People of the Wind
“The air is filled with people,” said Heaven Rains.
“I’m sorry?” answered Mangala Norbu.
“People,” she continued. “Bits of them. It’s what makes your skin sizzle, your hair stand on end. Whizzing through space, filling your lungs, you’re surrounded.”
Mangala gazed out the microglass windows of the Svarga Pos monastary. It was snowing again. She pulled her soft cerulean robes tightly around herself, even though climate control was functioning perfectly, producing a flickering series of fire illusions. “Yes,” she answered. “Everything is all part of the same. Water and earth. Wind. Humanity.”
“No,” replied Heaven. “I mean it more literally. We smash the empty space out of people and kick them through the air. Peking to Paris in under an hour. That’s what we are, mostly.” Heaven inhaled deeply, her nose taking in the aromas of crisp ginger and molecularized people. “Empty space.”
Mangala looked at this strange creature, the woman from nowhere who had fallen out of the sky above Gangkhar Puensum two days ago. She had been wearing burnt auburn flexiskin armor and a W-DOT ident tag. She had also been on fire, but that hadn’t lasted long, killed by a thin film of subcutaneous suppression foam and the cold weather. She fell from twenty meters high, engulfed in dying flame, into a pile of icy flakes. She had unnaturally white hair for such a young man, crispy strands hanging heavily in the snowdrift. “I missed you,” she told the monks she had never met, right before passing out.
Two days had not made her much more lucid, but Mangala was finding that she liked this stranger. She could not say why.
“I can see them,” Heaven continued. “Mists of old men. Clouds of kids. Flip-shwip-boosh!” She fluttered his hands through the air and smiled. Then, turning to Mangala, “Do you want to meet one?”
Mangala considered this. Heaven did not wait for an answer. She reached into the air and his fingers danced, as if playing a dramnyen. A woman appeared, simply there, as if plucked from the ground like a homonid vegetable. She had a dark, cold complexion and smelled of smoke. She blinked hard and staggered slightly to the left, as if adjusting for motion abruptly lost.
Heaven grabbed her in a powerful embrace. “You have had a transcendent religious experience,” she murmured in the newcomer’s ear. “Know that everything looks after you and cares for you. And that I love you.” She pulled back, placing both hands firmly on the woman’s shoulders and kissing her gently on the forehead. “Now go,” she said, “and know that everything will be better tomorrow.” Heaven trailed her fingers through the air and the woman vanished, reduced again to component atoms and left to find her way home.
“Intriguing,” said Mangala.
Heaven chuckled. “Yes,” she said. “Come for a walk with me?” She held out his hand like a small child. Mangala took it without a word, and the two strolled outside into the snow, protected by the thin pocket of thermalized air generated by Mangala’s robe. When they had gone approximately ten meters from Svarga Pos, Heaven turned to her.
“Do you know the secret of the air people?” asked Heaven, tapping the W-DOT ident tag, still embedded in his left wrist. Mangala grew vaguely disoriented. The snow around Heaven appeared to be falling upward as well as down, springing from her shoulders and floating up into the dusk. She shook her head no.
“It’s that not everything comes back,” Heaven said.
And as Mangala watched, her friend evaporated, whirling up with the snow and growing lost.