Out of the Fog

I stared out at the empty space before me with consternation. It was the first cold day of the year; fall had been slow coming, allowing the remnants of summer to coddle us all. Dusk was still about an hour out, but the chill in the air was a clear indication that the sun had tucked itself in for the night. I stood shivering with my arms interlocked across my chest and the hood of my sweater pulled over my head. Lyle was about a foot ahead of me on the path, staring straight ahead and frozen in excitement.

“This is stupid. I don’t see anything.”

“Shh!” he warned irritably.

I rolled my eyes. This wasn’t the first time I had let him talk me into some ill-advised misadventure. When he got something in his head, it was easier to give in than to argue. Two summers ago we had spent a whole night in a trailer park two towns over looking for what Lyle swore was the dashboard of a crashed UFO he had read about online. I tried to tell him that the story had likely been masterminded by a fourteen year old boy with too much tech, but Lyle was sure. We never found anything. That’s how the story always went; he had the theories, and I had the research. Twins, and counterparts. It was lunacy.

“Are we ghost hunting right now? Because I’m pretty sure you can’t see a ghost in the fog. Or, you know, ever.”

Lyle swung around and cut his eyes at me.

“Sorry,” I whispered, sardonically, in that tone every girl inherits around the age of thirteen (and treasures forever after).

Lyle positioned himself around me so that I was in front, and cupped my shoulders to force my focus straight ahead.

“You can only see it in the fog. And no, it’s not a ghost.”

I sighed, but did not let my focus waver. The last time Lyle had dragged me to a graveyard we were only kids. He had ripped off a Ouija board from the local toy store and truly believed supernatural powers could be harnessed from a piece of plastic worth $11.99. Admittedly, it scared the shit out of me when it started to move, and I had nightmares for weeks thereafter. He swears he never moved it, but I don’t know how else to explain what happened that night. Either way, I’ve mostly crossed the street at the graveyard since then.

“I hate it here,” I whispered back.

“I know. Just wait.”

So we waited. And waited. And then came the peripeteia – it appeared.

At first, it was just a shadow in the fog. Then, slowly, it materialized into the form of a woman. Stunned and silent, I tried to refocus my eyes, convinced they were fabricating images due to the long, cold, interim – but there was no mistaking those eyes. Their white glow pierced through the fog and the darkening sky; my own eyes their target. Her emergence from the fog grew steadier, and her unsettling beauty became more apparent. Her long white hair wrapped itself about her formless body, draped in a white figureless garb. Overtop, a green cloak rested upon her shoulder-less shoulders. She seemed more an apparition than a person – her floating feet did not quite meet the cold ground.

Still processing what was taking shape before me, I let out an almost muted gasp. Lyle’s grip on me tightened reassuringly, and then he stepped out from behind me, and towards her. He moved gently, with the finesse of an apparition himself. But the movement, however slight, was still enough to make the woman evaporate. As she fused into the fog again, she released a sorrowful wail, loud enough to send an otherwise unnoticed flock of perched crows back into the evening sky. The wail echoed, creating a symphony with the flapping wings and distressed squawks of the murder.

Lyle turned back to me, gleeful with his discovery.

“It’s a Banshee. She must be visiting her family.” He nodded towards the tombstones to our left.

Still numb from what I had just experienced, I followed Lyle’s gaze, before correcting him.

“No. Only her family can see her, and hear her cries.” My voice was beginning to quiver with panic. “She warns them of an impending family death.”

Lyle stared at me quizzically.

“Lyle,” I whispered, “she was visiting us.”

Shyla Fairfax-Owen ©

One Hundred, Ninety Nine, Ninety Eight

Enervation was setting in. Colors became opaque, and sounds became feeble.

“You should stop visiting. It takes too much out of you.”

“I can’t help it. I miss you.”

The fog was enveloping me, and a layer of frost was forming on my lips. I was so cold I could no longer feel his touch; ironic, since all I ever came for was his touch. I closed my eyes and directed all of my energy to that one essential sense. Time was unperceivable, except for the dulling of sight, sound, and touch. Scents never dissipated, but that didn’t mean anything to me. I couldn’t smell his warmth, I couldn’t catch a whiff of his fingertips digging into my waist or caressing my shoulders. But, if I could just hold on to his touch a little longer, the arduous journey would be worthwhile.

“I know,” he whispered solemnly, pulling back his hand. He knew there was nothing left for me.

“How long has it been?” I asked. The concept of time passing still meant something to me, even if I could not sense it  myself. Numbers seemed instinctively (or, habitually) important to me. I had to find ways to keep track – superfluous as I knew it was.

“Six months.” He sighed and shrank back. His shape was blending into the fog now.

Six months was good. It was half of a year. It was more than one season. It was enough time to build memories, if I could figure out how to do that. Up to this point, I had only mastered the ability to retain knowledge. I knew him, and was comforted by his familiarity. I missed it when it went away. But I couldn’t remember anything. As it was, the six months had already faded; buried in the crevice of my mind that was once reserved for memory and time. Now it seemed the only parts of me that still worked were the parts that yearned for his presence.

“You should go. It’s time.”

“I know,” I whispered, not willing to admit that I was already gone.

The fog grew heavier; darker even. He was only a shadow now and his voice was surreal. I was no longer hearing it with my ears, but rather recognizing it somewhere in my mind. I knew he was saying words, and I let that be enough as I drifted away.

“What is time?” I mumbled in half awareness.

I knew the answer: just a number of minutes until I could feel him again.

I just needed my strength back; I needed to become whole again, and then I’d be back. And we would be happy, again. And the monsters would sit at bay, so far from us that they would be virtually inconsequential. And no one would control my fate, or take me away, or take him away.

Just a number…” I groaned.

The air wrapped itself around me and dragged me through the blurry darkness. I would be back, in time; whatever that was.

My brain swelled, my fingers shrivelled, my eyes fluttered shut. I exhaled without will. Slow and steady, the release came. I gave in wholly, eased by the calm it brought. But soon, that quiet non-existence would be awoken to awareness again. Awareness of his absence would ignite all of my senses, and send me back to him – until we ran out of minutes, again.

Somewhere, deep inside, I knew I was counting down those precious numbers.

Shyla Fairfax-Owen ©