Chapter 1

            Matt grabbed his frisbee and dashed out of his room and down the hallway. Mom and Dad were poring over maps on the dining room table, as usual. Matt thought they were nuts. He couldn’t imagine working all day and then spending hours staring at maps. He wanted to have some fun.
            “I’m going out!” he called and raced out before they could glance up. He paused only long enough to open the door before flying through.
            “What’re you doing?”
            The unexpected question had him instinctively jerking around, throwing off his balance and knocking himself into the post. He grabbed it to catch his balance and dropped the frisbee in the process. It bounced down the steps before settling at the bottoms. Sarah gasped, and Matt grimaced.
            “Mom and Dad said not to play frisbee anymore,” Sarah accused.
            Matt groaned. Little sisters were such pests!
            “They won’t know – they’re too busy looking at maps!” he argued persuasively. When she grabbed a lock of hair and began chewing on it, he knew she was uncertain. He took a step, reached down for the frisbee, and held it out temptingly. “Want to play, too?”
            The hair fell away, forgotten, as her face lit up with excitement. She sat up on the porch swing so suddenly that it nearly bucked her off.
            Victory sang through Matt.
            “Sure,” he grinned, cocky now. “If you can catch me!”
            With that, he leaped off the porch and took off across the yard.
            “Matt! Wait” Sarah’s wail was music to his ears. “That’s not fair!”
            Exhilarated by the run and her reaction, Matt put on a burst of speed and left her in the dust. It would’ve been fun to keep going and lose her in the fields, but he was smart enough to know that would send her running to Mom and Dad. So when he reached the overgrown fields next to theirs, he stopped and waited for her, laughing as she strained to catch up.
            “Slowpoke,” he jeered when she arrived, panting. He snorted when she bent over to rest on her knees.
            “Your legs are longer,” she protested between gasps.
            Matt rolled his eyes.
            “Do you want to play or not?”
            She nodded so hard he thought her head would fall off.
            “You better look then!” he warned and flung the frisbee into the air. It flew in a high arc. Then, abruptly, it changed directions midair, turning to the right.
            “It caught it!” Sarah squealed.
            Matt watched, fascinated as the frisbee zipped away from them in a broad curve before winging back. He knew the exact moment when the wind released the frisbee because it wobbled and began to glide in a normal path.
            “I’ve got it!” he yelled and raced across the field. He kept his eyes on that bright red and leaped up to catch it. When his hands closed around worn plastic, he grinned and laughed, holding it up in victory. “Again!” he cheered.
            He drew back his arm as Sarah ran up, whining.
            “It’s my turn!”
            Just before she got to him, he released it into the sky.
            “If you catch it, you can throw it.” He smirked at her with cocky arrogance.
            The wind had already grabbed the frisbee and was turning it end-over-end. The bright red flipped it in the air and changed directions like the show of a very skilled juggler. Again, it released the toy at an angle that sent it far enough away from them that they’d have to run for it.
            Matt turned to tell Sarah to run, but she was already sprinting away. He frowned.
            “You’re not going to make it!” he yelled.
            She put on a little more speed. Matt judged her distance from the frisbee’s path. She still wasn’t going to make it.
            Even as he thought it, the frisbee’s speed adjusted, shortening its path. Sarah took two giant steps, dove forward, and grabbed the frisbee with both hands. Overextended, she fell flat on her face.
            Matt ran to where she’d fallen. He could hear her yelling but couldn’t understand a word of it. Then, she rolled over and sat up like a jack-in-the-box.
            “I caught it!” she yelled. “I get to throw it!”
            Scowling, Matt tried to snatch the frisbee. He only glared when she barely jerked it out of reach, her mouth falling open in shock and outrage.
            “The wind let you catch it,” he accused pugnaciously.
            “No, it didn’t!” she shrieked.
            “It did, too!” he bellowed. “It slowed it down!”
            He could see on her face that she knew the truth but didn’t want to admit it.
            “I still caught it!” She hugged the frisbee to her with a glower that clearly said she wasn’t going to give it up without a fight.
