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September 15, 2008 | by  | in Features | [ssba]

The Windmills Cometh…

This is a fictional story. The characters within bear no relation whatsoever to those from last week’s “fair and balanced” report.

The windmills were coming to Waitahora valley. That much seemed certain. My father was locked into an airtight contract with the power company. I could see them now, probably high in some crystal tower in Wellington, seated around a twenty foot polished-oak table, puffing Cuban cigars and quaffing fine chardonnay while they laughed about how swiftly we’d caved in to every one of their sick demands.

And it was true. We hadn’t known what hit us. I had been spending my University break relaxing on the farm when it began. Lethargic from excessive intake of moonshine, my father and I were rocking slowly back and forth on the front porch, when a shiny black stretch-Humvee sidled up the dirt track to our house and ejected twelve immaculately tailored executives. Quicker than my father could say “you boys ain’t from ’round here, are ya?” their silver tongues set to work caressing his bare toes and working their way up his legs. In next to no time he was smoking a post-coital cigarette, having signed away our futures for a few gold ducats. Sure, now we were fantastically wealthy (by country standards anyway), but all the jewels in the world would never buy back our souls.

Of course, that was far from how I viewed it at the time. I literally jumped at the power company’s suggestion that they would pay my father vast sums of money to situate a few clean, green, sustainable-energy producing windmills on his land. As a selfprofessed greenie and professional student slacker, I thought it a grand idea. It would eliminate my carbon footprint, and I would never have to work a day in my life. The suits assured us that we would be the toast of the district. And with this in mind we agreed to host a community windmill jamboree the very next day. The people had already been informed, they said.

The following day we made our way to a particularly picturesque paddock overlooking some of the hills where those giant guardians of renewable resources would soon reside. A large white marquee had been erected, facilitating this glorious opportunity for people to meet their benevolent new masters.

Inside, mud-splattered farmers were happily munching on sausage rolls and guzzling cups of tea, surrounded by large glossy prints of windmills digitally composited into charming scenes; kissing babies, petting puppy dogs, swimming with dolphins … The power company execs were regaling wide-eyed locals with splendid tales of big city life and all the wonders that could be theirs if they only signed on the dotted line. Looking back it seemed so obvious, but at this point I remained completely unaware of their true intentions. Weaving around the locals in the dim light, carrying trays of snacks, were short-skirted schoolgirls the energy company had evidently brought fresh from the streets of Wellington (they probably used to be men). They wore paper-thin strips of the corporation’s tangerine colour, and, like the others, I was deeply entranced by their whorish allure.

Suddenly, a shaft of sunlight cut the dusty air. A man wearing a forty gallon hat had pulled back the flap and was leading a group of steely-eyed locals into the tent.

I could tell these ones were different. They hadn’t come for the pretty pictures and peppermint slice. They were here to shine the unflinching light of truth and justice. They were here to ask the hard questions; the questions the power company did not want to answer. And that is exactly what they did. Disregarding the busty bimbos, they immediately bailed up the power company execs and started throwing hard question after hard question in their faces. These were the protesters, and their concerns were real and numerous.

The wily execs appeared to be calmly and politely answering the protesters’ every question (I later found out this was part of a perverse mind control technique, designed to make them forget their real concerns and start ranting gibberish … very crafty). Ensnared by this invisible wizardry, the protesters foamed at the mouth and frantically raved about the effect the windmills would have on the Earth’s gravitational pull; the high possibility that solar winds would catch the blades and send our planet spinning off into deep space like a baseball hit clear out of the bleachers; or the still-greater possibility that the windmills’ giant blades would spin off their stalks and cartwheel around the countryside like giant pizza slicers, cutting deep gashes in the earth’s crust.

The execs assured the protesters that their scenarios were all scientifically impossible, and the windmills were sturdy, safe, and posed no risk at all of steering the Earth into a black hole. I remember thinking at the time, how queer it is that some people take offence to these great white spinning peace-signs. They must be mad! Never mind. To each their own, I told myself. They would come around.

As the shadows outside lengthened and the sky turned orange, the locals filed out of the marquee, stomachs full of tea and jam scones, contentedly clutching sheaves of the power company’s propaganda pamphlets. Like me, they had all been completely taken in by the execs’ silky Svengali act. All except for the protesters, who may have been duped into looking like fools, but remained steadfast in their all-consuming hatred of the windmills. And so they stayed, long after the rest of the locals and the power company execs had left (taking with them their scantilyclad sex slaves), muttering amongst themselves about what was to be done regarding this seemingly unstoppable menace.

That night, my dreams were haunted by images of a giant man wearing a forty gallon hat, tiptoeing across the hills and plucking windmills out of the ground like daisies. I woke groggily from my restless slumber and turned to the propaganda pamphlet on the pillow next to me. I leaned over and playfully turned its colorful pages, admiring the clean layout, legible font, and excellent use of negative space. I had read this pamphlet dozens of times before, and the information it contained only confirmed what I already knew to be true: that the windmills would convert filthy smog into fresh air, win the Rugby World Cup, and dispense a cool, refreshing drink at the height of summer.

