He had a bad day today. No, a terrible day.
He drove along the barren roads illuminated only by the grace of the moon and the crimson flame of porch lights that dotted the countryside. A dull hum of orange hung over the road that conflicted with the sharp cut moonlight. At once, it seemed to him that object’s shadows clung to their caster, yet they were strewn about in every direction by the lights.
This strange sour feeling rotted deep in his stomach, at once he felt nothing but at the same time felt everything. He ran it all over again in his head. What went wrong? He felt like he was going back into a war zone. But this time, he was all alone. There was nothing. Her clothes, the photos, sweet nothings that did everything to remind him of the bitter sting of her leaving. He knew it was coming, he could feel it when he woke up. But no exasperated begging, no final pleas, could ever bring her back. He understood why, however. He wasn’t bad to her, he tried not to argue, never to raise his voice. Yet at the same time, he couldn’t be what she wanted; what she needed. Ever since, well, it came he had been a husk of himself. At first it scared him, the black mist, with its sharp yet encompassing teeth.
The mist followed him wherever he went, like how the shadows followed suit behind the caster in the lights along the road. There were times where it would linger just behind him, giving him enough room to breathe and maybe, just maybe, forget it was there for a brief fleeting moment; only to inevitably make its soft embrace felt once again. There were other times where it clung to him like a frenzied tick desperately feeding. Today was one of those days.
As he drove, the mist was never far behind. With each push of the pedal he could see a little distance gained between him and it’s cold bite. He felt drained, sucked of any potential hope that he could ever dream of feeling. Could she see it? When she laid next to him at night, was she able to sense it was there? He always tried his best to hide it. Maybe by embracing the mist when it engulfed him he could learn to control it, but when has man ever been able to control the mist’s omnipresence? He thinks that she could see it, if not physically, she could sense it was there. Perhaps she didn’t see it as a mist that sat beside him, but a presence that was just a part of him. It didn’t matter. She was gone, and he had to be alone.
He looked behind him, it was gaining speed. It was getting closer to him. For years he had tried to embrace its cold touch but he doubted if was able to do so again. For years he had suffered its constant presence as it whispered into his ear. For years he had to make room for its company, ever since it introduced itself at his dad’s funeral.
He looked ahead, burdened by the onset of panic, knowing that he had to slow down soon. Oftentimes he took this road. Every night after work, late into the nights that bled into early morning he drove this damned road. Every night the same routine, every night the same mist. Lost in thought, he had to snap back to reality to swerve his car around the mangled corpse of a deer. Roadkill. Shocked by adrenaline, for one moment, one sweet brief moment, he felt like he had forgotten the mist. He kept driving. It was indeed getting closer. The mist itself seemed in tune with his very being. What was once an unwelcome stranger with an overbearing presence had combined itself with his very being. It was a part of him, and he couldn’t hope to break free.
Ahead lay a train track. Dilapidated wood dotted the gravel floor, beaten incessantly by the immense weight of gunmetal steel carrying tons of coal. Two red lights began to flash in a slow rhythmic beat. Alternating on and off. On and off. On and off. The car began to slow to a creeping crawl.
Sweat began to dot his forehead as he looked behind him to see that great mist behind him gaining speed. He couldn’t do it, not tonight. No, he just needed one night alone. Truly alone. He pressed as hard as he could on his accelerator. The car yanked itself across the track as a fish is pulled out of the water by a rod. But it was too late. The mist wrapped itself around him. Biting down without mercy. Oh god, he could feel it deep in his bones. The cold teeth felt like metal ripping bone from flesh. A scream ran across his ears, a scream that wasn’t his own. He felt pain, but it was no longer the sickly sour kind. This pain was real, very real. His scream melded into one with the howling of metal cracking, a train crying, the mist suffocating, creating a disastrous contorted chorus. The choir of hell broke loose, creaking on every note and harmonizing its brutal melody.
But all at once it was gone. The crescendo began to fade, that moon-shaped circle beaming fluorescent light engulfed him, and in that light the mist vanished. He was at peace, yes; he was finally at peace.
Those contrasting lights, the orange hum of porches, the waxy cover of moonlight, and that all encompassing fluorescent circle melded into one beautiful blinding beam. In this light, there was no more mist, no more him. Just the simple pleasure of being alone, truly alone. His final wish granted, he drifted away. All the torment, all the questioning, all the painful numbness that cursed every waking moment; gone.
The sun began to rise on the fields laden with mildew. A subtle orange and pink sky hung over every house on that street, greeting every waking significant moment that was to come that day. People were to wake up, to feel, and experience. The black mist did not follow them here. One such man arose from his bed at his own pace. No overbearing responsibility was to pull him up and into the day, he was the master of his own schedule; his own decisions. When he rose he walked outside to greet the warm sun and its complimentary chilled breeze. He breathed, today was a good day. He wanted coffee but that could wait. He sat a few moments longer simply being, no obligation to any desire he may have, not subject to any particular thought. He simply was. The usual morning regime then took hold, not that he minded. He loved what he did, he tended to the fields for no other reason than his own pleasure and happiness; how else could he get out of bed every morning? Some time later, he couldn’t quite remember how long, he looked out onto the track that ran past his house. The train usually comes around this time, but the lack of the whistle was foreboding. The farmer scanned the horizon to see an unnatural mangle of metal stained brown. He tentatively approached the evil pile, it was senseless. There was no reason for it. This poor man, this fellow human, forever enclaved in a ruin of his own making. Intentional or not, the farmer pondered, it was a senseless and tragic loss of a life.
He walked back to his home, the pile wasn’t going anywhere, and called the police to watch them perform a robotic routine. The track closed, for a time, only to inevitably reopen soon thereafter. The car was towed and the body removed. The tragedy made the news, only for a time.
After the funeral, she regretted leaving him. “God,” she thought, “It’s all my fault.”
Slowly, as if on cue to make its inevitable arrival, a dull numbing black mist began to seep from her, and cling to her as she sat down on the floor to cry.
Credit : Conor Male
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