            “You wouldn’t have-”
            The wind blasted against them with a force that ripped the words out of his mouth and flung them both back on the grass. Even then, it didn’t stop. It blew over their prone forms so hard that their clothing pulled upward painfully. Then, they began to leave the ground.
            Matt could see Sarah screaming, but he couldn’t hear her. All he could hear was the rush of wind – in a tone of anger he’d never heard before. Fighting the pull as they left the ground, he reached for her hand. No matter how hard he fought the pressure, he couldn’t get any closer. He watched helplessly as she began to lift higher and move away. She was crying. For the first time since she was a baby, he could see fear on her face.
            “I’m sorry!” he yelled desperately. “I’m sorry!”
            As abruptly as it had started, the wind calmed. The hard impact of the ground against his back jolted his limbs against the joints, sending them flailing briefly in the air. All the air burst from his lungs, and his head smacked against the hard dirt. For a moment, he lay dazed in the dirt and grass.
            The sound of crying slowly penetrated the fog of pain and shock. He struggled against the unfocused feeling to raise his head.
            “Sarah,” he whispered.
            He could barely see her through the tall grasses and weeds. She was curled up on her side with her back to him. Although he couldn’t see any injuries, he could hear her crying. He tried to get up, to go to her, but his body seemed almost disconnected. It didn’t want to do what he told it to. He heard her whimper. Trembling, he forced himself to his knees. Face taut with determination, he attempted to stand.
            He couldn’t. And the hard landing back on his hands cut his palms on the sharp grass. Sarah stopped crying. Teeth gritted, Matt concentrated with all his might and crawled toward where he’d last heard his little sister.
            Hand. Knee. Hand. Knee. Matt focused on each movement even as he strained to hear Sarah. As he crawled, his body began to steady. Movements became easier. As his body began to act more normal, he dared to raise his head. He could see her huddled form through the grass. Almost there.
            “Sarah.” Her name came out a hoarse croak. He cleared his throat as he crawled forward. “Sarah, are you ok?”
            A sniffle eased some of the tension in him. At least, she was still alive.
            In a rush, he scrambled the rest of the way to get to her. Reaching out a hand, he touched her shoulder. She jerked and curled up tighter with a little whimper.
            “Sarah, are you hurt?”
            She didn’t answer. Starting to panic, Matt reached out to turn her over and jerked back, remembering at the last minute that he shouldn’t move her if she was hurt. With a whimper of his own, he scurried around to the other side. She was curled up on herself, but he couldn’t see blood anywhere.
            “Sarah?” he ran his hand over her arm. He thought that was what he was supposed to do. But what was he supposed to feel? The arm seemed normal. She jerked away a little. Was she ignoring him?
            “Sarah! Are you ok?”
            The yelling finally got through. Sarah raised her head. Her face was red and puffy from crying. Although he could see her mouth move, all he could hear was a pathetic little moan.
            Her eyes closed, and tears leaked from behind her eyelids. Matt couldn’t understand what was wrong. She didn’t seem hurt, but she wasn’t talking to him. Fear started to transform into anger.
            “Come on, Sarah! Are you hurt or not?”
            He was on the verge of getting up and leaving her when her mouth opened again.
            “I don’t want to play anymore.”
            The whisper was barely out when a soft, warm wind blew over them, caressing their faces in a comforting, gentle touch. Sarah started and gasped. Matt felt his own muscles knot as his heart sped up rapidly. Even though the wind didn’t seem mad anymore, he remembered. He realized that Sarah was trembling again, and the longer the wind blew, the worse it was getting. She remembered, too. He needed to make it stop. The question was how. His hands fisted as his mind raced.
            A sliding rustle yanked Matt out of the problem, jerking his head up. A circle of red lay vibrant and glaring in the grass. Matt swallowed. There was no way Sarah was going to get up and play right now. Ten minutes ago, that would’ve been fine. Now… he wasn’t sure how the wind would react.
            Another rustle brought his attention back to Sarah. She was shaking so hard that the grass around her trembled, too. He had to do something.
