Harry lay in bed, listening. The wind had quietened down from last night. He could hear himself stir now, and the cabin did not feel like it would take off and fly at any minute. Good. He would get up in a minute and have a look at what damage had been done. He sighed and turned over on his side. Just a few more minutes of sleep... The shaking and howling last night had been more unnerving than comforting, and he needed to rest in the silence after the storm. For a moment he could hear the cries of the wind again in his mind, then off he dozed.
The sun was spreading happily into his room when he finally got up, properly rested. He was suddenly glad he was there, ready to battle destruction, proving he was a man who could defend his property. This cabin, this desolate wilderness, was where he belonged. He couldn't believe his foolishness in having ever gone elsewhere for holidays. He couldn't fit anywhere else but here, him alone and the cabin.
He boiled his coffee, fried his toast, and ate breakfast with the satisfaction of a work waiting for him. In the midst of his meal he suddenly stopped chewing. The wind again? Something was making a crying noise outside -- almost like a woman. Harry frowned. He shouldn't be imagining things like that, not here. He was far away from things like that. With decisive bites he finished his bread, then drank the rest of the coffee which had turned a little bitter. It would be better once he got out, he thought. He would be able to look around him, see that there was nothing. Nothing worth jumping for.
Outside was bright and lovely, just like the sun had promised. The trees looked shaken, but dignified. A mere storm wasn't going to bother real mountain trees! The long grey straw outside the house looked more upset, swept tangled and flattened to the ground. He would have cut it this summer, if he'd been here. Now the storm had made it easier to walk. He smiled at this unexpected help from the forces of nature and stepped away to take a look at the cabin, see what needed to be done.
Then he heard it. A wail, like that of a hunting bird, close in his ear and far away at the same time. He immediately covered his ear with his hand and looked about, but the sky was blue and empty, and the trees dark and silent as before. He hit his head angrily, and the thumps effectively covered any other sounds that may be about. He breathed deeply. He was here to find peace, goddammit, not to listen for strange noises.
He resumed his survey of the cabin. It was sturdily built, for all its complaints the previous night, and nothing seemed terribly out of place. But he knew looks could be deceptive. He'd have to go over each board individually, putting an encouraging nail here and there, and then have a look at the roof.
With purposeful steps he walked towards the building and started to look for faults. He did not hear anything. He did not hear any cry as of a woman in pain and anger. His job was to look, not to listen. He took out a nail from his pocket and beat it furiously into the wall. This would teach the cabin to keep still at night! This would make it shut up!
He had to stop when the head of the nail was in and his hammer hit only hard wood. It was in now, the wall was whole again. It was soothing to fix a place like that, and the world was quiet and calm. He really enjoyed the sun shining like that, triumphant after it had scared away the clouds.
Harry went to the shed and got out the old ladder, its paint flaking off. He hadn't used it in a long time, he preferred to stay on the ground. Still he climbed every step up to the roof without anxiety, for he knew he had a job to perform. The roof was wooden too, and as solid as his head. He chuckled. No gale would be able to sweep it off just like that!
He was stomping up and down on a certain board to decide whether to shift it or not when he heard it again. Heard her. This time there was no mistaking it, it was the voice of the woman he had said he loved, and here on the roof there was no hiding place.
"Harreeeeeeeee..." she wailed in her sad, high-pitched voice. "Where are you?" he mumbled, then suddenly looked up fiercely. "Go away! I left you, you hear? I didn't promise you anything!"
"I needed yoooou..."
came the reply, or so he thought he could make it out. The wailing became higher, and his hands went up to cover his ears in a futile attempt to ward off the pain.
"Look, I'm sorry!" he shouted. The wind was blowing in his head now, and he felt himself become dizzier, and suddenly he knew she was dead, and it was all his fault. "Maybe I promised," he whispered, and closed his eyes.
Like a leaf, Harry was taken and carried away, into the air. He was the wind now, he was the one who went howling around the corners of the cabin, himself alone with the cabin. "I shouldn't have gone out... Outside is too much for me," he thought at times when he was able to think. And so he tried to get back in again, but the cabin was too solid, and he was too weak, and someone had bolted the door. He wrestled the smoke that came out from the chimney and fought himself in through it. And there she sat, snug and warm in front of the fireplace, drinking hot steaming chocolate and reading one of his books. She looked up at his entrance.
"He promised me I'd be nice and warm," she said, and put another log on the fire. The flames, nourished by the wood and the air, crackled merrily as the wind wailed outside the cabin.
Original fiction for the Quest