Howling

Posted on April 29, 2010

25


It was spring in the desert. There had been good rain during the winter, and the valley had sprung to quick and sudden life. The foothills were full of color with the cacti and tough wildflowers in bloom, and there was even some green to support all that color. But it wouldn’t last. There was never enough rain to keep the color alive for more than a few months; by mid-June the desert would return to its dry yellows and browns.

Myers was from back east where proper thunderstorms sustained life for much of the year. He missed the pure elemental emotion of storms, the inescapable humidity, and the fertile green that tinted the very air. Now he sat in a bar in a small California desert town, looking glumly out at the dusty street. A vehement wind coursed along the pavement, threatening to knock doors off their hinges. The baskets of red geraniums that hung from rods outside the bar’s windows swung like executed criminals.

The company hadn’t told him about the wind when they sent him here. It was a living thing in these parts, and the locals had stories about it. It was difficult to conduct business when the wind got going.

That’s why Myers was in the bar at one o’clock in the afternoon. People tended to stay indoors and leave the wind to itself.

The bartender, Javier, came to pour him another shot of tequila, for which he’d discovered a fondness since he moved here.

“Big wind today,” Myers commented, and Javier scowled. “What kind of mischief does this one do?”

Javier looked out the window and lowered his eyes quickly.

“It’s from the northeast,” he said. “This one comes from the Little San Bernardino Mountains. If it catches you, it’ll give you a fever in your brain.”

Myers laughed, earning himself another frown from Javier.

“Brain fever… you mean you’ll go crazy? Come on. Do you really believe that?”

“I don’t have to believe. I know. My uncle, one time his car breaks down and he has to walk to a gas station. Well, the wind comes down and he’s got no choice but to go right into it. Three days later he’s hearing voices telling him how alone he is. He goes to the doctor, but the doc says he’s fine, just tired. But he keeps getting worse, so the doc sends him to a shrink who says he’s had a breakdown. A month later, his wife starts hearing voices, too, and then my cousin Fernando. This wind doesn’t make only you sick, it’s contagious.”

Myers sighed. It amazed him how people could find cause and effect in two completely unrelated events.

“Wow, that’s hard. Sorry for your family’s trouble.” He downed his tequila in one gulp. Javier poured him another. “So what happened? Did they get the right meds? Are they doing better now?”

“Nah, there’s no meds for the wind fever, man.” His face was grim. “There’s only one way to stop it spreading. We had to shoot them.”

The wind howled as it moved down the street, and the sound made Myers shudder. He blinked at Javier and laughed. Javier smiled darkly.

“You bastard,” Myers said. “You almost got me.”

He finished his shot, stood up, and put a twenty on the bar.

“Thanks, Javier. See you tomorrow.”

“Where are you going? Didn’t you hear anything I just told you, man? You can’t go out in that wind. It’ll kill you.”

Myers tried not to roll his eyes. He smiled at Javier.

“My office is just down the street. I have to get some work done. Look, I’ll keep close to the buildings. I’ll be safe from the evil wind. Okay? No worries, Javier. I gotta go.”

He turned and headed for the door.

“Well, you’re a grown man. I did my civic duty and tried to warn you. It’s your funeral.”

“Later, Javier.”

Myers went out into the sunny afternoon. The tequila made him lightheaded, and he stumbled as his body met the full force of the wind. It whistled in his ears and wailed past him down the street. It sounded like someone crying, or screaming. Like a voice.

He tried to laugh it off. If he didn’t get a grip on himself, he’d be telling Javier there really was a demon in the wind. He braced himself and walked toward his office.

There were no clouds in the sky. He could see the remnants of the past winter’s snow on the mountains to the northeast. And the wind hurtling down from those mountains blasted him squarely in the face, stinging his eyes in its dry rush.

Something dark whipped past his face in the wind, a sudden shadow that filled his sight in the bright afternoon. He rubbed his eyes, but the dun-colored murk clung to everything he saw. Panic clenched his belly.

The wind filled his ears, dampening all other sounds. He thought he heard someone call his name, but he was alone in the street; alone with the wind as it tried to fill him.

The loneliness became a hunger gnawing at him. He ached to be with people now, anyone at all, to purge this isolation. No one should be this alone, lost on the dark wind with nowhere to rest.

“Somebody,” he moaned. His voice had the howl of the wind in it. “Somebody talk to me.”

A door banged open behind him, and he turned blindly toward the noise.

“Myers.” It was Javier. Thank heaven. Javier would save him from this gaping loneliness.

“Javier, I need you.”

He dimly saw Javier point something long and dark at him. Was that a rifle?

“Man, I told you this wind would kill you. You Yankee gringos never listen.”

Javier fired. The shot thundered through him. He collapsed onto the sidewalk as Javier slammed the door against the wind. The wind consumed Myers’ last breath and howled, still ravenous, down the empty street.

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Posted in: #FridayFlash, Horror