The Breathless Ones

Fog on the Meadowďżź

Fog on the meadow

Frost on the floor

Red sun rising

Dead breathe no more

I said the words over and over again that dark February evening, my breath globular in the freezing air, a rhyme dredged from memory. If ever one could touch one’s own soul, I did, moulding it with my fingers, then dispelling it with a wafted hand.

My bus had deigned not to show, so I’d walked. The night, crisp and cool, tickled the back of my throat like a niggling cough, the air otherwise fresh as an open fridge. There was no one around, but I didn’t expect there to be; midnight was a time for the dead not the living.

Regardless of my solitude, I enjoyed a hearty walk on most occasions, but this wasn’t one of them. I was unsure why? Like my throat, it niggled.

An hour later, feet cold, hands colder, I was less than a mile from home and already tasting my next cup of coffee when something stirred. I heard them, ragged breaths and scraping shoes; I saw nothing. I hurried, who wouldn’t have? Redoubling my pace I jogged to the corner where the streetlights started again relief washing over me like a slap from a rebuked lover. The light went out, then the next, then the next until humanity’s brilliance was banished. The stars followed; the moon after them and then nature itself. A fog so fierce as to have rolled in off the distant ocean swept across my vision and engulfed all that was, would and had been.

They came out of the gloom like phosphorescent moths, pale visitations of the lost and the gone. Their shared breaths shushed like the ocean, their shuffling feet a cacophony of the damned. I’m not ashamed to say I jumped in the hedge, covered my eyes and wept like a baby. I did not stop.

I woke with a start, fear in my eyes and terror in my heart, colder than I’d ever have thought possible. A red sun rose over the frosted meadow like a pair of pouting lips, the same tune still on mine:

Fog on the meadow

Frost on the floor

Red sun rising

Dead breathe no more

“Am I dead?” I said aloud as if for reassurance, breathless even in the cold.

“Yes” they hissed as I closed my eyes again.

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