The Wind of Lonely Places
The old man chanted softly, almost inaudibly, as he held the crystal cup beneath the steady stream of silver droplets. The level of shining liquid in the cup was yet an inch or so beneath the rim. When he felt the imminence of a shift in the wind he heaved a sigh, clamped the rubber tube closed, and poured the accumulated liquid through a silver funnel into a green-tinted glass bottle. He then commenced dismantling his wind-still, which consisted mainly of a glistening sheet of flimsy, near transparent film stretched across a framework of withes, lashed upright within the worn doorway of an ancient, adobe-brick structure. The old man glanced aside at a dog sunning itself on a rocky shelf nearby, its head laid between its massive forepaws. "AD 1425," he told the dog. "Quite a decent year." The dog whuffed disinterestedly. The change occurred as the old man finished packing, and something in the quality of this new breeze caused him to fling up a bushy white eyebrow in puzzlement. The dog lifted its head and sniffed, produced a low, deep rumbling sound from its throat. Shrugging his arms into the straps of his rucksack, the old man climbed the low hill behind the ruin. The dog accompanied him, its back level with the old man's hip. Across the broken desert landscape the Sangre de Cristo mountains reared up in a wash of snow and cloud, the city of Santa Fe a red-brown efflorescence clinging to their skirts. He paused, taut with concentration, testing the quality of the wind that the mountains flung down. The dog vented another rumbling growl. Gradually the old man relaxed, shook his head, and clicked his tongue. "My, my, my," he said in mocking self-pity. "Is there no rest then for the hard-working weary?"