Ten years ago, the fog rolled into Echo Bay with the evening tide. When it rolled back out again the next morning, it took seventeen people with it. There were no screams. No reported signs of violence. They just disappeared, as though they’d never existed.
Back then, we were told not to worry about it. The people were missing, sure, but they appeared to be unrelated cases. In every situation, the police had determined that the victim had a reason to run. And so, every night, the fog would roll in; and every night, another person would go missing. And nobody did anything about it.
You can stand on Baker Street, right where it crosses 15th, and watch the fog roll to a stop, if you’re so inclined. There’s still a bunch of people who do it, a group started by my Dad. He’d take us, when we were kids. Set up lawn chairs, pop a beer, and watch as the fog rolled up the street, only to stop neatly at the sidewalk’s end.
We were warned, often enough, to never go into the fog. Eventually, word spread among kids to not even touch it, as tempting as it was. Everyone knew somebody who knew a kid whose cousin had touched it and gotten pulled in by someone, or something, on the other side.
As you grew older, you learned to dismiss these stories for the bullshit they were. But still, people stayed away. Or, at least, that’s what we were told. As near as I could tell, the group watching the fog grew every night. People, like my dad, just staring out into the gray. Looking for what, I don’t know. Friends, maybe family. Maybe just hoping that there was someone on the other side with answers.
Every so often, one of them would stand up, and look around sheepishly, before marching off into the fog themselves. Dad told me once that he’d had to tackle his best friend DeAndre at the corner of Baker and 27th. Dre fought him off before sprinting into the mist, chasing some ghost that nobody else could see. Dad said it was the damnedest thing, although he sounded more thoughtful than sad.
Then came the night that Dad disappeared. Just up and walked into the fog, they said. Not a look back for anyone. I wasn’t there to see it, and part of me wonders if I could have stopped him. That was right after I started working at the pizza place down on Minor. It’s a shit job, and I’ve almost quit a thousand times in the years since. With Dad gone, though, Mom needs all the help she can get to pay the bills.
It’s a small town, Echo Bay. A lot of the economy came from fishing, but that’s slowly ground to a halt. More and more, people just gather at night to stare into the fog. Occasionally, you’ll hear folks speculate on where it came from. Some blame the government, some blame the corporations. Most folks just sit quietly and watch.
If you go down by the bay in the early afternoon, you can watch the fog gather off-shore. There’s a bit of a tourist industry there that nobody seems to want to take advantage of. I guess it’d be considered rude to the dead, except that we don’t know they’re dead. And the town’s dying anyway, right? Most days, the fog sits just off the entrance to the bay, almost like it’s waiting.
Eventually, the police got tired of folks disappearing into the fog. They set up a cordon around the outside of it, trying to keep people out. But they didn’t have nearly enough officers, not to cover the whole thing. Eight square blocks of city, and only twenty cops? I suck at math and even I know that someone will slip through that kind of space if they really want to.
Mostly, I’ve tried to ignore it. Some nights, a bunch of us from the pizza place will get together and drink some beers, or maybe pass a joint, and someone will bring up the fog. At some point, the conversation always turns to someone going in to the fog with a rope or something tied around their waist. And then, we have to remind them about Nico.
Nico worked down at the market, and he tried it a couple years back. How far he got depends on who’s telling the story. But everyone agrees that the rope went slack, and came back empty when they tried to pull him back. One second he was there, the next, he was gone.
I find myself going out there a lot at night, lately. Sitting in my dad’s chair and watching the fog. It’s beautiful, in its own way. The way it hangs in the air, almost as if it’s waiting for you, calling to you. Mom keeps talking about moving, but I know we’ll never go. As long as the fog is here, and there’s a chance of Dad coming back, she’ll stay.
Every night, I settle down in Dad’s chair on Baker Street. Some of the old timers nod, and smile as I have a beer with them. Sometimes, if I look hard enough, I think I can see someone in there, just out of reach. Could be Dad, could be anyone. But I feel them, calling for me, waiting for me join them on the other side. Maybe it’s not so bad over there. Maybe, tonight is the night someone comes back out.
Maybe tonight is the night I go in.
©2015 Chris Page. All rights reserved.