18 Aug Lost and Alone
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"Lost and Alone"Written by Adam David
Estimated reading time — 15 minutes
Lightning flashed overhead as I picked myself up off the ground. Wondering where I was and how I ended up there, I examined the shapes and shadows that littered my view. The dark sky made my vision near obsolete, but my eyes slowly adjusted to the absence of light, and I could make out very dark and foreboding alleys.
Trying to remain calm, I called out. My voice echoed through the streets, but no helping hands came to my rescue. I was scared, alone, and clueless as to how I ended up here in the dark. Upon realizing that I had nothing to gain by just sitting there, waiting for help, I picked a direction and started walking.
Other people seemed nonexistent as I called out, just to hear my voice echo in the night. I thought I could hear faint movement in adjacent buildings, but otherwise there was no evidence of a welcoming and inviting populace that would help me rationalize my situation.
Shapes and shadows melded into a very dark neighborhood, which I was hesitant to explore. The very air of this environment told me that I was not welcome, that I should turn back and leave. I shuddered as I slowly advanced along the darkened streets. Not a light in sight signaled an inviting neighbor who would offer shelter.
Tired of my endless trudging through the unlit street, I followed a walkway to a nearby residence. I stood there for minutes, pounding, yelling, and wishing that somebody would just answer and tell me to leave. As the panic of isolation began to consume me, I cut across the lawn to an adjacent building and banged on that door.
“Hey!” I shouted, trying desperately to remain calm, “Please, I’m lost. I need to make a quick phone call and I’ll be out of your hair, just please answer me!”
I continued to bombard the door with knocks and even tried to force it open. The door remained firm and silence was the only reward for my endeavors. I panicked as I came to the realization that I was truly alone.
I focused on my breathing as I tried to direct my attention to my next move. I did not know why there were no lights in the streets or why nobody was answering their door to tell me to get off their property.
Lightning flashed again, the azure light revealing the end of the street. Choosing to go right, I could barely make out a slightly larger building than what I had seen in my immediate vicinity. I followed the road to the building as the gloom of the night air continued to eat at what remained of my piece of mind. Blue flashes occasionally lit the darkened sky, my only guide in my otherwise lightless world. My approach to the generously sized building revealed the features of a church. I didn’t get my hopes up as the interior offered no light.
In spite of the uninviting atmosphere of the house of worship, I roamed the outskirts of the building, hoping to gain access to this one building which may hold some clue as to where I was. The entry was bolted shut. Keeping my agitation at bay, I walked along the exterior to find a side door, which, also, was locked. I was tempted to grab a rock to break a window when I spotted a fire exit. Laughing at myself as I pulled on the door, I was amazed to find it was open.
The door creaked as I slowly pulled it open, wandering into a chapel. “Hello?” I called out, hoping to finally hear a response, “HELLO?” I let go of the door, hearing it slam shut behind me as I wandered into the room that was even darker than the night sky.
I blindly stumbled forward, tripping over an object at my feet, and cursed my luck. I didn’t want to be in this church anymore. I grabbed the object, intent on chucking it in a random direction, but as my fingers fastened around the object, it had a very waxy feel to it that made me reconsider my outrage. I had found a candle! If I could only find something to light it then I could at least see where I was going.
I groped around the floor, eventually finding a small cardboard box. As I shook the box, the sound of matches thumping against each other confirmed to me that I now had light. I struck a match on the box and lit the candle. Very dim light filled the darkness.
Straining my eyes to take in the details of my surroundings, I saw that everything in sight looked very old and untouched. Hymn books and pews had gathered dust over a long period of time, the whole chapel which had once been so lively and vibrant was now dull and lifeless, with a very ominous vibe to it. I felt my skin crawl as the overall sense of gloom overwhelmed me. The sight of such a forgotten room that had once brought joy and wonder to the hearts of many followers was very disheartening.
Shifting my candle around as I roamed the chapel, searching for hints and clues as to what had happened to this town, I concluded that I would not find anything in this chapel. The air in the room felt colder than when I had initially entered. Hugging my chest and fighting off a shiver, I left the chapel in hopes that I would find something elsewhere in the church.
Once I left the chapel, I found a hall filled with open doors. I wandered from classroom to classroom, feeling desperation as I had not found a single other person. As I sat down in one of the rooms, I thought I could hear laughter. The laughter had a very maniacal tone to it, though I could detect a hint of bitterness. I shuddered, concluding that I had finally lost whatever sanity I had been clinging on to. As I sat there, about to give up on my search, I heard an audible voice and movement outside in the hall.
Right as I poked my head outside the classroom, I could see the faint outline of a figure darting into another one of the classrooms and heard a very loud thud as the door shut.
