My brother says the -ber months up until February were bad. The cold would reach its peak, and the wind would blow the strongest. And when the trees would be blown away by the wind, he’d get mad. I never did understand why, until I saw him one day.
I’ll admit he looked weird whenever he summoned them, when he’d sway his arms like the tree branches outside. He only did it twice, though. One for whatever reason, and two- when I purposefully hurt my head so that he could introduce me to them. But he didn’t introduce me to them, only let the three tree spirits cure my head and then leave.
It’s been two years since that happened. I didn’t expect it to hurt that much, but I got what I deserved. And what I wanted to know. I opened the window and traced the windowsill.
Ever since September, my brother has been acting strange. He was probably feeling sorry for the Tree Spirits again and expected me to understand him. And I do understand. But I was frustrated at how he didn’t tell mom and dad about any of this.
“Kiko, your grades are slipping,” I heard my mom tell him one day. “Is something wrong? I can’t promise I’ll be able to help, but it might make you feel better to share whatever you’re going through.”
But all Kuya did was nodded and smiled his smile when he was hiding something. “Don’t worry, ma. I’ll fix my grades. I’m sorry.” Well, he should. He’s fifteen now.
Mom was smart; she wasn’t easily fooled by my brother. But even she couldn’t do anything about what Kuya was hiding. She put a hand on his shoulder and left the kitchen. Then my brother did something weird. He looked around and put a piece of chocolate on the kitchen counter and went on his way. The piece of chocolate was gone now, and I decided in my mind that maybe the spirits took it as an offering.
Apparently, he thinks the tree spirits erased my memory.
He entered the room with a quiet sigh, closing the door without a sound behind him. “Hey, Anne,” was all he said before pondering again. He stood by the window beside me, stared out, then scowled and slammed it shut. I flinched and yelped, the window glass almost slamming into my face. “Kuya!”
He looked at me, probably just remembering I was there. “Uh… sorry.”
“I’m fine. Are you?” I decided if I was ever going to get any words out of my brother, it would be today.
“It’s nothing,” he made the mistake of saying. “It’s just my grades.”
I frowned. I tried to tell him I still remember what happened two years ago, but he wouldn’t listen to whatever I said. In his eyes, I was still the kid who accidentally hurt her head and got her memories wiped out. I was still the mischievous kid from before. And I still was a kid, but I’m a little older now. A little.
“Kuya,” I insisted. “I know I’m only nine, but I can understand things a little bit better now. I know about the tree spirits—”
His eyes were a brown storm when he glared at me. I stopped talking, rubbing my fingers against each other- my nervous habit. My own Kuya scared me, but both of us knew the same thing: I wouldn’t be able to brave what he would say about the spirits. I just wasn’t ready. And I guess I’ve known that for a long time now, I just couldn’t accept it.
He sighed. “Look, Anne. I know you still remember. In fact, I didn’t even try to hide anything from you. But there are some things you can’t know right now.”
Of course, he’d say that. Ever since the incident, he’s been more distant with me. And that’s saying something for two siblings who still share a room. He turned his back on me and started fidgeting with the end of his orange shirt. I looked around, and my eyes fell on the windowsill.
There was a tiny light that came from my side, and Kuya didn’t seem to notice. The light died down, and from it appeared a gray orb that looked like a cloud. The orb landed on the windowsill and transformed into a boy. His black hair was streaked gray, but he looked as if he were younger than my Kuya, but older than me. He was cloaked in a mist, and his body was covered with fine silk.
His gray eyes widened when he saw me staring. His already deathly pale skin turned paler, as if I wasn’t supposed to see him land. He was about to lift off when I, from how intently I watched him, stuck to the glass of the window.
He tried not to laugh; his tiny mouth upturned into a smile even if he was crouched by the corner, still shivering. By now, Kuya was reading a book with his back still turned. I glanced back at the tiny boy and mouthed a don’t move and opened the window. It made a screech sound the boy covered his ears.
