A storm’s coming. All airships, hot-air balloons and hang gliders have been grounded for an hour. The sky is a dark grey, bubbling with threat and chaos. The winds are swirling, slow and steady. Ready to strike at any moment. And down below, Haizea is watching it all, her head turned up, a frown of thought clouding her face. She has never seen a storm like this before.

Again, she tries calling her husband.

She gathers the words in her mouth, takes a deep breath and blows out the same sentence she let out five minutes ago. “Anil, where are you? Are you okay?”

And she gets the same automated reply: The receiver can’t be reached due to the gathering storm.

Haizea sends messages to his colleagues, even sends a paper airplane to the office receptionist. But all of them get lost in the wind. She is in two minds: should she stay at home and wait for him or go out looking for him? Just then she feels a cool breeze near the back of her head and hears the words, “Haizea … help … please …”

She tries to hold on to the current, to send a message in return, but it doesn’t work.

She must go out. Help her husband.

The wind has picked up. There is dust in the air. Rain might follow as well. But she is safe in her windcheater, which is equipped with instant rope, torch, first aid, energy bars and other items of importance. After she carefully locks the door and puts on her hood, tightening it around the outer edges of her face, Haizea takes out a pair of goggles from an inner pocket and positions them over her eyes. Even then, as she walks further into the storm, she places her right palm in front of her eyes, an instinctive need to protect her eyes, and fights against the fierce winds, getting stronger by the second, as she follows the street into the main road.

Heavy, potent drops of rain begin to fall as she passes the bus stand. There is no one else on the road, not that Haizea can clearly see around her. Shadowy trees and signposts are easy to recognise, but there is a lot of debris as well. Some on the road, most flying in the air in search of a resting ground.

The last time she went looking for her husband in a storm, it wasn’t this bad. It was raining heavily, and the comm lines were down again. But a few airships were still operating, and her husband had come home in one of them.

He wasn’t too happy she’d gone out in search of him though. He had shouted at her for leaving the house locked, forcing him to wait outside in the lashing rain. “The neighbours aren’t in either! What were you thinking, Haizea? Going off on your own, in the middle of a storm?”

She shakes her head.

This time she wasn’t going off on her own. He had asked her for help.

Up ahead, Haizea can see the form of another human being. They are walking haphazardly, suggesting an injured left leg. In their hand is a bag of some sort. The winds have started to howl with lost words and screams. So many messages that couldn’t be sent. So many people afraid or wounded.

The form is clearer now, and Haizea recognises it to be that of a colleague of her husband’s who travels in the same hot-air bus as him.

“Have you seen Anil?”

But the colleague can’t hear her. Even when they are side-by-side, having closed the gap between them upon recognising each other.

Her mouth opens to say something, but the howling wind is all she can hear.

Haizea nods, gives her a thumbs up and moves on. About ten minutes later the howling wind deposits a few words near her ears: “Are you looking for Anil?”

Haizea is under a bridge now, waiting in an anti-wind enclosure with the stranded passengers of a deflated aerostat. She has arrived at the eye of the storm, and things are so bad that all everyone can see is the dark brown, gravelly dust in the air. There are no howling winds here, and the visibility is near zero. The shelter under the bridge, designed to combat any kind of natural phenomenon, is the only place Haizea can see things clearly.

She is wondering how long she’ll have to wait inside when she feels a cool breeze once again.

“Haizea!” Just that one word is enough. She steps out, despite the others telling him to wait, and dives into a dust storm.

“I’m here.” Words appear near her ears, and she suddenly feels pulled towards the right. There, under a huge signboard, a man is struggling desperately.

His eyes are shut, the gravel having gotten into his eyes, but he can sense that someone is helping him.

“Haizea?” he asks.

“Yes,” she responds, lifting the heavy signboard with all her might, allowing him to wriggle out from the gap created. ‘How do you know me?’

He is sitting on the ground. His face is cloaked in a layer of dust and grime, but she can still see the look of confusion on his face. “I’m sorry I don’t … If you’re not … I mean, wait. Your name is Haizea too?”

“It is.” She helps him stand up. “And who is your Haizea?” He laughs, despite the situation. And she feels another sudden pull towards her. “My girlfriend,” he says. “Sorry, I think there must have been some cross-connection and … sorry.”

“No problem,” she tells him, looking for an extra pair of goggles in her windcheater. She finds them and swiftly hands them to him.

“Oh, thank you!” he says, and puts them on, opening his eyes for the first time. At the reveal of his cool grey eyes, she is instantly reminded of the calm, quiet morning she had witnessed ten years ago, when she had gone backpacking in the mountains. The sky was overcast, there was such promise in the air and she had felt a kind of peace she had never experienced before.

He seems to be struck speechless too, staring at her night-black eyes. “What’s your name?” she finally manages to ask.


“I studied cloud dynamics too!” he tells her.

They are walking back through the storm, having just bypassed the bridge. He hasn’t asked her who she went out to search for, and he hasn’t ventured why he was out in the storm. They have found other topics to discuss. Haizea and Enlil, it seems, went to the same college and studied the same subject five years apart.

“Do you work from home then?” he asks her next. “I do, yes. Once a month I head to the headquarters to present reports on the clouds in my area. But that’s about it.”

“Hmm. And have you always lived here?”

“I have. My husband is from the north though, and he hates this place. Says it’s too … quiet.”

His eyes widen. “My girlfriend says the same thing! And she is from the north too.”

“Really?” Haizea replies, smiling. She can’t stop doing that. She has never felt this happy in someone else’s company. “Sounds like our partners are meant for each other,” she adds, grinning.

He giggles in return.

The storm has dissipated but there are still strong currents in the air, interfering with the comm lines. Haizea couldn’t care less though. She is skipping as she walks towards her home. She can still feel his words flowing around her. She has fallen into vortexes before, but never one like this. Head over heels. So in lo

She stops as he catches sight of her husband in front of her locked house. Drenched, eyes watering due to dust, clothes ruined, one shoe missing, face contorted in anger.

“Oh,” she says. “You’re back.”

Excerpted with permission from ‘Whirlwind’ in Biopeculiar: Stories of an Uncertain World, Gigi Ganguly, If/Westland.