“Hey, stop!” I said. I didn’t know why this person was so aloof, but I needed to know what had happened to this town, about the blackout, and absence of people altogether. I sprinted to the closed door. “May I come in?” I asked, knocking softly on the door. The individual I had followed to the room gave no response as I continued to pound on the door out of desperation. As my knocking increased in volume I heard shushing from the other side.
My curiosity got the best of me as I set my candle on the floor and braced for impact. “I’m coming in!” I called, hurling myself at the door several times before it finally flew open.
“Shhh! Shh… It’s okay, mommy’s got you, you’re safe with me,” the voice drew my attention to a young mother. Guilt replaced the frustration which had fueled my intrusion as I proceeded into the room.
I had propelled the chair blocking the door all the way to the opposite wall. The woman I saw cringed as she guarded a small bundle in her arms. The dim light of the candle behind me didn’t reveal much more than her overall appearance. I guessed that she had to be in her early twenties, though she looked as though she could have been older. Her shoulder length dark hair looked very untidy and in need of care, her pale skin was cracked and looked as though it had not seen the light of day for some time, and the bags under her blue eyes from many sleepless nights gave me the impression she’d gained a few years over a short period of time. This woman looked like she needed more help than I did. Empathy overwhelmed me as I felt sorry for the stranger whom I had disturbed.
The woman stared at me as I entered, trembling as though she had seen a ghost. Her bloodshot eyes were very wide and her ceaseless muttering made her seem very terrified. She cowered at my approach, taking steps backward as I walked forward. I felt as though I were cornering a stray cat. Despite feeling more than slightly insulted at being feared in this manner, I reasoned that I had just hurled a chair at the wall in front of her and her baby, so I exercised caution as I chose my next words and actions.
I put my hands in the air to show I was unarmed and bore no ill intentions as I stepped forward. “I mean you no harm. I woke up here a little while ago and have no idea what’s going on-”
The woman burst into tears. A quick visual inspection revealed bruises all over her body. Sympathy for her had me ready to pull her into a tight embrace and reassure her that I was there for her now, that both she and her child would be alright. Everything changed the instant I made eye contact with her.
Without warning, the cat seemed as though it were ready to pounce. I stumbled back a few steps as the scared, little woman gained height over me as she glared into my eyes, her visage accusing me of crimes of which I was not aware.
“He’s coming!” she hissed. There was a very wild and menacing look in her eyes. Falling to her knees, she placed her child on the floor. “He’s coming, he’s coming, he’s coming,” she whimpered, clutching at her head. Her aggressive tone turned to wretchedness as she shuddered. My skin crawled as I watched her writhe and heard her monotonous, droning chant about the impending misfortune, inspiring both fear and concern as I decided to see what I could do to help.
I looked from the confused mother to her child, feeling concern for the poor kid, wondering if there were some place safer it could stay, rather than in this dreadful place with a guardian who seemed as though her sanity was gone. Closer inspection of the bundle revealed not a child, but a cheap baby doll. I stared at her in disbelief. My sympathy for her and her ‘child’ slowly dissipated as I realized this woman had to be a junky.
At this point I considered that turning to leave was probably my best option, but pity filled my heart when I tried to look away. This woman had no clear grasp of what was going on and seemed like she was just as lost, scared, and confused as I was, mistaking a doll she happened upon as her own flesh and blood. Considering that my mind could also crack from this isolation which seemed to plague the town, I made up my mind to at least try to help her.
“Miss? I don’t know who you’re talking about, but I don’t think it’s safe here. We should probably look-” I was immediately cut off by another change in her expression.
Her crying turned into laughter almost instantaneously as she picked her head up, looking at me with the most maniacal expression. My stomach dropped as this woman rose to her feet, her darkened figure taking small, steady steps toward me.
“He’s coming,” she cackled, I felt more than just a little intimidated as the hair stood on the back of my neck. “He’s coming and we’re all going to die.” Her words seemed absurd, every instinct that I had told me to dismiss every claim that this woman made, regardless, the ravings etched themselves into my mind. Curiosity threw itself into the maelstrom of emotions that stormed my head in that moment.
I froze as the woman drew ever closer, grabbing me as she finally came to a halt. Her rancid odor that filled my nostrils made me nauseous. I held my stomach fluids down just in time for her to laugh in my face. I could smell the scent of decay during those miserable five seconds.
I fell into the hall as she threw me outside the room. The woman cackled once more. “It’s my turn,” she laughed, “I’m the next to die. Beware the fog, beware the people, but also beware him.” She cackled, slamming the door, then continued to give reassurances to her only companion that could not forsake her.
I was almost too stunned to move as I picked myself up, grabbing my lit candle in the process. I’d never met anybody I’d call crazy before, but I concluded she definitely fit the description. I had to leave. Without looking back, I searched for the nearest exit. Maybe the next person I ran into wouldn’t mistake dolls for children. Rushing down the hall, I spotted the front entrance to the church.
