The Cabinet of Curiosities
Jar of eyes

The North Wind Doth Blow

When Curator Catmull was a girl, which was, perhaps, in the late 19th century, she particularly cherished the book At the Back of the North Wind, by George MacDonald. So the tale below interested her particularly, as it casts a much different light on the North Wind of that book, who so tenderly cared for a dying boy named Diamond.

Perhaps she never recovered from his loss. If so, what awfully bad luck for the children of this age.


The wind raced behind Ruby, chasing up the street from tree to tree. As she reached her door, it caught her, tangling her hair into her face as she fumbled with the key. The windchime bounced and jangled overhead, and her phone chimed in her pocket.

In the stillness inside, she read the text: Working late sorry sweet. Lasagna in fridge (is delish). Say it with me: TV stays dark till homework done. I love you. Ruby texted back an emoji sticking out its tongue, to indicate her feelings about homework and being home alone.

In some ways, though, she wasn’t so sorry to put off seeing her mother, after what had happened today.

An hour later at the kitchen table, a half-eaten plate of lasagna sat next to her math book, and her pencil scritched away on a problem. It was already dark outside, or nearly. The windchime jangled again, more insistent now.

The lasagna sat heavy on Ruby’s stomach. She had spent some time the principal’s office that afternoon. It wasn’t 100% that she was going to be suspended, but it wasn’t looking good, either, and her mother would have to take off to come for a meeting the next day, and that would not go over well.

Ruby knew she shouldn’t lose her temper. But also: people shouldn’t talk to her that way. Not people wearing prissy little perfect white dresses; not when she was holding a full lunch tray containing a sloppy joe, a bowl of tomato soup, and mess of chocolate pudding.

Her pencil worked more furiously. What was I supposed to do.

Scritch, scritch.

The windchime’s jangle became more urgent, like a warning. The wind was picking up, had found a voice, as it swept and whined around the corners of the house. Ohh, said the wind. Ohhh, oohhhhhhh, OHHH.

Even inside, it felt colder, and Ruby put her sweater back on. The whole house was dark except for the little pool of light where she sat. She cleared her dishes, turning on the kitchen lights as she passed, stuck the plate in the dishwasher, lasagna back in the fridge

SSssssssssssssss, said the wind. SSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSssssssssssssssss aahhhhhhhhhhhh.

Ruby turned on the living room lamp for good measure and returned to the kitchen table. For a few minutes she worked at her math again, but it was impossible to concentrate with that wind. Fine. No choice. She took her homework to the couch and grabbed the remote. Something dumb on TV would drown out the wind and help her concentrate. That was cheating a little, but so what.

If Mom wants me to do my homework first, she should be here to make the house not so scary and weird. 

The flat black screen filled with color and laughter. Outside, the wind rose and wailed louder. No more ohhh and sssssss — now the windchime jangled like a fire alarm, now the voice of the wind was a howl. Ruby pulled a throw blanket around her shoulders and turned the television up. A man on screen turned slowly to the camera with a round O mouth. The audience laughed.

Then the screen went black. Everything went black. Outside, the wind screamed and bent the air like you bend a saw.

Eyes wide in the darkness, Ruby huddled on the couch, feeling around for her phone so she could text her mom: electricity’s out, what do I do?

The wind’s scream rose higher and higher, insistent and mad.

And then, without warning, the picture window exploded. Shards of glass tore through the curtains, ripping them to the floor. The wind screamed, and Ruby screamed, too.

Then: silence. The wind stopped. And Ruby stopped; but her mouth stayed wide open.

Standing before her, luminous in the weak streetlight, was a tall woman, almost as tall as the ceiling. Her icy white hair floated all around her head. Long, ice-blue robes and scarves floated around her. Her eyes were black as holes, and she was smiling, and her face was pale blue, quite beautiful, and entirely mad.

“Diamond,” she said. “Come, my Diamond.”

“My name is Ruby,” whispered Ruby. Her teeth chattered in the near-darkness.

“But I will call you Diamond,” said the blue woman. Her voice was low and rich, with a hint of howls and whines and roars behind it. “I will call you Diamond, because I miss my Diamond. Come, Diamond, come see my world.”

“No, I want to stay,” said Ruby. She pulled the blanket to cover her face. It isn’t real. It isn’t real.

