The fog was going away.
It had started to come in almost from the beginning;
She could not remember now a time when it was not coming in.
It had come in under clouds, under the sun, under star-less and star-filled skies.
Over the water that matched the sky in its vastness,
Creeping, rolling, floating, streaming forward
The fog had come in
To the shore filled with rocks and sand,
To the sparse grass,
To the tall trees that were now the only ones that had lived in clear air.
The fog had come in from no one knew where
Blowing into the roads,
Swirling around lamp posts,
Making dogs howl
And children cry.
The fog had come in,
Had crawled up the walls,
Had entered through open windows and through cracks under locked doors.
The fog had come
And it had found her.
She sat alone in her cave, her back against the curved wall.
She had been living out among the surrounding woods for years and years, playing amongst the trees, being friends with the small animals that shared her space, drinking from the clean rain that fell. She had been at peace in the woods that towered protection over her and gave her what she needed to live. She had never feared its shadows or howling animal calls. She knew these woods loved her and kept her safe.
But now she sat in the damp cave, away from the woods, her dress in tatters and her provisions in a dwindling pile besides her. Hard rain fell outside. She watched the water stream down the stone walls to form muddy puddles on the ground at the cave’s entrance. This was her home now.
She sat silent and unmoving, thinking back to the day she had been drawn out from the woods.
(Listen as you read for a fuller experience.)
He craned his long, white neck around the trunk of a tree. His wiry fingers curled around a branch and held him as he leaned forward, sniffing the air for any lingering of her perfume. Nothing.
His lips narrowed in frustration as he peered as far as he could into the darkness in all directions. Even with his keen sight, all he could see were the twisting branches and fallen leaves intertwining with the cold mist.
After a long moment standing still and hearing nothing, he softly crept forward, winding his way through the tall, leaf-less trees, stopping here and there to again sniff, peer, and listen. Time and energy were no barriers to him. He would find her.
She wound her way through the tall, leaf-less trees, stopping here and there to unstick her long coat from the rocks and twigs that tore at the fabric as she walked steadily through the forest. She had left before sunrise and had reached the forest before any light could show her leaving. It was now hours since then, and she welcomed the covering darkness of the dense forest.
She was hungry and thirsty and tired, but she had no thought of stopping, not yet. She had managed to bring one small bag of stolen food and water. If all went well, it would be enough, but she couldn’t use up what she had too soon. She would find him, kill him, and then she would have no more need, but it might still be some time before she did. He was clever and old, and he had done this many times. She was clever too, but she did not have his experience, and, she admitted to herself, probably lacked his patience. She had to be careful.