The Wind Turbines


by Jane Flett

I've been tricking myself that the hill will fix me. Getting up early and clambering up over the dusty stones, trying to find a vantage point from which I can observe every side of the island. It feels good to get a bit of distance, some perspective. I don't really know what I'm doing in Greece, to tell the truth. I sometimes think that maybe I'd have been better off sticking things out at home, but I had to get away, sort things out in my head. Turns out, I'm not as strong a girl as I thought.

I haven't taken a single photo here. By the time I've climbed to the top of the hill, my fingers are sweaty and everything looks bleached out, overexposed. I haven't unzipped the case. I've lost the direction to point, forgotten how sure I used to feel behind the glass. My instinct has slipped. I've been analysing things too long, building them up until the fear of action is insurmountable. There was a time when I felt all the power of the universe with the SLR in my hands, when I could capture a moment of life and freeze it forever. Pick for myself the reality in focus, in frame. But lately, I feel as if I've been hypnotised.

It's the turbines. Those unnerving and comforting turbines: they've drawn me in. I like to sit underneath and breathe in and out with the whoosh whoosh whoosh, feel the murmur of the air synchronise with my heartbeat. The monotony is reassuring; sullen white giants pounding away at the horizon like prisoners cuffed at the ankle. But there is also that lick of danger, the crack in the plaster, the thwack as the white blade guillotines the unwavering blue of the sky. It's addictive. My lips are savoury with sweat and I stare ever-upwards, thinking about precisely nothing.

At first, I thought I was alone in coming here, but for the past couple of days there's been a pick-up truck at the fourth turbine on the crest, the one that’s stopped keeping time. I've been keeping my distance, far from the mood for conversation. I wouldn't understand anyway, can't wrap my head around the liquid vowels burbling over the rocks of river beds. I stick to the lower ones on the west-facing bank; I keep quiet; I think about taking photographs then I fold my hands and walk home. Though I've been watching, and wondering. For a while, I felt like the keeper of this place, but this one has keys to the turbines. He parks beneath that one, the still one, and he unlocks the white belly and steps inside. I'd like to know what he's tinkering with. I'd like to see him take out the defibrillator and bring it back to life.

#

Physically, I can feel my strength building. It's the walks up the hill each day, tightening my calves, it's the oranges I pick from the grove and hook my thumbnails through the pith. That, and the vitamins from the sunbeams which channel into the valley, soaking through my skin to rejuvenate the buried organs after the slog of winter. Mentally, I'm distracted; home seems so far away. But life keeps on pounding, tick-tock-rotate, and the world moves on.

#

I spoke to him. It wasn't planned, he had left already: I watched him. He'd spent the afternoon in the heights of the tower and the blades were starting again, cantankerous and slow, but definitely moving. I was awed. The tricks he must possess to pull the puppet strings on this giant, bring him back from the brink. I was going to take advantage of his absence to take a closer look but he must have forgotten something because I’d barely been there five minutes before his truck pulled up beside me. And I wasn't going to talk to him but he stepped out and walked over to us. My nerves began to rattle, wanting to make mumbles about the weather.

He’d want to know what I was doing there, so I told him. I explained that this turbine is my favourite too, I call him Paul. And that this new unbalanced lollop of his arms is charming. I said, I can't believe he's moving again and looked across the hilltops at the stoic white army. Pleasure panted at the nape of my neck. Thank you. I'm not sure he understood. I thought about his hands, wondered what miracles his dense knuckles could untangle. We looked at each other and he put his toolbox down on the ground, and it was red and heavy, and I wasn't sure what to do.

He looked at me and I turned and started to scuttle down towards the valley, my heartbeat in my ears, in the air. Puffs of dust kicked up on the path. I didn't turn. I ran until I reached the house and then I went inside and closed the door behind me. The stone wall was cold against my cheek. I breathed until I sounded normal then I stopped thinking about it, and went into the kitchen to put the dinner on.

#

I haven't written home. The first morning I bought a stack of glossy postcards, all stucco buildings and azure seascapes, walnut-faced women preening over their olives. I couldn't begin to comprehend how to describe things. I threw them in the bin.

