Fog

Interesting observation as I temporary break editing from one book–waiting for some reader feedback–and begin writing another. My mind has very much shifted to writing–not editing–with pen and paper rather than on a computer. I’ve spent around $200 on a certain type of notebook, because I’m apparently I’m a very picky writer, but it’s working so I’ll continue buying stacks of expensive notebooks. Also, fancy fountain pens. Thanks, Neil Gaiman.

——–

Nearly out of gas now. The trees have returned. It’s autumn here, as it is in Green Lanes, a day and a half away. A less bright less vivid more gray autumn, but autumn just the same, the leaves still warm and the rain still warm and the days still cold, the nights colder.

He fell asleep while driving, woke up before the car drifted too far off the road. Such is the price you pay for dreams. He has decided to stop dreaming but knows he has no control over it; his subconscious controls everything his conscious does not. His subconscious is at work now more than ever, trying to force memories back into his mind. If not during the day, then at night when his defenses cease to exist. The floodgates open, the water rushes in. He wakes, sputtering and coughing up lungfuls of water.

Spontaneous combustion concedes the fact that anyone, at any time, may randomly burst into a human inferno so intense it leaves nothing but ash. Ash. Spontaneous submersion is very much the same, only you drown instead of burn, and instead of ash there’s a bloated blue corpse filled with water.

The car tops a hill and enters a sharp curve that begins sloping down the other side. Leaves covering the road swirl and dance as the car flashes through them. The further he goes, the more leaves cover the ground. Soon nothing is visible beneath the carpet.

The road, narrowing, slopes and curves through the trees before they vanish. Stark and slated, the expanse leaps toward him as his car barrels out of the copse and onto a headland sloping toward a shore shrouded in the fog he has come to know so well. Boulders and the occasional tree dot the headland. A straight line toward the first signs of civilization since The Resurrection Fern.

A lone rectangular building of pale stone veined by moss and fissures, its unlit windows posing as too many eyes. The building is three stories tall, and the perfectly flat roof is bare apart from a rusted satellite dish pointing at the sky. Despite its enormity, the building is plain and unimpressive and out of place along the shoreline. A gutted remnant. Clouds roll across the water so that he only sees a narrow strip of blue pressing against the land, small white waves and wooden piers vanishing into the fog. Those same clouds drift in front of the building and creep into its open windows and delivery doors on the bottom floor, where oil-stained asphalt vanishes in cavernous holes of darkness. The entire image unsettles him; he expects the building and everything else to slide into the sea inch by inch, and for him to mindlessly follow.

But the building remains where it is, and although he does not, he at least controls his movements and the movements of his car, until he parks outside and stares at the building through his windshield. The road follows alongside the bulk and eventually fades into the fog, but he does not follow the road. He rather park here, the only car in a lot that can hold dozens. Pavement to wooden boards to water as the lot becomes the pier and the pier becomes the sea. Faint white lines mark where cars should park and where they should not. Signs read Personal Parking and Restricted Plates Only, and he does not know what those signs mean other than that he should not park there even now.

He belongs somewhere else.

He silences the engine and steps out, clutches the knife in his right hand. His hands ache from holding the steering wheel for too long, and too tightly. He flexes them, slowly, moving the knife from hand to hand before ascending the slope and entering.

Inside is one enormous room, no interior walls, just thick pillars from floor to ceiling and rusted, grated walkways running along the walls at every floor. One, and two, and three, and steel stairs connecting each. The windows are open and dim light cuts through the dusty air so that every ray, at every window facing the water, is visible, so corporeal he yearns to reach out and grasp them, to hold the light within his palms. He steps outside again and stares into the sky. Overcast, no sun to be found. No light, and certainly no rays. He wanders back inside and studies the rays of light, and although diffused and dying, they are still rays of light when the sky offers no such traces. A world without a sun, yet light still survives and navigates to where it’s needed.

He says hello only to hear his own voice. Echoes upon echoes, and he smiles when that echo reaches him again and again. His voice recoils off the walls and walkways and pillars so that there are hundreds of him and he is no longer alone. But his otherselves fade too soon, their voices waning whispers replaced by the wind. The wind howls here, so close to the water, and gusts as if enraged, rattling the windows so that the rusted hinges creak and cry and glass splinters into reflecting webs.

He does not know what direction the wind blows, for it sweeps through every door and window. The dust and debris is maddening; cyclones born in corners and alongside pillars, twirling and twisting and snaking through the room, and suddenly vanishing as if sucked into the floor. He must squint or force his eyes shut against the dust.

It is clear that he will never know this building’s purpose—whatever purpose it once served and does no longer. The insides were stripped and plundered long ago. Left over are only slabs of scrap metal, and up a level, almost directly above him, a rusted garbage can and a mop too gray to ever be white. A plastic toy elephant, a worn and torn painting of a single rose, a barbell as rusted as everything else. There are brighter squares and rectangles on the walls where posters and signs may have once hung, and dust-filled divots in the floor where machines may have once run, and a noose hanging from a walkway where a man mayt have once swung.

Leaves rustle in the wind.

He leaves the building and stands on the ramp outside, studying the land. The nearest tree is miles away. He reenters. Hundreds of leaves whirl madly. Back outside. A copse in the distance, a tree there, two over there, a handful on the hill. Goes back inside. The warm colors are chaos gusting in every direction, their crispness rough and loud against the cement and steel. The wind could not have carried every leaf down the hill and through the doors and windows. Yet they cover the floor and thicken the air.

“Do you like them?” a voice asks.

And he hears no more.

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