Amidst The Mist

Amidst The Mist

A Story by Shreyas Tripathy

1.     Introduction

 

Routine… This was the word that had been permanently etched on the back of my mind for the last five years or so, “Same old, same old” had become my favorite phrase and work… well, it can never be much of an excitement anyway. It seemed as if my life was a long lost race and I was living to make sure that I reach the finish line in order to take away my participation certificate. No drive, no reason, no hurry… What could inspire me to live my life in a more, say, a better way? Yeah, that’s about right; nothing. Living in a small, quiet town with hardly any population didn’t help the cause either. My friends living in the bigger cities and the sub-urbs constantly complained about the noise, the traffic, the life being a rush, a race, no peace at all and so on , but from where I stand right now it seemed like a “not so bad” kinda prospect. But then there’s always the saying that the grass seems greener on the other side so even that might not be the “perfect” life after all. So here I was, no choice, no options, just living a lonely, lonely life.

The slow-moving week finally gave way to a lazy but a definitely faster moving weekend. I woke up late. The sun was high enough in the sky for the time to be around 11a.m. I brushed my teeth, freshened myself up and sat down in front of the T.V. while emptying a box of cereal into my mouth. The hours ticked by fast and before I could realize, the clock took the opportunity to point its little finger at 4. That was the final indication of the fact that one-fourth of my weekend was over and that I had to wash my clothes and take a shower. With these routine works done, now was the time to sit and do absolutely nothing. I sat down on the couch and let myself drown into the rather disturbing silence that was looming large all around the house. Then, suddenly my meditation was broken by my cell-phone.

“Hey, what’s up buddy?” the voice of my co-worker and friend Jon came through the phone.

“Nothing much, you know, the usual meditation on the couch, staring at the walls and wondering why I was still alive kinda stuff. What made you remember me?”

“Work, obviously”, chuckled Jon.

“What work?”

“Boss just called. She said that the guy who was supposed to be joining last week, finally made it. You are supposed to brief him on what he’d be doing here and hand over those files she gave you last week.”

“Oh, come on! Is this how I am supposed to spend my weekend? Explaining our new co-worker what he was supposed to do in the last week which he missed for, God knows, what reason.”

“Why? What “special” things did you have in mind?” the taunting voice of Jon echoed in my ears.

“Nothing much, ok, nothing at all, but still… I mean this isn’t right. Screw her. Anyway, where does he live?”

“In the South Colony, you know the one by the Fog Lake? He is staying in lodging 108 there”

“Yeah, thanks by the way. Hey! Wait a second. Why did she call you if she had to inform me? She could have called me straight away.”

“Yeah, about that … Umm, I am going off to my girlfriend’s to celebrate her birthday, so I had to put the burden on someone else. And who could be better than my buddy, right?”

“You jackass! I’ll not forget this.”

“Neither will I. Thanks buddy! See ya.”

“Yeah, sure … Bye”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.     The Peacock

 

As I had mentioned before, our town was a small one with less population, but still there were a few unexplored territories for me; one being the South Colony. The Fog Lake was famous for the ever-hovering fog over the lake’s surface, as the name suggests. It was the landmark of the town that no one could miss. The low lying mist round the area kept it cooler than the rest of the town all around the year. The South Colony was the first colony to be built in the town and now with most of its residents gone due to various reasons, that colony was undergoing the process of metamorphosis. Most of the houses were already turned into lodgings and the rest were being renovated. I had never found this part of the town cheerful and hence avoided coming down here.

As I approached the lake, I started regretting my foolish decision of not carrying my coat as the chilly mist made me shiver. I crossed the lake with my hands clasped close to my body trying keep myself as warm as possible, but a bunch of files made that a little difficult. The mist hung low and heavy over the lake as usual and I could see about ten or twelve people standing around the lake pointing towards visibly nothing and admiring this unusual and rather creepy climatic condition of the place. Then I entered the South Colony, it was my very first time here. I could see workers and lodge owners all around the place trying to get the renovations done as quickly as possible. I enquired a worker about the location of Lodge 108 and he pointed me further down the lane. And there it was, Lodge 108.

I was welcomed by the receptionist as I read out the name of my new co-worker from the file in order for her to fetch him in her register. As she searched for him, I looked around the lodge. It was beautifully decorated with a huge chandelier hanging right in the middle of the waiting area. The reception was well lit with the wooden counter having intricate designs and a beautiful lamp sitting in top of it. She then directed me to a room on the first floor. As I climbed the stairs, I realized the patterns on the walls and the window panes were old, indicating the fact that these lodges used to be houses earlier on where families had lived for long times. I arrived at the first floor and knocked on my new co-worker, Peter’s door.