            “I need to take Sarah home,” his voice broke halfway through, ending in an embarrassing squeak. He was so focused on the wind, he barely noticed. The air had gone absolutely still. A second ago, that was all Matt wanted. But the stillness was worse. He swallowed and tried again.
            “Maybe, we can come back and play when she feels better,” he held his breath. What would the wind do?
            A moment passed, then another. The silence and stillness were oppressive and heavy. Matt unconsciously began to hunch down against the pressure. The growing rustle of the grass from Sarah’s shaking was an ominous whisper in the silence. How long before the wind got tired of waiting? It obviously didn’t like the option he’d given it, and he was running out of time. Staring blankly at the vibrating blades of grass, Matt racked his brain. There had to be another way.
            “I’ll come back.” The words were out before Matt knew he’d thought them. He swallowed hard when he realized what he was committing to. A glance at his sister had him lifting his chin determinedly. “As soon as I get her home, I’ll come back and play.”
            The pressured lightened but not the stillness. Was the wind thinking it over?
            Sarah’s eyes were wide and horrified on his. Her mouth opened, and he glared, willing her to stay quiet. She drew in a breath, but before she could speak the terrifying stillness ended. A gentle wind cooled the stuffy air, brushing over their legs. Sarah curled up even tighter with a squeak even as Matt twisted to look.
            A miniature whirlwind encircled the frisbee, lifting it straight into the air. It hovered there, waiting. Matt got the feeling that it would stay right there in the air until he got back.
            Some of the weight left Matt’s shoulders, making him exhale roughly. The wind had agreed. He could take Sarah home. Ignoring the sick tension in his stomach, he quickly moved closer to Sarah’s side. Driven by the urgent need to get her home before the wind changed its mind, he forced his hands under her body and lifted her up. She gasped and struggled briefly. He ignored her and in one hard jerk, shifted her so that he had her pressed tightly across his chest. Good. He could carry her like that.
            His body was better though it still didn’t want to work exactly right. It took effort to stand, and once he did, he had to focus all his concentration on walking. Don’t trip. Don’t drop her. He only had to make it home.
            His fear of the wind’s fickleness drove him like a mule driver’s whip. His breathing got louder with each moment, but he pushed himself to go faster. He needed to get back and play. Before it decided to teach them another lesson.
            “Matt,” Sarah’s voice was almost soundless. “Matt, you can’t-“
            “-Shh!” he panted fiercely. “Not here!”
            He ignored her gasp and focused on the distance. He was getting close. With a last burst of willpower, he vaulted up the porch steps, tripping and nearly falling on the top one. He stumbled to the side and hit the post with a loud thud. The impact on his back threw him further off-balance, and he caught the swing with Sarah’s feet. It swung erratically back, smacking loudly against the siding.
            Matt tried to keep it from hitting her again, but the sidestep was too much for his tired legs. He collapsed to one knee. As the pain of the impact rushed up his leg, he heard raised voices from inside. Mom and Dad would be coming soon. They would take care of Sarah. Numbly, Matt set her down on the porch.
            Without hesitating, he reached up to grab the railing and yanked himself to his feet. He stumbled down the steps and forced his stubborn body back toward the field.
            Matt broke into a half run. Now that he wasn’t carrying Sarah, his body began to work better. But carrying her had taken a toll on his legs. And although he might have been fine on flat ground, the fields were covered with huge dirt clods, holes, and clumps of grass. The weird angles and sudden movement of the dirt made his legs work harder. A step wrong would send him careening to the side or make him stumble as his foot and ankle twisted in different directions. He caught himself again and again, pushing himself as fast as he could.
            He had to get there before the wind changed its mind.
            As soon as he passed the barn, he could see the frisbee, hovering in midair on its personal whirlwind. Exactly where it’d been when they left. The red plastic that had once seemed so fun now reigned malevolently over the yellowing grass. The closer Matt got, the more tension started to eat away at his insides. What would the wind do now? He used to know what to expect. Not anymore.
