“This fog is getting pretty thick we better get back to the cabin”, said Neva. She noticed the visibility ahead was narrowing down to only a few yards, anything beyond that unseen. As her husband Finn agreed, he turned their blue Chevy Cobalt around.  They had decided to take a break from being in their secluded cabin and take a sightseeing drive through the woods. They both loved the outdoors now, watching nature and taking it all in. Neva especially, capturing pictures of the gloomy skies above that cast an ominous landscape and birds perched on the branches of the towering oak trees. Neva reviewed the shots she had taken earlier as Finn drove, “these are going to make some really beautiful black and white prints”.

Their lives had been very different a year ago in 1999, always partying well, like it was 1999. Acting like 21 instead of their actual ages of being in their mid-thirties. It got old, exhausting, and as a commitment together they decided to get sober and maybe start a family. The idea of having a child seemed so abstract to Neva right now, the way their still piecing together their own lives. But maybe with time and commitment, it can become more tangible. They were headed down a path of self-destruction just a short time ago, but they were able to recognize the path they were headed and had put in the work to change.

Neva had it in her blood, the additive personality, and she knew firsthand what alcohol and drugs can do. Getting sober was easier for Finn, Neva on the other hand needed more structured setting, just returning from a Wellness Retreat. Finn was able to kick the habit cold turkey on his own, enviously uncomplicated. Sure, he missed it, but it wasn’t the same for her. It secretly annoyed Neva, making her look like the only one who had a problem. Her internal dialog was turning negative, telling her “Of course you’re the problem, you’re the damaged one”.

Snapping back to the present, she focused back on the road. She turned to Finn, “Are your fog lights on? How can you even see?" Finn reassured Neva, “yes, they are on, and I can see but barely. I must focus on the road, we don’t have too far to go, just trust me babe. Nothing to worry about” just as Finn looks over to give a reassured smile. Then out of nowhere, we see the headlights only as a sudden flash of light as we are hit.

Silence lingers for a minute or two. “Are you okay?” Neva asks looking over to Finn with concern. He feels around his body, checking for anything broken or bruised. Not seeing any, he says “Yes, I am fine. Are you okay?” Neva took a deep breath and put both hands to her heart to feel the beats pounding in her chest trying to get it to slow. “Yeah, I am okay, just scared me a bit”. The car now sits in a ditch at the right side of the road. They both look around, getting their bearings on their surroundings and what just happened. They can't see the other vehicle that hit them. However, the fog is deceiving, it could be close but just not visible. They both slowly get out of the car. Finn inspecting the damage, notices that luckily they should be able to drive it back to the cabin. This should reassure Neva, but a unforeseen urge to leave comes over her. A flight response kicking in telling her to return to the cabin as soon as possible.

However, Neva knows they can’t just leave without checking on whoever hit them, to make sure they are okay too. They explore the nearby area and walk up the road a bit further where the car should be. But no car. It’s like it disappeared. Finn instructs Neva to stay where she was for a moment. So, she did. She glared up at the sky, taking in the dark clouds; noticing their movement to the west, how quickly they seemed to be moving. It was menacing yet beautiful. She thought she heard Finn, but she couldn’t see or hear him. She looked back up, that sudden feeling to leave returning to her. Then she saw the sky blip or malfunction, only for a millisecond, like the end of an old movie reel needing to be fed more film. Finn is now practically yelling at Neva to get her attention, “Do you think they just drove off? I mean they hit us, they had to stop right?” “That would be the right thing to do, however not all people do the right thing” Neva replied.

“I see it. Up ahead to the left.”, Neva said as she pointed to the car now seemingly right before them. How could they have not seen it before now? They both picked up the pace heading to the car. Finn didn’t see anything major with the car as they get closer, more than likely they are in the same boat as them, minor damage, and no injuries, hopefully. “That’s so strange, what are the chances?” asks Finn under his breath, Neva appears next to him, “They have the same exact car as us”.  They don’t hear anyone as they approach, only the gravel beneath their steps. The silence as thick as the fog. Neva calls out, “Is everyone okay in there?” No answer. As they arrive at the driver’s side window it is clear the car is unoccupied. “But where could they have gone to already? Only a few minutes had passed since the collision” Neva asks. Even though for her, she has a strange sense that it’s been much longer.

As Finn is about to speak, a man and a women come out of the woods slowly to their left. The fog could be playing games with her vision, but Neva swears she sees them cut in and out, like a bad reception, like the sky did before. One second seeing the two bodies walk toward the car as clear as day, then for a second, she sees the forms of their body just flicker and flash, like a video struggling to upload due to a poor connection. Neva shakes her head, and squints her eyes, and sees it happen again. 

“Did you see that, Finn?” she asks. Finn, not hearing Neva, walks forward a few feet and begins to approach the couple. Neva says “please be careful” in what comes out as a whisper. Her palms becoming sweaty , her mind racing, as she swallows down her worry. She is almost sure it was the fog, her mind playing tricks on her. But something deep down tells her something not normal is happening, this isn’t right, something that she can’t explain. They are getting closer now and as soon as they both see their faces their eyes widen, and they stop in their tracks.

Its them. Their own faces stare back at them, their faces are older. Maybe 10 years older, mid forties to fifty. The women’s face is too thin, sunken in eyes and a horrible grin with yellow and missing teeth. The man also looks worn down and tired, too thin with awful sores on his arms and sad eyes. They act like they can’t see us, like we are invisible to them. Surely, it can’t be the fog they are too close. The more Neva examines them, she can see the despair in them, the emptiness just seeping from their pores.

Finn and Neva are just standing there unable to speak to each other. Finn has a worried look on his face now too, like he is making a connection. “Is that us?” She can’t get herself to voice the question, the thought too obscene to make it real by speaking it aloud.

The couple they are watching are now speaking to each other now in a frantic way, the man says “C’mon Neva we got to get out of here. I don’t know what we hit, but we have drugs in the car, and we need to go now”. The woman responds, “There can't be cops for miles here, its secluded, don’t panic”. The man snarls at her, “easy for you to say you weren’t the one driving”. The woman has a memory come back to her, just as she looks around at the landscape around them. “This place looks familiar, but I can’t place it”. Memories now a haze, jumbled up points in time. Then it comes to her, “We went camping right near here 10 years ago”. Now with a clearer memory, she reflects on that trip. She still has some of the photos from that day. She remembers the feeling of hopefulness after the wellness retreat and the way her and Finn had been that day with each other, adoring the nature around them in a fresh new light. Neva pulls down the passenger side mirror to look at her reflection when she gets back in, “if only we stayed sober”.

February 07, 2023 16:57

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Marshall Gothage
19:01 Feb 14, 2023

That is an interesting take on the prompt. You built the suspense perfectly, and I truly started to feel nervous as Finn approached the other version of themselves. Important message about how quickly our lives can change based on one bad decision.


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Wendy Kaminski
15:04 Feb 14, 2023

Excellent creepy factor in this, Crystal - and also a good moral of the story. I suspect having happened to them, they will probably stay on the straight and narrow for sure, now! Thanks for the entertaining read, and welcome to Reedsy!


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