Fog crept through the streets, blurring the boundaries of buildings. The unclear edges of streetlamps and corners created an air of uncertainty. The Drive, normally busy well into the evening, was unnaturally quiet. A few people walked swiftly along sidewalks that were slightly damp from the air’s moisture.
Al shivered as he stepped out of the restaurant. It had been colder during the snowstorm a few weeks earlier, but tonight the damp fog slipped through his clothes, raising goosebumps along his arms. Something about the fog made him feel uncomfortable, but the feeling remained as uncertain as the line between air and object. Slipping on his gloves, Al began to walk down the street, occasionally glancing down the darker residential side streets. The dinner meeting had gone well and Al felt proud as he reviewed what he had negotiated.
Suddenly, out of a shadowed doorway, three shadowy figures appeared, filling the sidewalk. One man was dressed in black, chains stretching from pocket to pocket, a dog collar about his neck. Beside him stood a short woman, wearing a long and vibrant skirt with several layers of peasant shirts and sweaters on top. Her hair lay in limp coils on her shoulders. The third figure could have been male or female, the shaved head only accentuating the somewhat delicate bone structure and brilliant green eyes that somehow glowed with the dim light from the streetlamp nearby.
“Hey man, you got a light?”
Al shook his head quickly, not making eye contact as he tried to get past.
“What’s your hurry? He was just asking a question.”
“Can’t look at us?”
“Can’t afford to be polite?”
“Or lend us a light?”
“Sorry,” Al said, trying to keep calm. “I can’t help you.”
“We ain’t asking for a handout.”
“We don’t need help.”
“Maybe someone should help you.”
“Maybe you should help yourself.”
“Maybe since someone has helped you, you could give us a light.”
“Nobody’s helped me,” Al said, confused by the sudden twists in their conversation and worried by the threat that seemed to have appeared. The steely rush and rumble of the skytrain passed a few blocks away. It sounded strangely deep and unpleasant. Much like their voices, which passed back and forth between the figures in continuous waves, their exact origins uncertain. Now, someone laughed. Or maybe it was all three.
“That’s what you think, man.”
“You can’t see what we see.”
“Your future is bright.”
“That sounds like a bloody fortune cookie, you –”
“I’ve got to go,” Al mumbled, hurrying past the pale and intent faces that watched him. He heard laughter once again, but kept walking, not allowing himself to turn around until he reached the next corner. Calming his breath, he looked back, peering through the fog.
A woman was walking her dog, a little terrier. Otherwise, the block was empty, as if the strange figures had dissolved into the night.
The woman walked past, her dog sporting a cute green sweater. Al suddenly remembered why the fog seemed so unpleasant. They had used excessive fog machines during that play that Cary had dragged him too last month, insisting that it was important for him to be seen supporting community theatre. There had been too much fog, and while the acting had been surprisingly good… actually, it might have been that the acting was too good for such a violent play…
Al pulled out his phone, trying to clear his mind of everything except the meeting. He listened to the phone ring, waiting to let Cary know he would be home soon. And anxious to hear her confident, reasonable voice.