One Foggy Evening

May 25, 2008
By Sam Kratzer, Edina, MN

Ernest was an old man of 67, who lived by himself in a country estate. Once upon a time, he had a family, but they had long since left him. Since then, he had established a lonely routine, of which he had become rather fond.

Every morning, he rose up out of his bed at 6:15 in the morning and slipped his worn out running shoes onto his feet. After a quick breakfast, he would run down the rough gravel road as far as his legs would carry him, which sometimes meant 15 or more kilometers. When he was exhausted from fatigue, he would pull relief out of his sack in the form of a brown paper lunch bag. He sat by himself in the grass, eating his lunch in quiet solitude.

Ernest couldn’t tell you the day of the week if you asked him, or even what month it was, because every day was the same for him; there was never any change in his routine.

That is, until today. A cloud of mist had descended upon the city overnight, and you could barely see anything more than 20 yards away. It was unnaturally chilly, but as he stepped out his front door, and broke into run, Ernest barely took notice of this (or at least he hid it well). For 20 minutes he ran on and on, swiftly flying down the road before him. And then, he noticed it. The mist began to morph into something else, or more accurately, someone else. A figure was emerging from the fog. A strange woman, who wore tattered clothes, and stumbled along with an awkward, unbalanced gate, was trudging slowly opposite of him. Her state of poverty was incredibly clear, and her wide eyes took no notice of anyone else on the road, save for a split-second twitch of her eyes in Ernest’s direction. As she disappeared into the mist once more, he pushed her out of his mind, and continued his run.

He lay awake in bed that night, plagued by the memory of her worn, empty face. When he finally found sleep, it was uneasy, with haunting dreams of the sideways glance she had given him as he passed. He awoke to find that the fog had not subsided. With a little more haste in his step than usual, he jogged down the sidewalk and turned onto the road. After about one half-hour had passed, his nervousness passed and he could relax once more. He began counting the mile markers he passed, and when he reached marker number 13, he could swear he saw somebody… a very familiar somebody – No, my mind must be playing tricks on me, – thought Ernest – It was improbable enough that I saw somebody once on this old, deserted road. Surely I couldn’t possibly see the same person again! The woman on the road the previous day had been the first face he had seen, besides his own reflection, for years. He ordered all his food from catalogs, and the mail and packages came while he was on his run. He decided that it must have been a figment of his imagination. But slowly, that figment of his imagination became less and less of a figment, and more and more of a person. As he grew nearer, he could tell that it was indeed that very same woman he had encountered just 24 short hours ago. Ernest stopped dead in his tracks, wondering who this person might be, and why she was walking down this road to nowhere everyday. He stood there for several minutes watching her come and go, and decided to follow her to her destination. Staying far enough back so that he was still shrouded in the fog, and could not be seen by her, he began his return journey. He resumed counting mile markers as soon as he passed the first one, though now they came at much longer intervals.

He plodded slowly on and on, finding that walking took as much, if not more energy out of him than running. It was as though the thick fog was sucking the life right out of him. It was shortly after the 13th mile marker, when he thought he could go no further, that he saw it. There she was, lying in a crumpled heap on the ground. He ran up and knelt beside her. He could hear strained breathing coming from her.

“Help……me…” Ernest almost leaped up in shock when he heard this. After thinking for a couple of seconds, he decided to take her to his house. He couldn’t just leave her here, after all. Looking up, he found to his relief that the estate was in view. He carried her into his house and sat her down on a chair, where she slowly came to. Two plates of salmon were placed on the mahogany table. “Might I…use your restroom to wash myself?” inquired the mysterious lady. Ernest was surprised to find that, despite not having talked to anyone, besides for a gruff “hello.”, words formed easily at the tip of his tongue.

“Yes, the washroom is just around the corner to the right.” Had he been watching her, he might have noticed that her hand slipped over his food as she arose, in a very subtle sweep of her sleeve. She returned to find him seated, awaiting her. She slid into her seat, and started to dine. As Ernest took his first bite, the food had no more than touched his lips, and he collapsed onto the floor. With a wry smile, the woman replaced the bottle of cyanide in her pocket, and swiftly exited, searching for her next victim.

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