No one went out into the fogginess because it was not possible to know what it contained. It was a consistent fug, seemingly airless but smoky, stale and foul-smelling. The thickness of the murk made it unpleasant when going out was necessary: all precautions were taken through the use of safety suits, oxygen tanks, lights.
She closed the internal airlock and stood in silence as the clock counted down to zero. She jumped when it buzzed and the outer door latch opened. It never changed, no matter how much she attempted to steel herself for the noise, for the sights that awaited her out there.
The silence disturbed her more than the view. Dusky clouds skittered across the ground, puffing away at each of her steps as if angry at being disturbed on their paths to somewhere else. Buildings materialized like the bows of ships in difficult and dark waters. There were no other people on the street but she felt as if she was being watched.
At the end of the block she turned toward the park, remembering what it was like before the fog. She imagined the sounds of children scampering happily on the jungle gym, skateboarders hooping as they flipped and dived in the cement course, tinny music beats from the earbuds of joggers, and traffic.
She missed the sound of traffic the most.
On the far side of the park she sat on her favorite bench, which afforded her a good line of sight. For a moment, she closed her eyes and remembered what the front of her house looked like from that bench. For a moment, she saw her daughter, sliding down the sliding board, hair flowing in the wind. Absently, she reached to wipe a tear and jerked when her gloved hand bumped against her helmet.
It was always the same.
Slowly, she rose and walked to the market. The doors stood open and she could see a few bent and rusted canned goods on the floor. Pressing the spotlight function on her light, she entered and looked around. The shelves were not as empty as she had expected. She selected two sealed jars of vegetables, half a dozen cans of meat, a few cans of fruit. The peanut butter tempted her, but she knew the plastic was permeable. Her heart lurched as she passed it, along with boxes of cold cereal and sleeves of bread, the desire nearly overwhelming her better sensibilities.
She hefted her bag full of foodstuffs, stepped outside the store, and froze in a moment of clarity.
The fog had lifted and the street looked as it had before — buildings and trees cast shadows on multicolored roadway, sidewalk, and grass where before everything had hulked and grayed in blurry singularity.
It was stunning and quick. The shadows began to fade and the fog returned.
With a sigh, she walked back to her home and resisted the temptation to wipe a second tear that slid down her cheek.
There’s fog and then there’s fog.
I don’t just mean the kind that comes on the wind outside — our minds and hearts experience atmospheric disturbance as well. There are days when the weight of the world creates a fogginess in our spirits, when we feel locked away and unable to see the world around us clearly.
You might wonder from where this line of thinking came and my initial response would be ‘because, a writer!’ but that’s not exactly the answer.
I posted a comment on social media a few days ago to ask my friends if they wanted to guess what I had in my mug. My sister-friend Katherine guessed mulled wine; I had Reisling and hers was the closest guess. I offered to write a story about a word or idea for the winner — she gave me ‘fogginess’.
And there you have it.