There was fog.
Not just a little fog, one of those misty days where you hate going outside to walk more than the distance to your car because if you do your clothing is going to be damp and chilly. I’m talking fog, real fog, the kind that they mean when they call it pea soup. The kind you don’t go anywhere in because even your fog lights are useless against it. The kind of fog that makes the whole world crisply mute against your ears, as if it is waiting for you to say something. That kind of fog.
Don’t ask Davina why she was out in it, because she’d be damned if she remember now. Suffice to say that she was out, and she couldn’t see much more than herself. If she looked down, even, she couldn’t see past her shins; it swirled around her lower legs like an amorphous, affectionate cat.
Davina was more of a dog person.
She was out in this fog, and she was walking through the coiling obfuscation trying to find anything at all. A tree, maybe, or a road with a guardrail along it. A car, even better a house. But on and on she walked, and there was just the fog. She couldn’t even feel any sort of rise and fall to the ground to give her an idea of where she was.
Maybe it was Kansas.
Time was as unsteady as everything else; she had been walking for so long, but her feet didn’t hurt. She had walked along enough she told herself she was thirsty, but her lips weren’t dry, and her tongue was damp as the fog. It caught on her skin, collected in her hair; her shirt was sticking to her upper arms. Why hadn’t she put on a coat?
Idly she reached out as she walked to push her hand through the fog before her, and it swirled lazily in curls and waves like a monochrome version of Van Gogh’s Starry Starry Night – and beyond the swirls, finally, there was something dark than the half-lit whiteness. The shape was dark, and motionless, but distant, and she hurried toward it as much as she dared without risking a misstep and a snapped ankle on the damp and invisible ground.
As she grew closer, the shape began to resolve itself into a person. The more she neared, the clearer that became, until she was a handful of yards away and could pick out the shape of him, the dark trousers, the heavy coat, the thick, round fur hat perched atop his head.
“Hello!” Davina called out, “Hello, I am lost! Can you help me?” The man lifted a hand and beckoned her closer. Davina went, until she was just before the man.
The fog did not seem to have touched him; his fur hat should have been drooping with damp, but the little dark hairs of it stood up firmly, and the lines of his coat were crisp. Wordlessly he looked her over, and finally grinned. “You have come at last!” he declared in delight, and began to shrug out of his coat, moving to put it around Davina’s chilled shoulders in spite of her admittedly weak protest.
“You have come! I have been waiting for you.”
“For me?” Davina asked with an uncomfortable chuckle, even as she nestled into the coat – and while it had fit him well, large and boxy, square-shouldered, it fit surprisingly well around her.
“Yes,” he beamed, lifting the fur hat off his head to settle over her hair, and somehow it did not slip down over her eyes, fitting to her just as the coat melded against the slighter curves of her body.
“I don’t know you, do I? Why were you waiting for me? I am lost, this fog is-”
“You are Davina,” the man said with a shake of his head, cutting her off. “I know you. I have been waiting for you. I was lost, until I got here, and the last lost went on and told me to wait, and you would come. You are the signpost; point me the way on that I may rest, Davina, and I will be lost no more.”
At his demand, Davina felt herself filled with a sudden but undeniable certainty, and her hand snapped up, pointing obliquely off into the fog. There were no paths, but her finger was sharply unwavering.
“Beautiful girl!” The man crowed, and grasped her shoulders to press a kiss to each of her cheeks. “Do not worry, one will come lost and you will know and they will point you your way,” he assured her, before turning to hurry off in the direction she was pointing.
Davina tried to follow because he seemed like he knew where he was going now, and if he knew where to go then she wanted to follow. Maybe she’d be able to find a place to wait until the fog cleared. Except she could not move. Looking down the fog was thick and unmoving around her feet, as unforgiving as cement, no matter how she twisted and tugged against it.
“How long were you waiting?!” she screamed after the man, and shivered in spite of the warmth of the coat as his voice floated thinly back through the featureless fog, “Only a few hundred years!”
This piece of Nightmare Fuel was inspired by this picture by leenik on DeviantArt, shared with permission.
For more info on the Nightmare Fuel project, click here.