The blanket was ripped from her hands, and the woman’s huge, furious face was inches away. “Climb on my back, my Diamond, before I grow angry. Climb on my back, and I will show you the world, and what I make of it.”

“Please, I don’t want . . .” Ruby began. But a huge, invisible hand seized her; a wind as muscular as a python swept tight around her. Within seconds, it dragged her through the window and into the night sky.

Ruby found herself lying face down on the tall woman’s back—the tall woman who was far, far taller now. She clung to the woman’s ice-white hair, trying to find her breath. Clouds pushed aside as they rushed through; the world below was small dark squares and twinkling golden lights. Ruby’s stomach turned over and she closed her eyes.

“Are you happy, my Diamond?” called the wild, mad voice. “Is my world glorious?”

A sound emerged out of the roaring, keening air: a roaring sound, but mechanical, deafening, and familiar. Ruby opened her eyes.

The North Wind had overtaken an airplane and was playing with it. Ruby and the wind swept around and around the plane, slamming one wing with a sudden blast, then diving beneath its nose, then pushing up on the tail. The plane bucked and reared, rocking on its wings. Streaking past, Ruby saw through yellow windows mouths open in terrified screams, passengers struck by flying books and laptops.

“Please stop!” Ruby screamed into the howl of the engine and wind.

They flew just inches from the face of a young woman clutching an infant to her chest. Both the woman and the infant had their eyes tight shut and mouths wide open, sobbing. At another window, a man bent over, frantically texting, as the man next to him threw up.

The wind grew bored, swept on. Ruby turned, trying to see if the pilots had managed to keep control, if the plane was still aloft, oh please, please let it be. But she saw only the clouds closing behind them.

The wind flew over a black and moonlit ocean. As they descended, the waves whipped up, higher and higher, high as skyscrapers, reaching upward. “COME,” cried the wind, in her deepest howl. “COME. COME. COME.” The whole ocean rocked towards her.

In horror, Ruby spotted a ship caught between two skyscraper waves. As it foundered and tilted, tiny figures ran across the deck, unhooking lifeboats that broke free and sank uselessly into the black water. Another enormous wave swelled up, sucking the ship towards itself. Even through the wind’s wail, Ruby heard the sailors’ thin, terrified cries.

The North Wind laughed her howling laugh.

“No more,” whispered Ruby into the cold white hair she clung to. But the wind ran on.

Ruby saw many terrible sights, that long night.

At the edge of a small town, the North Wind became a tornado and turned a pretty yellow house into a pile of broken sticks. Afterwards, one curling hand thrust from beneath the wreckage. A dirty toddler sat beside the hand, pulling on it, crying.

In a blinding snowstorm on a deserted road, Ruby saw a couple in a stalled car, wrapped in each other’s arms, his coat around her shoulders. Both were as blue-white as the wind, and purple around the lips.

“Take me home,” wept Ruby into the snowy hair. Her tears froze into hard bits of ice.

In time, the wind did take her home. As light dawned at the horizon’s edge, Ruby saw her own street, saw through a smashed window her mother on the couch, blowing her nose, surrounded by police officers.

As they sank toward the house, the North Wind turned her mad smile toward Ruby and whispered in the girl’s ear. Then she slipped her gently onto her own front yard and swept away.


The police said “hypothermia” and called an ambulance. Her mother wrapped Ruby first in a blanket and then in her arms as they waited. “But I don’t understand what happened, love, I don’t see—and your hair, how did your hair get this way? We’ll have to cut it off, it will never comb out.”

Ruby stood still as stone, her eyes black and wide.

“Darling, say something,” said her mother. “Sweet girl, you’re scaring me. Please speak, if you can.”

‘I’ll be back,’” Ruby whispered. “That’s what she said. She’ll said ‘I’ll be back tomorrow night, my new Ruby Diamond. And I’ll be back the next night, too, and the next, and the next. I love you, my Diamond, and I’ll be back every night, as long as you live.’”


2 responses so far | Follow: RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

2 Responses to “The North Wind Doth Blow”

  1. ruby says:

    My real name is actually Ruby so this is kinda creeping me out.And I actually like the cold, well liked.Katherine Catmull was right this is not a happy story.

  2. Katherine Catmull Katherine Catmull says:

    Ruby, hi! I’m glad you read it and I’m glad it creeped you out! Though I hope not TOO much. This was a different Ruby altogether.

Leave a Reply

Protected with IP Blacklist CloudIP Blacklist Cloud