After Mike Blow's Aeolus Cabinet
By Emily Koch
Originally published in Landmarks (Gumbo press, 2015)
Eva thought she was safe inside.
In the exhibition hall, Tommy dragged her from table to table, the heels of his new trainers flashing red as they hit the tiled floor. His little fingers clung too tightly to her left hand, making her gold wedding band bite into her skin.
Eva looked over her shoulder through the sash window at the horse chestnuts outside, leaves trembling in the March breeze. She was safe inside. The windows were closed; the wind was shut out.
Tommy tugged on her hand and Eva looked down.
'Look at this one, Mummy. What is it?'
He pointed at an oak chest with twelve small drawers. It was on a table alongside a laminated sign reading: Aeolus' Cabinet. Interactive artwork. Pull open the drawers and see what you hear.
'How could I possibly see what I hear?' Eva muttered.
Each drawer had a label. Tommy pulled on the handle of the one marked Cierzo, Spain.
A gushing howl tumbled out of the open drawer. A bitter, bullish gale.
Eva froze. She thought she might be sick.
'Close it!' she snapped.
She reached a hand out and slammed it shut. She thought she was safe here, away from the haunting sound of the wind: a constant reminder of Ralph's ashes. Why had she so foolishly released them into mid-air, over the cliffs on the Yealm estuary? If she had scattered her husband in the bluebell woods overlooking the river, he would have melted into the land and stayed there. He wouldn't be ghosting her, like he was now - fluttering on the breeze.
Inside, she should have been protected from the wind. But now this - this - what was it?
She stared at the chest of drawers and leaned in, her heart still racing from the shock of the sound. She re-read the label out loud. 'A cabinet containing winds collected from around the world.'
'Why did you close it?' Tommy whined.
Eva's mouth opened, closed. How did one explain to a four-year-old?
'How do they catch them?' he asked.
'With a net?'
Eva looked at the labels. Košava, Serbia. Puelche, Chile. Which one carried Ralph? Her panic subsided as she read the names. Was he on the Santa Ana winds, over California? With the brown pelicans, flying north from Mexico? Or on the African Harmattan, whistling over deserts and dunes?
Slowly, letting go of Tommy's hand, she opened Mistral, Chinook, Bayamo. One by one. When the sound escaped, she leaned in and pursed her lips, parted them, and dropped a breath into each one in turn, before pushing the drawer closed.
She heard Tommy explain to a stranger behind her. 'It's okay. She's just kissing the wind.'
Emily Koch is an award-winning journalist and author living in Bristol, UK. Her debut novel - If I Die Before I Wake - was shortlisted for the Crime Writers’ Association Ian Fleming Steel Dagger award and longlisted for the Authors' Club Best First Novel Award. Her second novel, Keep Him Close, was described by The Sunday Times as ‘a tense drama’ and Britain’s largest bookstore chain Waterstones said it: ‘cements Koch’s place as one of the most exciting new crime writers of our day.’
Scattered is a piece of flash fiction (defined as a very short story) published in Landmarks, an anthology produced to celebrate the UK’s National Flash Fiction Day in 2015. Koch was inspired to write it after she saw Mike Blow’s Aeolus’ Cabinet at Cheltenham Jazz Festival earlier that year.