The Wicked Wind by Sage Vogel
As part of my endeavor to manifest opportunities for field research, I took out short advertisements in some of the larger regional papers like the County News, the Herald, and the Citizen. They all contained the same text:
WITNESSES OF UNEXPLAINED PHENOMENA AND EXTRAORDINARY EXPERIENCES: SHARE YOUR STORY WITH AN EXPERT. CONTACT UNM RESEARCHER MR. ELÚD MARTÍNEZ AT SA257-34 UNM ABQ NMEX 8
Three weeks after my advertisement was placed in the papers, I received my first Western Union telegram. It read:
“WIND TOOK GIRL. SOS. HURRY.”
I read that telegram dozens of times, and read it in my head countless times more as I quickly planned my journey. I was given the approximate address of the sender, the message had come from a farm on the southern outskirts of an isolated farming settlement called Tierra Tablada, only a two-hour drive south of Albuquerque, if there were no interruptions.
There were some interruptions, though nothing unsurmountable. I lost my way a few times and got a flat tire, but I persevered.
When I arrived in the area around two in the afternoon, I wasn’t sure exactly where my destination was. I drove along the dirt roads at a slow speed, looking for any clue that might point me in the right direction. Before long I came across a destroyed fence that had been ripped out of the ground and flung aside so it had curled over into a sprawling, spiked spiral of barbed wire and broken posts. A bit further along I found what was left of the gate: a single snapped pole with a twisted hinge hanging from it. I correctly assumed I had found the right place.
Even from a distance I could see that the homestead had been ravaged by the same forces that had ruined the gate and fence. I headed through the gate and down the road, taking in evidence of destruction all around me as I went: flattened corn stalks, a couple toppled trees, strewn pieces of shattered lumber, a destroyed windmill. As I neared the house I saw an open book on the side of the road and stopped to retrieve it. It was a Bible, some of its pages missing and many more loose in its damaged spine. I took it with me and drove the rest of the way to the house.
There were two men working outside near a half-collapsed barn, piling and sorting miscellaneous debris. Neither was wearing a hat, which struck me as unusual. I mustered a loud greeting as I exited my car and they paused their labor.
“Good day, sirs. I’m from the University, you sent me a telegram. I came as soon as I could.”
They both gave me solemn nods and then approached me to shake hands. They looked to be about the same age. Both of them were rather gaunt and dirty, their clothing soiled and torn in places. One, the shorter man, seemed to be trying to figure out what to say. His companion, a bit taller and skinnier, began for him.
“We can’t quite say ‘Good day’ back at you, because, well, it’s not, you see. I’m Laudes, I work as the only hired hand here. This is Mr. Abel Mondragón, proprietor. His wife, Mrs. Mondragón, is inside trying to right some of the mess there so we can get a meal in us before we collapse. As you can plainly see… We’ve had some trouble here.”
“Trouble? No. Tragedy. Destruction. Terror,” Mr. Abel Mondragón said, spitting the words out and glaring at the ground. He’d yet to meet my eyes. His own eyes seemed dark, something in them seemed ready to break.
“It’s true,” Laudes said with a reverent, mournful bow of his head. He paused and cleared his throat before looking back at me. “It was me that sent the telegram, Mr. Martínez. I’ve read stories in a pulp called Argosy, just a few tall tales. Some seemed a bit like what happened to us, not natural really. Impossible things. And I remembered reading your ad in the Citizen. So, that night after the devil came a couple days past, I suggested to Mr. Mondragón here that we might as well give an expert a try. He didn’t say yes, but he didn’t say no either. So I went ahead and sent it out on my dime. Least I could do since we haven’t been able to find Efi no matter where we look.”
Mr. Abel Mondragón spoke again, “It took her. Right up into the sky. Straight to heaven…”
Laudes nodded again and patted Abel on his hunched back.
“I’m sorry,” I said, “Could you provide me with a detailed account of what happened here? What devil? Who is Efi?” I had to ask, neither man seemed focused and clear-headed enough to inform me on their own. Abel remained distracted and flinched when I said the name ‘Efi’, but Laudes stepped in to respond for him again.
“Efi, Efigenia, she’s Abel’s daughter… There’s plenty to tell, Mr. Martínez, plenty, plenty. Let’s head inside and sit for a spell.” Laudes beckoned me in through the house’s crooked front door. When he noticed the Bible in my hands he asked, “What’s that you’ve got there?”
“It must be from your home, I found it out near the corn,” I said, holding the battered Bible out to Abel.
He didn’t take it, he just muttered something I couldn’t hear and then pulled out a crumpled piece of paper from his pocket. It was a page from the same Bible. He held it up so I could read it, his bruised hand trembling, his voice cracking.
“Thou hast asked a hard thing. Nevertheless… If thou see me when I am taken from thee… It shall be so… It shall not be so… And… And…”
I recognized the passage and finished the next part for him. Abel finally met my eyes as I recited it aloud.
“…And it came to pass, as they went on, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and they parted them both asunder. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.”
Abel nodded, dark clouds still roiling in his eyes.
“I found that page in the wreckage after it had gone,” he growled. “Destroying our home and taking my daughter is bad enough, but then to taunt us with scripture, it’s evil. Pure, plain evil. What kind of devil would do such a thing?”
“I really can’t say, certainly not until I know more about what this devil did, what it looked like. And even then, I can’t guarantee I’ll know anything about it,” I said as I stepped into the house.
The interior was in disarray and smelled of dust and smoke. The roof in the house’s southwestern corner had a large hole in it. Sunlight was shining through the gap, illuminating the wisps of smoke that were leaking out of the bent chimney of a lit stove. A woman was tending a boiling pot on the stovetop. She turned to look at me as we all entered.
“Mrs. Mondragón this is Mr. Martínez, he’s come from the University, come to help us,” Laudes said, motioning to remove his absent hat before remembering it was gone.
“I see,” Mrs. Mondragón said, wiping her hands on her apron. There were red rings around her eyes and streaks of clean skin on her cheeks where tears had washed away dust. “Mr. Martínez, I wish I could welcome you in better circumstances. Please sit. I’m not sure what your area of expertise is, señor, but I’m afraid no matter what it is, it’s not likely you’ll be able to help us. Haven’t you told him what happened yet, Laudes?”
“I’m not sure where to start,” Laudes said as he lowered himself into a chair beside the one I’d taken. He groaned, stretched his arms, and looked up at the damaged roof overhead. “I’m not sure I’d believe the story if I hadn’t seen it happen myself. Let’s see now. Efi saw it first, that must have been two weeks ago. She tried to tell us, to warn us, but none of us believed her. What was it she said it was, Abel?”
Abel hadn’t sat down with us. He stood in the doorway, looking outside. He didn’t turn around when he answered.
“She said she saw a man, or a thing, in the foothills just east of here. That it was watching us. That it didn’t have a body. That it was made of wind.”