Lost in the Fog
Stuart’s fingers grip the steering wheel; his knuckles are as white as the mist descending upon them. His shoulders hunch forward, and Gloria can almost hear his grinding teeth from the passenger seat. She strains her eyes, trying to pierce the dense white-out surrounding them. The windshield wipers thud and scrape against the glass; it is the only sound, and it unnerves her.
Gloria glances at Stuart and bites back the scolding “I told you so” that springs to her lips. She wanted to stop, but he insisted on pressing on, assuring her the nearest city was only a short drive. Tension and weariness are now weighing on the silent couple as the car crawls through the dense mist.
Stuart passes a hand over his tired eyes. Thick wisps hover and meander in a spectral white dance, now revealing, now enveloping the blurry skeletons of the scraggly forest.
Gloria breathes a sigh of relief when the fog thins and bony trees line the way as the car crunches on an unpaved road.
“Shut up,” Stuart states when Gloria opens her mouth, “I don’t know where we are, or when we turned off the highway. And yeah, you told me so.”
He gives Gloria an annoyed sideways glance, but his lips curl upward, lightening the mood. Gloria snickers, and Stuart bursts into laughter, but the mist and disturbing silence swallow the sound. They inch forward. Mingled between the towering and haggard tree trunks, Gloria now spies squat walls and low ceilings.
“Houses!” She exclaims, “maybe we can ask for directions.”
Stuart grins, “Sure, like the last time. Remember that dark old house?”
But Gloria says nothing as a shiver creeps up her spine. No light shines in the small wooden houses; no car sits parked on the streets. She senses the deep abandonment and oblivion here. Unlike the ruined City of Gold that breathes constant destruction, this ghostly colony seems lost and forgotten in time, intact and removed from this earthly plane.
Stuart keeps driving and Gloria glances at him. He is nervous, his cheeks ashen, and he exudes fear. It grips her too, and she gazes toward the sky as her lips form a silent prayer.
Please let us leave, she thinks, repeating the words in her mind.
The fog slithers away, and a palisade appears ahead. Stuart speeds up and the car’s rumble breaks the moody silence. As he zooms under the crossbeam, Gloria catches the word ‘CROATOAN’ inscribed into the wood.