As the sun rose the trees turned yellow and a mist rolled in from the sea. At first the mist only swallowed the farthest islands, but it crept closer by the minute. Soon Rodger could see no further than five metres in front of him. As he crossed another island he could hear the waves from the other side of the white blanket, but the water was hidden. The trees were shadows in the mist. How could he be sure they were only trees?
No, that kind of thinking would bring him nowhere. He steeled himself and placed three white stones in the middle of the island. He paused. What would find them? Would the dark slimy thing know what they meant? He picked up the stones and turned to leave.
Then again, if there was any kind of help to find in this world, any at all, he would need them to know he was here. He placed the stones in a pile again and strode on. Trying not to turn his head at every crash of the waves. If something was following him, and it was an animal, he did not want to seem like prey and if it was something intelligent, he did not want it to think he was scared.
The endless crashing of the waves worked like sandpaper on his nerves, even when he was on the narrow strip of stones and could see them. It was as if someone had wiped out the whole world and all that existed was him, the stones and the waves in this small bubble of reality.
He shook himself. He had to find some way to calm himself. A song? No, he could not sing in key to save his life. And he could not whistle. But he did know some poetry.
‘It is an ancient mariner,’ he began, ‘and he stoppeth one of three.’ Remembering the words as he walked, he almost forgot the shadows in the mist.
‘At length did cross an albatross,’ he said as he was crossing the next island, ‘Thorough the fog it came.’ Something stirred at the edge of his vision. He froze. Staring into the fog. There was a shadow there. But now it was completely still. He swallowed a couple of times. It had moved just a little, but it had moved. His jaw clenched, he crept towards the shadow. It was large. Much taller than him. It was a tree. Its branches spiralling innocently on opposite sides of the trunk.
He sighed. Rubbed his forehead. He really was losing it. He turned his back.
‘As if it had been a Christian soul,’ he continued, ‘we hailed’ Something stirred. He spun around. There was only the tree. And the mist. And the shadows. He took a deep breath. Turned slowly and continued on his way, forcing himself to look straight ahead and continue his recitation, no matter how his instincts screamed for him to turn. To run. To fight. To stop the moving at the edge of his vision or at least find out what it was.
The moving did not seem to follow him onto the stones and his heart slowed a little.
‘Water, water, everywhere, and all the boards did shrink,’ he gazed at the water and where it disappeared in the fog, ‘water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink.’ At least he had plenty of provisions with him. Frederick had made sure of that. ‘The very deep did rot, oh Christ!’ He stopped, studying the crashing waves. ‘That ever this should be. Yea slimy things did crawl with legs,’ his voice turned into a whisper, ‘upon the slimy sea.’ Perhaps the Ancient Mariner had not been the best choice.
This is part 6, read part 1 here: http://abolg.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/moving-forwards-part-1/