INTO THE FOG by Emily Fraser

Image courtesy Camper Ruybal

My alarm went off, shrieking in that annoying tone that jolts you out of sleep. I got up, and doing that groggy I-just-got-up-so-I-look-drunk walk, I made my way to the clock to press the power button. After the noise from the clock was gone, I drug myself into the bathroom, and started getting ready for school. Just a normal Tuesday morning that consisted of brushing my teeth and hair, and throwing on an old t-shirt and jeans. By now I was awake enough to do a normal walk out to the kitchen.

My older brother, Jared, was already waiting for me. I had always thought he put too much effort into getting ready for school – the way he gelled his hair up always used to bother me, but now I find myself missing it.

“You about ready to go?” Jared asked – you could tell he was annoyed. “I’ve been waiting for like, 20 minutes.” I replied that I was ready when he was, but kept to myself the surprise that he had been up so early. We made our way to the front door.

Walking to the front door was never walking as much as it was creeping. My younger sisters and stay-at-home mom were still asleep, and of course were light sleepers. So every move we made had to be silent. I still have no idea how my dad did this so quietly every morning when he left for work.

I looked out the wide window in the living room, and saw the fog. It was thick, and more so than usual; even the huge tree in our front yard was invisible behind the misty screen. All I could see was Jared’s car parked on the driveway. There was actually another car there, I had assumed it was my mom’s even though she normally parked in the garage. At the sight of the fog I decided to grab a jacket before I left. As Jared was walking out the door, I whispered to him what I was doing. He didn’t even have time to finish telling me to hurry, and that we would be late, before I told him it would only take a second. With that he began heading to his car. He drove the two of us every morning. He didn’t want to, but my parents forced him. I speed walked as quietly as I could back to my room, grabbing the red jacket that was draped over my desk chair. My room was cold, even the zipper on my jacket was freezing. I looked over to see that the window was cracked open from the night before, but I didn’t close it – Jared was waiting on me. I started to creep back to the front door, but didn’t have to stay quiet long – Jared started to scream.

I ran to the living room and again looked out the window. Jared was still screaming. It wasn’t a scream of pain, or of fear. It was a scream of pure helplessness. His chest was heaving in and out; his ribs looked like they could burst out at any moment. For a moment I was frozen in place, deciding my next move. But when Jared’s screams turned into loud, painful gasps, I tried to run out the door. I say I tried because my dad’s hand caught me. I screamed at him, repeating “Jared needs help! Let me out!” Over and over again. But now he was pulling me closer, bringing me to his chest. Now both my parents, and my little sisters stood in the living room, we all witnessed as Jared went silent and fell to the pavement.

I screamed at my dad, not even forming words, just yelling and releasing the anger I felt towards him. I couldn’t even comprehend why he had pulled me away from the door, and not gone out there himself. Finally, he let me go, and I was able to speak again.

I was screaming “Why didn’t you let me out? Look at Jared! We need to get out there and help him!”

He just kept telling me that us going out there would do nothing to help Jared, that we had to stay inside for our own good, that Jared wouldn’t want us to go outside.

“We need to help him dad!” I continued to scream. I could hear my little sisters crying but  ignored them. The only thing that mattered right now was why my dad refused to do anything. “And why  are you even here? You should be at work! Maybe if you were at work, Jared wouldn’t be out there laying on the driveway! We don’t even know what happened to him, and you refuse to even react! Why aren’t you at work?” My dad had been staying pretty level headed this entire time, his obvious lack of emotion, even of compassion had been making me even angrier. But now he was getting angry back – you could see it building inside him as he tried to hold it behind pursed lips. But his lips failed him, and now he screamed back at me, his response actually hurt.

“That’s why!” he spat out at me, as he pointed out the front window at Jared’s body.

“And you want to know so badly what happened! You know what happened? He is dead! Jared is dead, so I’d take a nice, long look! Can’t you see that we can’t go into the fog?”

I was in complete shock. My dad had no way of knowing this. He saw Jared collapse, just as the rest of us did. He had no reason to simply believe that Jared was dead. And how did he know to not go out in the fog? I tried to scream at him again, but my throat seemed to close up and my mouth went dry. I had the words, but they couldn’t escape. My dad’s lack of concern drove me insane, I ignored everything he said. In my moment of speechlessness, I made for the front door again. This time I barely made it through. I thought my dad would run after me, but he didn’t. He reached out, but when he wasn’t able to catch me, he shut the door. I knew he didn’t care.

