Author's Note – This story was inspired by my recent trip down the coast, where we had some pretty wild weather. I spent a lot of time sitting and watching the clouds swallow up the mountains, and whilst sitting on the rocks at the beach one day, staring at the cloud-covered mountains, I came up with this little tale. I hope you enjoy it!
The World Above
The rain was going to start again; the clouds thick and heavy, hanging low in the sky. The waves were slapping at the rocks in annoyance, and the distant mountains were fast losing their tops to the descending clouds. The girl who was sitting on the coastal rocks breathed deep the salty air, and with a smile she turned towards the young boy who was perched next to her.
"Why are you frowning?" she asked with a laugh, and the boy shot her a quick glance before his eyes settled once more on the cloud-filled, grey sky.
"I don't like it when the clouds move in," he said. "It makes me nervous."
"But this is a magical time," the girl said, and as she watched the clouds, she seemed to become more alive somehow. "When the clouds come down and touch the mountains, that's when the door to the world above is opened. Only then, if a child like you – a child of the Earth – were to climb to the peak of a mountain, would it be possible to enter the domain of the Air creatures."
"Air creatures?" the boy asked, turning slightly as he was drawn into the girl's tale.
She nodded. "But you must be careful, for the children of the Air are tricky, and once the clouds have passed your mountain by, you can't return by that door. If you lose sight of your mountain, the Air children will carry you far and wide, for they are playful and fickle, never staying in the same place for long, unlike the children of the Water."
A wave splashed up over the rocks, covering the pair with spray for a moment, causing the boy to shiver slightly at the sudden cold. Yet his eyes stayed focused on the girl with her tales of the elements, and he wanted to hear more.
"What are the children of the Water like?" he asked. "How do you get to their world?"
"Well," the girl said, standing up and climbing down several rocks until she was standing rather close to where the waves were breaking, before she turned around to look back at the boy, showing her back to the ocean. "If a child of the Earth were to stand on the rocks by the sea, then the ever-reaching hands of the Water children would grab them and drag them to their watery kingdom. Unlike the Air, the Water is unrelenting, and once grabbed, an Earth child would find it near impossible to claw their way back onto land. For the children of the Water consume all that's in their path, guarding their secrets well, and Earth children can do little more than to float around on the edge of this great kingdom. However," she said, noticing that the boy looked rather uncomfortable with how close to the water she was standing. "Unlike the Fire children, the Water children so not wish to cause harm – they are merely forceful in their play, and their watery natures simply do not mesh well with Earth children," she finished, jumping back up to where she had been sitting before. The boy seemed to relax once more as the girl grinned at him.
"So are the Fire children dangerous then?" he asked, and the girl nodded her head.
"Fire is the most volatile of all of the elements, and the doors to the Fire kingdom lie within the hearts of volcanoes. But you need to beware, little Earth child, because Fire does not welcome strangers to its domain, and would sooner turn you to ash than to allow you entry. Fire is a dangerous and most unpredictable element, with a destructive power to rival any of the others," she said, before she seemed to think for a moment. "And yet, in spite of this, the Fire children are considered to be the weakest, with the Water children forever cooling their wrath. When the fiery spews encroach on Water's territory, the cooler element douses the heat and turns it to stone. A lack of Air can suck the life right out of Fire, and too much Air can fans the flames until they burn themselves out. And even Earth has the capacity to smother the Fire, but you still need to be careful, because the children of the Earth are not made to withstand the heat."
"So basically the other three elements can't be trusted? They'd hurt me?" the boy wanted to know, and the girl frowned.
"The Fire children can burn you, and the Water children can drown you, and whilst the Air could suffocate you, it shares a common bond with the Earth children. Air provides the oxygen that is needed for life to exist," she pointed out, and the boy nodded slowly, thinking everything through.
"So," the girl said, jumping to her feet once more and nodding her head towards the distant mountains. The clouds had dropped even further, and a thick mist was starting to settle down from the clouds. "The next time you see clouds hanging over the top of a mountain, don't feel afraid. Simply know that you live in one of many worlds that are within this world, and that a door to the world above has just been opened. If you can climb to the top, then you can join the Air children in their play, but do not forget where you have come from, for the Air is fickle, and will go where it wants. You could find yourself being set down miles from home, and you may have to wait until the next time the mountains touch the clouds before you can find your way back again," she finished, and a silence seemed to settle over the pair for several long moments.
"Do you really believe that?" the boy eventually asked, looking to the older girl with inquisitive eyes. "Is there really another world hiding in the clouds?"
"You tell me," the girl replied with a laugh, jumping down onto a lower rock before climbing her way around the coastline. The boy stood and started after her, wanting to talk some more to the strange, Fae-like girl that he had met on the rocks, and yet she was so swift on her feet that he found himself falling behind.
"Wait for me!" he called, slipping and grazing his hands as he caught himself. A wave broke onto the rocks, throwing salt spray up and over the boy, and he closed his eyes. When next he opened them, the girl was nowhere to be seen, and even as his eyes scanned the coastline, not a trace could he find as the first rumblings of thunder sounded, heralding the beginning of the storm that had been brewing all day.