by Romey Petite
BEWARE OF FOG
That was what the sign posted on the chain-link fence said, though the boy was convinced it must have been wrong.
The sun shone on that cold morning, but its dull excuse for daylight was absent of heat. The boy had bundled up in a hooded puffy anorak, squeezed into a pair of thermal underwear before stepping into his blue jeans, and could feel the cozy woolen footwear he'd slipped on to keep his feet insulated. Adjusting one mitten to check his watch, he felt a chill while the bare skin of his wrist was briefly exposed.
"I'm going to be late," the boy mumbled to himself as a puff of lukewarm vapor escaped from the zippered-up collar that almost covered his mouth.
For school? a faraway voice said. No, you won't be making it to school.
Not today, another agreed with the first.
The boy pretended he wasn't listening—he didn't want to be marked tardy.
Being a latchkey kid and frequently belated, he'd figured out by now that a bit of lawn-hopping—vaulting over & through the suburbs with their white picket palisades—would put him ahead just enough to slide into his seat before the bell. As for the sign, it was probably just someone's idea of a joke. Anyways, if the boy was marked off for attendance even one more time it was detention for sure.
So, you see, he had no choice but to ignore the warning.
The boy had a plan for the weekend. The threat of spending his Saturday in an empty classroom would ruin those plans. And what was it he planned on doing?
Absolutely nothing in particular—as was the prerogative of his age.
Deciding not to heed those voices he'd heard, the boy proceeded to climb the fence. Grabbing the wire-mesh with padded gloves, he hoisted himself over. It was easy as that to enter a stranger's backyard.
Was there anyone home?
Apparently not. Hurrying over the uniformly-shorn green, he saw no lights on inside the neighbor's house. His initial view was crystal clear—if he'd wanted to, he could have walked right up, peered in through the windows beyond where the terrace met cement patio, and seen what a lovely, albeit darkened home it was.
But that picture perfect view was vanishing—the glass seemed to be icing over—like the reservoir during a bleak midwinter.
Someone must've had the heater going really high inside the house. The difference in the external vs. internal temperatures—it had to be the reason for the mist on the glass. That was when the boy heard the sliding door roll wide open—just as he'd made it halfway through his dash.
Then he saw it come slowly creeping out.
Stained gray, suspended along above the ground, and with blurry edges, a joyless cloud was drifting out of the empty house and toward where the boy stood frozen across the grass. It wasn't clear if it was growing in size or getting closer, but he realized neither of those things actually mattered compared with the immediate necessity of his safety. Turning to run, he could feel it gaining on his heels as the cool air condensed like steam over a bowl of piping hot soup.
Snaking around his ankles, it rose—ascending before him like a wall to form a thick blanket—shrouding his view.
All that was idle blue sky faded as his visibility began to go. What little was left of the world he'd known dissolved into the distance until what was real existed no further than the digits of his outstretched thermal fleece-enclosed hands. Moments later, even the boy's fingertips, enveloped in ether, were starting to feel...fuzzy.
The gloom rolled in further still and there was a feeling of humid air wafting on him—intermittently so—a bit like panting.
The boy knew the soggy haze had a hungry mouth somewhere deep inside, that it was coming to devour him, and was aware he was being circled—as though it were trying to decide which side to approach from. The boy's body felt heavy. His clothes were completely soaked through.
I think the fever is finally breaking—he's starting to sweat, a voice from before said, but it was still far away.
The boy wanted his dad to come home from work early and save him. No—he wanted mom. Would either of them even notice he was gone until it was already too late?
He needs more rest, the second replied to the first, but those cold socks you put on him are definitely helping.
The last thing the boy dreamed of—before disappearing into the niebla entirely—was its hot, damp, breathy moisture collecting like twilight dewdrops on the hairs standing upon end at the back of his neck.
Romey Petite remembers his last three lifetimes during which he was an animal, a mineral, and a vegetable (not necessarily in that order). He is the author of the chapbook Horrorscope: Stories (originally published by Moonchild Magazine) and writer of the illustrated middle grade novel Spiderella: The Girl Who Spoke with Spiders. You can read more of his short fiction by subscribing to patreon.com/romeypetite.