The world was muffled, as though someone had drawn her thick woollen hat down around her ears. She pressed her hands against them, uncovering them again as though she might recover the sounds she was used to. There was nothing. She let her hands drop down to her sides and she swung her arms deliberately, searching for the familiar scuff against her waterproof coat. But there was nothing.
The road was quiet this evening. The mist drifted along the fields, and she wondered at how it had become so thick since she had started out. But it wasn’t any colder, she thought, as she looked up into the dim grey sky. She sighed contently. It was so nice to be able to walk at this time, before it got too dark, before winter set in. The weather was just right, so mild it was as though she didn’t feel it at all. It was like being in lukewarm water. It made her think of the last time she had been to the beach, in the last days of summer.
In the distance she saw a figure emerging from the mist, heading up the road toward her. The man wore an old flat cap. He kept his head low, his hands tucked into his pockets. As he grew closer she cleared her throat, ready to greet him. But he ducked past her, moving so quickly she did not have time to say a word. Rude, she thought, as she carried on down the hill.
The mist got thicker as she came down to the flat. And it had gotten so quiet it was almost disorientating. It made her feel lightheaded. She wondered if she was a little sick, perhaps? She hadn’t felt right since, when was it? She squeezed her hands, and shook her head, in an effort to wake herself up. She would have felt better if it had been colder, it would have made her more alert.
She rounded the bend at the bottom of the hill and the mist became so thick she could now barely see her hands in front of her face. How was she going to find her way home in this? She turned right, onto the path through the field. As she shuffled along she noticed that the horses were gone. Or maybe they were just hidden in the haze? She listened out for them. Perhaps they’d been taken into stables for the winter?
She walked carefully but today the path did not seem so bad. Each tree root seemed to sit smoother under each step, like she was walking over moss, or peat. She remembered the mud stuck to her trainers. She stopped to wipe it off on the grass verge, but as she picked up her foot she stumbled on the spot. Her mind was fuzzy, her vision not quite right in the heavy mist. She must get home.
She looked down, concentrating on each step she made along the path. But she couldn’t have been as far from home as she thought. In a matter of minutes her feet hit concrete and she was looking up at her home; her parents house. She walked down the grassy driveway, happy to have found her way back. There were lights in the windows and the glow guided her in.
As she approached the house she saw her parents car was there, and the front door, it had been left open. They had been taking in the food shop most likely. She walked in and called to them. Though she didn’t quite hear her voice, and heard nothing in reply. Where were they? She saw the lights on the radio blink and she walked towards it, but there was nothing, not a sound. She would need her dad to drive her to the hospital, she wasn’t quite right.
She felt movement somewhere behind her. She turned, but there was no one there. She walked back into the hallway and called for her parents. Strange, she thought, walking to the front door. Perhaps they had gone looking for her. They wouldn’t have gone far, with the house left open. She walked out the front door. She called, but she wasn’t sure if she was shouting loud enough to be heard.
She walked back out onto the road. The old oak at the end of the driveway was suspiciously quiet. The magpies were gone. Did magpies migrate? The sparrows were gone too, of course. The world was so quiet with the birds gone. Winter was so near. She couldn’t hear the cows either, usually mooing from the fields down from their house. They must have been moved, closer to the farmhouse, back down the valley.
On the road she began to climb the hill, re-starting the loop she had began, an hour ago? This afternoon? Or was it this evening? She rose up steadily, her head clearing as the mist dispersed. Then she saw him. Much clearer now, but still the same. The man in the cap, head down, hands in pockets. Again he did not seem to see her, and again he walked on by. Who was he? She would have to ask her parents when she saw them.
She took in a great lungful of air. What a nice evening it was. Not too cold or too warm even. And so quiet, and incredibly still. It was to be expected, out here in the country. But it made her feel better about the approaching winter, usually so dark and imposing. She was so glad she had come out. She didn’t even feel soo sick anymore. As she rounded the top of the hill she saw a figure in the distance, then another. Her parents.
They stood in the centre of the road, not seeming to move, fixed in place. As she grew closer she saw another two people beyond them. And a car, parked at an angle. The people were reaching into a ditch. She walked closer and stood by her mother’s side, but she did not catch her eye. She walked forward for a closer look. She saw the two man as they pulled an animal from the ditch.
She kept walking, curious at the sight. But then she stopped. It was no animal. It was a person they pulled from the ditch, and laid on the road. They were limp, and pale. It was a woman. Her trainers were coated with mud, and her waterproof coat glistened with rain. Her long hair fell from her woollen hat. Her heart sank. Of course, she thought sadly, turning to look at her parents. Of course. And then, she was gone.