My spirit renewed, I took the pamphlet into the shower with me, having finally unlocked the problem that had troubled my subconscious. The protesters must not have read the pamphlets properly. Perhaps they only skimmed over the information, or disregarded it completely. Perhaps they had not read them at all. It was almost too dreadful to think about, but it had to be confronted. My protesting neighbours had to be educated, for their own good. They may not want it now, but they would surely thank me later. Their very essences were in mortal danger.

Over a breakfast of French toast and bacon arranged into the shape of a windmill, I formulated my plan. It was devilishly simple, but that was its genius. I would interview my neighbours under the pretext of writing a report for my university’s student magazine. Better yet, I would write a report for the student magazine. Ah yes, I could see it now, a bright beacon of yellow journalism for all to behold. The headline would be something along the lines of “Windmills worry whiny wack-jobs.”

I bounded outside onto the warm grass, my heart filled with the pure milk of renewable goodness. I knew now what I had to do. My first stop was the home of Willowbough, the local alternative healer; the man in the forty gallon hat, he seemed to have ordained himself leader of the protest group. I swung my arms and bobbed my head as I approached his house, holding close to my chest the one glossy pamphlet which distilled the essence of all the others. I could see the top of Willow-bough’s hat peeking above a row of organic soy as he tended his garden.

He waved and grinned widely when I announced my presence, but a strange buzzing tone grew louder as I advanced. The source of this sound became obvious when we shook hands, and I noticed his odd, clenched smile. He had been trying to hum me away, but soon stopped, apparently resigning himself to the fact that our meeting was preordained. I asked if he would like to talk about the windmills. This question seemed to distress him, and he gripped his forehead, saying we could discuss many things, but that particular subject was off limits. He invited me in for a cup of herbal tulip-twig tea, and I followed him through the open French doors into his sun-dappled living room.

I became almost content there, in the warmth of the morning, talking parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme with this silver-haired child of the Earth, but an inner restlessness fought my peaceful impulse. I kept thinking, he ought to be gushing over the pure intentions of the windmills, not the awesome healing knowledge of dolphins. I was here to convince him dammit!

“Okay, I fully appreciate the benefits of your revolutionary phrenobending technique, but can I just tell you a few things about the windmills?” He held his hands above his head and hummed, a high-pitched, drawn out “Aaaaaaaaah.” At that moment I realized Willowbough must have performed one too many self-audits with his e-meter. He was a lost cause. “I have to go now,” I said, “maybe in the next life, brother.”

Well. If Willow-bough was too far gone to grasp the windmills’ charms, I would just have to go to the next in command. Indeed, I thought that perhaps by playing them off against one another, I could bring the protest group down from within.

My next stop was the home of one Mr Crowbait. An unusual name, for an unusual man, he was probably the one person in the district most rabidly opposed to the windmills – he had actually threatened to bite my father and give him rabies should they be installed. In fact it was probably only Willow-bough’s questionable qualifications which made him de-facto group leader ahead of Mr Crowbait. This was something I could use to my advantage.

I skipped up the graveled driveway framed by white fences, behind which trotted the proud ponies of Mr Crowbait’s horsebreeding business. He stood in the doorway of his house wearing a blood-splattered apron. “Hey Kev” I said. (I liked to call him Kev; despite his name actually being Craig). “G’day,” he said “I’ve been expecting you.” I followed him down a dark hallway lined with deer antlers, and into his living room. His fire was burning despite it being the middle of December, which I found odd, and one wall was lined with a bookshelf containing Barry Crump’s complete works, and what appeared to be every single issue of Guns and Glory and Wasting Wildlife magazines.

I had learned my lesson from the last attempt, and launched straight in to the propaganda pamphlet’s good news. As I spoke he stood by a heavy wooden table in the middle of the room. On it was laid a bloody cleaver, a knife sharpener, and a long butcher’s knife. I immediately related the windmills to Kev’s passion, his horses, telling him that far from causing miscarriage, they were actually proven to help mares conceive and carry their foals to full term.

“They will coexist peacefully, in a harmonious relationship,” I read directly from the pamphlet. “Horses and other animals generally acclimatise to any environment.” I wondered if this would hold true for Moon Base Alpha; God knows we could use that kind of sturdy breeding stock when we eventually migrate there.

Though slightly put off by the glassy-eyed boar’s head which looked blankly at me from above the fireplace, I pressed on, delivering line after line of platitudinous propaganda. Meanwhile he had picked up the large butcher’s knife and commenced sharpening it while staring at me intently. I was coming to the end of the pamphlet and thought I might as well mention the potential side effects.

“Everyone responds differently to wind farms. New Zealand research indicates the possibility of a slight rash which can cause itching. However, this can be cleared up with a skin cream supplied free of charge by the power company … Well, I think that about covers it Kev. Now whaddaya think of the windmills?” He continued to stare at me, and the room was silent but for the crackling of the fire and the knife scraping against the steel.