I ran to Jared, bent over him, trying to find a pulse – they had shown us what to do in health class. I couldn’t find one. I screamed his name but he never responded. Despite everything in me telling me not to, I started to cry. My tears felt hot after sitting in the cold air, even for just a few seconds. They rolled down my cheeks and fell on to Jared. When the warmth of my tears didn’t wake his cold body, I knew he was gone.

My chest felt tight, my lungs were refusing to expand. I thought it had been because I was trying to choke back my tears, but that wasn’t it. After my tears stopped falling my chest was not only tight, but seemed to be closing more and more. I took the deepest gasps of air I could, but it seemed to make it worse. It was getting harder and harder to breath and my windpipe began to close. I collapsed next to Jared, and now I was screaming in almost the same tone he had, although his voice had always been much deeper than mine. I don’t think I can even begin to describe the pain; not only physical, but mental too. The air almost seemed to be vacuumed out of me, my lungs felt smaller and smaller. I screamed. Despite the intense burning it caused in my chest, the slightest bit of air could slide into my throat. There were no rational thoughts that passed through my mind at this point. I panicked, scratching wildly at my neck. I kept scratching, and eventually I felt warm blood run down my fingers; I had no idea that my short nails were capable of breaking skin. I looked around frantically, but I didn’t see anything. I started writhing in pain and fear, and my head hit the pavement. Now blood flowed from the back of my head – I wondered if the fog was causing my thin skin. I kept screaming, now at the top of my lungs and high pitched. No one came for me. None of the neighbors, neither of my parents. Was this how Jared felt? Did he know that no one was coming for him? My entire body felt weak.

Everyone says they can feel themselves losing consciousness. But you don’t feel it; you see it. I knew I was losing consciousness when my brother’s face started to fade away and my eyelids started to drop. But I wouldn’t let myself black out. I had to know if anyone had heard my screams, if anyone cared enough to come outside. My body continued to lose air and blood, and it hurt like hell, but not as much as the things I’d seen as I lay passing into my own death. To my left, I could see the house and its wide front window. My mom was yelling at my dad, tugging on his arm, but he ignored her. My mom had always been a small woman, much smaller than my dad. There was no way she could pull him anywhere. But when she ran for the front door, my dad pulled her back to him with ease, just as he had with me. I couldn’t bear to look into my dad’s eyes any more after he just sat there and watched his son die. I looked to my right, and realized that I should have just kept my eyes shut. Jared stared back at me, his brown eyes that normally had so much energy were now cold, lifeless and dim. I looked past Jared, and saw that we were not the only ones so unfortunate as to go outside and now understood why no one came out to help. The bodies of our neighbors were scattered down the street. I crawled around, trying to see past Jared. The Wilkins across the street. Susan, the girl I’d had a crush on since I was 8 lay on the sidewalk – she walked to school. Her parents, Cathy and Brent clutched each other in their own pool of blood, sprawled out on the driveway. I figured they had run out for Susan, and realized the pain of being powerless. The Archers next door. Christian Archer, one of my best friends, had fallen against his mom’s car, smearing his own blood against the white paint. His single mom, Teresa lay to his right. I put together a similar story to that of the Wilkins.’

All these people were dead, they covered the ground and the milky air was filled with the rusty smell of their blood along with my own. I could feel the blood warming the back of my neck, and it almost seemed to be steaming in the cold.

There was something monstrous about the fog. Your loved ones would go out, thinking it was a normal day. They would fall to the ground, dead. You can’t see anything else through the fog, just your son or daughter, mom or dad dead on the pavement. You run out to help, but the fog is playing off of your emotions. It gives you a horrible decision to make – you can sit and watch your loved ones die, letting you live. Or, you run to save them, to hold them one last time and follow their tracks. I almost think that the pain of watching them die would be too much to bear, almost like you would have to go into the fog just to forget about what you’ve just witnessed. I suppose this wasn’t the case for my dad. Either way, the fog was merciless, emotionless. Yet somehow it could so easily understand and toy with ours.

I lay on the driveway, next to Jared, and I accepted my death. I rolled on my side. I was weak, but I had to be face-to-face with Jared. He and the blood that had poured out of me in buckets were the last two things I saw. It was then that I noticed Jared was covered in blackened dry blood. I don’t know if it was his own, or mine.

There are still things that I have remembered that scare me even now that I have passed. It is the question of whether there is anything to worry about that scares me the most.

How did my dad know not to go into the fog? I’m not sure I even want know.

Had my mom been able to run out to Jared and I? I pray she hadn’t.

Did anyone close the window? I can only hope that they did.