We could hardly believe our eyes when we stumbled upon the Island of Windmills. Growing up in the country, the Island of Windmills was a place of great myth and wonder for our childish intuitions. It was a common tale among us school children, and a common ghost story for our parents to use to scare us to sleep. But amongst all of those fanciful depictions of an open area somewhere in this country side filled to the brim with tall standing windmills blowing in the wind, was somehow a sense that it may actually be true. It wasn’t that the Island of Windmills was anything scary. Windmills aren’t scary. And I’ve read and heard all about how useful they can be. We even grew up with some windmills in our town, powering up what little electrical appliances we had. But, in the city, in the heart of the country, I’ve heard that windmills aren’t so popular. I wondered why, and I wondered if an Island of Windmills felt more like a horror story to them than to us.
It was a weekend of ennui with my childhood friend Claris. We were sitting by the porch, listening to the wind chimes sway in the slow winds of summer. The sun above seemed to want to melt the road, and the slightest exposure to our skin felt like the top of a stove. None of us made a single sound as we sat drenched in sweat, just listening to the songs of birds and the laughter of children running by the road. I wondered how they could ignore the heat, or if the neighbor children somehow had an immunity to the sun. Perhaps it was some kind of hormone in their body that made them impervious to the sun’s misanthropic rays. Claris and I weren’t all that much older than them. We were well on our way to high school, and then from there, either stuck in the country, or become like everyone else, a city girl. But if either of us went to the city, if either of us decided to leave the place where we’ve grown, our place of origin, I didn’t think we’d ever forget about that day we found the Island of Windmills. I convinced myself of that.
It was a small draft of wind, among the slow winds of summer that had jolted me awake. It was a strange wind, a wind that I hadn’t felt before. And I wondered if it was just in my state of reverie that the world felt larger and more stimulating, but something in me wanted to follow that draft of wind. It wasn’t so much that it felt any different than the winds playing the chimes, but it was a wind that lingered on my skin, and stilted itself onto the nape of my neck. I looked over to Claris who was half asleep in the shade. I was sure that doing anything other than sitting around at my front porch would have been better for her. And even though I wasn’t sure if she would buy ye excuse of following some strange wind, I jokingly thought of bringing in that old legend to coax her.
“Claris? Wake up, Claris!” I began shaking her arm. Her exposed skin felt somehow cool.
“What is it Alice?” She begrudgingly groaned. Her eyes were half open when she finally got up from her seat. I had to stop myself from laughing.
“What if I told you that I have a lead on the Island of Windmills?” I tried to sound as convincing and haughty as possible. Claris was still rubbing her eyes and thinking.
“You what now?” She responded.
“The Island of Windmills…You know, the one people keep talking about.” I tried really hard to put energy into my performance. Though, it would be unfair to call it a performance. There was still some method to my madness. Or so I told myself.
“You mean that old ghost story? People all around here just love that stuff huh?” She was awake now, her hair gliding in the small winds of summer. She was lucky, I thought, that her hair covered at least up to the nape of her neck. I wore mine in twin tails. It felt easier to manager than letting it down my back. But having weird winds grasp around my neck was still unpleasant.
“Well, it may not actually be a ghost story. I think I can find it.”
“Yeah? Since when did you become Miss Ghost Hunter?”
“I’m just curious.”
“You know what they say about the cat.”
“No one says that anymore.” We laughed. Claris looked out into the clouds, into the sky filled with the slow moving rein of the world. Her eyes were wistful, the first time I’d honestly seen her so sincere and profound. But, it wasn’t any surprise to me. Claris had always been the quieter one. Or at least…Was I the quieter one?
“I don’t know what you’re up to Alice, but I never do–” She smiled, a bright smile that would have drove any boy our age up in arms, “But show me what you got.” I remember now. I was probably the quieter one. She was popular.
