Know, my child, that in a far distant sea there was once a hurricane. Its energy and strength was immense, yet was still growing, for this was a young storm only recently attained of full hurricane estate. Compact and powerful, the hurricane drew sustenance from the sea and sun to expand its reach and influence.
The earth, seeing the young hurricane’s strength and speed, spoke to it, saying, “Hurricane, I see that thou hast the power of full estate, though thou art but recently attained of it. There is ought that I would have you do for me. The warring nations on yon shore are an abomination to me, as their constant bloodshed poisons the land on which they stand. It is a most foul society. They have prayed to me for relief, and have told me that they yearn for freedom and peace, for an end to violence. Go, hurricane, and use thy power to stop their warring. Let thy rain cleanse the land and let thy winds level their cities, that a better people may rise up in their place. This task is within thy power. Go, and know that I will be with thee always.”
The hurricane knew of the warring nations, and knew somewhat also of the structures that their generations of conflict had built. He knew of it more closely than did the earth itself, for this bitter land was but a fingernail of the earth’s domain, and the attention of the earth was much divided. Had the hurricane sought first to assay its strength against the task laid before it, the tale would be a happier one in the telling. Alas, what mere hurricane can resist the power of the turning earth and the force of its equatorial winds? The hurricane bent itself to the task and threw itself fully upon the blood-stained continent, trusting in the judgment of the earth and in its own strength.
From the first, the hurricane spent its energy as gently as the art of a hurricane will allow. Its rain stopped armies in their marches. Its winds blew arrows and spears from their courses. Its floods stove in the galleons and slave-ships. Amid the press of the hurricane’s might, warring ceased. The hurricane spoke to the people, saying, “See, I have stopped your conflict and brought the chance of peace to you. Spill no longer the blood of thy neighbors. Let this be a new beginning for you all, and I will cause your fields to flower and your rivers to run clean and fast forevermore.”
But the warring leaders of the land cried out, each of them in turn, “Leave us, thou cursed hurricane! Thou knowest not what thou hast done! We prayed to the earth that we might have victory over our enemies, not simply that the war be at an unfinished end. Our cause is just, and thou hast aided our enemies by thy interference. Can we withdraw our swords when we have them at our enemy’s throats? Thou art made an enemy to us also by thy foolish actions. Nay, go hence from this land, thou strange and alien devil. Return to the sea and let us fight, as we have always fought. We will water our fields with blood, and with nought else.” Saying this, the people renewed their strength and fought on, wading through sucking mud and blinding wind to lay the lash on each other’s backs.
The hurricane was saddened that war and pain was the delight of these twisted and broken people. It looked to the earth for guidance, but the earth had turned its face upon another land and another sea, leaving in its place a heron to council the hurricane. The heron spoke of a distant land, clean and pure, where powerful winds and rain kept the people low and quiet. In that land, warring was unknown; the heron counseled the hurricane to exert itself more fully in its task, that it might also see an end to warring hereupon. Seeing that the heron was the favorite of the earth, and trusting in the heron’s experience and wisdom, the hurricane redoubled its force and expended upon the warring people at a prodigious rate.
Alas for the hurricane! Though the people were forced to lay down their arms, still they spouted venom at each other, and promised vengeance and suffering to each other. Worse still, the shamans and priests, held close to their altars by the hurricane’s force, convinced themselves that prayers to the earth were of no avail. They lit hidden candles and instead whispered dark prayers to the gods of the underworld. They cursed the hurricane to these ancient powers, laying every manner of evil action and wicked intent upon it. The force and repetition of these false entreaties were shameful, and matched the maddened urge of the treacled tongues that uttered them. In the depths of underworld, far removed from the earth, the sea and the sky and with nought to hear but the lies that dripped in their ears, the first gods bethought themselves that the hurricane was bent on chaos and destruction. They stirred, so as to confront the earth.
All unaware of the actions of the old ones, the hurricane was beset by grief that it was failing in its task. With each passing day, its strength waned, and the people's hatred grew. The people despised it for having stopped their fighting, for they loved above all else to suffer and cause suffering. Such were the wormwood lessons of their fathers and their forefathers. This too, the hurricane saw, and though it knew that such madness was alien and hurtful to all living things, the people would not see their dread folly. Rather, they cried to the earth to banish the hurricane from their land, that they might return to their wars in full vigor.
