This story was first published by British Fantasy Society Journal. Copyright is held by the author.
“. . . yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.” – Acts 2:11
A MAN stood at the brink of a cliff 500 feet above the sea. His hair swept back and his gown fluttered. The foot-wide disk that extended from his third finger rippled and released a rumble that carried for 10 miles.
The sound and the wind stopped. The disk retracted into his finger.
The bushes behind him rustled. He faced them and his pointing finger swelled into a larger disk. A short man stumbled out of the bushes. Colourful shoe prints covered his clothing. “Wait, wait, a-chay. A-glaych, this screw in my head. I’m a Huekee, way-mee.”
Wind returned, and the disk grew.
The Huekee’s glasses slanted so that the one cracked lens sat above his left eye. He pointed at the clusters of red hair pulled over his bald scalp, then rang a shoe bell. “The Huekees? Look-ay look-ay we’re the Huekees?”
“Fool. How came you here?”
“Douggie Westeastee sent me. I’m not complaining, but this is a rather cold reception.”
“Whhhhhhy . . .” The wind intensified.
“Mr . . . sir great wizard musician tribe member? I’m . . . a-glaych this screw in my head.”
“I am Tuuli, and I am a member of me. How . . . came . . . you . . . here?”
“Douggie Westeastee. Through a door at Douggie Westeastee’s Crayon Factory? Taupe is my colour. Do you know taupe?”
“I know this island. I know me.” The disk began to ripple. “Why are you here?”
“A-hay, to find a singing squad to join. And to sing taupely, Tuuli. Taupe is my colour, see?” He pointed at a part of his costume not covered by a shoe print.
The wind died, and the disk receded into the finger. “You will come with me.”
“Yay-hay, you will take me to where I can sing taupely?”
Tuuli, extending a deep hum, began walking. The Huekee followed.
Tuuli and the Huekee walked beneath slanting stone slabs, some of which were capped by small pyramids.
The Huekee’s shoes tinkled with each step. “How do you make that sound with your fingers? Is that music? It sounds like thunder and monsters.”
“Nooooo. It does not sound like anything that you have seen, or heard, or felt.”
“A-chay.” The Huekee stepped into a patch of sunlight. He shielded his good lens and pointed up at the pyramids. “What are those up there? Ears?”
Tuuli took a deep breath and then, eyes closed, exhaled. “Listen.” From somewhere within the gathering dusk came a quiet whistle.
“Way-hay-hay. What could that be? It sounds so fiery, and admirey.”
Tuuli yanked the bells off the Huekee’s shoes. “Stop interpreting.”
“My voice sounds like taupe. Not yellow or blue or green, but taupe, a-hay. Every Huekee has a colour, way-mee, and my colour’s taupe.” The Huekee climbed one of the smaller slabs. “Taupe is greyish-brown, or brownish-grey.”
“Mud. But many things are taupe. These are taupe.” The Huekee approached one of the triangles.
“Fool, stay away from that.”
“A-chay. Is it dangerous?”
“Dangerous for the creature that lives in it, if you touch it. My island is the last refuge of the windstoke, and that is a windstoke’s nest.”
“Where are they?”
“They leave their nests and gather once every 50 days. Today is one of those days.”
The Huekee hopped. “And is this creature taupe?”
Tuuli, emitting a protracted hum, resumed walking.
The Huekee came to the edge of the slab, then called down to Tuuli. “Taupe goes with anything, but the other Huekees don’t want to sing with me. Yellow and blue and red and green? They have high high voices. But taupe . . . here, listen, yay-hay.” The Huekee bowed his head, and the clusters of red hair rose and rippled. He leaned back and roared, “Towwwwwww . . .” The ground shook, and birds burst from the canopies lower on the mountain.
Tuuli widened his eyes and waved his arms. He hurled the shoe bells at the Huekee. The Huekee stopped, and his roar echoed.
“Fool. Silence. Others may hear you.”
“Taupe, taupe, a-hay. Doesn’t that sound like taupe?”
Tuuli released a lengthy exhalation toward the sky, and again the whistle reached them.
“Now there’s a rather strange screw in my head, a-glaych, but I thought you said you’re the only one here.”
“And I spoke the truth. There are warriors, and merchants, and fools like you. They all pass through, but only I live here.”
The forest was 20 degrees warmer, and the sporadic whistle had grown louder.
The Huekee wiggled his fingers down at the sea. “Yay-hay. Sounds like a damp log burning.”
“The sound is wind.”
