…so I wrote the first “chapter” of my “thrilling” new story which is as of yet slightly untitled. Any resemblance to actual names or places are strictly coincidental, etc. etc.
Chapter 1: In Which Smithers and Libby Are Lost
The fog. It was incredible, thicker and darker than she had ever experienced before. Normally, Libby would have reveled in the mysterious atmosphere, but today, she was frightened silly. It was annoying, quite annoying, her tendency to irrationally over-react. Later, when the situation was all over, she would realize that she was never in any danger. Later, she would scorn herself for her foolish fears. But for now, all she could do was shiver, folding her arms more tightly around herself, forcing her feet to keep plodding up the hill.
The hill felt never-ending this morning. Libby’s backpack dug into her shoulders, causing her to bend under its weight. The fog worsened the further she climbed; the air grew chillier, the light became more obscured. By now, she could only see a few steps in front of her, and her overactive imagination kicked in. Perhaps she had missed the music building altogether? Perhaps she was wandering lost? She stopped and looked around. To her right, she still saw the handrail along the sidewalk, the trees on the other side dimly outlined. She made herself take a deep, calming breath. She couldn’t be lost. The only place this sidewalk led was up to Cherry Hall, the music building. She was simply groggy from the early morning and disoriented from the fog. She resumed her heavy plod.
Ten steps, twenty, thirty. Surely she should be to the top by now? The fog closed around her menacingly, obscuring even the handrail she knew was just a few feet from her side. She sidled over to the right, feeling for it, but her hand met emptiness. She stretched further, but still felt nothing. Panic rising, she twirled in a slow circle, searching for any sign of where she should be, but the melancholy mists refused to grant her even a glimpse of the objects she knew must be close by. She wanted to sit on the sidewalk and cry, but she didn’t let herself—not yet.
I must have wandered, she attempted to reason with herself, even though she knew she would have felt herself step off the sidewalk if she had indeed strayed to the left. She continued cautiously groping toward the right, searching for the handrail. It was still beyond her reach. Another step over, and another. She was becoming more disoriented by the moment.
The fog—the blasted fog! Libby was certain it was making her physically ill. The backpack grew heavier and heavier. Every muscle in her body felt stretched and pulled, and she could barely make the effort to raise her feet. If only the fog would lift—but it looked like it never would. Had there ever been a time without the fog? She almost couldn’t remember. How long had she been walking? Where had she been going, anyhow?
She didn’t know. She didn’t know anything. The fog pressed down on her heavily, and she sank to the ground. Tears slipped from her eyes. She was alone and confused and afraid. Minutes passed, perhaps hours, perhaps more; the fog swirled around her victoriously, and she continued crying until she fell into an uneasy sleep.
Something startled her, and she jerked back awake. The rest, however uneasy, had cleared her mind slightly. Cherry Hall, she remembered. She had been heading to class. She looked around her curiously. The fog seemed to have thinned, but it was playing tricks on her eyes now, for the outlines she could make out looked nothing like her campus, and that way the mists were moving around that tree made the tree look as if it was approaching her. She peered to the right and left, hoping to spot the large, bulky silhouette of the music building. She was surely late to class, but perhaps the unusual weather would give her a legitimate excuse.
As she turned her face forward again, she blinked in surprise. The “tree” she had seen moving earlier was definitely not a tree, and it definitely was moving. It looked like—
“Smithers?!” she called.
“Libby!” he replied, striding through the mists until they could see each other clearly. “I thought you were a rock.”
“I thought you were a tree.”
“I have never, ever, ever seen fog this thick before. I completely missed Cherry.”
“Me too,” she answered with relief. “I’m glad I wasn’t the only one.”
“Do you know where we are?” Smithers inquired, striving to see through the murkiness surrounding them.
“I’m clueless. I have no idea how I could have stepped off the sidewalk without feeling it, but I did somehow.”
They stood in silence for a moment. Finally Smithers raised his arm and pointed. “I guess it must be back that way. Man, this fog is terrible.”
Libby, quite horrid with directions, submitted to his suggestion and quietly followed as he led the way. She rubbed her face, hoping that he couldn’t tell that she had been crying. Funny how upset she had been just moments before—it was only a little fog, after all. Nothing to worry about.
They walked on, not bothering to make small talk. Libby thought that the fog might be slowly lifting, but it didn’t reveal any familiar locations. In fact, the clearer it got, the stranger the surroundings became. She stopped.
“Smithers,” she said.
“I have never seen this place before.”
As far as they could see, they were standing in a flat wooded area—quite unlike their hilly, concrete college campus. Libby looked down and saw long grass brushing against her ankles.
“Oh,” Smithers remarked, sounding exasperated. “You know what we never thought about? Just calling Professor Zee.”
“Oh,” Libby answered. She felt idiotic. Of course. That’s what they should have done long ago. Smithers pulled out his phone and toyed with it for a few moments. “Funny,” he said. “I don’t have any reception at all.”
Libby rummaged in her backpack until she located her phone. She glanced at it. “No service. It doesn’t even want to try to connect to anything.” She was beginning to feel irrationally afraid again.
“What do we do?”
They looked at each other hopelessly. Lost in a location that looked remarkably foreign to their normal surrounds, thoroughly confused as to directions, and completely cut off from communication from anyone else—the situation appeared bleak.
“I guess…keep walking until we find reception or something that looks familiar?” Smithers finally suggested.
“I was going to say sit down and cry, but your idea is probably better,” Libby replied.
Smithers grinned. “So that’s what you were doing when I came across you.”
“Not exactly,” she huffed in mock offense. “I was actually sleeping.”
“Hardly helpful. Let’s go.”
Masking their uneasiness, they started walking again in what they hoped was a straight line, looking for anything even remotely akin to what they knew.
It is, perhaps, a good thing that Smithers and Libby were unaware of where they were. Had they known, their uneasiness would have been changed to something closer to terror. But they did not know where they were, so they walked on, unmindful of the eyes watching them from the trees.
It will, perhaps, be continued.
On an unrelated note, Stretching the Metaphorical Cello is a year old now!
Have the loveliest of weekends.