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July 19, 2020

The Mist

Misty Woods

I have been writing fiction lately. Before I started writing nonfiction I had an interest in creating fiction, but for some unknown reason that interest waned and only nonfiction had an appeal. That has evidently changed. I now seem compelled to write both and we will see how that goes. Anyway, here is a short story I just wrote. It might not be in its final form. I thought I would post it here anyway. I hope you enjoy it.

Mist simmered above the ground ending about four feet high. It was like walking through a pool of water with no resistance pushing back. Flowing all around. Patterns spinning in endless variation around his body. Beautiful, in a way.

Suddenly the mist disappeared in front of his face. He looks down and the mist was a wall behind him, but he was standing in an entirely clear area. Some trees and brush, but no mist. Not even a light fog.

Darkness. Dark as far as the eye could not see. Then a tiny blip of light crossed his peripheral sight. Red. It was red. He was sure of it. He waited, not sure where to look to catch it the next time, assuming there would be a next time. He hoped.

There it was. Yes, red. This time the light stayed lit a moment longer. Still just a moment. But it sure seemed like longer. It was to his two o’clock right. Just a bit off center from straight ahead.

He started to walk toward the light. Walking. Why was he walking? He cannot remember. It is all he remembers, the walking. It was decided before he thought about it. He had to find someplace to be. Anywhere.

Luckily, the path to the light was unencumbered by bushes or trees. Or he simply avoided them by sheer dumb luck. Regardless, he was almost there. The red light got much bigger. He estimated it was about 100 to 200 feet away.

Nope. He was essentially there. Had he not slowed down his pace he would have run into the house or cabin or whatever it was in front of him. He reached out and touched the building without his arm needing to fully extend. Brick. Felt like brick.

There was a faint glow of red where the red light perched on what appeared to be the same side of the building. A chunk of the wall ahead seems a slightly lighter shade of dark nighttime grey. He walked his hands against the wall toward that chunk and sure enough it was a door.

Inset about six inches from the wall was a door. Reaching about where he imagined a door handle might be he instantly connected with the knob. Metal. Rounded edges. Solid. Not a cheap lock he thought.

Oddly, the handle turned when he tried it. Not locked. I guess out here why bother. Wait! He was maybe walking into some stranger’s house. He might get shot. He might get hit over the head with a vase. What the fuck was he thinking? He pulled back from the door and took his hand off the handle.

Quickly opening, but stopping cracked ajar just a bit, the door let a stark sliver of whitish light carve through the air like a sharp knife. He jumped, startled. He quickly regained his composure. A deep voice came from the crack.

“You’re here. I expected you yesterday. Come on in.”

The door opened wide and a shadowed figure of a man bent slightly at the waist swept his arm inward.

“Welcome to my home.”

Without hesitation, for some reason, he walked right in. This guy could have been anyone. He was being an idiot but there he was, walking into some stranger’s place in the middle of bumfuck who knows where.

The room was an entryway. This was a big house. Where he was standing had to have been at least 20 feet square and he could tell by looking down the hallway in front of him the house was big. At least it was bigger than a cabin. A cabin was what we would expect out here. Wait! Out here? Where is out here? He had no idea.

The door closed behind him and the shadowed figure revealed himself to be a young handsome man. Perhaps 25 or 30. In nothing but a jockstrap.

“You always wear a jockstrap around the house?”

“Often I do. Not sure why. It comforts me. Feels secure. Anyway…”

The man looked him in the eyes with a friendly stare and nodded his head toward the hallway.

“Let’s get you settled in your room. I’ll get you a robe. Do you want some wine, beer, bourbon?”

“No. Do you have pot. I’m more of a pot than alcohol kind of guy. But I do like wine.”

How does he know this about himself? Pot? Wine? He does not remember any instance of indulging in either.

“Pot coming up! You’ll like the stuff I have. Mellow but a bit trippy. You in a chill mood tonight?”

“I am. I was walking. Came right to your place. Do you know why I’m here? You seem to not be surprised I was at your door. How can that be?”

The man stalled mid-way down the hall. Turned. Looked up and stared into his eyes again. Intense. Comforting. Controlled.

“You were meant to be here. You were sent here. I’ll tell you more later, First I’ll show you to your room.

A few moments later they stopped and the man opened a door to their left revealing an immense bedroom with what looked to be an adjoining bar and kitchen on one side. A glass walled bathroom faced the center of the room. A thick white robe was laying on the edge of the bed.

Behind him to his left there was warmth. He turned around to see a gas lit fireplace with a thick metal screen front gate.

“This is essentially a self-contained apartment. There’s a remote-control pad unit beside the bed that controls the room. Viewing screen. Net access. Temperature, lighting and music too. It’s relatively self-explanatory. You look like a smart guy.”

“I am. I guess.”

“That’s as I would have expected.”

“Huh?”

“Again, I’ll explain later. Why don’t you get into a robe and I’ll get you that pot and wine. Meet me in the living room. It’s at the end of the hall. I’m watching an interesting movie. I just started. I’m happy to start it over.”

He hesitated. There was a still a disconnect between them. What the fuck was he doing here? This made no sense. But he felt calm, at home.

“Why not? Let me get comfortable and I’ll watch the movie with you. If you have a white wine to accompany the pot, I prefer white over red.”

“I have enough fine wine choices to last us years.”

“Cool. I’ll be right there.”

