• Vol. 04
  • Chapter 05

Day of the Pea-Souper

Blindly, Franz stepped out, crunching into the gravel. Feet sinking as he lost sight of them. Hands extended, barely visible. Pulse quickening, he left the safety of the red-brick porch. Briskly, he chose a direction toward the road. The fog hung motionless, a pea-souper, suffocating and thwarting perception. Sight limited, he stumbled. On occasion, turbulence was felt. A breeze, the breath of an immense sleeper, stirring for another strike. A stubborn creature whose density alters realities. Too late to turn back, the building behind was already a shadow in the past. Unwise to waste time.

Franz summoned strength to see beyond. Despite rapid blinking, droplets condensed between his lashes. Looking only produced a mirror of heightened perception drawn inward. Breathing too audible, he drew his cravat higher over his mouth and peered toward where he expected the jeep to be parked.

Who could have foretold that today of all days would unravel so absurdly. Calling Talía a liar, accusing her, dodging her truths by slamming her out and obstinately, recklessly, heading downtown without a cell-phone charger. Later the sirens came, the warnings, radio static and the usual drones. He'd passed all the perimeter controls. The human security wardens had left. Their stations eerily empty as he sped onward. Screeching jets streaked above, carrying the privileged to safety. He'd been wily enough to restock fuel. Plebeian, bourgeoisie, armed forces, everyone was expected to be prepared. Toxic fumes, industrial incident, terrorist plot, the consequences of each followed the same protocol. Yet he’d chosen this day to hit the road, simply seeking headspace in the angry aftermath of a petty domestic row.


Day of the Pea-Souper

The silence had come first. Then the skies had lit-up, flaring magnesium followed by the mist. Smog and emptiness, lulling the senses. That's how he'd ended up here. He cursed his naivety. Swerving he'd avoided a collision with the solitary vehicle ahead and then followed it up close, like a lifeline. Tailgating! How was he to know whether he'd gotten lucky? Not seeing a thing any which way. Following the car lights ahead had seemed sensible after hours on the road. Still no signal. No radio. No way to find out how Talía was faring. Would he have been so brash had he known? Tyres had crunched over the gravel driveway and he’d pulled up alongside the camouflage-print, military truck. Four medal-adorned, Senior Troopers were aboard. Weapons limp, hanging from braces, they'd taken him inside. No argument.

Now, weighted by the army rucksack and mysterious tool box, he strode as instructed. No longer a normal citizen, he’d been given a mission. They’d be tracking every move. He was up against the jeep before he saw it. Drones flanked on either side. Key in ignition, he was now a pawn in some master plan. Leaving a life behind, he allowed himself a final wheel-spin across the stones. The drones’ tiny red lights flashed ahead. Franz followed, obediently disappearing into the choking mist, already dying to save the world.