Climate change voices: short story


The Whirlybird by Luna Prince

I poked my head out from under the house, resting my hands on the old metal gate. A loud silence had come over the usually busy street corner. The palm trees across the road were swaying to a song only they could hear. What had been glowing under a fiery sunset just moments before, was now covered in grey. Night had come and the wind was picking up. Kirrily was close.

All day my thoughts had been racing, imagining what may or may not be. I filled the hours preparing or restlessly waiting but mostly keeping busy to distract myself from the looming threat. This was my first summer on the northern coast and I was determined to make it my home. Summer days had spoiled me with lush green trees, dips in crystal clear waters, and an abundance of flowers and fresh fruit. But they also promised extreme weather.

“Don’t worry,” my father-in-law had said earlier, after listing all major cyclones the city had faced in the past. “These houses are built for much worse. You’ll be fine”.
I wanted to believe him, I did. Yet, I couldn’t help but notice the undeniable tension across town that morning. Like a viral infection, the calm before the storm was contagious, hard to shake, simply uncomfortable. And right about now, the fever was ready to kick in.

I walked over to a spot right in the middle under the house, about ten feet from each post. Our little pup was curled up on his bed. Strong wind gusts were now creeping up the hill, speeding up on their way down and crashing into our fence panels. Light rain had set in and birds were getting lost in a troubled sky.

As I was sitting in my chair with the surrounding noise swelling up to a roaring and raging, I seriously started to question my decision to move here. All tropical treasures aside, why would anybody willingly expose themselves to such forces, possibly risking their home, even their life?

A piercing sound suddenly broke my thought. It was a repetitive screeching, seemingly hovering above the street. My eyes immediately went to the power lines swinging from left to right. A while ago, the small neon light above my head had started to flicker, warning me about imminent darkness. The metallic squeaking however came from somewhere else.

It was the neighbour’s whirlybird dancing like crazy. Bound by the screws on his feet, he had no choice than to succumb to the elements around him. He had a little brother too. Quieter but whirling to the same rhythm.

“Funny word”, I thought to myself. “Whirlybird. A wingless bird that will never fly but will endlessly try.” And I wondered, was it only for the whipping winds today or had I just never noticed it squealing under the deafening cloud of everyday sounds?

A green flash of light broke the sky, then another one to the east. Witnessing the distant death of the transformers was both chilling and captivating. Kirrily was now on full blast. Trees were bending past their suspected breaking point. Leaves, small branches, and rubbish were flying down the road. Horizontal rain was coming in through the panels.

With a loud, otherworldly noise from behind the hill, that can only be further described as high voltage being involved, we were suddenly without light. I reached for the torch and grabbed onto my dog. It is strange, how everything seems scarier in the dark, amplifying the already hectic atmosphere. The whirlybird was screaming relentlessly and fists of air were smashing into the left side of the house. Small streams of water were surrounding my feet. I suddenly felt the urge to drop down to the floor and wrap myself around my furry friend. I did not. But in my mind, I wished myself a thousand miles away.

I kept stroking my dog until winds noticeably started to ease. Gusts became less frequent, only hitting isolated targets. The rain and the constant whooshing had been replaced by the humming of generators. I faintly remembered reading about the eye of the storm, how weather would die down for some time, only to return for more later.

The screen of my phone lit up my face. No reported casualties but widespread power outages and plenty of damage to fences and trees. My shoulders dropped with relief. So far, the cyclone had been less severe than expected. Scrolling on, my feeling of gratitude quickly turned into disbelief. Many people expressed their disappointment about the ‘non-event’, calling it ‘weak’ and ‘ordinary’.

Still frowning over the origin of people’s frustration with nature, I walked over to the front gate to assess the aftermath. A massive seventy-foot gumtree on the corner had been ripped from the ground, its roots hanging in the air. His life-long connection to earth torn. I turned my head towards my neighbour’s house. The whirlybird, though still attached, was silent.

And then it came to me. We as humans are so entangled in our ways, maintaining our lifestyles and worrying about our belongings, that every once in a while, we long for something big to rattle it all up. It is risky of course, reconnecting to something greater than ourselves. Embracing nature, community, or friendship through the experience of a terrible disaster can be grounding. But it is often not without losses. A paradoxical desire.

I looked back over my shoulder to my fearless pup. He had been sleeping the whole time. Passing by, I gently squeezed his head and whispered: “You’ll be fine”.

Carried by a satisfying calmness I went upstairs. Ready for the storm to roll over me once more, I stretched out on the bed with the windows wide open. I too needed to feel alive. Feel the wind, like the whirlybird. As I enjoyed the growing breeze caressing my skin, I knew that right here, right now, was where I wanted to be: In the heart of a northern summer.

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  • Luna Prince