On the Wind’s Breath extract
On the Wind’s Breath
A modern tale of supernatural horror
As Martin drives away from Little Forest’s town centre and is almost at the bridge he draws Vanessa’s attention to a girl in a school uniform. She is walking ahead of them and towards the bridge, school bag slung over her back. She wears earplugs and walks slowly, staring at the ground.
He says, ‘She’s out of school early.’
‘Typical kid – doing what she pleases – school rules – they’re for losers attitude.’
‘Don’t think my old man would have taken kindly to that caper.’
‘And that’s a short, short dress.’
The girl reaches and steps onto the bridge ahead of the car. The wind blows her skimpy dress up revealing black short-shorts. She giggles, pulls her dress down. It blows up again. She stumbles, looks behind her and throws a startled look as the wind flicks her into the air. At that same moment the side of the car is struck and shaken by a vigorous burst of wind. Seconds later the girl is flung onto the bonnet of the Prius then continues to fly through the air. She hits the concrete capping at the edge of the bridge before disappearing over the side and onto the railway tracks.
Vanessa sees the whole incident without absorbing it or making sense of what she has just witnessed. ‘Oh God what was that? It looked like a large bird flying low. Did it hit the car?’
‘Don’t know but I’m turning back.’
The other side of the bridge on the edge of the town fills up with police, emergency vehicles and no doubt news reporters. A sea of cars blocks the main road that now crawls with traffic police.
Martin parks the car down a side street parallel to the highway and leaves Vanessa in the car, who pleads she wants no more of disasters for a day. He walks to the bridge. Despite the number of emergency personnel it is difficult to distract a policeman. He waits and waits to gain a uniform policeman’s attention. A number of them rush away either not hearing him or conveniently ignoring his gestures. He eventually gains Sergeant Burke’s attention.
‘I hope you’re not wasting my time.’
He tells Sergeant Burke that he and his wife were among the first to witness the tragedy. He describes how the girl struck the car before flying through the air then over the bridge. This account commands further interest. The policeman looks more intently into Martin’s face as if studying it. A man standing metres away from them overhears their conversation, interrupts them to state that he also witnessed what Martin describes.
Sergeant Burke pulls out a notebook from his top right pocket inside his jacket. ‘I’ll need a statement from both of you.’
After taking their statements and contact details the policeman turns to Martin. ‘You say there’s no damage to your car. I’ll need to verify this. Where’s your car?’
The policeman accompanies Martin to his car, peers inside it. He makes eye contact with Vanessa, smiles and waves acknowledgment. ‘Is the lady in the car you wife?’
He nods agreement.
‘I’ll also need her statement.’
‘Please not now – not today. My wife has already been shaken up enough for one day.’
‘It’s standard procedure.’
‘She’s on sedatives. You may find her account of what happened on the bridge somewhat incoherent.’ Martin relays the earlier incident Vanessa witnessed.
‘You’ve had some day. Your wife’s had enough drama one day.’ Burke takes his statement, checks over the Prius and shakes his head. ‘You’re right Mr Spencer.’
‘Call me Martin.’
‘Don’t know how you managed to avoid damage to your car. How long do you plan to stay?’
‘Man of leisure, are you?’ The policeman points at Martin. ‘That’s the lifestyle I’d like.’
‘My wife’s a kindergarten teacher; she’s taken the school term off.’
‘Don’t teachers already get heaps of holidays? And what do you do?’
‘I’m a photographer.’
The policeman glances at his watch. ‘That time already.’ He hands Martin a card with his contact details. ‘Give me a call when your wife is up to giving a statement.’ Burke tells him to look after his wife and tells him he hope his day improves.
At The Attic Martin further sedates Vanessa, fixes himself a Bacardi and Coke then sends her to bed to sleep off the day’s series of shocks.
He checks his messages. George’s reads:
Coincidently I was about to call you. Let you know I’d been called to cover a big story. Will fill you in tomorrow when we meet at the same time and place – if that’s okay.
The other message from Lance Jenkins of Almanac Photographic Studio reads:
Where are you? You said you’d be out of town for two weeks. It’s been over a month since anyone of any importance has seen or heard from you. Where in the world are you? Call me I’ve got something that might interest you. You’re our man – keen to have you on board for this project.
Martin can’t sleep except for the odd hour. He watches Vanessa sleep then half wake, disturbed and restless. He listens to another storm howl until morning. Night drags on, but to his surprise the power stays on. Drinking too much coffee ensures that he remains awake, tormented by a turbulent mind. Thoughts replay in his mind keeping him imprisoned in his own private hell. In the morning Vanessa will no doubt want to leave The Range. Despite the horror that has unfolded, he wants to stay, just when the place has become interesting, and more likely, dangerous.
He mulls over the photographic possibilities The Range offers and anticipates more wild weather. As more visitors leave and The Range empties out he imagines places taking on the mood of ghost towns. He could take a series of shots build them around a theme displaying this place’s austerity. Photos shot in grainy black and white then teamed up with the right filters should yield some impressive material. He hopes that snow will encroach on populated places – Black Mountain and its surrounds. He imagines a stellar compilation of shots and possibilities almost too good to be true.
The call from Jenkins leaves him torn between a guaranteed gig, one likely to sustain his image as a golden boy, and his work in The Range. His envied status as a photographer and part of a privileged group, entourage to a cluster of high profile persons, has been hard-earned and is jealously guarded. He isn’t prepared to risk forfeiting it on a whim.
The solution is simple, at least in theory. In the morning he will contact Jenkins, express interest in the project, ask the agency to email details before making a firm commitment. He has every intention of accepting the deal. No doubt his plans will bring on pressures left behind in the city and the very reason they retreated to The Range. Vanessa won’t be impressed with his plan. He resolves that he will face that situation and other hurdles as they evolve. This new assignment could end his leisurely tours on The Range and serve to dull his reaction to the chaos and devastation, of which he suspects there is more to come.
Morning news reports:
Overnight storms and winds peaking at 170 kilometres have caused further damage to isolated parts of The Range.
Yesterday at 2.30pm, a teenager is blown off Coventry Bridge in Little Forest. She fell onto railway tracks and to her death. Stunned onlookers claim a sudden, fast moving wind picked her up, hurled her over the bridge. There are no suspicious circumstances.
Two late night trains were derailed; one just outside of Penrose, the other kilometres before Watson’s Gully. Fortunately, there were no deaths or injuries. Shaken commuters were ferried by bus to stations further up the line. Bus services continue to operate from Little Forest as emergency crews continue to restore the line.
City bound traffic has been slow since daylight largely resulting from a flood of private vehicles blocking the highway and main roads to it.
Blake’s Crossing is without power. Last night’s storms snapped several power lines to the town. The business district will remain closed until power is restored. Expect delays as emergency teams struggle to restore power to residential areas hit overnight.
High winds snapped the top of a power pole in Lavender Lane, Black Mountain. Storm activity brought down a network of power lines. The squall flung a pole at a roof, breaking several tiles. Fortunately no one has been hurt.
A colder than usual snap of weather has brought larger than usual falls of snow to towns and parks in the range.
Martin’s attention switches off at the latest news item. His mind works furiously, making plans for the day. Top priority is to capture snow before it disappears. He plans, agonising over where to go first. Then of course he must ring Jenkins before the man gives him up as a lost cause. He excuses himself from breakfast in the dining room without giving Vanessa a chance to ask, why the rush?