Into the Fog
Their house was at the end of the main road running through the small town where Kyle and his sister Clara lived. It was lined with quaint little shops and other businesses, and the farther they got from the school, trees began to appear here and there, until eventually there were just the trees, the road, and an occasional driveway leading to houses sitting off a ways. On a normal spring day, it was a beautiful neighborhood, and it had given him a warm sort of pride to live there… That day though, shrouded in fog, Kyle couldn’t help but get an eerie, almost menacing sense from it... But Clara loved it. Unlike Kyle, who favored the warmth of spring and summer days, Clara was always attracted to the gloom of fall and winter. Every summer, she’d pine for cooler days, and when they came it was like she became a new person.
He could remember her bursting through the school doors that day, giving a squeal of delight, spinning around with her arms outstretched, tentacles of fog coiling around her limbs.
“Don’t you just love this Kyle?!” She had said happily.
“Uh… Not really… It’s cold and wet… Let’s just get home already…” He couldn’t help but let his grumpy mood show. He truly hated the fog, but even more than that, he feared it. The creepy man standing acrossed the street didn’t help either. He wore a wide brimmed grey hat and a long grey coat, with greasy looking white hair pouring down his shoulders. It was impossible to see his face with the thickening fog, which almost seemed to be emanating from him.
“What’s that guy doing there?” Kyle said under his breath. He was starting to feel a little frightened. Of course, he’d never tell his big sister that he was afraid. Being three years older than he was, at thirteen, she would never let him live it down. She giggled and mussed his hair.
“Come on you big chicken!” She always managed to see right through him… “I’ll race you home!” And with that, she took off running down the sidewalk, disappearing from sight within seconds.
“Clara! Come back!” He squawked, running after her.
“Hurry up you slow poke!” She answered, with a laugh. The fog had become a soupy mess, and he could see nothing farther than three feet from him. It also seemed to blanket any sound that might guide him. All he had to go by was the sidewalk at his feet, vague tree shapes in the distance, and his sisters occasional laughter that somehow managed to break through the white wall surrounding him. His heart began to beat a little faster… He felt as if he couldn’t breath….
“C… C… Clara?” He called weakly. He felt like he might cry. “Come back… Please…” Her laughter broke through the fog and seemed to come from all around him, first in front of him, then behind, and off to the sides. A tear trickled down his cheek, making his face turn red with embarrassment. He felt like such a baby.
“Kyyyyyllllleeeee!” His sister’s voice called from ahead. “Kyyyyyyyllleeeeeee!” Now from off in the trees to his right. Sometimes it sounded as if a male voice called as well. He thought he’d began to understand then. He realized Clara must have got her friends in on a big joke to scare him…
“Ok Clara. You and your little friends got me! You can cut it out now!” He called out. But that was so unlike his sister. She wasn’t normally mean-spirited or cruel. Yes, she’d teased him occasionally, but it was always in good fun, and it usually ended with them both dying of laughter. He could just glimpse vague shapes moving through the mist, causing it to swirl and twist in front of him. A tall figure dressed in grey seemed to pass quickly just inches from him, letting out a dry cackle and causing him to stumble back. That cackle seemed to echo all around him, bouncing off of the fog... ‘It’s just your imagination...’ he tried to convince himself.
“Kyle.” This time, the voice had come as a whisper right next to his left ear. He could almost feel the breath on his skin, smelling of a long rotted corpse. He yelped and jerked forward, spilling his backpack to the ground, tripping over it in the process. He landed roughly on his hands and knees, and twisted back looking around, gasping for breath and sobbing freely.
“Clara!!!” He shouted, gripped with terror now. “Clara please come back or I’m telling dad!” He no longer believed that this was his sister playing a horrible game with him, but he said this as a desperate last ditch effort to break the insane nightmare he’d suddenly found himself in. He realized now, that when he tripped, he’d somehow managed to end up in the road, and all he could see was cold, black asphalt all around him. He lurched to his feet and stumbled around, trying to find his way back to the sidewalk. ‘Where is it?’ and ‘Where is the dividing line that should be in the middle of the road?’ He ran in different directions, desperately searching for some landmark to guide him, but the more he did so, the more he felt like he was becoming hopelessly lost. ‘How is this even happening?’ He’d thought, the cold air biting into his skin, and the terror gripping him like a vice. Once again that husky, deep, laughter started attacking him from all sides, feeling like slaps to the sides of his head. He felt like he was going to hyperventilate.