I walked out one of the front entrance doors, leaving it propped open as I exited. I couldn’t be sure if I would need to come back in for any reason, whether it be for shelter or to claim whatever food I could find in there later. Hopefully that woman would wander off before such an occasion should present itself.
A thick wall of mist greeted me as I walked outside to the already lightless streets. The woman’s warning of the fog rang loud and clear in my head, making me shudder as I determined turning around was not an option.
“Beware the fog, huh?” I said to myself as I strolled outside. I usually don’t look down on other people, but that woman was absolutely crazy. I went on my way with no idea where to check next. The police station would have been a good idea if I had a map of the town since I couldn’t see one within walking distance, in fact, due to the fog I was having a hard time seeing where I was going altogether.
I groaned as the fog quenched my candle. The light my candle gave hadn’t been strong, but it was a comfort just to know that it was there. I continued to trudge blindly through the fog.
As the fog became thicker, I recalled her words, ‘Beware the fog… Beware the fog… Beware….’ I couldn’t get that twisted mantra out of my head as I trekked through the town. I assured myself that it took more than a little precipitation to spook me, but five minutes of braving the elements left me questioning my bravado. I couldn’t even see a thing anymore as I stumbled straight ahead. Just as I was about to start losing my composure to panic once more, I bumped headfirst into a brick wall.
I cringed as I pulled my bruised head away from the wall. I put my hands out to feel along the bricks. It took some time, but eventually my hand touched glass. I groped for the door handle and pulled.
To my relief, the door was not locked. I went inside, pulling out my matchbox to relight my beacon. My dim light revealed a vast library, which was full of shelves, but had no books in sight. I thought this was pretty strange for a library, but given my current predicament, strange was the new norm.
I took a look around. My clothes were a little damp from the fog, fueling my desire for shelter as my frozen legs continued to propel me forward, albeit at a very slow pace. Drawing my attention back to my surroundings, I squinted at the interior. The building was empty. “Hello?” I called out, not thinking I’d get a response.
“Who’s there?” a scratchy old voice greeted my question. I heaved a sigh of relief. I could not see my new friend, but maybe, hopefully, I’d finally get some answers and help that I need.
“Where is this place?” I asked, in a very loud voice, ignoring his question, “I woke up here a few hours ago and have no idea how I got here or what’s going on.” They library was very dark, but I thought I could make out a figure standing up in a corner of the big, open space.
“No one really remembers,” I saw an old man approach very slowly on cane, holding a lit candle in his free hand, “For years our town has been engulfed by a wall of fog. No one ever leaves, but no one ever comes in either.” The man used the back of his hand that held his candle to bring his thick lenses closer to very old, tired eyes, “I’ve never seen you around before.”
“Yes, like I said, I just found myself here a few hours ago. Does anyone know why we’re all engulfed by the fog?” I was more than slightly agitated at being taken so lightly, although I did suppose that crazy ran in the town.
The man thought long and hard before giving his response. “The town council would definitely know more than I…” He turned and hobbled in the direction from which he came. I followed. “If anyone could help you it would have to be them, now let’s see… where did I put it?”
He had a small horde of possessions in a tiny corner of the library. In the time it took him to rummage around I caught a glimpse of an old journal that looked very tattered and used. While his back was turned I snatched it. This journal could answer all the questions that had been piling up since I found myself in this strange wonderland. I hid the journal away and stared off into space. Minutes later, my host regained my attention when he found the object of his interest.
“Ah, here it is!” he exclaimed. My weary new friend pulled a map from his horde of seemingly useless treasures, then he circled one of the buildings on it. “This is the town hall, where you’ll be able to find them.”
I gave him a confused look. “Sir, pardon my confusion, but when I first got here and tried to find my way around, all the buildings were locked. It was a wonder I was able to even come in here, much less get in the church-”
Without warning, the man grabbed my arm forcibly. As his filthy, yellow nails tore into my skin, I winced in pain. His tone changed from helpful to crazed, his eyes had a very mad, maniacal look to them, “You’ve been in the church?” He glared into my eyes with unmistakable fury, similar to the psychotic look in the eyes of the woman I’d met in the church. I had to look away from him as he interrogated me. “What did you see? WHAT DID YOU SEE?”
“Nothing,” I said, trying as best I could to blot out the pain while trying to loosen his grip, “I didn’t see anything at all,” I lied. Given his reaction to my bringing up the church, my situation would probably worsen if he knew who I’d met in there, regardless of the fact that I had no idea what significance she had to the town.
The man let go, revealing that his claws had indeed broken skin. His facial features softened considerably, “I’m sorry,” he heaved slowly, his tone becoming old and tired again, with a hint of mournfulness, “You’ve obviously had a rough day. You should stay here for the night.” I squinted at this stranger who seemed very sincere about his apology.
