A bitter breeze whipped at the thick flat nose of a short, balding and chubby man walking hastily down a hushed street. The blur of his round shadow reflected in shallow puddles that gathered along the gutters of the damp sidewalk. The rain from the early morning hours left an odor of stale muggy pavement that carried no comfort to his weak bones. Night began to show itself and betrayed him as he glanced towards the silhouetted hillsides fading from view. The dread of the sun disappearing filled him. Why did it always get dark so early? His knuckles turned white as he clutched nervously onto a small brown paper bag nestled under his arm; inside was his favorite bag of chocolate chip cookies and a pint of milk.
The headaches crept in again as his memory failed him. He tried to recall how many times he’d performed this gruesome ritual. Wake up at three o’clock, get dressed, go to the store, find the cookies on the store shelf, grab the milk from the cooler, leave money on the counter where no clerk tended, and return home. It made him sick to his stomach.
The chill in the air amassed around him. The remembrance of warmth on his skin withdrew from his addled mind. It was cold and yet not cold enough. His stale brown eyes leered forward with determination as the darkness descended onto the streets; it’s clutches choked the little bit of light left that he felt comforted by.
Through drained vision, his eyes darted around at the silent homes that people he knew once inhabited; but no soul existed here. He was alone. Only the sound of his heartbeat kept him company.
A flickering street lamp lit the way as he approached a row of three homes; red, white, and brown. He glanced up at the stop sign, checking to make sure it was Nathan Street. He didn’t know why he checked. Somewhere in his mind he knew that he’d traversed this path many times before. The same overgrown oak tree on the corner dropped the same four dead leaves to the ground; two orange, two brown.
A layer of nervous sweat permeated his forehead. His heart quickened, pumping blood through his tired body. Fear betrayed him when he noticed a familiar fog rising up behind him and dispersing over the stop sign. Silently it crawled over the empty homes and unused parked vehicles behind him. He attempted to ignore it and adjusted his attention to a white picket fence that surrounded his small white home with the chipped paint. His feet failed him as he almost tripped when he opened the small creaking gate that he could have sworn he fixed. The sound of footsteps echoed in the distance. Leaves crunched slowly under the weight of each step. He quickly plunged his hand into his pocket, looking for his keys, sweating as he glanced occasionally back at the overcoming fog. The footsteps deliberately getting closer. His keys fell to the ground and he frantically picked them up and shoved the key into the lock. Two turns to the left.
It felt like his heart would come pounding out of his chest at any moment. He rapidly opened the door and slammed it shut behind him. The sound of the small gate opening sent panic through him. He almost lost his nerve as he shoved a very large blanket against the bottom of the door frame, sealing off any cracks where air might enter.
He tried to calm himself as he walked into the kitchen, but wasn’t doing a very good job of it. He lit a candle that was mostly wax spilling over the counter top at this point. His fingers trembled as he burst open the bag of cookies. He scarfed them down and gulped down some milk.
Is this my last meal? The thick worry lines on his forehead crinkled as he thought about the blanket. Somehow he knew that it wasn’t enough. Why was he the only one left? He assumed that it was because he knew how to outrun the fog. He spotted many shattered windows on people's homes as he walked past them earlier in the day. Did the fog kill them?
He lit another candle in the living room that sat on a cheap wooden coffee table. But his body iced when he heard three light knocks on the door. The glow from the candle offered no alleviation when he heard another knock on the large window next to him in the living room. He wasn’t sure if he should feel lucky that there was a very large dingy curtain covering the window. Another knock, this time on the door.
Don’t answer the door. The words repeated in his mind like a mantra.
He picked up the candle and held it close. The light was barely enough to make him feel safe. Another knock on the window in the living room was so loud that he shook. Why am I so afraid? He dropped the candle on the floor and it rolled towards the curtain; the flame unaffected. It instantaneously caught the curtains weak fabric on fire.
He stomped on the bottom of the curtain attempting to snuff it out, but the curtain came tumbling down instead. The feeling of something odd punched him in the pit of his stomach as he got a glimpse of something standing outside the window. A black figure that watched him closely. No color, no clothing, no hair. Just, a figure. He stared intently as a long black finger slowly traced down the glass and tapped on it three times just before it pointed at him. He slowly backed up and denied himself the acceptance of it’s existence. It knocked again. The smell of burnt fabric made his noise twinge.
“No. Just go away. Please.” He pleaded.
He wanted it to be over, he didn’t want to hear it’s hallowed knocks. His eyes closed in fear for a brief moment, and when they opened, the figure had disappeared; silence made itself known. He stood there in the darkness, holding his breath for what felt like hours as a dull moonlight invaded the room. The curtain was his only hope for survival and he cursed himself because of how cowardly he’d been. As he trembled, he picked up the rod and put it back on the wall above the window. He hoped he could at least get the curtain back up. That’s when it appeared again.
He stared, trying to make it out as it walked towards the window from his front yard. It looked like the shape of a man, the fog hid most of it’s features from view. Fear became panic as he watched it approach and then stand there perfectly motionless a few feet away from the window.
As he fumbled some more with the curtain, he noticed a cool air hitting the back of his neck. In his negligence, he’d forgotten to secure the windows in his room. But it was already too late. The fog was inside the hallway and noiselessly writhed towards the kitchen. He glanced back at the figure outside, it stood there as if waiting for something. He entertained the idea of bolting for the door and running out into the town but he knew that becoming engulfed in the fog would be an even worse fate. If that happened, he’d disappear just like the rest.
He huddled himself into a corner of the living room, watching the fog slowly engulf his home. Wishes weren’t enough to keep it at bay. The future became even more dismal when he heard familiar footsteps down the hall. The old floorboards creaked. The black figure was no longer in the front yard. He tried to scream but something about the darkness made his voice staunch as the fog crept closer to him, ushering along the black figure as though it had finally come to claim its prize. The last one on Nathan Street..
His body slid along the wall and he gasped for air like a fish out of water as the figure appeared before him, forming into something more tangible. It was almost as dark as the night itself and it stood at equal height to him, approaching quietly.
“What do you want from me?!” He screamed as he closed his eyes.
When there was no answer, he opened them again. There, sitting before him, he saw his own face staring at him with two large sunken black holes that were filled with a twisting nether spiral of galaxies unknown, where his once life affirming eyes would sit. The sound of his own voice startled him as it came from the mirrored version of himself.
“You’ll never escape, Clive.” It repeated as it got closer to him. He panicked again at the view of his own distorted face as the creature's head started vibrating at inhuman speeds: occasionally crashing back and forth into its shoulders as though it had no neck or spine. It repeated the same phrase over and over.
“You’ll never escape, Clive.”
“Go away! Leave me alone!” He screamed as the fog now engulfed him and the figure suddenly opened it’s mouth beyond the limits of a human jaw.
Clive screamed again as it started to inhale, a dead lamp went flying into the black hole that was it’s mouth; an abyss at the center. There was nothing but darkness and Clive couldn’t get away. The mouth grew so large, that it was big enough to swallow the couch he was gripping onto for dear life. The suction pulled his body up off the ground until he couldn’t hold on anymore and pulled him and the couch into the void of the creature's mouth. He screamed but no one heard. Only the endless void that he now belonged to.
The fog soon faded as the sun started to rise on Nathan Street. A light rain occurred but dried up around lunchtime. Hours passed until it was three o'clock. A short chubby man stepped out of a white house that needed a new paint job badly. He was on an errand to get some cookies.