“Outside of the town huh?” I was following the wind, somehow. My body was moving on its own, not dragging its feet towards some vague wind, but actually knowing where it wanted to go. I could still feel the strange wind on the nape of my neck, and each time I focused, it would blow again. My body was in a trance, I was out of it, but my mind was still there. We eventually began walking towards the farm area outside of town. I knew most of the country side by now. But there were still some places I’d never visited. Some places where Claris and I had never visited. Some places where Claris had never visited. And some places where I only wanted us to visit.
“What do you plan to do after high school Alice?” She asked as we were walking. I was ahead of her, but she still somehow felt larger, and her voice boomed in front of me. I could feel her skip along the dirt road, and she was humming something in the wind. The sun was dragging its rays across our bodies, but we felt nothing of it. Despite the scorching sun we observed in the shadow, as we made our way to the Island of Windmills, not a single thing bothered us.
“I haven’t decided. What about you?” No matter what, we would always be friends. Claris and I. We grew up together after all, we’re the best of friends. At least, that’s how it worked in books.
“I might leave, actually.” Her voice was low, much lower than she would normally speak. Much lower than when we were at school. Much lower than when we were playing. I could feel Claris being completely genuine, completely stoic. But the truth was, I knew she was leaving. I knew all along that she was the last one to like the country. I’ve been friends with her ever since we were little. I at least knew that much.
“Will you be lonely?” Claris asked me. The wind on my neck suddenly felt much stronger. Like it was dragging me into the Island of Windmills. Somehow, I felt as if my lie was becoming true. That I really was heading to the Island of Windmills.
“Thing’s definitely will be quieter. But I don’t know if I’ll be lonely. It’ll be a shame if you aren’t here. I’d miss you.” I didn’t want to admit to her that I would be lonely. That spending so much time with her has made my life so reliant on her. That everyone always associated me with her, and her with me. She was the popular one. I was the meek one. We were like two ends of a magnet. But we were always the best of friends. The wind was raging.
“I’ll miss you too Alice. But you shouldn’t lie like that. I hate it when you’re like that. You’re always like that.” And at the end of the day, I could never beat her. She was always so ahead of me. In every way, I admired Claris. But she never made me feel left out. She didn’t treat me like some ordinary country nobody. Fact was, she was from the country too. But more than that, she didn’t care about all of that. The city was going to get just a little louder.
“I’ll be lonely.”
Just a little louder.
The wind eventually stopped. The world began to spin slowly, and the clouds began parting. In front of us was an empty plain of grass leading all the way to the ocean, and a valley of tall standing windmills that looked like they were about to pierce the sky.
We stood without words, in fact, the windmills probably blew away any words that came out of our mouths. We had found it. The Island of Windmills. The horror of the city.
“So it really is true. The Island of Windmills,” Claris said in disbelief.
“It’s… Pretty.” She smiled.
“They don’t have these out in the city. That much I know.” She turned to look at me, her hand in her hair, and I could tell in her eyes that she was just a little bit sad. I wouldn’t blame her. I wouldn’t have wanted her to be sad.
“You should tell me all about the city when you go. I’m sure it’s nothing like the country.” She smiled, a smile that would make all the boys be up in arms, a smile that told me she was sorry.
“Make sure you visit,” I said.
“Things really will be different without you. I’ll probably just stay here and work for my parents or something. It’s the country after all.” I didn’t feel the wind.
“You’ve always read about the city after all. It’s no surprise really.” The wind was gone.
“The city without windmills. I bet the air there is different. The sky will still be the same. Hopefully the people are too. It’s a small world, right?” But my eyes were welling up.
“Summer has never felt cooler then here.” The Island of Windmills was incredibly cool. The summer heat had never felt so insignificant before.
“No wonder it’s the Island of Windmills. Maybe we can start spreading a new rumor around. That’ll have all the children in a fit,” she said with a playful smile. Somewhere beyond the Island of Windmills was the ocean’s waves crashing onto the valley. We never went anywhere near the windmills, nor did we decide to leave anything to prove that we had stumbled upon this rumor. Instead, we promised to never forget that we had been there. That we’d always remember the sight we saw that day. I hoped that the city wouldn’t at least swallow that up.