Step by step I make my way through the house, arching my back so I don’t hit the ceiling. The creaking of the floor reassures me in a way, it means that I haven’t fallen into oblivion yet. Eyes closed and hands forward I search my way to the oil lamp I keep somewhere on my desk. I’ve only been here a day and I don’t yet have a mental picture of the place I’m staying. Luckily I find the lamp before I hit something. Now the house has been somewhat illuminated I can find my way to the kitchen. According to my watch it’s two in the afternoon, but it feels like morning to me. The fog has ruined my sleeping pattern.
In the sober, wooden kitchen I pull open all cabinets one by one. It’s still a challenge to remember where everything is. I find myself a mug, but the coffee is nowhere to be found.
I zip up my jacket to make sure I keep warm, it’s always cold out here. My watch sticks out slightly so I can keep an eye on it. My father’s watch. It’s only been a few weeks, but I like to keep him with me.
As soon as I open my door it hits me again. The fog. The only place you don’t see it is indoors. Thankfully. The fog is so thick you can’t even see whether it is night or day. I have no idea. It feels like morning, but the street lamps are burning fervently.
The creaking wood is the only thing saving the village from drowning above this jet black lake. You can see it in-between the boards wherever you go. Accompanied by creaking every step of the way, it’s the only sound you hear next to soft hits of the water against the scaffolding. I still haven’t gotten used to the houses here. They all look the same and hang over me as an angry father hangs over his child when it’s done something bad. In the distance I spot someone. Steadily I walk towards him or her, I’m going to have to ask where there’s a shop of some kind, I’ve only been here a day. Dressed in a single piece of clothing I can’t possibly make out if it’s a man or a woman while it makes it’s way through the street like a wounded animal. With ease I pass the being. “Excuse me, but could you tell me where there’s a shop around here?” Apparently that was enough to scare the being into shielding its face with bony fingers. I get no response as it slowly creeps away from me. I’m alone again. I hope the rest of the village is friendlier, or my research is going to be an uphill battle. Guess I’ll have to go looking for the shop myself.
As I make my way farther into the village I encounter more beings, each with the same clothing, each of them shielding behind bony fingers when I approach them. I can’t ask anyone. After the umpteenth narrow street, and after so many falling sensations when it sounds like the wood will collapse under my feet I finally find a shop you could only recognise by a small sign hanging outside of the house.
I have to move carefully between all the stuff. There are lanterns scattered throughout, otherwise not a soul would see what they’d purchased. Between fishnets, rods and food supplies that have obviously expired I find my coffee. This has to be from the previous century, at least the packaging looks it. But, what difference does it make. Coffee doesn’t expire. Above all else I don’t want a headache. Hoping the shop doesn’t collapse on me while I make my way to the register I move like a cat between all the items randomly placed. This time I can differ the being behind the register as female, at least, the face looks like it. Shapeless she hangs over the counter in the garment which makes her look like nothing more than a circular boulder. I show her my desired product to which she doesn’t respond. I give her five dollars but I don’t think it mattered what I gave her.
Without looking back I excitedly burst towards the door and I trip over a pot. An explosion of sound erupts as a large portion collapses in a domino effect which ends with a net falling on top of me. While I fight my entrapment, the lady rushes from behind the counter (as I’ve never seen anyone rush in this town) to come to my aid. She helps the net off me and I get a slight touch of her fingers which feel like leather that hasn’t been greased in ages. As soon as I’m set free I try to thank her but she rushes behind the counter about as fast as she’d come to me. Stunned over what I’d just witnessed I walk out.