“Doing some butchering today are ya?” I tried. “Yeah. You’re it.” I chuckled uneasily. “So … you think you’ll be all for the windmills now?”

“Listen,” he said “I’m fifth generation here mate. My great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great granpappy was the pioneer who clear-cut the trees of this valley. He singlehandedly turned it into the pastoral paradise you see today. Now. There’s a lot of history here, and I intend for things to stay just the way they are. Forever. Understand?” I wasn’t sure that I did understand, but nodded anyway.

“Look at these” he said, taking a handful of blood-encrusted Polaroids from his apron pocket. As he shuffled through the photos a wave of nausea hit me; horrible images of mutilated animals that looked as though they had hacked at with a very, very sharp knife. “Now do you see? Now do you understand?” he said. I nodded, trying to hold back the tears, “Why? Why would they-” “Why not?” he replied. Now I really did understand.

When I left Kev’s house later that afternoon I was completely changed. He patted me on the back like a son. And in a way, he was my father now. My original father was the enemy. He was part of the windmill illuminati, and had to be destroyed.

But first I needed to get back to Wellington and warn the populace while there was still time. Kev assured me he would take care of things here, and I believed him. What he’d shown me had blown my mind wide open. Disfigured animals were only the tip of the iceberg. I was thankful for the stern common sense of this real man’s man, and had promised to do my best.

Purging the high-falutin’ city folks of their faulty logic would be no cakewalk. I knew how it felt to swallow the power company’s neatly packaged lies. It went down smooth. But the truth was a jagged little pill that had to be ingested.

Back at the house I found my car keys and sped off before anyone could see me, yelling into my dictaphone and gripping the wheel with one hand as the car fishtailed on the gravel road. Passing through Dannevirke I noticed an abundance of pregnant girls, some in their school uniforms, pushing prams. Had the windmills gotten in early? Was it too late? Were we already feeding our once-quaint village into the fiery bowels of hell? I needed answers, and knew where to find them. I would go right in to the belly of the beast.

As my car climbed the winding road to the Te Apiti wind farm, there were no pregnant schoolgirls, and the countryside looked oddly idyllic. But I soon noticed cracks in the calm façade: a car’s hub-cap, a broken down tractor, the bloated corpse of a cow – no doubt driven insane by the windmills’ constant scream, it had taken its own life.

A group of Chinese tourists were taking snapshots at the wind farm’s viewing area, oblivious to the impending peril. I rolled down the window and yelled: “Get out of here now! Go build a wall! The windmills are coming!” They left in a hurry. As if in expectation, a chill wind swept the hill, quickening the windmills’ blades.

Brandishing my tape recorder I strode up to the nearest one. It refused to comment, but I knew sooner or later it would crack. I stood there in the icy gale until my fingers turned blue and I lost all feeling in my face, but to no avail.

I slept uneasily in the car that night, and woke early to the sight of giant blades still turning steadily in the morning breeze. It was eerily silent. Suspiciously so… They were plotting something. It was time to leave. The windmills had won this round, but once the people knew the truth they would fight back. And I was more determined than ever to fulfill my duty.

Descending to the village below, I saw something that shook me up. A house had been stripped of its epidermis. The towering metallic warlocks stood ominously on the hills behind. I immediately swerved to the side of the road and snapped a photo. It was a warning, meant for my eyes only. But this audacious display of aggression would not deter me from my humble task.

Back in Wellington, typing this in the brown light of my basement, I felt I was finally doing something significant with my life. The gears had been set in motion, summoning into action forces we could not comprehend. The swooshing of the giant blades would count down the minutes to our destruction. But I would do what I could.

At times I floundered in the depths of despair, as in my mind’s eye row upon row of whitewashed metal monsters marched across the landscape, squishing sheep and crushing the countryside, leaving only death and destruction in their wake. I spun in circles chasing my tail, I scratched at the dirt, I scuttled across the floor connecting the dots. It was in one of these strange moods that I first noticed the funnel web nested in a support beam of the house.

It patiently waited for a passing insect to rest on the silky sheets surrounding its inner sanctum. Sensing its prey struggling on the slippery lines, the spider ran, biting it repeatedly before dragging it back to its funnel retreat. I believe that spider was sent from above to deliver me a lesson. Perhaps the windmills were not as invincible as they seemed.

They were coming. That much seemed certain. But could they be stopped? Was it possible? Could we do it? Three words repeated in my head: Yes we can. Yes we can. Yes we can. I finally felt free. Free to hope for a better future. I would wait, just like a spider. A change was coming.


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  1. Kim says:

    A good read and many laughs. If anyone get distressed over this article, send them over to me and we will share a bowl of organic soy soup with Mangatoro watercress. Afterwards, we can hum to resonate the harmonics that inspire tranquillity that will be in accendancy until the sub-sonic vibration of multiple wind turbines disturb the natural balance of Mother.

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