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The Vandal

     The man was very tired, so he laid his head down on his arms and dozed off.
     Playfully, the wind came in through the open windows of his study. It curled the edges of a mass of notes that he had been studying. It paused, delighted at its new playmate, and gleefully blew the stack of papers off the desk. The wind tugged softly at a few stubborn pages under the man's relaxed arms, then gave up. It whistled around the furniture, blew the pages onto the arms and backs of the chairs, then blew them off again. A fire, glowing in an open grate, fascinated the wind. It blew experimentally and shied away as the flames burst up strongly.
     The wind was joined in its play by its big brother, who chased the little breeze out of the room, and, sure that the other was going, started playing more roughly with the bits of whiteness that could be seen in the darkening room. The bigger wind had a touch of vandalism in its constitution. Growing tired of simply tossing the papers on high, the wind experimented with the quiet fire. A shower of sparks was flung across the room as a log, half burned away, fell to the floor of the grate. The fire leapt joyfully in its place, glad to be stronger and brighter. It was fed with flying bits of paper by the dancing wind.
     "What fun," thought the wind to itself as it blew the flaring papers around the room. One sheet dipped down to the fire, caught its corner in the flames, then scurried to the darkness underneath the drapes to delight in its brightness and warmth. The paper burned brighter, fanned by the mischievous wind; the overhanging drapes singed, scorched, then lent their brightness to the room.
     The man never moved.
     The drapes flared and dropped to the floor. The chairs caught the flames, and in turn threw sparks to the rug. After a moment the room was blazing with fiery colors.
     The man coughed in his sleep.
     The papers that were scattered on the floor crisped, browned, caught fire at one end, then burned to an ashy black.
     The man rose from his sleep.
     The fire found a new delicacy: shoe leather. Then it discovered wool---and cotton. It tasted the intriguing taste of human skin and hair.
     The small noise of a falling body was muffled by the crackling flames.
     The wind, with a small, guilty feeling, left the room.