Tuesday, 6 January 2009

LAND OF FOG - chapter one

Sorry. I don't have time to edit this a bit and reformat it for this blog...
I'll do it when i get back though!

This story is 56 750 words. About 92 word doc pages.

Hope you like it!


It was a sunny day. A gloriously sunny day. One of those where you know you could see till the ends of the Earth if it were at least flat and kept easy on the mountains. On the crest of the hill facing the sea, I could see from miles around. The sharpness of light and form searing silently into my brain as I breathed in the landscape, making it coalesce inside my mind.
The whole of the bay to the south shimmered in the sun like a mirror waiting for that final, god like polishing. I was standing on one of the green hills overlooking not only the bay but also a small village, tucked away to one corner, below and away of me, as if afraid of both the steep rocky hills ahead and the sea below with its continuous false promise of infinity.
I breathed the fresh sea breeze one more time. I grabbed my back pack and my old battered tent and made my way down to the small village. I made my way via a small path that ran along the hill and that I presumed would take me down at some point. I felt tired and I needed a good rest badly. So, even without knowing anything whatsoever about this town (I had stumbled into it by chance, after a ride that I’d hitched that hadn’t gone well and more than 5 miles walk already on my back). Seeing something like this. A quiet town by the ocean was more or less equated as bliss in my current disposition. Too many nights on the road, camping here and there – wherever I pleased really. I needed a shave, a bath, a warm meal and the deep ingrained knowledge that a real bed could last for more than a thought.
I kept going downhill amidst the oddly bent trees and scattered bushes. Did anyone ever use this route?
I entered the town through, I assumed, its northern side. From above the village had seemed like a well kept secret by the coast but now… now I walked through empty streets with more ruins than buildings - if I didn’t know better I would’ve said that the village had been abandoned at the height of the tourist season. Was I really going to find a pension or hotel or whatever it was this place had? Or merely the place where it once had been? Unwittingly I started preparing myself for another night inside my tent.
At least the sights were interesting. Most of the buildings were very old and decayed. The gums of time really showed here. Eating away the shell but keeping the core relatively intact.
Was there a single house where somebody actually lived? I was beginning to doubt it. It was either ruined sites or traces of ruined sites. The streets had no names whatsoever. There were no plaques. This was a ghost town for sure. But how could it be? It was so close to the sea. It was a beautiful beach bathed by a bay at least 5 miles in diameter. It was sunny and warm. Well, at least this time of year it was.
How could it be deserted? If not for anything else, some of those who’d wander here by accident would surely stay. I know I would.
The obvious conclusion was therefore: there must be someone. I just needed to find out where.
I really wanted a shower. A real one and not just one on the sea.
That’s what I’ve been having for the past week.
And, salt water and soap, if you don’t know, don’t really mix.
Try and make some decent foam with that.
And even if you dry yourself well, well, some of the salt still stays.
And it itches.
Especially after a week. The skin is permanently dry. And itchy.
I thought I’d get used to it.
I thought wrong.
But, since I was here, I decided to look around as best as I could. I mean if necessary I could always turn back and try to hitch a ride out of here.
Or camp out.

I pushed those thoughts away and continued to peer at the damaged structures all around me. Most were stone masonry. Most that still stood at any rate. One could almost see – or at least feel – the forces that had destroyed them. Each seemed to hold a unique story of destruction. All looked old. At least more than one hundred years old.
Here the remnants of what must’ve been a great stone farm house eaten by a great fire. There a meadow surrounded by a broken down wall, directing my eyes away from the village. Here a house of the late Italian Renaissance period. It was missing its roof and it was filled with sand and sea shells. As if it had spent years submerged and then miraculously brought back. Here remnants of small stone houses clustered together in a sort of circular shape. A smaller village within the village, probably pre-dating it. Here what looked like a small amphitheatre with a few stubs of roman pillars scattered around it. Here the only house I’d seen so far not half a century old. It was cracked in two, as if some strange earthquake had crossed underneath it or some giant hands had tear it apart like a loaf of bread. As if it had cracked after taking some serious beating from the weather.
And then the strangest ruin of all. I had to stare at it for a while to actually believe what I was seeing was real.
In front of me, and close to the steep stony crag I’d crossed minutes ago – I realised know that I’d been walking in a semi-circle without knowing it – was a house crushed by a gigantic stone ball. The wind clearly swirled around it for dust cavorted around the ruins, making it look as if the destruction had just happened moments ago, were it not for the weeds and ivies growing here and there.
Fucking sight, right?
I turned around and saw a man in his late thirties coming towards me, his blond hair waving in the wind but his eyes glued to the ruins.
Uh… yeah, I said.
Hi. I said, forgetting to tell him my name. He paused beside me. Clearly more interested in what stood in front of us than in me.
Nobody knows what happened. He looked at me and smiled. Before you ask. Because that’s what always happens. People always ask how come that huge, almost perfectly spherical boulder came to crush this house? He paused.
And I always say that most people think it simply fell from the cliff face. But that’s impossible, of course. You’d have to carve it first. And then throw it for about 200 metres to get it where it is now. He paused again.
And, I don’t know about you, but I don’t know anything that could do that. Anything, that is, but the tide. He winked, grinning.
Yeah. Right, I said.
Come, he said, tapping me on the shoulder, as if nudging me awake, You must be looking for a place to stay, right?
Yeah, in actual fact I am.
I’ll take you to Anne Marie’s. It’s the only place in here where you can find a spare room to bunk for the night. And then, noticing what I was carrying, And it’s not expensive either.
Thanks. That was precisely what I was looking for. I smiled. Finally, some good news!
And you’ll love her cooking. Everybody does. He grabbed my tent that I had apparently dropped on the ground and started moving away from me.
It sure looks like you need a shower, he said. Been on the road for long?
I adjusted my rucksack on my back and hasted to follow him.
Does it show that bad?
The road always shows for those that keep away from it. He kept moving without bothering to wait for me. He walked fast. But so did I.
I can’t really thank you enough for this. I was starting to think this was a ghost town, I said, making conversation.
Well you weren’t too off the mark on that one. Only a few of us live here. It’s mostly ruins and silence. And the sea, of course. And the fog.
Why is that? This looks such a beautiful place.
We got a lot of fog around these parts. He stopped so abruptly that I almost bumped into him. He looked at me with eerie intensity. A lot. And started moving almost as abruptly as when he had stopped.
We walked for a while without talking. I kept gazing left and right, not only trying to see where the heck I was going but also what other surprises the ruins held. We passed by a street where all the houses on one side seemed devoured by vegetation. Trees sprouted from windows and doors and roofs. Ivy covered most of the walls. And yet, on the other side of the road, there were old manor houses side by side with the walls crumbling and no traces of vegetation whatsoever.
What happened here? I asked. He didn’t turn.
Sea breeze.
We continued to walk through the small village without exchanging unnecessary words anymore. I was sure that at the hotel, inn, whatever it was, I could always ask for more information about the village.
Even seeing a house toppled on its side and yet another whose outer walls had almost perfectly collapsed in four opposite directions, I kept my silence.
Finally we arrived to what looked like a small inn with a sign saying Bed & Break. The rest was missing.
He dropped my tent on the ground.
There you go. You’re here. Go inside and ask for Anne Marie. She’s the owner. If she isn’t inside it’s probably because she went out to Mavis to get some supplies or the post. And he began to walk away.
Uh. Thanks, I said, raising my voice slightly. Would you like a drink or something? I said, but he seemed not to have listened to my words and was simply walking away.
O-kay, I muttered. At least I’m here. Let’s get a room now and worry about whatever just happened later.

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