Of the Fog


Bim Peacock

Closer comes the fog. Closer come the shadows.

He could see his feet moving, felt his heart racing, but no sound broke through its muffled barrier.  Not the sound of leaves crackling, twigs snapping, pebbles crunching.  Just a dull thud in the back of his head.  Back and forth he watched those feet go: left, right, left, right.  Yet the feeling barely spread far enough up his limbs to relay its message: he was running.

Why are you running, Boy?  Why can’t you just fall to sleep’s tender embrace?  Come lay in our warmth, feel our hearts beat as one…

His mind reeled with a wave of blurred thoughts, finally ending that mad marathon as his feet twisted around each other.  Earth rushed up beneath him: solid, unrelenting.

A giggle broke the silence of the forest.  The boy felt the leaves and dirt quake beneath him, heard the trees shudder with an icy terror.

“Charlie?” he cried out.  No response.  “Charlie!” he shouted.  Silence.

                The fog was growing thicker, misty fingers wrapping around the trunks of the trees.  He twisted his frame to gaze at the sight.  Their hands came closer and closer, reaching out to him, asking for his trust, promising to relieve the weight from his heart.  In his weariness, his arm reached outwards to the promises, the warmth… the cold…

NO! screamed his mind.  He yanked his hand backwards and leapt to his feet.  The tendrils of mist slowly retracted, exhaling an icy whisper through the forest.  The lichen covered trees shuddered and fell still.

Another giggle splintered the silent wood, and the boy turned just in time to witness a shadow shift through the edge of the fog.  “Charlie!” he cried out again.

I bet you can’t catch me!” called back a haunting child’s voice.  The boy took off running again.  Whether he chased the shadow or was being chased himself, his mind couldn’t care.

The fog continued to grow and grow.  The fingers became claws; the tendrils became walls.  Wooden sentinels, mighty and ancient, wrought with color in the moist air, seemed to blur and fall apart with the coming tide.  Even as matter itself feel apart around him, the boy could not stop running.  There was too much to do, too many to save, and too much to run from.

Finally, his mad sprint slowed into silent death.  There ahead, a young boy sat atop an ashen boulder, back turned to his watcher.  “Charlie!” whispered the boy again, the convulsing fog filching his voice from his mouth.  But before he could take more than a step towards the other, the poor strange child, his young brother who knew more than any would dare to admit, a feeling of unease crackled down his spine.

The boy uneasily glanced downwards and shuddered as he finally realized where he stood.  An obsidian pathway wound up to the solid black stone his brother rested upon.  On either side, splintered wooden stakes rose to the heavens, adorned with skulls of long dead beasts glaring with empty eyes.  Antlers of deer, horns of buffalo, scalps of bear, all trophies dedicated to the stone the boy stood before.  All watched with ancient presence as the newcomer came to join them.

Come to us.  Come see what none but the sages have witnessed before.  Come join your brother.  He will show you…

                “Charlie!  You better have dragged me through this nightmare for good reason!” he hollered across the clearing, more to silence the voice than anything else.  Still, the young child sat silent and still, turned blind away from his brother.

Glancing at the chalky white bones one last time, the boy began to edge wearily down the path.  He kept his eyes locked firmly on his destination, even as the creak of shifting skulls danced tauntingly upon his eardrum.

After the moment to last a lifetime, he stood below the ashen stone.  Fear spread like lightning through his nerves.  “Charlie?” he whispered up.  The fog had become far too thick.  The trees themselves no longer had form, no shape or structure.  They just stood as faint shadows in the mist, shadows that seemed to move at a second glance.

“Charlie, please come down.  Please.  This isn’t a game anymore.  This isn’t a match of freeze tag or even some sick trick by… whatever.  Please, just come down.”

Silence.  Then slowly, the child began to shift atop the stone.  Slowly, with the force of gears turning after a century’s rust, his head twisted around.  Then his body.  And gazing into those once vibrant blue eyes, his older brother wished he had never followed him into the forest that spring afternoon.

Beneath those eyes, those eyes of youth, warped into a black whispering mass of shadows, a wicked smirk broke forth.  “Try to catch me now, Cade!”

                The child leapt backwards off the rock as a solid hand thrust his elder brother across the clearing.  He cried out with shock as he slammed into the ground, the wind knocked clean out of him.  His eyes opened, only to realize that the path was gone.  The altar was gone.  The bones.  The stone.  His brother.  Even the shadows of the trees had fallen into nothingness.  The whole world left him there, alone, with nothing but the fog and the earth.

He stood quick.  He spun a full circle.  He cried out to the barren scape.  But the fog feasted upon his words, picked his accent clean to the bone.  All that escaped his mouth was a pitiful croak.

He watched.  He listened.  He hoped for some sign of direction.  But no, the fog stood menacingly in all ways, with no relent for hope.

An echo twirled through the air.  Cade jumped at the sound.  Just a whisper upon the breeze, a rumor of a forgotten being.  But in this mystery of mist and shadows, the thought of another, someone else in the fog, caused nothing but terror within the boy.

A shadow caught the corner of his eye.  He glanced quick, only to miss it as it faded away.  A whisper grazed his eardrum once more, but as he turned to listen, he found himself standing face to face with three silhouettes.

His heart beat like a mad drummer as he faced down the dire trio, and in return, they gazed back through the opaque air.

Come and join us, Cade.  We’ll make sure you never feel  fear again…

                His body never moved faster than that moment, yet as his head turned, the fog drew together and darkened into the shape of a man.  Faceless, bodiless, the shadow slowly reached out a vaporous arm to the boy.  The steam froze together around its fingers, spreading and solidifying, icy claws outreached through the air.

“NO!” he wailed, smacking the hand away and shattering it across the ground.  The dusk-born creature rose above him in rage, sending him sprinting away in terror.

He couldn’t look back.  He couldn’t bear to face them again.  He couldn’t even think of his brother anymore.  All his instinct could say was run.

Fate bears its own agenda, however, and will follow through with it no matter any will of man.  For before Cade knew it, the ground fell away beneath him.  He expected an impact, a feeling of a sudden end to all.  But he just kept falling.  Falling and falling without end.  Still no sight, still no hope.   Just pure and utter darkness.