*

Dusk had descended upon the lake when I exited the lodging. Even though the weather had become colder and gloomier, I felt warmer and happier inside thanks to the chat with Peter. Not because he was highly entertaining, but because it was a welcome break from my ridiculously monotonous life. I thanked my boss, Jon and Peter for this change. As I crossed the dull lake I could still see people around it, but this time they were couples. After having a lovely evening together, these lovebirds were snuggling back to their nests. For a person like me, who had never felt this “love”, seeing those couples should mean nothing. I mean, at least not like Jon, who after a big misunderstanding with his girlfriend had a falling apart. He would start shedding tears when he saw a couple. That can never be the case for me, and anyway, I had never felt what they say, “the upsurge of feelings” on seeing a woman. No, not until now…

I checked my watch and it was only 7 o’ clock, so I decided to while away a little time by having something to eat and sitting by the lake on the benches. The area near the lake which was not swampy had been turned into a park by laying down a stone path, a couple of fancy bushes, some benches, a few fire grates and some snack stalls. I bought myself a nice warm burger and sat down on a nearby bench. The park now was almost empty this being the transition time when the couples would leave and mostly families would come out. With no one to look at, my contemplation shifted to the raging fire that was keeping me warm. Then I saw it, saw the beauty that I had never seen before, felt the rush of feelings I had never felt before, and almost instantly I knew that I had fallen in love!

She was standing on the opposite side of the fire in a beautiful peacock blue dress. The embers of the fire complimented her bright blue dress and at the same time blurred her face to a certain extent. I got up from the bench to get a better, clearer view of the angel that had melted my stone heart. She was beautiful, yes. She had the most perfect, cute little face I had ever seen; innocence written all over it. Nothing around me seemed to matter anymore. All I knew was that she was there across the fire and I was here, rooted to the spot, unable to speak, unable to blink, unable to think of anything else but her. And then the fire suddenly grew violent and rose higher breaking my eye contact with her. I moved away from it and tried to locate her again, but I couldn’t. It was as if she had disappeared, as if it all but an illusion. But no, it wasn’t. She was definitely there; I saw her and felt what I had never felt before.

It is true then! Love does happen at first sight…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3.     The New Life

 

Walking back to my house wasn’t easy. Whatever happened at the park, by the lake had shaken me to the core. My ideals had been proven wrong. I was no longer the man who never believed in love, no longer a man of cold logic. She had turned my world upside down. Now all I wanted was to see her again, all I cared about was her. Was this some kind of an addiction? I didn’t know yet, but I was about to discover that soon.

I wasn’t able to sleep that night. I twisted and turned, rolled from side to side, punched the pillow into different shapes and sizes but I failed to catch any sleep at all. “Counting sheep might help…” I thought to myself, and closed my eyes trying to imagine sheep. But all I could imagine was her and her alone. Now I was well and wide awake. Even the clock went to sleep and it took hours for it to move a minute ahead. Somehow midnight finally gave way to dawn and I was up striding in my garden wishing it was a Monday so I could get ready and go for work. Somehow I passed the day and the noon. The moment the clock struck 4, I was out of my house walking briskly towards the Fog Lake. Yes, I guess it was an addiction after all. It was like using a drug not knowing whether it is helpful or harmful, you feel great at the start but the side-effects kill you slowly, eat you inside.

I reached the lake and walked straight to the bench I was sitting on last evening. To my relief it was empty. I sat down and looked at the grate. This was where a great fire was dancing freely and violently last night and now it was nothing but wet pieces of burnt out cinder. Was the girl an illusion too? Did she die with dying fire, and is now nothing but an ashen memory in my head? No, no it can’t be. And even if it is, she will rise again, come here again. When the fire burns at its prime tonight, she will be there shining and glowing in its reflection, radiating her beauty. And I will be there, soaking it in, quenching my thirst, putting off the fire that is now burning me inside.

Darkness slowly descended upon the lake and everything around it. The phoenix fire arose once again and I waited, waited for her… And then she came, tonight she was the fire itself. She wore a nice sunflower yellow dress with orange and red frills and walked gracefully across the edge of the lake. Ah… that mesmerizing beauty, those graceful strides. My eyes feasted upon her and I felt my heart ponding against my ribs, almost wanting to burst out wanting to have a look, a peek at her. I know not for how long she was there, I know not for how long I was there because all my senses except for my eyes had gone numb. My arms, my legs; all dysfunctional, my ears listened only to the drumming of my heart. And then she was gone, again, as if in a puff of smoke. I intuitively turned around to check on the fire in the grate… it had been put off, and somewhere deep inside I already knew this before I had even seen it.

*

Weeks rolled by, much more smoothly and easily than before. Jon kept on asking what had happened to me, he could notice the change, the glow, the power of love that I was radiating. I never answered him, rather I mocked his foolishness.

“What do you mean I look different? It’s just that I decided to live my life to the fullest. Rather than sitting alone in the house, I started going out to the lake. What’s so different about that?”

