The harp has sat on the bank of the stream since the early days of my father’s teenage years. Perched on the moss edge of the burbling water, a breeze whispers by occasionally, caressing the golden strings with a gust of possessiveness. The small woodland animals seem to be in abundance around the area, ground squirrels diving into holes at the sound of a passing deer. Everyone in our town knows not to mess with the whimsical instrument, as the temperamental wind would surely protect the whimsical object. My papa told us all a story once of how his he and his friends had tried to wrench the harp from its place in the forest, only to find a furious current of air overpowering them. We all laughed as he recounted the way they had been pushed back to the village but they were nervous giggles for only the bravest dare provoke the wind. I was 11 when the first stir rippled through the woods, only a few weeks after father had relayed his story to the village children. A cloud of birds rose from the canopy of trees and screamed as they circled the tops of our thatched homes, claws tearing through the wax-paper windows. The windows took months to replace, as father had to drag his travel worn feet many miles to the next town, a journey that often took days to complete and even more days to haggle the needed supplies from the grips of the sly merchants. He came back with a grimace on his lips and revealed the long gash he had acquired on his calf, stretching all the way from the tops of his ankles to the tip of his knees, curving around the leg into an almost half circle. Me and my five siblings of various ages all ooed and awed at his fearsome wound as he explained that an escaping herd of cows had blocked the road and while he was trying to shoo them away, a raging bull lowered its horns and graced him on the leg. When ma saw it her brow furrowed in concern, and she flapped us all away with the hem of her apron, signaling the beginning of our daily chores. As I was finishing beating the dust soaked rugs, one of my father's friends came racing out of the woods, making a beeline for our small cottage, the closest to the treeline, and heaved breathlessly on our step, his hand raised to knock when mother pulled open the old door. Me and my siblings watched from under a corner of window as they talked in hushed tones, emotions flickering across their faces faster than our small minds could decipher. All of a sudden, our sweet mother let out a low keen of anguish and despair, raking her fingernails up and down her scalp and ripping at her clothes. The man looked equally distraught and we caught two or three sentences as his voice rose in fear. We watched and listened with growing anticipation as he described an empty spot on the bank of a stream. He had been hunting near the harp, when he heard a sharp screech and turned around to find a spot of dead grass where the harp had once sat. My father, having overheard the tale of woe from his place on the sofa jumped up and yanked his work pants over the bandaged cut, grasping the man by the elbow and demanding he take him to the spot. As they rushed towards the door, MY youngest sibling and I, Henry, only 5 years of age, crept around to the side of the building, scampering after the footprints like a pair of windblown leaves. As they neared the edge of the middle of the forest, Henry hesitated having never seen the harp as only the adults were allowed to be near it as a safety caution. No one knows what the harp is capable of, only that it seems to be pleased with us for the time being. As my barefoot toes were starting to complain, we reached the stream and hid behind a large oak, watching with wide eyes as papa paced around the dead spot, inspecting the leafs and twigs around it for signs of a struggle. The only thing he seemed to find out of the ordinary were thin filaments of golden string frayed at the edges, as if ravaged by time and the elements. His face twisted into a scowl and I could imagine his brain functioning at it’s highest speed as he stopped like a wary deer. He slowly swiveled around until he faced the opposite direction, and looked up. Henry and I’s eyes followed his, and I couldn’t hold back a gasp of shock as we beheld a hauntingly familiar woman, with cropped hair the colour of wheat and long gangly limbs that were covered in a fine white fabric that hung loosely over her dangling feet. She met my father’s eyes and whispered “I am sorry my love” before a blinding white flash split the clearing apart and blasted all of us to the ground. Henry was the first to rise, shaking his tiny mop of dark curls and he laughed in delight, beholding the harp that stood there once more. Fathers face was ghastly white and he stumbled to the instrument, running his hands over the beautifully varnished wood and we saw one lone tear glittering down his cheek. He whispered one phrase before his long legs took up and ran, “The wind took her.” We never saw papa again. Luckily most of the children were too young to be too distressed ut me and my older siblings took it pretty hard. Everyone kept telling me he must have gone insane, but what we witnessed that day wasn’t the look of a crazed man, it was one of a heartbroken one.
The Harp, the Wind, and I
June 7, 2017