With the coffee in hand I walk through the foggy streets. I notice it more than before. It’s neither day or night here. It’s always the same. It feels like the fog is starting to penetrate my longs as I walk. I lose my breath and it’s becoming harder and harder to take the next step. Maybe I’m starting to feel the lack of caffeine in my body. It’s almost three in the afternoon I think. One alley after the other, it all looks exactly the same as I try to find my way back to my house. I pass one or two other beings, but I know better now and only observe them. Eye contact is not made in these streets, so I try not to as well. Without knowing where I’ve come from I end up in the town square it seems, at the North side of which is an immense church towering out of all the small wooden houses. I ask myself how on earth it could stay on the scaffolding which barely seem to keep me from falling into the lake, but as soon as I go to inspect I notice it not standing on the same wood as me, but going through it, maybe even to the bottom of the lake which seems infinte from here. Despite the size of the church it only boasts two small wooden doors, barely large enough to fit one of the beings who inhabit this place. I’m curious what’s inside. My father would’ve already opened these doors and I suddenly become aware of his everlasting absence. Three months after I try to live his curiosity for these things by investigating this village. I’ll visit the church later. Coffee first. It’s already well after twelve, I might get headaches soon. As I look upon the church before turning my back to it, I notice the tip covered in fog, as is the clock. Covered in it the church could be infinitely high too, in the imagination. Speaking of clocks, I turn my gaze to my wrist and notice my watch missing. My father’s watch he left me last year with his passing. It must’ve gotten lost in the store when I was trapped under the net. That lady stole it. I know it. I look around the square and try to remind myself which street I came from, but I can’t. It seems like forever since I came here. I see a being struggling along as the usual here. I dash towards it, but I notice I’m not that smooth myself either. “Excuse me, I seem to have lost my watch in the store. Do you know where it is?” The being stops, without a moment of eye contact it stares at my left wrist, noticing the missing clockwork. I distinguish a man’s face as its gaze slowly comes upward to meet my eyes. For the first time since six years of staying here I make eye contact. The empty, hazy grey eyes go right through me. “Being is nothing in eternity.” The raspy sound comes out with great difficulty. I look at him with confusion as he breaks the staring contest and he starts trudging to the church I just came from. As I turn with him I see from behind the church more beings coming towards me. In a perfect line they slowly, but surely march in their limping style to me. I can hear their raspy voices chant what the man just said to me.
I quickly turn and charge into the first alleyway I come across. I have to find my watch and get out of here. I run as fast as I can with the old wooden houses shooting past me one after another. The scaffolding creaking painfully under my loud footsteps as I try to speed up, but the mist seems to penetrate my lungs and take my breath. Running is out of the question now, I need to walk as fast as I can, but the sign I still remember from before is nowhere to be found. Everything is the same here. I wouldn’t even know which house I’m staying even though I’ve been here more than a year. Left. Right. As fast as possible I make my way through the many alley’s but the humming of the line is right behind me. Doesn’t matter where I go, it’s there, always. Fatigue is starting to hit me and it feels like the mist grabs hold of my ankles. Struggling through the streets while the houses lurk over me. The streetlights are starting to burn in my eyes who are not used to light anymore. The sign. It’s nowhere. I have to find it now. There’s no time anymore. The chanting increases in volume ever so steadily. It hurts my ears. The silence I’m used to seems so distant now. Take a right again. Maybe the shop is here. No. I make another right hoping it’s there, but end up in the square again.
The church lurks high above the houses. I trudge my way to it, no idea how far I ran and walked and struggled. The chanting voices feel like white noise. I can’t even hear it. I feel it. It’s in me. The mist stings my eyes and fills my lungs. I can hardly breath. Over my shoulder I can see the same limping crowd behind me. Maybe I’m safe in the church. I can barricade the door and then make my plan. Crawling along the squeaking wood I reach for the door as I feel leathery hands grab my ankle. Only with the last bit of energy left in my being I can throw open the church door. The hand around my foot weakens and I can rise up. It is pitch black inside apart from a small spot in the middle. Before the darkness I freeze and the chanting fades away. In the distant spot of light I see a bouquet of flowers, on top of which lays a small child with closed eyes, wearing a white dress. I turn and see the crowd behind me, their faces down as they kneel before the altar in the distance. “We gifted what is useless, for which we shall repent.” One of the kneeling beings slowly rises and in one smooth and swift motion pushes me into the church. I fall backwards and feel no floor hitting the back of my head. I keep falling and falling into darkness as the door above me makes one of the two last light sources disappear. Now I can only see the altar shrinking smaller and smaller as I keep falling. I close my eyes and lose track what is up and what is down. Suddenly I hit water. The world spins and it feels like up is down and down is up. I stretch my legs and plant my feet on the ground. My eyes slowly open and I see I’m standing on a quiet surface of water. I look down and see the village under water, up side down, still dark and lit by streetlights. Directly under my feet is a being as I saw them in the village. It’s so light here that it stings my eyes as they get used to the ever-stretching whiteness. The mist is just as present as it was in the village and I can barely see two feet in front of me. Despite that I notice a shadow far away that looks like the shadow of my father. I shout, but no sound is heard. Carefully I make my first step towards the shadow and notice the being below me making the same step. But however far I walk, the shadow always seems the same distance. As if tar is stuck to the sole of my shoes, I struggle to proceed forward. I fall to my knees shouting like no man would if he still had hope inside him, but no sound travels in this white infinity. Where the hell am I?