“But you hated going to the lake. You didn’t like the mist and all. Are you meeting someone?” his concern turned into a wicked smile.

“Seriously? You think I have a girlfriend or something? No way.”

Every day now I would walk down to the lake, and watch her. Appreciate her beauty, thank her sincerity and have the time of my life. But I was still the same, still alone, incomplete. I decided to talk to her. Tonight she was wearing her peacock blue dress again. I approached her hesitantly.

“Hi”, I said. She turned around, her eyes delusional, as if she was still in her own world of thoughts. Then she snapped out of it.

“Hello” she said. Her musical voice echoed in my ears. Beautiful ! I thought, she’d make a good singer. How I’d love to hear her sing. Then I could just sit on the bench and hear her sing, forever…

She bent her head to the side, as if trying to look into my eyes, trying to figure out my thoughts. I suddenly realized I was delusional too. “Hey, I... I am Eric. Hi !” I stuttered and extended my hand. She took it, shook my hand with a smile. I tried my level best not to think of how wonderful it felt; the touch of her hand and her radiant smile.

“I am Audrey. Do I know you? I… haven’t seen you around here.”

“Oh ! No, no, of course not. I was, umm, sitting alone here… an… and saw you were standing alone too, so I thought you might like the, umm … company.” Words stammered across my lips.

“How nice of you, I’d certainly love the company.”

And I lead her to the stone path in the park and we started talking.

“So, do you live around here?” she asked.

“No, actually I stay in the West Avenue. After work I just come here to relax. You?”

“I am new here. I live in the lodgings.” She replied.

“And what brought you here?”

“Ah, well. The lodge actually, my grandparents owned the Lodge 101 and now I do.”

“So you inherited it”

“Yes. And I work from home, actually I work at home; I am a writer. So I decided to move down here, renovate the lodge and work. I like it here actually; the peace here helps me concentrate.”

“Writer, huh? Nice, I’d love to read your works sometime.”

“Well, it’s not that great. So do not get your hopes too high.” Then she checked her watch. “Oh! It’s getting late. I should be going. Thank you for the company. See you again someday.”

“Sure, no problem, I enjoyed your company too. See you around, bye.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4.     Unpleasant Uncertainty

No one knew about my new friend, my love. She and I spent hours chatting in the park every day. Routine? Yes, it may be but I didn’t care about the redundancy anymore. We talked for hours about different things; my work, our town, her writings. Nothing was bothering me anymore, not the silence of the town, not the hollowness of my house and surprisingly not even work. But there was one thing, Jon. He was always worried, always hysterical, always prying on me trying to get my secret out of me. But I didn’t give in and give up my secret, I stayed strong.

But just when you think that the cogs in your life have settled in and are well oiled, a gear gives in. It stops working and the machine, your life, breaks down completely. Our boss, Lynda lost her life in an unfortunate accident while returning from her parent’s house. A truck carrying logs of wood lost control and the straps tied to the logs broke letting the logs loose on the highway. Lynda was unfortunate to be just behind that truck and her car smashed into a log and she died on the spot. No matter what we said about her behind her back, we missed her now. The whole office mourned her death and decided to have a ceremony to pay our respects to her and everyone else that lost their lives in that tragic accident.

It took us over a week to get over her death and fall back into our routines. The agency sent over a person to take charge as our boss. The office didn’t feel the same anymore even though our new boss treated us well. The air of loss still lingered over everyone’s cubicle. This event had brought my park visits to a halt, and now I missed her. So, I decided to pay a visit.

I left for the park at around 6 in the evening as the sun started setting. I sat at our favorite spot and waited. The snack stalls started selling, and their owners lit the fire. I looked up trying to catch the glimpse of the first stars as the light was fading. My wait was getting longer now, the sky was now inky blue in color, and the stars were bright and clearly visible. Then I looked at the moon, tonight it was a faint crescent peeking through light floating clouds.  I checked my watch and it was twenty past seven already. “She never used to be late…” I thought to myself. And I waited and waited … Finally I got up as the watch ticked eight.

I decided to pay her lodge a visit, finally. I walked briskly as I had to get back to my home too. I entered the South Colony and walked straight into the alley where the Lodge 101 was situated. And there it was, Lodge 101, surprisingly immersed in complete darkness. In fact most of the alley was dark, except for the Lodge 108. I stood there not knowing what to do. Where could she have gone? She knew no one else in the town and never said that she was going out. But yes, it was true that I had met her over a week ago. I turned and started walking back towards my home with a heavy heart. ”I miss you so much right now. I miss your voice, your laughter, your expressions, your face, your company.” I said to myself.