“Now there is a screw in my head, a-glaych, but I hear no wind. And I feel no wind. Where are you taking me?”
Tuuli looked at his fingers.
“I’m not complaining, but you don’t always answer questions sufficiently.” The Huekee charged at Tuuli and shouted, “Stop . . . stop.”
The Huekee crouched. He held his good lens and investigated the earth before Tuuli. “A-chay. I didn’t want you to step on this.” An orange butterfly took flight.
Tuuli took in a deep breath, then exhaled lingeringly. The whistle sounded again. “I will send you to Noget Blice.”
“Way-mee! Are there many singing squads there? And musicians? What kind of music?”
Tuuli shook his head. His fingertips sprouted one-inch-wide disks. His gown and hair flapped. The fingers played notes. Fast notes. They raced up and down scales. The fingers blurred.
“Way-hay-hay. You just moved the screw in my head.”
“All the Noget Blicen sound-winders play like that. They want it to sound like. Like their palaces and like their silks. Like their jewels. While the peasants inland suffer.”
The Huekee grabbed his good lens. “Blay-ways. You are a sound-winder from Noget Blice?”
“Tuuli. I . . . am . . . Tuuli.” He closed his eyes and trembled. “Noget Blice sounds perfect for your crane flactree place.”
“Crayon factory, way-mee. Why won’t you let me do my taupe grugling? You did your thunder monster sound on the cliff.”
“It is not thunder, or monsters. Visitors do not know what it is. There is a feeling it gives. A feeling that will make them want to leave, and never return.”
The Huekee wiggled his foot. “I didn’t want to leave when I heard it.”
The whistle wound through the flame-shaped rock formations that bridged the mountain’s base and the sea.
A breeze flicked the Huekee’s hair clusters. He imitated the fast finger movements.
Tuuli studied the vegetation between two rock formations. “There is no use in playing for anybody.”
“There’s no use in playing for nobody, I say.” The orange sky covered the sea. The Huekee hopped over a pool, then swung around one of the curving rocks. “At the crayon factory, we danced and sang and the children loved it. Well, when I grugled, some children cried. Aych.”
Tuuli’s lips thinned, and his cheeks swelled.
“Now I’m not complaining, but they said I sound like a dinosaur.”
“You speak strange words.”
The whistle sounded as the Huekee spoke. “The other Huekees brought me to the colour mixing area and stepped in their colours and stepped on me. Douggie Westeastee said he liked the way I sang. Then he sent me to that room, a-chay, and I walked toward that door. And here I am.”
Tuuli held up his hand and inhaled deeply. “Smoke.”
“No, smoke. The smell.”
“Blay-ways. How will I get to Noget Blice?”
“You will take my boat.”
“How will I navigate?”
Tuuli wiped sweat. “I am a . . . I am Tuuli, and I make wind. You will know you’ve arrived when you see the colours and the glimmering, and you hear the sound-winders zipping. And all will ignore the cries of the poor.”
The whistle sounded louder. Laughter followed.
Tuuli stepped into the vegetation. The Huekee waddled after him.
The whistle came from behind a cluster of tall bushes. They approached the bushes, and the smoke smell grew stronger. Each whistle brought forth the laughter of men.
They reached the bush. On the other side of it, a dozen men dressed in armour stood near a fire. One hurled a rock into a tree, where a bird struggled to break free from a rope. Then the bird revealed itself as the source of the whistle.
Tuuli whispered, “The windstoke. That sound. I did not know. Those fools.”
“A-glaych. It’s afraid. We must stop them.”
One of the men picked up a rock. “How much?” The others shouted their bets.
Tuuli stepped behind a dense bush. The tip of his pointing finger swelled, and the wind began. The bird shrieked again as Tuuli’s disk grew to one, then two feet wide. Some of the soldiers’ equipment skidded across the ground. Staying behind the bush, Tuuli directed the disk at the soldiers. The sound came forth.
The warriors dropped their stones and clutched their ears. The disk receded. A larger one grew out of his middle finger, then produced a deeper rumble. Each disk, at least three feet wide, swelled, unleashed its sound, then gave way to another disk.
The Huekee, hiding behind another bush, heard the darkness and the power and the beauty in Tuuli’s sound. He whispered, “I am Hu?yàn.” His hair clusters rose, and he removed his crooked glasses. Then, he leaned back and roared.
The sky’s orange filled the gaps between the flapping leaves, and in the combination of his strange companion’s voice and his own sound, Tuuli heard the fury of a thousand dragons.
The warriors collected their weapons, then retreated.