The mist [short story]

The mist was quite comfortable really, a relief after the scorching midday sunshine the two of them had been walking in for so many hours. Nicer, sweeter, a relief. Or so it seemed to Ella; Kit was not so sure.

Ella opened her arms wide and twirled, shaking loose some of the droplets that had settled in her hair. Grinning wolfishly, she pounced and seized Kit in a bear hug, squeezing the raindrops from her face and clothing onto Kit, making her squeal in dismay. In spite of herself, Kit laughed. And then she regarded Ella seriously.

“Ella, look. Just be careful ok? I feel like I’ve been here before, somehow. I’m just not sure it’s so safe here.”

Ella shook more droplets from her hair onto Kit, bared her teeth in a crazy smile.

“Don’t be so gloomy, lady. At least we’re not getting sunburnt anymore.”

Kit tried to smile back.

The mist had arrived gradually. It was soothing, in a way; it made everything quieter, and ponderous. The denser it became, the harder it was to see anything much around.

So, there you found yourself, comfortable enough after the scorching sun, in the quiet, with less and less to see around you. It was nice, in a way. Quite comfortable, really.

Some time passed, and then quite a lot of it. The two of them hadn’t spoken at all.

At length, Kit noticed Ella’s silence. It was unusual. Turning to ask if everything was well, she gradually realised Ella was not there.

Kit also realised, slowly, that she had stopped walking some time ago. She had seated herself against some rocks. She sat on the damp ground with her knees drawn up and the cool, smooth rock at her back.

She had some faraway notion that she should get up, perhaps call for Ella. Speak, sing, clap her hands, anything. Only she couldn’t quite recall why she should bother.

It was comfortable here, as she sat regarding the misty walls, her small corner of cold rock at her back. Cradling her. She slumped a little, wondering if she might nap for a bit. There seemed nothing else to do.

Ella, meanwhile, did not like the mist any more. At some point she had roused herself from the quiet that had been settling into her bones, their bones – she had forced herself to chatter to Kit, whose eyes had taken on a glazed, misty look.

Ella had grown uneasy about that look, and shaken herself, clapped her hands, sang a song about how sunburn is pointy but sunshine is fine, especially with sunscreen and sunhats (Ella had never had much luck with rhyming). Kit had smiled vaguely at first, but gradually had slipped away into a reverie, paying attention only to her own thoughts, listening to something only she could hear.

Ella felt as though Kit was slipping from her fingers, even as she dug her fingers to Kit’s arm as she shook her, squeezed her in a hug, bit her cheek, tried to make her come back, though she sat right in front of her.

“Please Kit, don’t sleep here! I’m getting scared, please don’t leave me alone!” Ella had started to cry.

From the depths of some wet, heavy place, Kit felt a pang. It wasn’t nice, or comfortable. But it called her back.

“Ella? Don’t cry, I’m here, you aren’t alone!”

The two of them cried together for a while, holding one another tightly in the damp, quiet place. Only now it was less quiet. Their words and tears filled the space up a little, and it had begun to rain.

Big, heavy, fat and joyful raindrops splattered them both, their foreheads, their eyes, their open hands. They laughed until it hurt, and hauled one another onto their feet.

Exchanging a look, they both broke into a run, a crazed, shrieking, joyful sprint, and they leaped into puddles and kicked rainwater at one another until the deluge stopped at last, and they lack back in the sunshine.

“Kit?”

“Yes?”

“You were right about the mist, it wasn’t safe there.”

Kit winced, and squeezed her dear friend’s hand apologetically.

“Thank you for finding me, lovely Ella. And I’m sorry I left you alone.”

The two of them lay back in the sunshine, which was warm and dried out their clothes and hair. When it became too hot, they moved on. The day was long, and there was fun to be had.

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