I woke to a sea of fog this morning. Fog mutes everything -- light and sound and distance alike -- and for a moment I was back in Corey, knowing that at any moment Peck would come silently at me out of the fog like a dark bullet, and Mrs. Townley would know where I was. Suddenly I couldn't breathe, and my legs began to shake. I had to retreat into the barn for a while, crumpled against the wall, took many long, slow, deliberate breaths until the panic passed through me and I could convince myself I was, if not exactly safe, then at least out of immediate danger.
Last night I slept in the barn loft. I don't particularly like the itchy feel of hay, but it was warm and quiet, and it had the advantage of being sufficiently far away from human beings while still offering human comforts. The thoughts of farm animals are simple and placid, like white noise for the mind. Some of them consider me now, and their quiet helps restore my calm.
This fog is only fog, I tell myself. There's a river or a lake near here, and conditions are right for it to form. It doesn't mean anything else. Besides, if I stay in here all day for fear of an earthbound cloud, I'm a pure coward. I push myself to stand and to venture outside again.
When we were children, we played with the fog. It was easy to pull shapes out of it, like cotton candy, and wrap it around our foreheads like daisy chains, or weave strands of it into our hair until we went into the warmth of our homes and the fog melted into our wet braids. Janie was especially good at making things out of fog, maybe because she'd inherited the talent from her dad. She'd twist and twirl all kinds of shapes into it: patterns, plants, animals, faces. For years I thought children everywhere played with the fog as we did, just like making snow angels in winter or jumping into leaf piles in fall. I didn't realize we were using the knack.
Out of curiosity, I reach out to see if I can still do it, and pull a long, thin strand of fog out by my fingertips. It has a different consistency from the fog back in Corey -- finer, more delicate. I wrap the tendril around my left wrist, like a bracelet, and it continues to curl gracefully around my arm. The fog seems to be exploring me; it wants to know why I'm here.
Funny, I'd like to know that too.