The earth chose not to hear the people, but sent the heron to speak on its behalf. The heron and the hurricane had many councils to decide on how best to convince the people. Supported by the calm winds of the hurricane’s eye, the great white bird had flown in the fullness of its splendor across the land. It proclaimed that the earth found favor with the hurricane. In a great cawing voice, the heron echoed the hurricane’s calls to lay down arms and embrace peace and forgiveness. This, the people would not do. They turned inward, raving to each other that the heron was as much an enemy as the hurricane. In the darkness, their shamans and priests began to speak evil also of the heron in their low mutterings.
Urged by the heron, which it saw often, and by the earth, from which it heard seldom, the hurricane sought the cause of the people’s corruption. Each generation had built cities of power, to dominate and enslave the surrounding people. If I can but remove these, thought the hurricane, the people may yet be able to know freedom. The hurricane moved over the land, past castles and citadels that were ever more densely sited. On and on it pushed, seeking the center of the corruption. Farms and open land were entirely gone, covered over by roads and cities. The buildings grew massive and towering, and so close that they touched, extended ramparts abutting against each other as interlocking death-grips.
Still the hurricane pushed, now climbing upwards among the cemented canyons of the great cancerous city at the heart of that land. Age upon age of brutal venality was layered into these mortared stones, and they climbed to a height that was terrible to behold. With what effort had this been built? How much health and happiness had been sacrificed to construct such a monument to despotism and hatred? Far behind was the realm of field and flower. Far below was the realm of soil and life. Upwards and upwards the hurricane climbed, trying to find the height of it, seeking some crack or crevice to begin the work of clearing away the old to make way for the new.
Finally, though the mountainous pile of crudely cut stones rose higher still, littered on every level with the dried bones of old enmities, the insanity of the quest could no longer be denied. The hurricane saw at last that there was no hope, and no possibility of hope. In that killing vacuum, beyond the reach of water and warmth, the hurricane admitted defeat. All of its energy and substance had been poured out in this last attempt. With a final dying gust, the hurricane ceased to be.
Quickly, far more quickly than it had climbed, the scrap of wind that had once been a hurricane slid down the unconquered slope. The last of its lifeblood fell unregarded, and served only to feed the glaciers that guarded the gates of that man-made mountain. The scrap of wind moved down and away, back across the city’s towers, back across the fields.
The scrap of wind heard the people cry out that the hurricane was no more. It saw their celebrations in the bright clear day turn instantly to renewed violence and murder. The scrap of wind had no strength to intervene. It called to the heron for aid, but the heron had none to give. In the hurricane's absence, the great bird had seen that the cause was lost. He knew that the people were utterly venal and corrupt, beyond redemption. Calmer lands to the west called to the heron, and it sought to govern over people might allow themselves to be governed. It turned its face toward them, away from the scrap of wind moving across the plain.
The earth called out to the scrap of wind as it moved, “Stay, do not go! While thou were in the heights of the city, I was approached by the gods of the underworld. I had occasion to speak of thee with the old ones who are the power beyond all powers. I have told them of the mendacity and calumny of the people of this land, for the old ones were unaware. I have told them of thy efforts to free these people from themselves, and of the price thou hast paid in working it, for of this too were they unaware. They have agreed not to interfere in my work, for the present. The task I set upon thee is not yet complete. Stay, O hurricane, and try again to bring peace to this land.”
The scrap of wind cried, “I am a hurricane no longer, O earth! I am destroyed by this land and by these people. I have given all, and it was not enough. I am ruined, and have accomplished nothing.” The earth shook, and replied in anger, “Is this thy full answer? To refuse me? There is more that thou might yet give, though thou hast given much. Know, O scrap of wind, that I am the earth. I do not ask lightly. I have determined to change these people, and changed they will be.”
So saying, the earth turned its face to the sea and to an older, infinitely wiser hurricane. The scrap of wind heard little as it flew beyond the shore, but it saw the vast and powerful hurricane try to resist the task laid upon it. In thunder and lightning did the hurricane seek to remain at sea, bellowing to the earth that the scrap of wind should have been sacrifice enough for such a hopeless cause. Alas, what mere hurricane, no matter how vast and wise, can resist the power of the turning earth and the force of its equatorial winds? The hurricane was flung upon the shore, and the rains fell again on the blood soaked earth.
O, my child, would that I could say that the people learned and became righteous, but they did not. Season upon season, hurricanes are sacrificed by the earth in the attempt, but the people of that land are as they ever were. I tell you this that you may learn from the hurricane, from the heron, and even from the earth.
"The Hurricane" by Tony Noland is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.