Ewan follows the rift in the ground hoping to find a way out of the fog

With the fog swallowing light in every direction, the rift was Ewan’s only reliable landmark. If he tried going back the way he came he might wander lost for an eternity, like a restless ghost. Jumping into the chasm presented the possibility of falling forever, which he found even less appealing.

No, the only thing to do was to pick a direction and follow this black scar on Elandria until he came to… something else. Anything else.

Without giving it much thought, Ewan turned to his left and began walking. Later he would wonder how things might have ended up differently if he had chosen to go right instead. But for now he simply kept putting one foot in front of the other, maintaining a (hopefully) safe distance from the rift.

He had hoped that he might warm as he traveled, but the air only seemed to grow colder. Switching to a light jog didn’t help, so he tried sprinting instead. But it wasn’t long before he was bent over, hands on knees, gasping for breath.

This gave him pause. Ewan had come to Elandria more times than he could remember, and most of those visits had been spent running full tilt through her green fields, arms wide as though he might launch into the air like a glider.

Never once had he so much as broken a sweat.

Now here he was, unable to sustain a sprint for half of a measly minute. Straightening, he looked out at the oppressive fog and wondered for the first time if he was still in Elandria.

“Just keep walking,” he told himself firmly. “Find a way out first. Worry about the details later.”

As he continued on he tried to conjure up a sweater to keep the chill off. Nothing seemed to be happening but, with nothing else to do, he kept trying. At one point he thought he saw a flicker of red fabric on his left arm, but it was gone before he could be sure.

Rubbing his arms furiously, he found it extremely difficult not to wonder what this lack of control meant.

After a worryingly long time passed without any noticeable change in his surroundings, the fog ahead of Ewan began to dissipate and a seated figure could be made out in the distance. As he drew closer, he could see that an easel sat waiting in front of the person. Coming to stand behind him, he saw that the canvas was blank.

The man sat motionless, unaware or uncaring of Ewan’s arrival. White overalls, covered with all shades of spattered paint, covered his body and he grasped a dripping paintbrush in each hand. Long, straggly grey hair fell around his thin shoulders and his eyes were locked on the canvas.

“Hello,” Ewan said after clearing his throat nervously.

“Are you a painter?” the man asked without altering his gaze.

“No, though I always wanted to try. Never managed to scrounge up enough courage to actually do it, though.”

“Better off that way,” the man told him. “It’s all been done anyway. And with more power and emotion than the likes of us could ever hope to muster. And even if you manage to create something beautiful and everlasting, they’ll expect you to do it again. Who needs that pressure, right?”

“Yeah, sure.” Ewan glanced around at the grey and black landscape. “Why would you want to paint here anyway? Why not somewhere with an inspiring view or that has some… life to it? This is almost as bad as staring out my apartment window at that grungy back alley.”

“I’m stuck here. Couldn’t leave if I wanted to, not that I do. What would be the point?”

Ewan was about to object to this when he glanced down at the man’s legs. Thick black vines had twisted themselves around his ankles, and moss the color of bone was inching its way up toward the man’s waist. It was almost as though he had become part of the land.

“I see,” Ewan said, frowning deeply. “Where exactly is here, anyway?”

The End

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