“Pleeease… Why are you doing this???” He’d whimpered pathetically. Then he heard his sister begin to shriek. It felt like a punch to the stomach. “Clara!” He shouted. It seemed as if her scream wouldn’t end. Instead it seemed to grow in volume until he had to cup his hands over his ears to block it out. Lamely holding his ears, he ran in the direction the screams seemed to be coming from, when out of nowhere a pair of bright bright yellow eyes appeared in front of him. At first they were like tiny pinpricks that began to open wider and wider until their brightness blinded him. His sister’s scream had changed then ‘What? What is that sound?’ He’d thought… It suddenly sounded to him like the sound of squealing tires. The realization came far too late for him to do anything about it, and the car collided with him, flinging him into the air. The last thing he remembered before he lost consciousness was his father running to him, calling his name. He also seemed to remember glimpsing the grey man standing just passed his father’s shoulder, cackling softly, and slowly being enveloped by the fog.
They’d never found Clara. They’d never looked. Kyle woke in the hospital three days later, demanding to know if they’d found her.
“Where is Clara!?” He screamed, fighting to sit up in bed.
“Kyle!” His mother yelled. “Kyle lie down! You’re injured! You can’t be thrashing around like this!” She gently tried to push him back to the bed, her hands on his shoulders.
“Please…. Just tell me if Clara is okay…” He sobbed, tears in his eyes. His mother had had a concerned look in her eyes, and turned to the doctor who had just entered his room.
“Doctor… What is he talking about?” She whispered… “Will this pass?” That gnawing fear began to form in his chest once more.
“Mom??” He pleaded. “Mom!? Where’s Clara!?” He screamed, as he again began to rise from the bed.
“Nurse! Get in here please!” The doctor called over his shoulder, grabbing a syringe and filling it with a clear liquid from a small jar. A burly nurse came in the door. “Hold him.” The doctor ordered calmly, and the hulk of a nurse instantly rushed to the bed to hold Kyle down. As he kicked and screamed, the doctor injected him with whatever liquid filled the syringe and within seconds he began to lose focus, drifting back into unconsciousness. He struggled weakly against the nurse’s shovel-sized hands before the darkness claimed him.
The scene at the hospital had repeated itself several times, until he was finally committed to a mental institution two weeks later. He’d spent a year there, insisting his sister had been taken by the man in grey. His family, however, insisted that Clara never existed. He couldn’t understand what was going on, or how that creature had managed to erase his sister from everyone else’s memory. He’d spoken with a psychiatrist at least three times a week who’d tried to convince him that the entire incident in the fog never happened, and that Clara was just a figment of his imagination; perhaps created by the damage to his brain he’d received when he was struck by his father’s car? But how could that be? He had memories from their childhood together! He remember her teasing, her laughter, her face, all perfectly… But no one else seemed to be able to… He decided that unless he wanted to spend the rest of his life in a mental institution, that he’d better at least start pretending to go along with their version of things. So that’s exactly what he did. It felt like he was betraying her, but he pretended Clara didn’t exist.
When he’d come home, the first thing he’d done was climb the stairs to see if Clara’s room had changed, but of course Clara never existed, and therefore there was no “Clara’s room.” What now occupied that space was an office that seemed to belong to his father. A single tear trickled from his eye as he stood gazing into the darkened office.
“Everything ok Kyle?” His mother asked, startling him out of his reverie.
“Oh… Yeah… Everything’s great.” He said with a sniff, quickly wiping his face, and trying to feign a cheerful tone. “I think I’m going to take a nap.” He’d said, turning to his room. He’d spent most of his time alone in there for the next few months, quietly sobbing into his pillow, surrendering to depression. There was nothing he could do to bring Clara back. No one believed him… They all thought he had been dealing with delusions that he’d just refused to let go of, brought on by minor brain damage. He finally managed to get to a point where he could pretend indifference to the world, but that was as far as he could go. Eventually his father had found a job in a new town and they’d left their old home, and Clara, behind. His mother kept trying to reassure him it was all for the best.
....And now here he was three years later, standing at the top of the steps of his school, staring out into the fog, remembering his sister. Since that day his entire existence seemed to be shrouded in that fog. He hadn’t made any friends, and he just barely scraped by in his classes. He’d caught glimpses of the grey man on occasion… In his dreams, and sometimes on foggy days. He’d hear that dark laughter as if from a distance. He didn’t know how, but he knew that the grey man would come back for him and take him away like he had Clara. His appearances here and there served as a warning to Kyle. He wondered when his time came, if he would be forgotten, erased from existence and from the memories of those he loved like Clara had been. Would there be one person… His mother? His father maybe… Who would be forced to remember him, while everyone around assumed they were crazy or delusional? Would they spiral down into depression as Kyle had?
None of it mattered… The grey man was coming back for him, of that he was sure. Until that day, there was nothing he could do… Nothing but wait... And with that thought, he walked down the school steps, and headed into the fog.