“Towards the center. Go. Go,” the man shouted. His eyes were panicked and his breath came in ragged gasps. Lynn pushed forward, trembling. She couldn’t tell if her gasping breaths were from exertion or fear.
Glancing around her, she saw her own fear painted onto the faces of those old enough to understand.
“Mama? I’m scared,” a little boy whimpered. Lynn could see his lip trembling. She silently corrected herself; there was fear painted on every face.
“God, please help us,” one man moaned, her voice drifting in through the small group of people. The self-appointed leader heard her pleas.
“He will not help. There will be no help,” he snarled. His eyes had a wild light behind them.
Turning away and allowing her eyes to stray to the shapes around her, Lynn could see that there was no vegetation.
Brown. Black. The ground was dull and rocky. Looking straight ahead, she could see where the field – if it could be called that – ended. It dropped off steeply, falling straight down.
She had already known that. How many of them had died on the way to the top? All it took was for a hand to slip…
They had been swallowed by the source of their horror and fear, swallowed by the reason they fled. The white. It was growing ever closer, an expanse of colorless mist.
She had been in the fog so many times... It was always dreary and dark. This was different. It followed them, swallowing their companions, eating them within its stifling mass.
The white fog already began slipping over the ridge, hunting for them. It would come; Lynn knew that.
Stalking them, following them, the expanse knew no bounds. One man let out a cry of terror. It echoed until the sound became so eerie and shattering that Lynn felt the need to cover her ears.
“We’re going to die,” one woman breathed, her features blank with shock. “Why keep running?” She fell to her knees. Everyone kept running. The white mist was too close; they could not stop now. It was suicide. Then, one man with a kind face even though it was twisted with fear, stepped back and pulled her to her feet. She glanced to her savior’s face with watering, blue eyes.
“You must keep running! It will be –“ He stopped shouting. Lynn knew what he had meant to say. It will be okay. He knew it wouldn’t be. Lynn, in the silence broken only by gasps and murmurs, saw him mutter something.
The mist, rather than swallow the sound, bounced it off, as wood or rock does, and it came back towards the group, amplified.
“I will not lie in my last moments of life.” Everyone heard it. That was clear from the way that the woman holding a toddler let out a sob.
She should be proud that they both made it. The woman had carried him over rock and soil. Yet, she lied to him. Lynn had heard her many times.
“It will be all right, Tyler.”
The group had stopped running. They were at the center of the plateau. Now, they could only watch and wait as the mist swallowed them. It grew closer, and Lynn began to feel the cold leeching over her skin. Turning away, Lynn heard a long, drawn-out scream. Swinging back, she saw that a tendril of mist had reached the two figures. The man made a strong effort to run but managed only a few steps. They stopped, unable to control their own bodies as the heart-stopping cold dug into them. Their faces, framed by the white mist that licked their bodies, were terrified.
“God save us!” a man cried out as the mist finally swallowed the two figures. The woman screamed as she was enveloped. As soon as she was inside, the scream cut off like it had to other victims.
The others. Her husband had been one of them. He had fallen quickly, pushed down in the violent struggle to escape the ineludible expanse. Lynn shook her head as a few tears leaked out.
“Mama, I’m scared,” the young boy repeated. The mother bit her lip, drawing small beads of blood that ran from the corner of her mouth. Finally, she leaned over and set him on the ground.
“It’ll be okay, Tyler. We’re going to see Daddy. Okay?” The boy seemed to believe her.
“Where is daddy?” he asked eyes wide and innocent. The woman’s eyes flickered up to the mist.
“He’s in there. We’re going in, too.” The little boy looked at the cloud with his head tilted slightly, as if trying to peer at it from a different angle. A smile lit up his face.
“Tell it to hurry up, then,” he demanded in the stubborn way of a toddler. The woman let out a short sob at the words. Lynn still had tears streaming down her cheeks, dripping off of her chin. They dotted her shirt, seeming to burn as the cold began to take hold of her. From the sounds around her, she didn’t dare turn her head only to see more mist behind her, the others were feeling the cold as well. The toddler let out a sob.
From beside her, the mother leaned down, using obvious effort, and picked him up. Lynn could see her arms trembling from the corner of her eye. It wasn’t from fear.
The cold stopped them, froze them. It trapped them until it could consume them.
Feeling her heart begin to slow down, even with her terror, Leah watched until white obscured her vision. Hands brushed against her, sweeping up and down her body.
“It’s okay,” a voice breathed. “Come, come with us…” Another voice was added.
“Never leave… We won’t let you.”
“We love you.” Then voices were all around her and the hands turned prodding and sharp. A fierce laugh ran through the blinding expanse of white.
Then it became black, and she knew no more.