My brother turned towards me with his eyebrow raised. “Anne? I’m sorry for acting like this, but you don’t have to escape the house because of me.”
Okay, that was… unexpected. I nodded. “Right. Don’t worry, it’s alright. ‘Just needed some fresh air.”
“Air.” Kuya muttered and turned away.
‘Shouldn’t have said that. I looked back at the tiny boy. He was looking up at me with his tiny gray eyes, on the palm of my hand. I almost jumped; I hadn’t realized how close he was. Right now, though, he was looking at Kuya, his face scrunched like he was trying to figure out who my brother was.
I gave him a reassuring glance. I called out a “Just going to the bathroom,” and went to the kitchen. I saw the boy hugging my pointer finger. He looked terrified of heights but spoke anyway. I wondered how he could soar above houses but fear the height between my finger and the kitchen floor. His voice was hardly a whisper, and it was rustic- like he had just healed from a sore throat. But it also sounded like a five-year-old’s voice. “Hi,” he said. He didn’t look five-years-old.
I nodded in reply. “My name’s Anne. What about you?”
“Wind Spirits don’t have names.”
The mention of wind spirits sent a chill down my spine. What had I just done? And more importantly, what was his purpose here? Was he coming to hurt my brother? I wouldn’t allow that to happen.
“You’re a… Wind Spirit, huh. So… why are you here?” I inquired. “And what should I call you if you don’t have a name?” The way I said it made him question me with his look. But something about our size difference must’ve made him feel forced to explain.
“I was blown away and just happened to land in your brick nest. Everyone at home calls me Five-thousand Seventy-Two.”
“My brick nest is called a house- Did you say you’re called Five-thousand Seventy-something? That’s a number!”
He covered his ears, which were like human ears except they swirled up at the end they’d look like antlers if they didn’t appear crystalized. “Loud…” he squeaked out.
“Sorry,” I muttered. “Hmm… so why are you speaking English? Don’t you have your own language?”
“The human language is based on ours,” he said matter-of-factly, like he wasn’t afraid a moment ago.
“Where do you live?” I asked.
“Every Wind Spirit clan settles in a beach, where the Tree Spirits are calmer and won’t attack us. But then again, they don’t really know that we’re located right beside them.”
“Attack you? Are you part of a war?” I didn’t realize I was worried.
Five thousand something shook his head and looked almost ashamed. “I wasn’t, but my great-great grandfather was. He decided our family shouldn’t get involved in things we can’t fix. Deep down, though, we know our history goes against all we do now.”
There’s a war. The Wind Spirits began the attack. Why am I just now about hearing this? I realized I never asked my brother anything about the spirits even though I wanted to know about them. Then again, he just closed the discussion whenever I started one.
“My brother!” I yelped. Five thousand Seventy-two, I hope I can remember now, jumped, and almost fell off the table. I caught him, and he shivered in my palms.
“I’m sorry,” I said to him, in the gentlest way I could. I could only hope he didn’t smell my breath with my face being so near him. “Can I bring you to my brother, uh, Kuya? I’ll explain everything to him. Besides, you won’t hurt us, right?”
“You’re hurting me,” he replied in a huff, but still nodded anyways. “No. I won’t. Not in my condition.”
I wondered about what he said as I climbed up the stairs. I prayed my brother would understand, that he wouldn’t send this Wind Spirit away.
I opened the door with my right hand. I entered in tiptoes. My palms were so sweaty, Five-thousand Seventy-two could’ve swam in them. I think. My brother looked at me expectantly. “You weren’t in the bathroom, were you? I just went there.”
“I… I was in the uh, you know how it is. You think you need to go but you can’t so you go somewhere else. And- Oh, did I tell you there are three more apples in the ref? We can slice one and—” I stopped blabbering about. I must tell him; I wouldn’t dream of keeping secrets. I took a deep breath and showed Five thousand Seventy-two to him, careful not to trip him when I let him climb on Kuya’s bedside table.
I held my breath and hoped for the best.