her eyes met nothing. At first, she thought that she had perhaps come to the wrong hill, for she had not visited this meadow in many years. However, as she searched the meadows, seeking the Tree, dread filled her heart. No… it couldn’t be… Trees lived for centuries, perhaps millenniums! It couldn’t be... dead?
“Then she remembered her sister, the River. Could she explain this peculiarity to her? Perhaps the Tree had somehow been uprooted, and placed in another location within the meadow. Yes— this had to be so.
“When she came upon her sister, she greeted her warmly. But the River replied not. Confused, the Wind then inquired why her once luminously azure tresses had faded so. Had the River fallen ill?
“The River was silent.
“Her inner fire already dully blazing due to her easily ignited temper, the Wind curtly asked of the whereabouts of the Tree.
“Riled by the mention of the Tree, the River caused an eruption of water to spray the land. The Wind faltered, unaccustomed to such rage from her normally placid sibling. But soon, the Wind became enraged that the River would act so brusquely towards her when she should instead be greeting her with tears and open arms, for the River had not seen the Wind for many, many moons. The Wind finally demanded why the Tree was not atop the hill. Further angered at the River’s stony silence, the Wind caused a mounting gale to flame about her in an invisible, powerful inferno.
“Finally, the River coldly replied that the Tree was indeed atop the hill— in fact, it had never left.
“Sending a warning glance over her shoulder, the Wind exploded from the valley in which the River resided and soared into the midst of the meadows, plunging into the hill of the cherry-blossom Tree.
“There, to her great horror, she found the remains of the Tree, camouflaged by the tall grass that had grown around the residue.
“The Wind collapsed weakly to the ground. She gathered the withered blossoms in her shaking arms and let them trickle through her thin fingers. They were dust before they even touched the ground. She cried quietly, and the tears slowly became passionate howls of despair. She surged into the air, circling the meadow once, twice, three times, faster with each revolution. She screamed until the Sky darkened, until the leaves of the surrounding Trees were ripped from their branches and thrown to the ground, until an explosion of birds flurried into the clouds, until her hair lashed out at the grass and deracinated the plants, until the world matched the misery that filled her heart.
“She stopped at the valley where the River resided. She knew it had been the River who was behind the death of the Tree. She had always known of the River’s jealousy of the radiant love and friendship shared by the Wind and the Tree, but the Wind had always chosen to ignore it.
“The Wind rose and pounded against the surface of the River with all her might, causing the water to rise in the air and shower the Earth as rain. She returned to the hill of the Tree, hoping that the downpour would cause the Tree to live again. She waited until the rain ceased, and waited as the water seeped and dried upon the ground.”
At this point, the elder girl paused, and all three listened to the eerie silence outside. They were encased within the eye of the storm… the moment of peace that would very soon give way to another surge of harsh weather.
The girl continued on, whispering so quietly that her younger siblings had to move closer to her in order to hear. “The Tree did not rise again… nor would it ever.” The girl hesitated.
“As I have said before… sadness very often gives way to anger, for this is the way of the passionate… and when two similarly passionate beings collide… especially those once united… there can be negative results for both the adversaries, and for those who surround them.”
The dark noises in the sky began to rage again. “Do you hear that?” asked the girl. There was that haunting sound again… a lonely woman, howling in saddened rage.
The children nodded.
She slowly turned her finger to the ceiling. The rain pounded against the roof, a resonating, ear-piercing sound that resembled pelting stones.
The children moved away from the closet door as it opened, their sodden, weary-looking parents trudging into the small room, wrapped in towels.
After the father explained that a board had loosened itself from a window, the mother spoke. “It’s the strangest thing,” she said. “I swear I smelled sakura in the air.”
And the family sat in silence as the Wind continued to mourn.