The Weather Winder
Flash fiction - This story first appeared on Dion Winton-Polak's site - The Fine-Toothed Comb. It was written in response to a visual prompt.
Tendrils of mist curled out from beneath the bubble where she had snagged the day. The locals recognised an umbrella, only she knew it's power. She twirled the handle. Bubbling balls raced across it's surface and rivulets sprayed from the tips; she swirled pink clouds beneath the dome.
Her mother had been a Weather Winder. She'd met her father; an umbrella mender, on a similar day; pink and stormy. He had worked diligently to repair the unusual item; puzzling over it's unique design, the patterns that swirled along the underside of the canopy – rays of rain and rivers of sunlight. She told him that she captured the seasons, and he had fallen in love with her instantly; for he believed her poetic, not literal. But it wasn't to last. And when she showed him the fierce thunderstorm she had captured, he had become fearful and left – on the day she knew she was pregnant. So her mother lived in isolation in a cottage on the crags, capturing the sunshine and rain, then teaching her daughter her tribal ways.
Now, when the farmers needed rain for their crops, they called the Umbrella Girl; though they feared and ostracised her, she made the wheat grow and the cattle and sheep to drink so they tolerated her. She lived in the same wind-blown cottage – when mother had died, her daughter had sent her spirit spinning into the umbrella clouds, and scattered her mortal remains across the rocks and pikes. From the top of her world, she could survey the whole patchwork of land.
She could see it coming – a storm with a tornado at it's head like nothing seen before. Far away, tiny dots of houses were snatched and swallowed up. Below in her valley; even from here, she could hear the shouts of the men-folk and the screams of women and children. She climbed to the highest peak, her umbrella knocking heavily against her leg. There she opened the domed canopy and began to chant and twirl, twirl and chant.
Wind whipped and slapped at her clothing and skin. Bit her cheeks and stung her eyes. Tried to claw the words free before she could enunciate them, yet she continued. Rain, grey and wicked stabbed the crags, threatening to pierce the umbrella, sending stones and small rocks tumbling. As the tornado approached, she sang louder and twirled the handle faster. Finally she snagged a stray, blue-grey thread, which she wound like wet yarn. A single line of white lightening struck the finial, ran down the shaft and earthed itself, hot-cold in her hands. The tornado screamed and shrieked as it was dragged beneath the canopy, yanked away from it's destructive purpose, it battled now to simply be.
When the sun returned and birds sang, a curious group scrambled up the crags to see if the Umbrella Girl had indeed captured the storm, but search as they did until night-fall, they could find no sight nor sign she had ever existed.