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Winds of War


Winds of War

Moments that change your life are never singular. They are the flapping of wings that pick you up, an inch at a time before you take flight into a new stage of your life.

I sat cross-legged on the beach as if in meditation while the spray of the salted surf tingled my lips. The mighty Pacific Ocean breathed in, then sighed a whisper of its harmonious tale, a song of calm and struggle. I didn't hear it, but I felt it knowing that I face a choice, a crossroads:

Do I start a new life in Chile, or do I go back to the UK and continue where I left off? ....


Chapter One - Fog of War

5 minute read

The wind whistled, reminding Cassie of the planes that flew overhead the previous night. The thin trees stood murky, like washed-out graffiti spray-painted on ancient rock.

              ‘Strange to have so much fog up in the Andes this time of year,’ she whispered to herself. The morning failed to bring her comfort as she stepped back out of her orange jeep into the mist-veiled forest of Cajon de Maipo.

              ‘Cut it out, Cas,’ Toribio said, tossing his backpack into the boot. ‘It’s only a bit of mist.’ Her boyfriend’s reassurance made her stomach tighten. She recalled how the mountains rumbled when the fighter jets shrieked across the star-filled sky. They were like a swarm of locusts.

              ‘What’s the time?’ Cassie asked.

              ‘A little after eight.’ Toribio pulled his hair up into a bun and walked towards her.

              Cassie wiped some ash off his shoulder that was left over from the night’s campfire. She studied the stoic look that made him appear placid and unconcerned.

              ‘We gotta get going,’ she said.

              Their bags were thrown one on top of another in the boot. The rest of the group had finished dismantling the camping site and packed everything away. A burst of sudden laughter echoed from the other cars parked on the coffee-grained path.

              ‘Tell them to stop playin’ around, and let’s get out of here,’ Cassie said. Toribio disappeared into the fog, and she heard his voice snap at the others to hurry up.

              ‘Okay,’ he said as he returned. ‘So, I’m gonna follow Alvaro. He’ll follow the guys, and we’ll stick together until we reach the main road.’ He put a hand on Cassie’s shoulder and asked, ‘Are you going to be alright?’

              ‘Don’t do that Tori, please!’ Cassie shrugged his hand off her and closed the boot.

              ‘Do what?’

              There was no answer. She counted three held-up fingers. ‘I’ve got Javiera. All the stuff’s packed… Just missing Pascal.’ Cassie tiptoed to look over Toribio’s shoulder. ‘Pascal?’ she shouted.

              ‘Why do you do that?’ Toribio’s face wrinkled.

              ‘Not now, Tori. Let’s talk when we get back.’ She walked towards the other cars. ‘Pascal?’

              The dead campfire let off a stream of smoke that fed the mist-filled air.

              Everybody had returned to their cars, and the previous night's party was only a memory.

              ‘I’ve got to go back with her,’ Cassie heard Pascal tell her friends as she got out of a silver SUV. She caught Cassie’s eye and dropped her smile. ‘You know what she’s like.’

              The silence between them lingered before the car engines roared, and they returned to the jeep.

              The leaves shuddered as if saying good riddance to the city folk trampling on their desolate habitat.

              Pascal slipped into the passenger seat. Cassie was strapping her seatbelt on when Toribio leaned in through the window.

              ‘Can you at least give me a call as soon as you’re home safe?’ he said.

              Cassie stared at the mirage of lights from the other cars, one by one fading into the fog. She checked Pascal and Javiera were ready to go.

              ‘I love you,’ Toribio said. ‘Drive safe.’

              ‘Yeah, me too,’ Cassie replied.

              ‘See you later?’ Toribio kissed her on the cheek as she pulled away from him.

              He nodded, and she pressed the start-up button. The windows closed, and the car doors clicked as they locked. Get me home; Cassie prayed, tapping the steering wheel.

              ‘Javi, do you have signal?’ Pascal grunted as she slapped her phone. Javiera shook her head.

              The suspension on the jeep swayed from side to side as they drove down the narrow road. The fog grew thicker. The car in front got further away until there were only two red shimmering dots.

              ‘When you do get signal, could you give Mum and Dad a call and tell ’em we’re on our way back?’ Cassie asked.

‘First, let me upload some photos on Insta!’ Pascal said as she sank back into her seat.

              The ground tremored up and down as they got back on the smoother main road.

              Cassie arched forward to see over the dashboard and winced to grasp the slightest movement from beyond the fog.

              ‘Put some music on,’ Javiera said. ‘It’s quieter than a cemetery back here.’

              ‘It’s not connecting to any station,’ Pascal said, pressing the radio button. ‘That’s weird.’ She switched from FM to AM, and all that came through was white noise.

              ‘Never mind. Do you have any music on your phone?’ Javiera asked.


The concrete streets and shadowed buildings remained hidden under the morning fog. Cassie yawned and checked her mobile. There had been no signal for the entire two-and-a-half-hour drive back down the mountain.

An electric gauge blinked to life on the dashboard. ‘Low Energy’.

              Cassie drove another twenty minutes before she pulled up to a gas station. Its green and amber lit logo beckoned her like a siren’s calling.

              ‘Are we home yet?’ Pascal stretched her arms. ‘Why’re you stopping?’

              ‘Not quite. We need to charge,’ Cassie said, taking off her seatbelt. She turned off the engine, and an eerie echo resonated around the gas station as if it were haunted. ‘Where’s the service guy?’

              Pascal leaned over the dashboard. ‘There’s twelve per cent left. That would be enough to get us home. Anyway,’ she looked around at the dim lit station and waved her hand, ‘The place looks closed.’

              ‘Gas stations never shut,’ Javiera declared. She checked her phone and spat out, ‘What’s up with the goddamn signal. Jeez!’

              ‘Why don’t we charge when we get home?’ Pascal argued as Cassie opened the door.

              ‘What is that?’ Cassie muttered, unable to make out an emerging mirage.

              An orange haze in the fog crackled. Her eyes squinted then widened as a flaming truck tumbled towards them.

              ‘Go, go, go.’ Pascal and Javiera cried out.

              Cassie slammed the door and pressed the button for ignition.

              Once, it didn’t start. ‘Low Charge’. Twice, and the jeep leapt to life.

              She put her foot down and sped away from the station as fast as possible.

              A loud suction noise breathed in the misty air and spat it back out in a blazing explosion throwing the car into a tailspin.

              Cassie thrust forward as she lifted off her seat and hit the ceiling.

              She screamed, then anchored the steering wheel down into the skid. They regained balance.

              The dashboard sensors beeped as she veered around a derelict vehicle on the main road. The car jolted to a halt as she braked.

              Cassie released her grip then pulled her neck from the whiplash and touched her head. ‘You two, okay?’ Her ears rang and she felt lightheaded.


              Pascal shrank down in her seat and silently pointed to Cassie’s head. She pulled her hand away. It was covered in blood.

              The stench of charred gasoline flooded the car as the dropped windows let in the nightmarish scene of uplifted tarmac and shattered glass all over the streets.

The fog had finally lifted, unveiling a changed world of ruins.

To be Continued...

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