            By the time he staggered to a halt next to the frisbee, he was a little winded. His legs trembled. Fatigue or fear, he didn’t know.
            He didn’t have time to figure it out. As soon as he got there, the frisbee shot up into the air, flipping and darting in its usual show. Matt braced himself and watched it like a cat waiting for a mouse to emerge from its hole. Everything depended on this. Despite his quivering leg muscles, he was ready when the frisbee whipped out straight away from him. As soon as it started to go, he took off running.
            Pushing his tiring body, he raced across the field. Even as he ran, he imagined what the wind might do if he missed. Nothing he pictured was good. The tension built inside him like boiling water in a kettle, and his world narrowed to that red circle.
            Closer, closer. There!
            Somehow, he managed to catch it. When his hands closed around the rough plastic, tension warred with relief, and he stopped so abruptly, he swayed on his feet. He needed a moment to recover. But the stillness in the air told him that the wind was waiting. With a sinking feeling, he pulled in the frisbee and sent it flying back out into the air. The wind caught it, and the tension began to rise again.
            What had he gotten himself into?
            With each round, the trembling grew worse. By the eleventh, Matt’s breaths came in tearing gasps. He kept thinking that if he could only catch his breath, he’d be ok, but the wind was impatient. By the twenty-fourth, his legs were so shaky his run looked like a drunk at midnight. He barely made it to the frisbee in time. Like Sarah before him, he face-planted into the hard earth and sharp grasses. The impact blasted what little air he had out of his lungs, and he wheezed for a second, lying on the ground like road kill.
            A restless breeze moved over his back. Slumping to the side, Matt lifted his head.
            “Yeah, I know.” He pushed himself onto his knees. “I’m coming.”
            In a surge of energy, he made it to his feet. The momentum made him sway and stumble. But he held on to the frisbee.
            “That’s enough.”
            It took a minute for the voice to register in Matt’s foggy brain. When it did, he turned so fast he almost knocked himself over.
            She was standing between him and the barn with her purse over her shoulder, looking more like she was going shopping than standing in a fallow field watching her son play frisbee with the wind. As Matt adjusted to the shock of seeing her there, he became aware that the wind had stilled again. Oh, no.
            “Mom, I promised I would play, and-“
“I know, dear,” she interrupted him firmly, giving him a stern glance that made his mouth snap shut with a click. “But it’s dinner time. Play-time is over.”
            That horrible pressure filled the air again, and Matt could hardly swallow against the panic. He opened his mouth to protest, but again, the look his mother gave him stunned him to silence.
            “I know you want to keep playing,” her tone gentled, and Matt started when he realized that she wasn’t talking to him. “That’s why I brought you a present.”
            Woodenly, Matt stared as her hand reached into her purse and pulled out… was that a pinwheel? Would that work? Even as he goggled, the wind began to move, rushing around them in a tone that Matt could only call excited. It swirled around her hand, lifting the gift up and spinning it through the air. Matt collapsed against his knees and stared in bewilderment.
            He didn’t notice his mom striding toward him until her arms were around him in a fierce hug. The frisbee slid out of his numb hands and rattled on the ground as Matt wrapped his arms around her and held on. As she pressed her face to his hair, Matt thought he heard her breathe, “you idiot,” but it was so quiet he wasn’t sure. Before he could wrap his mind around the tension radiating off of her, she shifted so that she was half supporting him and started for home, practically pulling him along.
            She almost had to. Matt’s feet might as well have been encased in concrete. Each step felt that heavy and awkward. He had to focus so hard on lifting and placing his feet that he had no choice but to trust her to guide him.
            “Almost there,” his mom whispered.
            Surprised, Matt raised his head and saw the porch only a little bit away. Although the walk had felt like an eternity, he’d been sure they hadn’t gone very far. Now, the sight of the house lit a fire in him. With renewed energy, he impelled his worn body across the yard, stumbled up the steps, and basically fell through the door. There, he simply slid down to the ground.
            Safe. They were all safe.

Continue to the next chapter…

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