Fog’s cold breath

We had no fog this morning, no sea mist, we had driving rain. It’s stopped now but the clouds ar heavy and grey, promising more. I’ve been sharing extracts from my books about fog. The last one was about Deke and Michael, strangers to each other until they both arrived on Farholm Island on personal missions. They have caught the island bus up to a remote alternative community in the hills; the fog has blanketed the whole island but they decide to visit the old village. They are being guided by the leader of the group, Dawnstar.

The fog was thicker than anything Deke had ever experienced, it was quite frightening, like a disembodied entity pushing up against her face, its cold breath chilling her skin and dewing her hair. She wanted to hold onto Michael but he stayed close by her, his arm against her elbow. Dawnstar lead them as surely as if she could see clearly. Perhaps she is an alien, perhaps she has infrared vision, thought Deke. It was an utterly silent world apart from the sound of her own breathing, the tap of her crutches on the cobbled path and the light thud of the man’s boots.

They go to visit an art gallery and it’s there Deke thinks she has learned the truth about Michael who is a pathologist.

Michael was coming down the staircase with a small picture. On the bottom step he paused, staring at a picture. His anxious look towards her made Deke cross to him.
She looked at the small four by four picture which had caused such a reaction. It was a small pen and ink drawing of a fox.
“Its a coal-fox,” she said “It was his joke.”
It was Niko’s joke, a pun on her name. He said it was from an old story, was it an island tale?
“He had a tattoo, didn’t he?” said Michael gently.
“Yes… oh! how do you know that?” Niko had the same black fox, a tiny thing tattooed on his chest over his heart. And a dreadful thought struck her. “How do you know that? You did a post-mortem on him, didn’t you?”
There was a rush of the familiar sensations, the tight band round her chest which stopped her breathing, which pained her heart, which stopped the blood, and her senses seemed about to flee away.
“No, no – ”
“You cut him up, didn’t you?”
“No, no I – ”
“You cut him open, sliced him up! You did – oh you – you – ” and then she had not the words to express her sickness and disgust.
Deke hobbled swiftly down the stable, flung open the door and rushed out into the fog, she would go back to the cafe and phone Tom or Barbara Crewe or Sean, anyone to rescue her, to take her back to her cottage and she would pack and run away. She blundered on and she heard Michael somewhere calling her, his voice oddly directionless in the obscurity. She came up against a wall and followed it, passing an unlit window and came to a door. She banged but there was no response, it wasn’t the cafe. Michael was still calling her name and then she heard other voices. Quite close at hand a woman said
“Who is it?”
“Its me, Deke,” she answered because the voice sounded familiar.
“Where are you?”
Deke stumbled on to where the woman seemed to be. There was grass beneath her feet, she had strayed out of the confines of the village. She was very frightened. Something moved in the fog in front of her and thankfully she hurried towards it only to collide with a startled cow.
She turned and tried to go back the way she had come. She had no idea which way she was facing, towards the village or away and into the hidden wilderness.
“Where are you?” said the woman again.
She stumbled on and suddenly her crutch sunk into mud. She was on the edge of a pond, the pond she had seen in the photo of the children. She had staggered into the cow trampled ooze and she slithered and stuck, her crutches pushing down into the smelly slime.
“I’m by the pond,” she called, her voice sharp with panic and fear.
“Which side? Can you see across it?”
Deke looked across the dull grey water and could just make out a clump of reeds.
She was shoved violently and she slipped and fell with a great splash. She floundered and thrashed desperately as a foot pressed down on her back, between her shoulder blades.

© Lois Elsden 2019


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