I turned my attention to outside the window. Fog plastered the entire windowpane. The only good source of light I had were from the candles that both of us kept. I spent the next minute in silence, uneasily considering my next action.
I weighed my options. I could stay here, with this suspicious old man, I could try to find my way back to the church where a woman whom I knew to be crazy lay in wait, or I could try to go to the town hall where I had no idea what awaited me, assuming I could navigate through the thick mist. The weight of my situation hit me like a freight train as I realized that I was stuck here in this building with a complete stranger who seemed like he’d either help me or kill me in my sleep.
My stomach grabbed my attention as I mused over my options, growling audibly for the both of us to hear as I realized I had not eaten anything since I wound up in this town. The old man returned to his mess of belongings and returned with a sealed can of food for me to eat. “Here, you look absolutely famished, young man.” In light of the previous conversation, the consideration of politely declining the offer seemed like my best course of action. A mixed feeling of dread and gratitude filled me as I processed his offer.
I took the can from him. “Thanks, but I don’t have anything to open this.” I triumphantly returned his present, ready to excuse myself.
“Oh, that’s right,” he said. “I have something for that somewhere over here.” As I felt my eyebrow rise as he seemed all too prepared for my reaction. I knew that I had to get away from him. I watched him as he turned around to rummage through his things again, using his cane to slowly descend into a kneeling position. My stomach grumbled again, even louder than its previous declaration.
“Is there a washroom here that I can use?” I asked him. For the time being I could at least put some distance between the two of us. I had to get away from this man whose intentions I considered questionable.
The old man pointed to his right. “It’s really dark,” he said, as he leaned forward and picked up a small object, “so take this.” It seemed to take forever for him to rise to his feet with the aid of his cane. After hobbling back to me, he handed me a flashlight. I found myself impressed at him offering me the small electric light, seeing as electricity seemed almost nonexistent in this town, based on what I’d seen so far.
I thanked the stranger for the tool and turned around. Maybe I was being paranoid, but at this point he’d done more than just creep me out. My legs darted as fast as they could in the direction that I had been pointed.
The bathroom was further away than I’d anticipated. Once I found it I decided to take a detour so I could sit down and explore the contents of the journal I had stolen. After finding a corner of my own, I opened the book. It obviously belonged to the old man and could definitely tell me something about where I was, especially if he kept detailed entries.
I opened the book to the first page. The scribbles were hard to make out, but in a few minutes I was able to decipher a few words. The very first entry was a list of ingredients and directions on how to make a simple chicken dinner. I flipped through the pages, only to find more recipes. It was a cookbook. A freaking cookbook. I closed the book, cursing my luck.
When I looked up, the old man was standing right in front of me! I jumped a little. Not only did he find my location, but he’d caught up to me in the minutes it had taken me to find a private spot to do my own research. Instead of holding the candle in his right hand, he held the dinner he’d promised me. I wondered how he had moved around so fast, without light, despite needing thick glasses. The possibility that this man wasn’t exactly what he seemed finally dawned on me.
“Good reading there, huh?” the man smirked. I shuddered as I looked at his left hand, which he used to lean on his cane. I concluded the cane was just for show and cringed as he drew ever closer. “Dinner’s ready.” He was right in my face as he handed me the open can with a spoon inside.
I nervously took the can from him. I didn’t trust him, I didn’t trust the food, but it felt like I had not eaten in days. The aroma of this fine cuisine tormented my mind as my stomach joined the battle against my growing suspicion. I didn’t know if I could trust this guy, but I was so hungry!
As the battle between stomach and reason came to a close, without putting much thought into it, I chucked the can at a nearby bookshelf. The old man stared at me as I panted, mentally congratulating myself over my victory.
“Well, guess there’s no supper tonight,” he breathed in an attempt to maintain his air of elderly wisdom, “I’ll see you in the morning.” The stranger hobbled off toward his nest, his merry song sending another chill down my spine.
I let out a huge sigh of relief. I considered that my violent display regarding the food had been very rude, but this stranger did not inspire my trust. I didn’t want this person watching me during my hours of vulnerability as I slept.
I wandered the library as I looked for a place to hide for the night. I would feel more comfortable if my roommate were not present for the duration of the night. I realized that my judgement was clouded by paranoia and the old man was probably the best friend I would have in this place, but I’d reached my limit for the day and needed to be alone. I was half tempted to sleep outside as I continued to search for somewhere that I would feel secure.
Shadows danced as my light swept the aisles. My skin crawled as silence once again filled the library.
“Sir?” I called out. All I could hear was the echo of my own voice. “SIR?” I repeated, even louder. The handle of a cane hitting the back of my head was the last thing I felt before passing out.
Credit: Adam David
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