Adrian placed his key in the door, then paused. He left it dangling on the lock and sat down on the stoop.
He could hear them all the way down the driveway. As usual, all lights were on, and as he approached the front door, the booming sound of the TV reverberated in his ears.
Mumbled dialog with very audible expletives seeped through the kitchen window. His parents were at it again. Soon he would hear the crash of flying dinnerware against the wall and the slam of doors. Something exploded on the TV; Adrian’s parents were too busy fighting and caring only about themselves to mind what his little brothers were watching. They were not behaving either.
Adrian sighed and put his face in his hands.
“Why can’t there ever be peace?” He whispered.
At school people surrounded him, always talking, lecturing, gabbing and all vying or pleading for his attention. At home, the often cheerful jabber morphed into insults and yells and screams and blame, but it was no different. A constant yakety-yak.
Adrian sometimes wished he could press the mute button on his life and just live it in silence.
Maybe I should become a monk.
His phone vibrated and the insistent buzzing wrangled his nerves. Could they ever return to a time before noise?
The phone buzzed again. He glanced at it. Friends, more chatter, more hubbub and katzenjammer. He ignored the call.
The sun dipped into the horizon and the streetlamp at the corner switched on for the night. Adrian told himself to stand up and enter his raucous house, but he remained on the stoop.
The lights in the ramshackle house across the street also flicked on with a warm, inviting glow. Adrian frowned; he’d thought no one was home. It had felt empty to him and he didn’t see anyone arrive. His neighbors, a wizened and saddened man and his daughter who walked to school in faded clothes and scruffy sneakers, made no noise. He didn’t know her name, but he often saw her enter the middle school grounds as he drove past to his high school up the street.
Their house was always quiet, and Adrian, biting his lip, considered knocking on their door instead. He closed his eyes and rested his head against the door.
Only for a minute.
He must have fallen asleep because, when he opened his eyes, he found himself deep in the folds of a dark mist. He could only see the dim beam of the neighbors’ porch-light. The clamor coming from his own house sounded far away and muffled; an eerie silence had fallen over the street. He’d been wishing for silence, but this quiet was unnerving and this was no ordinary mist.
Something inside him, a voice, a hunch, something coaxed him to stand and follow the beam to the neighbors’ house.
He knocked on the door; the girl answered.
“I’m Adrian from across the street. I just…” He stopped at a loss for words; he hadn’t thought up an excuse.
The girl looked up at him with frightened eyes.
“Cassie,” she bleated.
“Boy, this is strange weather, right? It’s tenebrous.”
Cassie nodded, her eyes darting this way in that.
“Are you OK?”
“The mist scares me,” she muttered, “I think he comes in it.”
“I don’t know, a man approached me at school. He came with the mist.”
A chill crept up Adrian’s his spine, and he glanced around trying to pierce the dense fog. He stared towards the end of the street. Shimmering in the gloom, he descried a figure in suit and hat sauntering down the road and approaching Cassie’s house.
“Right,” he took Cassie’s hand and led her inside, “you’re safe with me. I won’t hurt you.”
He closed the door. Cassie’s audible gasp confirmed he had not imagined it; he had slammed the door in the ugly, misshapen face shadowed beneath the hat.
Adrian and Cassie stood in the hallway, his hand tight around hers, their eyes fixed on the door. The mist oozed through the gaps between the door and its frame. The knob turned and jangled. Adrian placed himself in front of Cassie; she pressed herself against his back.
“Go away!” He yelled.
A dog barked and growled somewhere; the sound cut through the fog and Adrian and Cassie watched in disbelief as it retreated outwards, like a vacuum sucking it all up into nothingness.
The oppressing sensation in Adrian’s chest released, and the world returned to normal. He crept forward and peered through the peephole. No sign of the ugly man in the hat.
He opened the door a crack; dusk had fallen in blue shadows over the street, but no hint of the weird fog. A German shepherd trotted across his sight and rounded the street corner.