When Jacob and his brothers discover the ability to capture fog from the marsh behind their house, they bring it back with them. The fun game turns to danger as they realize perhaps something else accompanied them home. Is it too late to escape the Deathly Fog?
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*****EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT BELOW*****
by Adam Breckenridge
Because the marsh at the edge of our property was forbidden to us, my brothers and I would take any chance we could get to slip away from under our mother’s nose and go stand at its edge. She had told us it was dangerous because so many things died there and we knew it was true, despite how many plants and bugs we found there. Even with all that life, the marsh was still where things went to die. My older brother, Jacob, used to tell us that there were bodies buried everywhere in the muck, going back hundreds of years.
“From back when it was Indians killing other Indians,” he said. “Centuries of murder down there. If you pulled the bodies up they’d look just like they’d been killed yesterday.”
We poked around a lot trying to find a human body. We never did, but we found just about every kind of animal that we knew lived on our property. Squirrels, rabbits, frogs, snakes, and birds, all mummified in a terrible imitation of life.
And then there was the fog, always so thick you could never see more than a few feet in front of you. It didn’t matter when you went. No matter how sunny the day was, as soon as you passed into the marsh, the world became murky and dark. That’s why we only ever stood on its edge. We were pretty sure if you went in, the fog would eat you whole. It could certainly move in ways that seemed unnatural for fog. Sometimes I was convinced it had teeth, but we were always safe as long as the air to our backs was clear.
When we weren’t there looking for dead bodies, we’d try to catch the fog in our hands instead. That’s how thick it was. You could actually cup it in your hands and hold it there. It was like holding a ghost. You could feel all that death from the marsh in it chilling your skin. It became a game for us to see who could hold their fistful of fog the longest, and then the game became running toward the house while trying to enclose it, which further evolved into a determination to try to get into the house while still cupping the fog in your hands. We never made it anywhere near the house. The fog was too slippery for the task, dribbling out between our fingers as we ran.
But then Jacob figured out a way to blow on the fog that would make it spin into a globe. He’d stay down there at the marsh’s edge for hours, practicing rolling the fog in his hands with his breath, trying to keep it going for as long as he could. It always bored the hell out of me and our younger brother, Mattie. Neither one of us could do it. We just didn’t have the breath for it, but we never wanted to leave him alone while he practiced because that’s how bodies go missing in the marsh. You never knew what was hiding in the fog just out of view. So, we’d stay and watch, keeping an eye on the fog for him in case one of those dead Indians rose from his grave and came after us with his tomahawk.
“Okay, I’m ready,” Jacob said one day after practicing for awhile. He scooped a fresh batch of fog in his hands and then started running for the house, keeping it spinning with each exhalation like it was the world in his grasp.
We ran after him, not getting too close in case we tripped him up. I could see bits of the fog slipping away, but he was keeping a lot of it in his hands, blowing and running at the same time.
Mattie rushed ahead to open the front door for him and then he was through, still a few wisps clutched in his hands. In the atrium, he stopped blowing and we watched the fog dissipate above us.
It should have been a cause for celebration—we had finally pulled off the impossible task—but a somber mood struck us. The marsh was a place of death, not fit for any house, let alone our house, and we had brought some of its morbid air into it. The decay had diffused and we could never get it back. My brothers and I breathed gingerly for a long while afterwards, feeling the stink of death in our lungs everywhere we went in the house.
The fog sat long in our minds so that even as we aged and shed our childish beliefs, the specter of death never stopped hanging over the house. Our house was a place of life, not just with our family coming in and out of it and all the pets and plants we had, but also the spiders, rats, and mold in the basement. Even the furniture, which was old and made of wood, had a certain life to them. There wasn’t a corner of the house that didn’t have something breathing in it, but since we unleashed the fog, the house was just as much a place of death as the marsh was.
Jacob was more adamant than any of us in trying to dismiss the weight of our superstition, but I could tell it bothered him as much as it did the rest of us. Read more of Deathly Fog.
Adam Brekenridge is a traveling professor for the US military who goes around the world teaching US soldiers stationed overseas. He has eighteen short story publications and most recently his work has appeared in Visions Magazine, Mystery Weekly, and Clockwork, Curses and Coal from Worldweaver Press.
He’s currently based in Seoul.
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