#

This afternoon, I was waiting for him. I put on a white sundress and sat by Paul's base with the reddest vine tomato I could find. I'd showered thoroughly, but by the time I got to the top my feet were grey with the dust that clung to every enclave of sweat on my body. I didn't mind. The angle of the road meant he didn't see me until he reached the door and stooped to unlock it. I stood, handed him the tomato, and said delicious in an intonation I'd practiced repeatedly under my breath. He looked at the tomato and looked at me and suddenly I didn't know how I was going to explain things. I wanted to follow him inside Paul, climb the ladder to the heart, shut myself away in this Rapunzel's tower amongst the crackle and hiss of electricity for the village. I wanted to feel the cold metal against my sticky skin. I didn't need to say a word.

He was quite rough, clutching a fist around my tricep, digging a thumb into the soft flesh beneath, and then it was dark inside, disorientating after the glare of the sun. He grappled at my dress and when I made no attempt to help him with the buttons, he nicked the hem with a Stanley knife and ripped it open. I gasped and I think he liked that, because he took the knife and slit the sides of my underpants so they fell to the ground. And then he swung me away from him and pushed my body to the wall and entered me with a sudden whoosh from behind. He fell into the rhythm instantaneously – pounding with my heartbeat, with the blades – as my nipples grazed. He finished before I did, and before I could cobble my senses together, he was gone.

#

After that, I stayed away for a few days, hatching small tasks around the house, wondering what to make of myself, trying to decide if I felt different at all. I clipped my toenails short and took everything out of the fridge, defrosted the ice compartment, and filled it again with the shelves wiped clean. No change. I thought about going home and leaving this behind, too, I figured there were other islands with baked hills and noisy tavernas with people who might ignore me. I thought about Antarctica and how far was far enough to run. Then I tired of my own melodrama and went back to where Paul was waiting.

He'd been working. The mechanism no longer grunted and the arms crested like lazy dolphins making bets with the sky. I tried the door and it moved, so I pushed inside to find if he was waiting for me. He wasn't. The toolbox was on the floor but the chamber was small and round and quiet. I crouched and stared up the ladder and before I could think about it the wire cutters were in my hand and I was pulling myself up the rungs, curling my toes around the metal. The cable made a satisfying snip; his arms creaked, unbalanced. The cutters felt weighty in my palm. For good measure, I unclipped the barrette from my hair and prodded it into the gap where the cogs intersected. There was a crunch. Hastily down the ladder, and outside, and Paul wasn't moving. I walked back down the hill with a spring in my step. I was sure he'd be back, soon.

#

We stood eye-to-eye in the chamber, locked into a staring contest. He held the wire cutters and cursed in his guttural tongue, but I didn't shirk. The slope of my shoulders was insolent. I felt cocky, assured, even when he took me by the shoulders and cracked me against the wall. Watching him stomp off, a metallic taste on my teeth, I felt I might just be winning. He wasn't the only one with power. Not now.

He was back the next day to rewire the cable. I stood in the doorway with a cigarette, watching him work. We did not talk. When he was done, he climbed down the ladder and shoved me aside with his thrilling, meaty hands. A gob of spit landed by my feet. His contempt glistened in the sun.

#

I am terrified that this cannot last forever. I’ve had my respite and soon Paul will be fixed again, the snib will slide closed, no room for me inside. No more games. He'll tuck his pigtails away and I'll have nothing left to tug on in this playground.

I have an idea for a more permanent solution. He's brought this on himself. I don't know what else I can do.

Here is how it will go: tomorrow he will be back, to finish things off. I will follow him from a distance, I will wait until he climbs up inside. By the time he is at the top of the ladder it will be easy to slip my hand into the top metal shelf of the box and remove the keys. The door will click and there will be no more of this uncertain to-ing and fro-ing. It will be easier; the decision will have been made. He will be waiting, forever, for me.

#

I arrive at the wind turbine. The air is dry in my throat.


BIO: Jane Flett is a seamstress of most fetching stories. Listen to her fiction on BBC Radio 4 or buy her poetry book from dancing girl press or just come visit her. Bring gin and cheeseboards, please.