“What’re you doing?” Symar asked.
I didn’t answer. Up in the sky, wisps of clouds were moving towards the west. Some formed strange shapes I couldn’t figure out.
“What do you suppose that is?” I wondered aloud.
“What? The cloud? It’s a cloud.” Symar deadpanned.
I looked at her.
“What are you doing here?” I asked.
Symar made a face and said, “The village fête. They want you there.”
“Tell them I’m fine here.”
Symar pulled me off the ground and began to lead me towards the field where the festivities were going on.
“I hate the village fête. Noise, crowds, people staring at you…not my idea of pleasant.” I grumbled.
“They were staring at you because you happen to be the world’s worst dancer. And you had one foot in a bucket of…of…something.”
I decided the best reaction would be to keep quiet.
As evening approached, I left the festival to go back to my cloud watching.
Symar joined me.
“How can you even see them now? Besides, why do you love watching clouds so much?” she asked dully, picking blades of grass.
“I…they’re like people. There’s just something about them…”
“Maybe you’re a cloud maiden. Maybe you’re one of them clouds up there, but you fell down and your parents found you. Like in the legends. Clouds being real people who’ve passed on or something.”
“Really?” I asked.
“Nah, you’re just a crazy freak. And a lazy one at that!” she said and began laughing.
I made my ‘Oh-God-can’t-believe-how-lame-you-are’ face, but it didn’t work.
I couldn’t sleep that night. Something Symar said had struck a chord. I got up and went to the window. The clouds were blocking out the moon.
My heart began pounding. Could it be? I thought. I decided to test it. I climbed down the trellis and ran over to a field. There was a ridge-like projection in that field, about eight feet high.
I climbed it and stood at the edge.
This is stupid, what kind of an idiot jumps off a ledge because of something an equally idiotic friend said as a joke? I thought.
And yet, there was more to this. As if I’d known all along…
I ran through the grass. I had an awful feeling that Billie was going to do something stupid.
I was right; she was standing on a ledge.
“Get down, you idiot!” I yelled.
“Oh, hi Symar. Just checking my cloud maiden-ness. Like you said.” Billie called out.
“I can not believe you bought the cloud maiden story! Come down before you fall and break a bone!”
“No, Symar. You were right. Tonight, the clouds…watch what happens!” Billie said and jumped.
She plummeted straight downwards and lay at the bottom in a heap.
I laughed, a little nervously perhaps.
“See?” I said.
“Symar, my neck…” Billie whispered, and then lay still.
Then Billie turned into smoke.
Her entire body became a cloud that billowed away in the night air.
They had come for what belonged to them.
And they had taken it.