“I write for a new age spiritual magazine. Spiritual”, I emphasised, “not religious. Although honestly there isn’t a great deal of difference anymore. Change through positive thinking and all that bullshit. We cover similar themes, probably target the same demographic.”
“Is there still appeal for that kind of thing?” She spoke with interest but her eyes were looking elsewhere.
“I don’t really care. I get paid either way.”
The fog in the town was bizarre. It arrived the day before I did. There was no wind to shift it and no temperature change to dissipate it, but to linger for the time it did was puzzling. When I recall that first week, I remember uncertainty and a vague apprehension; all life muffled and still, a vacuum. There was nothing to talk about but there was nothing else to talk about. I held a few token, informal interviews with locals at bars, in shops, but they gave me little – all amicable, all distracted – I could get nothing out of them. Studying maps of the town and reading articles on the internet I put together a file. But after a few days I grew bored and began walking the town, unable to see further than three feet in front of me. Cars rolled past slowly with full beams gliding through. In the mist it could have been anywhere in the world.
“I can’t make an objective judgement of this place while it is covered. I’ll stay until the fog clears. They say it can’t stick around for much longer; it’s a meteorological anomaly.”
“Your article. Will it be ready?” Far away the editor spoke.
“It’ll be done when it’s done. Besides no one is waiting for it.” But the call cut out and I’m not sure he heard me.
The days grew long or the nights short, under dull illumination of street lights that appeared miles above the sidewalks like uninterested stationary spacecraft. A disillusioned creator observing a malfunctioning purgatory. I saw little to suggest there was anything wrong with this town, but looking back, the fog was the only thing I and the people of the town spoke about in those initial weeks. It’s all we saw. Looking out of every window would yield the exact same view. A grey wall in slow but constant motion, motives unknown.
Nothing rose above the blanket of fog but for the tallest fir trees, and the spire of the Catholic church on the hill. The spire invisible to those on the ground, those on the ground invisible to the spire. Forgotten or otherwise gone. The fog had simply masked the problems of the town, because nothing could continue until it left. The usual problems with the drugs, the unemployment, the high crime, the social tensions, all of these things were put on hold. As if for a time they were all the same, the townsfolk, all in the same standing, one of shared uncertainty.
One night in the spire at the top of the church I stood with the reverend and we conversed about religion and the fading influence of the church in present times. He was tired and spoke with little enthusiasm and told me that it was not so much that the church was weaker, but that the faith of the people, in these trying times, was at an all time low. Lacking faith in the economy, faith in justice, faith in political manifestos. Faith in one another.
We looked out across a grey sea and I saw the stars for the first time in months. Beneath the veil, headlights from speeding cars outlined the routes in and out of the town. Sometimes it looked like all the cars were travelling in the same direction, out and away, escaping from the town as the centre around us became darker.
I asked him when he believed the fog would clear.
“What makes you think it ever will?”
© Nicholas J. Parr, 2016