A Sunday afternoon in a cold and windy November was slowly approaching the time of twilight, and the vast tract of unenclosed wild known as the Helmcrow moor was being enveloped in a mist. It was at this precise moment in its nightly roll into darkness that the moor came into its particular glory. The solemn stretch of rounds and hollows seemed to rise and meet the evening gloom, the moor exhaling darkness as rapidly as the heavens precipitated it.
Slowly and gradually the place became full of watchful intentness now; for when other creatures sank brooding to sleep, the moor appeared slowly to awake and listen. Every night its huge form looked as if it was waiting for someone, but it had waited thus for so many centuries with no one to keep it company save for the storm as its lover and the wind its friend. Civilization was its enemy, it seemed. And ever since the beginning of vegetation, the soil had worn the same antique, brown dress and it took pride in wearing it.
Even though Helmcrow or the wasteland, as people used to call it, was the most peaceful place one could find and with its majestic form spreading to as far as the eye could see, people abhorred it. Its bleak and dismal emptiness sucked the marrow out of them, as they used to say, and made them depressed and melancholy. But with no other alternative at hand, they lived and died a dejected life.
At this point in time, you could discern albeit not easily, a crooked and weary form amid the gathering mist moving to and fro upon the moor. Upon close inspection after a while, the contour of a man becomes dimly visible sitting on a stool in front of a small fire. The red hot coals from the perishing fire greeted him like living eyes in the corpse of day and lighted his face. He was white headed as a mountain, bowed in the shoulders, wore a glazed hat and long boots. His whole figure was wrapped in a shawl but still his frame was shaking with the cold gusts of wind that had started blowing. He neither had a whisker nor a mustache and his lips were thin, and now and then there was a twitching as if he was often engrossed in thought. The old man frequently stretched his eyes ahead to gaze in the north east direction and then reverted them to the fire.
Silence reigned supreme, save for the chilly gusts of wind that were howling among the bushes and the chatter of the old man's teeth. He picked up a stick from the ground and was using it to shift the coals in the fire with considerable alacrity when suddenly he stopped. It might reasonably have been supposed that he was listening to the wind, which rose as the night advanced. The wind, it seemed was made for the moment, as part of its tone was quite special. Gusts in innumerable series followed each other and ricocheted against the objects in its way. Treble, tenor and bass notes could be found therein. People unaccustomed to this land would have found this conspicuous murmur of the wind to be ordinary, but in fact, it held a more deeper meaning.
The frail, bony hands holding the stick started quivering as the surge of emotions swelled inside him and made his eyes well up with tears. He perpetually fought the urge to wipe the tears rolling down his cheeks and instead, closed his eyes. Listening to the winds engulfing him, caressing his wrinkled face with the remembrances of the past. These were no ordinary winds, these were the sea of voices, cries and laughter kissing the shore one last time before returning the next night. They were the wind chimes, the church bells and the laughter of the past Summer.
A chirp from a blue bird broke his reverie, and he opened his eyes rubbing them, startled at the scene around him. It was a beautiful morning and he screamed with joy and with a smile across his face started jumping, amazed at how he could do that. A deep frown now settled on his forehead and he raised his hand and saw to his surprise that he was young again! But that didn't stop him in his tracks, because there she was : Rachel. The love of his life, the very name radiating happiness. Those blue eyes and those lips could make anyone swoon.
She was walking towards him in her favorite blue dress but she was walking very slowly, as if afraid of something. As she came closer he saw the look on her face, the look which made him scream in anger, '' Oh Helmcrow, what have you done? Bring Rachel back! NO!" But no sound came out of him nor could he move. She looked worried, nay, terrified. Her face was pale with fear, and on approaching him, she raised her hand and on touching his face she immediately crumbled into dust.
Suddenly, a few drops of water fell on his face and blurred his vision, followed by a loud croak of a frog which brought him to reality. He wiped his eyes and watched it hop and jump into a nearby pond, an indication of rain. A peal of thunder further confirmed it and heralded the coming of a thunderstorm. What he uttered was a lengthened sighing, apparently at something which had led to his presence there. There was an erratic abandonment about it, as if in allowing himself to utter the sound, he was accepting something. One point was evident in this, he was existing in a suppressed state and not one of languor.
The mist had cleared by now and the gathering dark clouds further enveloped the moor in its gloominess. The bells had started ringing to call those who were outside back to their houses. The old man stood up and wrapping his shawl around him more tightly, retraced his steps from memory towards his home, guided by the sounds of bells.
The die is cast.
But even now, if you were to venture to Helmcrow moor at night at that precise spot, you could hear the winds hissing and sighing as if it never ceased to converse.