This story is by Barbi Calusdian and was part of our 2021 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
I barely fit in this stupid kitchen sink. The faucet is stabbing me in the back and the occasional drip is making my shirt wet. My legs are hanging over the cabinets, which could soon become a problem. I try to put my legs on the counter next to Harley and accidentally turn on the water.
“Dammit!” I quickly turn off the flow but now my jeans are soaked. Awesome.
“You’re lucky you’re small enough to fit in the sink,” Bobby says from atop the table. “It seems safer.”
“How exactly is this safer?” I say.
“At least you can’t set your ass on fire,” Harley says, looking at Pepper, who is sitting on the stove, catatonic.
I’m trying not to think about the deer that just vanished when that dark, weird fog rolled in. Or how the fog chased us into the cabin, forcing us all to get up off the floor. Or the fact that we will probably be engulfed by it anyway, whether we are on the floor or not.
“Where did it come from?” I say.
“From the woods. Didn’t you see it?” Bobby asks.
“Yes, I meant where is it coming from?” I say.
“Some evil alternate universe perhaps,” Harley says.
“Oh my god, is that what you think?” Pepper says, coming out of her trance.
Harley rolls her eyes.“Of course not.”
“You saw it eat that deer,” I say.
“Don’t be stupid. That deer just must have run into the woods. It’s just fog,” Harley argues.
“I don’t see you getting off the counter,” I say.
“You know what, I will. This is ridiculous.”
“NO!!” Bobby and Pepper yell in unison. Pepper has her hands over her face and she’s peeking between her fingers.
“Do NOT touch that stuff.” Bobby warns. “I’m sure it’s toxic.”
“Fine.” Harley sits back. I have a sneaking suspicion she isn’t just doing it to appease us.
The fog pulsates, like a heartbeat.
“It looks like it’s breathing.” I say.
“Breathing? Oh my god. It’s ALIVE!?” Pepper shrieks.
“Why would you even put that in her head?” Harley reprimands me. “She’s already completely hysterical.”
“Maybe it is alive.” Bobby peers over the table again.
“Oh my god. It’s going to kill us all.” Pepper starts to cry.
“Pepper, be careful. You’re going to bump the knob and turn on the burner,” I say. Her foot is dangerously close to the edge.
There is blessed silence for a few minutes. I try to get more comfortable in the sink, but it proves impossible. I look at the floor and gasp.
“What? What is it?” Pepper says, putting her hands over her mouth.
“Nothing,” I stammer. “I could swear….” I stop. I’m not going to say I thought I saw faces floating around in the fog. Pepper is already a basket case. Plus that sounds like I’m losing my mind.
“What did you see?” Pepper asks. If she opens her eyes any wider they are going to pop out of her head.
“Nothing. I promise,” I say.
Pepper begins muttering to herself again. Bobby says, “I think it’s going down.” He squints. “I don’t know, what do you guys think?”
“I think that I have had enough of this.” Harley swings her legs over the side of the counter.
The fog waits patiently. I know that’s insane, but it’s breathing, inhaling and exhaling, waiting, just waiting for Harley to put her sneakers on the ground. I can sense its eagerness. Maybe Harley does too, because she hesitates.
Pepper moans and covers her face. Bobby looks like he is going to throw up. I hold my breath.
“Don’t do it, man,” Bobby begs.
Suddenly Harley jumps off the counter onto the kitchen floor. There is a collective gasp.
“See? Nothing happened to me. It’s fine.” She throws her arms up. “I told you.” She smiles smugly at us.
Suddenly her face goes slack, almost as if she is having a stroke. Except her eyes, her eyes are filled with terror. Pepper starts to scream. The fog is coming out of Harley’s mouth and nose and now her eyes, which are still wide with fear. Bobby scrambles backwards on the table in an attempt to get as far away as possible.
“Harley! Get back on the counter!” I reach out for her but she doesn’t take my hand.
And then she starts to disappear, like in those movies where they fade to black, only she is fading to grey, and then she’s gone. I frantically scan the floor because she must have fallen. Because people don’t just fade away. They don’t. She has to be there.
The fog is swirling, inhaling and exhaling, a mesmerizing haze. For a second, I think I see Harley’s face churning in there, part of the mist, a soft grey pencil drawing, but then she’s gone again.
Pepper won’t stop screaming. Bobby is shaking his head in disbelief.
“Oh shit oh shit oh shit.” he says.
The fog hears him and pulsates and breathes, in and out, in and out. Like a small ocean wave it rolls toward the table, trying to find him. His face is pure panic and he looks at me and I want to help him but I can only stare. The fog wants him. That’s impossible, this is all impossible. But I know it wants him, it’s waiting, biding its time. He scoots back further, too far and he loses his balance and falls off the table.
“Bobby!” I call out, but he doesn’t answer. Pepper suddenly stops screaming and sits motionless, staring at the table where Bobby was just a second ago. I look down at the floor and see his face faintly etched in the fog, swimming like a shirt in the washing machine and then he vanishes too.
Pepper begins to scream again and the fog is dancing toward the stove, calling out to her. She kicks her legs out desperately, trying to push herself back up against the wall and her foot smacks the knob and the gas stovetop springs into flames. Her jeans catch on fire and she’s flailing, howling in pain and fear.
I turn the sink on and get completely soaked. I grab the hose and try to spray Pepper with it but I somehow end up spraying myself in the face. I scramble back onto the counter, my feet are in the sink, and I drop the hose. Pepper’s clothes are on fire and she tumbles off the stove to the floor but I look away. I don’t want to watch her become part of the mist but in my mind I see the grey echo of her terrified face swirling into nothingness.
We are at a standoff, the fog and I. It waits patiently and I sit dripping wet on the counter, feet still submerged in the sink. The fog breathes quietly in and out, I’m gasping for air. Neither one of us knows what is next.
My friends are gone. What started out as a fun getaway has turned into a real life horror movie and I’m the last victim. Ten minutes ago we were on the lawn drinking beers and now they have evaporated into this goddamned fog. No, that’s not right. They are this goddamned fog.
And they are waiting for me to join them. They have all the time in the world to wait. I really see no way out of this so I swing my legs over the side of the counter and water drips from my legs and feet. I’m ready. I leap down to the floor.
Nothing happens. I look down and the fog has retreated, leaving a circle around me. I turn and send more drops of water onto the floor and it retreats further. It bobs up and down, but keeps its distance from me. Now I understand and I reach for the hose. The fog quivers in fear and falls back as I pull the trigger and send water flying across the room toward the door.
The water hits the floor and the fog separates, like Moses parting the Red Sea, and I drop the hose and bolt out the door. My dripping wet clothes and feet scatter the fog as I run towards Harley’s car and jump in. Thank god she keeps the key over the visor. I start the car and floor it, leaving the cabin behind.
I don’t want to but I look in the rearview mirror and I can see the fog slowly receding, making its way back to the woods, waiting for the next guests to arrive. I look back at the road and just keep driving. I’m going to keep driving until I run out of gas and then I’ll run, run anywhere, and keep running.
“I guess you were right Bobby. The sink was safer.” I say aloud to the empty car. This makes me laugh and then I begin to cry.
And I keep driving.