It sang like a mournful lost lover, the winter wind through the treetops, and Carey reached out to it with all his heart. The lost song of the wind caressed and called to him, reaching longingly out as she called down the chimney in the dead of the night, whistling between the houses like a lost soul, and treading the forest roof like a searching ghost.
It called to Carey achingly, as he paused in his walk through the forest, eyes closed and face raised to the black and bare February branches against the cloud-chased winter sky, and lost himself in her song.
It was an ancient Beech wood, surprisingly close to the city centre, and it was his sanctuary, his refuge. Reforestation was being encouraged all along the line of the ancient woodland track, and Carey walked here all the time at night, enjoying the simple serenity away from modern life. He hated the intrusive, unsympathetic cut of amber streetlights dissecting the night, and longed for older days when a soul could take pleasure in his surroundings: For days long gone, when you could walk uninterrupted and treasure the dark caress of the wind in the trees, and look forever at the eternal unfolding variety of the stars, (and actually see them), without any of their wonder being diminished by cheap artificial light.
Here, you could recapture something of that shadowed pleasure. The wind ran her fingers searchingly through his hair, and spread the long tails of his coat wide like the canvas of a tall ship, as Carey stood alone in the night with a blissful smile. And when Carey happened to open his eyes in the light of a crescent moon, he discovered with some surprise that he was not alone. Way above him, high over the treetops, he thought he saw something move.
Carey liked to look at the night sky through the dark boughs above, and he was used to night birds and odd formations in tree bark and branches, but this was nothing like that at all.
This was a figure.
He could see a woman, way up above him in the night, her long hair blowing in the slipstream behind her, like a silver banner of silk.
Her long legs were crossed at the ankle, and her arms were outstretched and flung wide in a gesture of welcome. Even from so far below Carey could see that her neck was arched back in a gesture of intense pleasure, and in fact her whole body was arched like one in a religious ecstasy, for all the world like a flying medieval Saint.
Most people would run home right there and then, and avoid looking up, thinking they were having the first signs of a breakdown, or the Blue Devils, or even maybe seeing a particularly vivid haunting.
But Carey was not most people.
There were odd stories about these woods, tales of sprites and supernatural beings flitting across the treetops in the dead of night. For a rather long time Carey had prayed he might see something like this, across five long years of nocturnal wandering. He had read everything he could find on the subject, and finally, just as he was ready to give up, his patience was unexpectedly rewarded. Right there above him, in the squinting light of a crescent moon, was a Stormpiper.
A rare and portentous elemental, half tree spirit and half child of the skies, a Stormpiper herds the tempest and shepherds the thunder, and she dances before the wildest gales, choreographing their rage. Helen of Troy was half as lovely as a Stormpiper and Boudicca half as wild and vengeful.
She began to move in the sky, a slow almost balletic dance of captivating sensuality, edgily and unsettlingly in time with the winds, and Carey’s throat ran dry….
Immediately he began looking for a tree to climb.
Those who win the heart of a Stormpiper are transported into quite another life, something unimaginably different form shop-soiled everyday existence, and Carey had all the ancient authorities recommendations on the tip of his tongue. He knew what to do….
Luckily there was a patriarch of an Oak tree nearby, a moss covered giant of 9 centuries, and as fast as a squirrel he wound his way up through its branches. He had to get up there fast, as every account he had ever read suggested oaks were the perfect tree for what he had in mind, as a tree favoured by the fair folk.
With half an eye on the pirouetting spirit Carey struggled through slippery timbers, thinner and tighter as he got near the top. His breath came in loud, harsh gasps in his own ears, as he fought his way between branches nearer the canopy, and limbs bowed and creaked protesting beneath him with murderous intent.
Somehow Carey managed to avoid breaking his neck, despite a few nasty slips, and when he finally pulled himself into a very unsteady standing position he looked across the forest roof towards the spirit, and cleared his throat.
She snapped out of her trance as if slapped, and shot him a look so venomous and forceful it could have taken a knight clean off a galloping horse.
Carey flinched, almost fatally, but he managed to recover his balance. And having done so, he stood as tall as he could, mustered his most charming smile, and asked her to dance.
The ghostly woman paused and stared at him for a heartbeat, and Carey held his breath. They say that if a Stormpiper will dance with you, then the sky is your oyster, and Carey didn’t dare move. This was because they also say what will happen if she says no, and at least, he thought, it would be quick….
She seemed genuinely taken aback…. and then, she extended her graceful hand towards him…..
Unable to believe his luck or his own daring, Carey took her hand. It was as cold as ice, and her touch felt like dozens of hot icicles being forced into his skin, but her fingers were long and graceful, and he ignored it.
Head swimming, Carey quite forgot where he was and gave a deep Elizabethan bow, which completely made him lose his balance, and he fell….. But as he did, he was instantly snatched into the air like a leaf in the fall and found himself whirling with a breathtakingly beautiful woman in his arms.
The wind howled around them like oncoming wrath, but they were curiously untouched, except by a warm breeze as if standing before a furnace. The Stormpiper’s skin had the texture of the bark of Silver Birch Trees kissed by powdered moss, and her eyes were flashing gray ice crystals. Carey danced with her across the forest canopy, laughing at gravity and any killjoy forces of nature, but transported by the one in his arms. He was a soul inflamed, raging and freezing with the uncanny truth and rightness of her unearthly body against him, chilled and reborn at one and the same time.
Treetops spun beneath their feet like the bizarre and distorted weeds at the bottom of a lake, and the sky was brilliantly dark and fresh. Carey saw the stars with real clarity for the first time in years, and he finally felt alive.
And in his transported joy, Carey forgot himself, paused, and kissed her….. The one thing you must never do with a Stormpiper…..
She gave him the oddest look… and then, with a grin as wicked as the devil in a joke shop, she kissed him right back…..
…. And that’s when it ended.
Carey was gripped by a funnelling sensation, as if his soul were being decanted into a different body. There was a sound in his head like ice shattering before the hull of a great ship’s hull, and he felt as if something were tearing him bodily away from the Earth. The vertigo was suffocating, and as he felt his body finally falling again towards the ground, faster and faster, he screamed frantically…. But a cocooning darkness hijacked his senses, and as darkness fell, he no-longer knew anything that we know of here…..
In the morning, the body of a man was found draped across the fork of a tree, quite a way up above the ground. For all the world he could have dropped from the skies, as no-one could understand how he had wound up 40 feet above the earth. His body was charred to a crisp, and not even his dental records could be traced. A thorough search was made of the area, and it was quickly deduced, from what was left of his shoes, that he had actually climbed another tree some distance away…. but how he had wound up in such a mangled state in his current position no-one could explain….. His death and position were inexplicable, and photos of his body and accounts of the story flashed around the internet, where they quickly became a classic mystery.
But not for Carey, who was beyond caring about anything of the kind. Everything may have ended when she kissed him, but something entirely different began. Life, after all, depends on change and evolution, and he had no complaints. True, there was no going back, but why would he want to do such a thing anyway? He had a whole new life to explore. A Stormpiper’s kiss is unforgettable, and whenever she was spotted in future over Holder Lane Woods, she was seen to have a Mate with her.
© By Glenn James 2011