“We’ve seen this dreadful mist before.” I stretched out my hand into the bone-chilling fog, then shook off the drops.
“Yes,” you said. “Farther east, on our search last spring. I recognize the villainy of it.”
This would make for a troubling day.
Last time, it had wrapped itself around our camp and dampened everything — our gear, food, spirits. We couldn’t get a fire started. Then the mist pursued us along the trail, clinging to clothes, dripping into eyes, and obscuring the world around. We had to give up on our quest.
Now we had come back to these parts, trying once more to catch a glimpse of a rarely-seen mountain peak, which eluded even the most experienced mountain hunters. We had tracked it for days and were sure it had stopped nearby for the night. So we set up camp overlooking a valley surrounded by a crowd of snow-capped peaks — perfect camouflage for a shy mountain.
But the mist had returned as well, intent on thwarting our expedition.
I gazed upward. Moisture settled on my face like a mask and ran in cold streamlets down my neck. “Will it conceal everything again? We had a nice vantage point on this hill.”
“I think that mountain likes to hide in this fog,” you said, “using it like a cloak. We’ll have to rise above it.”
We headed up above the foothills, shadowed by the persistent mist, which taunted us by raising curtains of heavy drops we had to pass through.
Above the treeline now, scrambling up steep trails slick with dampness. The beastly shroud refused to retreat, grasping stone outcroppings with gray tendrils to pull itself up after us, flinging icy spray against our backs then whirling around in front to hide our path.
We felt our way forward, nearly blind on a sunless slope void of color and outline. The only sounds were our own breaths and the muffled clomp of boots on rock. The landscape around had ceased to exist.
I looked back and couldn’t see you. Or were you ahead of me? I couldn’t remember, then wondered if I had been alone all along, would forever be alone in a world without light or blue sky or life; where sight and sound had faded from memory, leaving only the feeling of weight — a numbing, dank heaviness that dragged me down into a welcoming oblivion.
You touched my shoulder. “Are you there?”
I grabbed your hand. Awareness seeped back into my senses. “I was starting to think I was alone.”
“I know. The mist is playing tricks with our minds. We have to keep going.” A touch of urgency in your voice.
Up we climbed, almost in a panic, determined not to succumb to the fog-induced stupor, though we could feel our strength giving out.
“Next time,” I suggested, “let’s find some nice dry desert to visit.”
“Uh-huh,” was all you managed between labored breaths.
We eventually pulled ourselves up onto a ledge and could begin to see the faint definition of rocks around us. The pale sun shone in the east as wisps of vapor burned off in the warming glow.
“It’s fading!” Dissipating is what I meant.
“It’s too heavy. This thin air can’t hold it.” You whipped off your coat and swung it around, sweeping back our pursuer, which lurched back in surprise, wavered, then let go its tenuous grip, finally giving up the chase.
Down it drifted, a sinking cloud. And as it fell we seemed to rise, to float in relation. Just an illusion, one last deception as the mist dropped away below.
We looked across the dizzying valley.
“There.” The elusive mountain that few have seen, unveiled in the morning’s light.