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The Fog

The town first realised something was wrong when the merchants and messengers stopped arriving. Nobody had come to the town in weeks. The residents suspected something strange was going on. But without anyone to bring them news from the world beyond their walls, they could not know what.

On the third week, the town council sent out a party of scouts. Six of the town's strongest young men rode out on horseback. They never returned.

Then the fog appeared. It was first noticed one morning by one of the town watchmen. He saw it across the plains that surrounded the town. It was far into the distance but it surrounded the town on all sides. It crept over the tips of the mountain range to the north and its tendrils snaked through the trees and roots of the forest to the south. It was featureless, silent grey fog.

The town watchman brought the news of the fog to the council who wondered why he was bothering with such a mundane report. They dismissed the watchman, saying the fog would dissipate overnight.

But the next morning it was still there. And the morning after that and the one after that. And every day the town watchman could swear the fog was getting closer. However, the difference from one day to the next was imperceptible. So the watchman picked out an olive tree that sat on top of a hill about a kilometre south of the town. Every morning he checked on it to see if it was still there and every morning it was.

He started to think that perhaps his impression that the fog was getting closer was a trick of the mind. But one morning, through his looking glass, he spotted he fog skulking over and around the leaves of the olive tree. By the next morning, the tree was gone. It had been completely engulfed by the fog.

The watchman went back to the council to bring them this news. Even the council had to admit something strange was happening. If nothing else, it was strange that a fog would remain for so long without dissipating. And still no merchants or messengers had come to the town in all this time. They ordered the watchman to go investigate this fog.

The watchman rode out of the town with a subordinate to the edge of the fog. It was thick as concrete and terribly silent. They looked at where the fog met the ground and sure enough, they could see it was inching ever so slowly towards them. Slowly, but relentlessly.

The watchman picked up a nearby rock and threw it into the fog. They did not hear it land. The watchman shouted into the fog. There was no echo, as if the fog was stifling his cries. The watchman ordered his subordinate to send his horse into the fog. The subordinate got off his horse, gave the horse's rear a good slap and the horse disappeared into the fog. The sounds of its hooves the moment it had entered the fog.

The watchman began to feel a panic blossoming in his chest. He got off his horse and went right up to the fog to see if he could make out something, anything through it. He saw nothing but that despicable solid block of grey. He took a step back towards his subordinate. Quick as flash, he threw him into the fog. He did not hear the subordinate stumble on the other side. He called out his name but heard nothing back.

The fog now filled the watchman with an unspeakable dread. He hastily rode his horse back to the town and entered his house. He locked himself in his room and got into bed, hoping maybe going to sleep would wake him from the terrible nightmare that was creeping closer.

After a day of no news from the watchman, the council sent a guard round to his house. The guard knocked on the door and got no answer. He knocked harder, hitting the door hard with his fist. Eventually he kicked the door down and entered the house. He found the watchman dead by his own hand in his bed, his throat slashed with a dagger.

And every day, the fog continued to creep closer. An unease had fallen upon the town. Everyone knew about the fog now. Not everyone knew what had happened to the watchman and his subordinate. Soon, people began disappearing. The blacksmith's daughter was the first to go. She stole out in the night, hoping to ride through the fog and get out on the other side. Others followed her example. None of them were seen again.

The fog had now reached the crops and fields just outside the town. Soon they would be engulfed and the town's food supply would be cut off. A collective panic was now starting to grip the town. A mob gathered outside the town's food stores, demanding access. The town guards tried to keep the mob under control but they were outnumbered. They broke through the ranks and the stores were pillaged. Town residents fought among themselves to loot as much food as possible. Those who were spotted making off with large sacks of food were targeted by their neighbours who broke into their houses that night and murdered them.

And still the fog crept closer. It had reached the town walls. The world around the town had been completely swallowed up. An isle of being in a sea of non-existence. The panic and chaos had subsided and the town had succumbed to listlessness and hopelessness. Many chose to voluntarily walk into the fog rather than wait for it to come and swallow them up. Others threw themselves off the tallest tower in the town, preferring death to oblivion.

The fog swallowed up the walls. It swallowed up the houses on the outer edge of the town. It swallowed up the shops, the stables, the church and the streets until the whole town had disappeared in the grey nothingness.

A pauper sat atop the minaret, the town's highest point. An endless grey fog rolled out into the distance in every direction. It was slowly rising, perhaps an inch every day. Eventually it would reach the pauper and engulf him. The pauper knew this. At night he looked up at the stars and wondered if they were safe from this accursed fog.

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