I dunno why this happened, but it did. I don't know how I got out of it. But I did. I'm the lucky one.
About a year ago I was living in an apartment with a very good friend of mine, a guy I'd known since kindergarten. 15 years of friendship. We had a strong bond, and people would often comment about how they were amazed to see us fight like dogs but then act like nothing happened later. It was only natural that we would become roommates after high school. He was going to a local vocational school while I attended one of the universities. He worked as a mechanic and I was a clerk in a bookstore (a natural habitat for an English major).
Anyway, the…event happened in late spring of last year when the area was having all that rain after being relatively dry for the last fourteen months. The rain had been going for four days, and when we woke up on the fifth we found the whole area was enveloped in a thick fog. So thick, in fact, that cell services weren't working and our damn cable was out. Of course, we had Mediacom, so at that time it didn't seem too weird. Luckily we had one of those little electric emergency radios that comes with two flashlights, a little medical kit, and it could be hand-cranked in case of low power.
None of the FM channels were coming in, but we found a low end AM station that had a tired sounding guy droning on about the strange weather. The fog was all over the town, and reports of multiple car accidents were coming in almost constantly. A power station on the north side had been hit by lightning overnight and half the city was now without power and the utility company couldn't give an exact ETA on when it would be restored.
"This is some Silent Hill shit," my friend said with a laugh, but that sent a chill down my spine. My imagination was always a bit more vivid than his. He must have seen something on my face because he punched me in the shoulder and said, "Settle down, fucker." He stood and walked across the room to the mini-fridge next to the couch and pulled out a can of beer–Blue Ribbon, his brand. "Think we could get away with skipping classes this morning until this shit clears up?" The can hissed as he pulled the tab and raised it to his lips to take a long drink.
I shrugged, "Maybe. If it's really as bad as this dude on the radio says it is. I can walk to class, not like I have far to go." I started gathering up my things: my backpack, an umbrella.
My friend belched, "Alright, man. I'll see you later tonight then, I gotta work until nine."
I checked to make sure my phone was charged. It was. I threw my ratty black coat on and brought up the hood. "M'kay," I jingled my keys, "Don't forget to lock the door this time." He rolled his eyes and I stepped out into the fog.
It wasn't really coat weather out, but the thermometer on the deck outside said it was 55 and it was raining so I decided one wouldn't hurt. It was good that I did, because I wasn't expecting the wind, or the severity of the fog. I could barely see ten feet in front of me.
Hugging the railing, I made my way down the three flights of stairs and into the parking lot, which was still full of cars when it was normally at least half empty by now. I saw the old man who lived on the ground floor and was usually outside in the nice weather either mowing the lawn or trimming trees messing with his old truck. He had the hood up and I could hear him rattling around in there, cursing under his breath.
He must have heard me approaching because he looked up as I got close. His face was more ragged than usual and I realized he hadn't shaved. White stubble covered his entire jaw and there was a smudge of oil going up along his right cheek.
"Mornin', neighbor," he said to me, wiping his hands on a particularly dirty rag. "Helluva morning it is, too."
I nodded, shoving my hands into my pockets and lowering my head as a gust of wind blew up. It didn't seem to bother the old man, though. I replied, "Yeah it is. TVs out, cell phones aren't working."
The old man grinned, "Oh no, whatever shall you young folks do?" He slapped the dirty rag down up onto the top of the raised hood of his truck. "Can't get ol' Blue here to start either. And I just tuned her last week. No idea what the hell's wrong with her."
I told him to talk to my friend upstairs if he needed help, and he said he would. Then I plugged my headphones into my phone, turned on my music, and went on my way.
I'd been walking to school using the same route for two years so saying I could be struck blind and still find my way there wouldn't be too big a stretch. But something about this fog just made me feel disoriented, much more so than I ever could have imagined. And there was a particularly foul odor as well, like oil and rotting eggs. I kept my head down, focusing on the sidewalk and my music to try and push away the nausea, and it worked. For a little while.
I dunno exactly how long I walked down that familiar sidewalk, but when I stopped at the place where I was supposed to cross the street I looked up and saw that I wasn't standing where I thought I was. There were no cars rushing on the road in front of me, and no stoplights above me. Panic tugged at the back of my skull, prickling warmth that sent my heart down into my stomach.
"What the hell?" I muttered to myself under my breath, a habit I'd had since I was a small child. My grandma used to say it was okay to talk to yourself, because it was good to talk to someone smart every once in a while.
I looked to my left and right and found only fog. I tried to think about where I was. Had I walked too far? Not far enough? I whirled around, expecting to see tall, black iron posts walling off the property to a retirement home but instead saw a great, rising hill dotted with trees sprawling in every direction. That was definitely not something that was supposed to be there. Not in the middle of the city like this.
A roar like a rushing car startled me and I turned back around to the road just in time to see the red tail lights of a car disappearing into the fog. Droplets of rain landed lightly on my head and I looked up. It was starting again.
I waited, listening for other cars, and when I was satisfied there were none I ran across the road. And almost face first into a red brick building. The sidewalk was much smaller than I was expecting. Of course there were buildings like this all around town, so I wasn't too put off by the sudden appearance. It was when I looked up that I felt unsettled. The red brick stretched high up into the fog…without one single window anywhere to be seen. I looked down the wall to my right and saw no doors. I peeked around the corner to my left and saw the same thing. No doors. No windows.
Another car, this one much bigger, zoomed along the street behind me. I felt the wind from it hit me and send a cool breeze up underneath my coat. I hugged it closer to my body.
Again, I whispered to myself, "Where the hell am I?" as I brought up my umbrella to block out the increasingly frequent rain drops.