The mist churned on the paved street, engulfing the road until their was nothing but misty fog beneath our feet. People rushed inside their homes and barred the doors – like always when the moon was full. Was there ever a time when the mist was seen as nothing more than force of nature? When the imaginary mind could conjure the illusion of drifting high above the clouds as the mist was thick and all encompassing?
To my knowledge, this had never been the case, for my grandfather told what his grandfather had told – the chain of eternal past bounding us to this place. But grandfather also spoke of other things most adults forget in their elder years. He told of times when priests roamed the land, when they cast blessings of rhymes upon the houses and soothed the dead to their eternal rest. But time had not been kind to the people of Aeru as the forebears of those ancient rhymes was long gone and had never returned. Indeed, those without family ties – no matter how ancient – had left the country and now only those bound by the past is tormented by it.
I remember, at one of those nights, when resting my head on my mother’s lap as we cowered on the floor in the cellar with my two sisters beside me. My father had been slow to secure the door, that night, and he was still on the first floor when the mist came. I glanced at the window to my right where the mist seeped onto the floor. My mother turned my head from it and buried my face into her gown, for it is said that gazing on the terrible will terrible wrought!
But a young mind does not heed such words, curiosity, more than anything, occupies ones thoughts. So with worry for my father, and anxiety in sitting still, I did not listen to my mother’s warnings and left her lap and stood by the stairs where the sounds of the terrible hitting our neighbours doors reverberated through the streets. But somehow, ours was quite. Mother looked in terror and beckoned me back, but I could not leave it as it was, as I had never known true fright. In my naivety and belief in my own strength, I headed upstairs. Mother, too frightened to move, and concern for my sisters, remained on the floor. On the top floor, I saw our door, that ought to be secured, stood ajar, and there was no sight of my father.
The sounds, that had been vivid before, was now silent, yet the mist crept into our home. Through the opening in the door, I peeked out on the street and saw only white mist, and black figures standing about. At the centre of the shapeless black stood another figure, his arms flailing as if in distress – still, no sounds were heard. My first reaction was the towns folk had somehow braved their fears and gathered on the street, expelling the evil. So I approached fearless, but as I drew closer, my mind began to swirl, as if the mist itself made my head lighter and I saw one of the figures turned to me and looked with hollow eyes upon me. Despite his horrible visage, I felt no fear, as I noticed its moustache twirling in familiar loops of my grandfather.
I remembered nothing after this and I am now in my elder years. I don’t know if it is blessing or a curse when the mist draws over us, for though it hides what we don’t want to see, it mystifies it and makes it more horrible as our minds make up what isn’t there.
My father did return to us and he spoke as if he’d brought the past to the present for he spoke of things we had long ceased to believe and we now make homage to the dead and the dead has stayed in the ground ever since. But the mist would forever be associated by eerie gloom and people would still refuse to go about at night, except my father, who preferred the night’s best and he chanted the rhymes that kept evil away until his death of age. Now I bear the torch and I lull the dead, alone as the mystic, the priest, and the insane.
© Christopher Stamfors
Featured image by ChrisCold