I rode in a coach across the countryside, on a road wholly undeserving of the appellation. A beaten track amid the fields ‘twas, more like. Barely wide enough for our carriage to pass. Not that there was much traffic the other way at the hour. Nondescript. Anonymous, very much so, as any other dust-ridden, hole-filled stretch of land this side of the zero fucks the gods gave.
Perhaps they simply needn’t to, I thought, holding back the curtain and staring out the diamond-shaped window in the door. I was looking at the world through an opaque prism. The sun high above a dull, throbbing dot. Didn’t care a whit for us humans, drowning below.
Indeed, I was deep in country which belonged to the Mist.
Wasn’t much to see out there, for the untrained eye. The Mist swallowed the world whole. She waited, an outstretched arm’s distance from the coach. Brazenly, I stuck my right hand out the window. Felt the lightest brush of her dewy fingertips across my skin. My hackles rose in answer. Of course, she knew I was inside the iron-banded carriage. Doubtless she’d embrace me too, if only I stepped outside.
I never dared to, however. I’m not particularly ashamed to admit as much – I was quite content to sit back in my plush velvet seat and watch. Everything to see, there was, for me.
Shapes danced behind the curtain of fog. Some, you could put names to. Empty husks, which were homes once, like bones jutting out of the crude, damp earth. Outlines of trees, traced with a lump of charcoal against the milky whites and grays of the Mist. A glimpse of a broken, derelict church on a solitary hill. Others, without names. Creatures, I suspected, long-limbed and twisted. They moved like no animal I’d ever seen. Without elegance, their movement jerky, almost repugnant. I understood then where all those folk nightmares bred.
Nothing was impossible, in the Mist. Everything was imaginable.
Therein was the source of my fears. Perhaps I was conditioned by the many strange tales of what lay hidden in the Mist. I derided myself time and again for my foolishness. A byproduct of my formative years, to be sure. Superstition spoon-fed so much nonsense to a child and I was no different. There I was, riding in an iron coach with a pistol glued to the underside of my seat. I knew ’twas pointless to lug it around. Still, it offered a source of cold comfort, the steel barrel pointing not far off my bunghole.
She fascinated me too. I always wondered what was out there, under the blanket of Mist. What mysteries lurked beneath. She looked so peaceful from where I sat watching, so unassuming. The sounds of the world drowned out. The creak of the carriage and the huff and puff of the team of horses dragging it might as well be an island unto itself, in a sea of queer silence.
“What now?” she asked.
I knew what needed doing, of course. I leaned forward, rapped the screen behind the driver with my knuckles.
“Halt the coach,” I ordered. There was no space for interpretation in the tone of my voice.
The carriage ground to screeching a halt. The pistol now firmly in my grip, I stepped outside. Already, she was reaching out to me. Beckoning. I wouldn’t deny her this time. I started walking.
She wrapped her arms around me.
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