The man left and closed the door behind him. He finally got a chance to examine the room closely. Lavish. The furniture. The art. The bed linens. All expensive and lush. Maybe this would not be a bad place to crash. Wait, crash? Crash from what? He had not the slightest idea why he was here or what transpired before that walk in the mist.

The robe lying on the bed was alluring. At the foot of the bed were comfy slippers. He got undressed and put both on. Maybe he would watch that movie and have some pot and that glass of wine. Still, banging around in his head was the constant “what the fuck” confusion as to why he was here and why he could not remember anything before walking through the mist.

That mist was weird. Ominous. Everywhere.

He left the room and walked down the hall toward the living room from which he could hear a booming movie soundtrack getting louder as he walked.

When the hallway opened into the space he could see it was a big room. Extravagant but lived in. Eclectic. Lots of electronics. Big screen. Huge really. This was its own self-contained movie theater but with better wine.

He glanced down at the glass of wine on the coffee table. White. He liked white. Why does he feel that way? He cannot remember before walking in the mist. How can he know he likes white wine?

The man looks away from the screen toward him.

“Sit wherever you like.”

What looked to be a leather recliner was appealing. A half sofa lounge thing looked soft. The sofa where the man sat was big and plush. He will probably sit there.

“This is a great movie. I started watching it last night but fell asleep right after it started. I’m only about a quarter of the way through. It’s good enough I’ll watch it from the beginning again.”

“I can catch up. I’m fine with jumping in here.”

Wine smells amazing. He loves the smell of wine. Why? Oh, fuck it. He could ask himself a similar question about everything right now. Onward. He is here now. This is not half bad. He could have landed in so many worse places. This will do.

Picking up the wine he asks the man…

“What’s the gist of this so far. The handsome guy looks like he’s into something intense with the shopkeeper. Argument? Politics?”

At that moment he became aware of the dialogue coming from everywhere. Surround sound. Sounds amazing. Not a cheap setup he thought. The bottle of wine on the table is expensive. Hmm, again, how does he know that? He cannot even remember drinking a glass of wine before. This is getting weird. Weirder by the moment.

The man points to a handsome older guy on the screen. “See that guy? He’s the bad guy.” Points to another guy. “He’s the good guy.”

He points to the woman. “Who’s that?”

“No idea. She just arrived. I haven’t been paying close attention. Now that you’re here I will. Sit down.” The man waves him deeper into the room.

He sits on the plush couch about six feet from the man. The man still has on just a jockstrap. Muscled body. Handsome. Cheerful disposition. Seems genuinely nice.

“I’m so glad you arrived today. I was getting worried.”

“Worried? About what? You said you expected me. How can that be since I have no idea where I am or why I’m here, or to be honest, who I am. I know that sounds odd, but it’s the truth.”

“That’s not odd at all. They told me your memory would be limited but with enough personal historical background to make you interesting, and smart. I like smart. You’re handsome too. We’ll get along well I think.”

None of this makes any sense. Who is they? How would he know about the state of my memory?

“Your room is your own. You can stay there as much as you like but I hope you’ll end up spending a good amount of time with me. The initial bonding period is important I’m told.”

Suddenly a mellow low tone sounded. The man looked at the right corner of the large screen where an incoming message alert said “Call from Central. Do you want to accept?”

The man looked apologetic.

“Sorry, I need to take this.” Speaking to the screen he said “Alex, I will take the call in my bedroom.”

The screen answered, “Yes Mr. Millam” and the man got up and headed toward his bedroom which appears to be at the far end of the house.

With the movie paused and left alone in the living room, he looked around. Nothing to read handy. He did not know how to use the remote control. So, he stood up and casually walked around the room.

There were works of art everywhere. Not in a cluttered way. Instead each painting, photo and sculpture was perfectly placed to be prominently featured yet not overpowering of the room. The room had a certain opulence to it. Money. This guy had money.

He saw a lit screen on the desk against the wall farthest from the movie screen and couch. It was filled with text. He moved closer and started to read.

“Mr. Millam, we are happy to report that your delivery should be arriving within hours. Depending upon the cognizance and rate of adaptation, it could be an hour or many hours that he arrives. Regardless, he is on his way and we hope you enjoy the newfound bond.”

“Ever since the mist appeared and human contact with anyone with whom you were not isolated became a potential death threat, Central has been dedicated to providing ways for people to experience the love and connection that would otherwise not be available.

“Someday the mist shall subside, at least per the known science. Until that day comes, Central will provide you with the finest quality companions.”

“When he arrives he will be fully aware but will understandably have gaps in his memory that it’s up to you to fill. Think of him as a blank slate but with the essential qualities you specified upon order.”

“Care for him as you would any human. He will eat, sleep and function as would any human. Yes, that includes sex. He was created to be entirely impressionable and ready to adopt any mindset that you decide. Simply tell him what you want. If you wish him to have a backstory, that can be of your own creation. Just talk to him and tell him what you would like. Be polite because our units are programmed to not tolerate abuse, but you are generally in total control.”

“We hope you have many years of enjoyment with your new partner. As is the case for most humans, we know you are unable to leave your home and have been living alone for many years. May this new chapter of your life be satisfying. If for any reason you are unhappy with your order, say to him ‘Please leave and go home to Central” and he will return to us for repurposing. That said, we are sure you will be satisfied.”

“Contact us for any reason at all. Our units are not cheap and take many months to deliver, but we stand behind them for as long as they are conscious which assuming you are happy with the situation will be the rest of your lifetime. Be well.”

He froze, momentarily confused but then in that second of stunned awareness of the truth he thought to himself, Fuck! I’m a robot!”

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