The next day was no different from the last one; same sad work, same sad faces in the office and the same alone me in the park. Where were you Audrey? She didn’t turn up the next day either, or the next, or the next… I got worried. Where could she have gone? I cursed myself for not asking for her phone number. I grew restless thinking of the possibilities, of the good ones and the bad ones. “That’s enough”, I said to myself and called Jon.

“Hello?” Jon answered the call.

“Jon, could you come to my house? It’s urgent.”

“Why? What happened?” I could hear the concern in his voice that I hadn’t heard since Lynda’s demise.

“I’ll tell you once you get here. Please, could you come?”

“On my way.”

It took Jon hardly 15 minutes to reach here. He hurried in, put his arms on my shoulder as if consoling me, and asked, “What happened?”

“Sit down.”

I brought us a couple of beers and sat down to narrate the tale of Audrey to him. My chronicle wasn’t concise, nor was it to the point. My focus had shifted from me meeting her to her beauty and my feelings for her. He didn’t object my drifting away and started enjoying the tale. But I realized my mistake and shifted my focus from the tale telling to her going missing.

“She isn’t there in the lodge. It’s been a week now. Where could she have gone? I am worried. I need to know where she is.”

“I have never seen such a girl in the park before. Are you sure you aren’t exaggerating her beauty?”

“No! But that’s not the point. She’s missing. Will you help me find her or not?”

“Ok man, calm down. Come on, let’s go talk to Reese; you know the guy who looks after the whole South Colony?”

We got into Jon’s car and drove towards the South Colony.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5.     The Disappearing Mist

We reached the head office of the South Colony. Jon went to the receptionist and asked for Reese. The receptionist directed him to a corner office. We followed. Reese was an in-charge of some sort who kept the details of the ownership of the now-turned lodgings. If someone wanted to buy or sell these lodgings, they could do it through him.

“Hi Reese, how are you doing?”

“Oh, hey Jonathan, I’m good man. How are you?”

“I’m doing fine, but my buddy here needs your assistance. Eric, meet Reese. Reese, this is Eric.”

We shook hands and I tried my level best to produce a watery smile. We sat down and Jon asked for information about Lodge 101’s owner.

“Well…” Reese opened a huge file. “Lodge 101… 101, ah! Here it is. Why you want to buy it?”

“No.” I said. “I am just looking for the owner, if you have a contact number or something?”

“Ah, yes. Mark Roger is the owner and he lives in Stratford; about 50 km from here. Here’s his phone number.” he turned the file around and handed it to me.

I was stunned. Mark what? I was almost ready to here Audrey. My hands didn’t move. I couldn’t take the file. Jon did.

“Mark Roger, you say?” asked Jon, equally stunned.

“Yes, he owns this lodge. You don’t remember the famous Audrey Roger? That’s the women who developed the park around Fog Lake.”

Reese’s words hit me like a rock. Audrey Roger? Why yes, I knew who she was. She had died of old age a couple of years back. Her son Mark then inherited her property in the South Colony but he never stayed there as worked somewhere else. Reality dawned on me and I lost touch with reality just like the day I had first seen her. I got up from the chair and slowly moved out of Reese’s cabin no caring if was rude. Jon will clean up after me; he owed me one after all. In fact it was all because of him that I went to the park at the first place.

I walked out of the office and stared at the misty road ahead, closed my eyes, took a deep breath and opened them again. The view started clearing up and the chill in the air stopped affecting me. I abandoned Jon and his car and walked on the empty road that led to the park. Isn’t it amazing how our mind works and plays tricks on us?  All I needed was a little push and my brain did that for me. It let me fall deep into my imagination and create the girl I always wanted to have. I brought her to life and my mind did not intervene; it let me live my dream.

A perfect plot it was, wasn’t it? A girl named Audrey, the only name of a girl I ever knew except my boss’ and my mother’s. The meeting place, a park that was the baby of that girl. Her address never really mattered did it, when I was busy drowning myself with overflowing love for the lady. My natural instinct being to keep her a secret from my friends and co-workers helped in keeping the plot alive for long. Perfect! But only till a life changing incident took place that shook me to my core and threw my mind off-guard.

I smiled to myself mocking my stupidity and complimenting my mind’s intellect. I sat down at our favorite spot and looked at the fire that had helped in creating the perfect illusion. Then I looked up wanting to count the stars and meet the moon. But none were present. It seemed as if the clouds that fogged my mind had cleared out and were now fogging the light. I hoped I would make it home in this darkness of the night and not collide with another dream and fall face-first to the ground.

© 2013 Shreyas Tripathy


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Added on November 14, 2013
Last Updated on November 14, 2013

Author

Shreyas Tripathy
Shreyas Tripathy

Jaipur, India



About
I am Shreyas Tripathy, a student who is pursuing engineering in the discipline, Computer Science Engineering. I have always had a creative side in me. Its just that i never had a platform or the.. more..

Writing