The Fog – Pandora
The fog covered the city for days. Where it came from no one knew. Meteorologists on the radio speculated about air inversions and arctic marine layers and jet-stream irregularities. On the lower frequency channels, radical environmentalists called the event the manifestation of global climate change. Some even suggested it was a delayed environmental response to the radioactive seawater that had escaped Fukushima during the Japanese disaster and was now coursing against the Northwest, pushed by the Pacific Ocean currents. But Geiger counters on campus detected nothing beyond “normal” radiation levels, so no radiation alarms were sounded. None of the scientists could explain the thickest, densest, fog that had ever been seen in Seattle (if it could be said to be “seen,” so thick and nullifying was its presence, that those who ventured out into it seemed to become befuddled and had to be dragged back indoors. Many simply disappeared into the fog, never to be seen or heard from again). The fog draped over them all like a malignant curse, causing calamity and confusion and bringing an end to normal life.
The city succumbed to the shroud quickly and in many ways. All flights were cancelled in short order due to the lack of visibility. The instruments normally used in such extreme conditions were no match for the heavy particles that sat on the airfield. Planes were diverted to Portland and Vancouver, after pilots coming in for landings found their instruments, both digital and traditional altimeters, all became erratic within ½ mile of SeaTac. Atmospheric pressure gauges showed a density of atmosphere that defied logic. The other cities were completely unaffected by the foul vapors that enveloped Seattle. On Puget Sound, ferries and other boats futilely blew foghorns, the honking blasts echoing across the bay but never seeming to arrive at shore. Water transport was abandoned for fear of the vessels careening into one another, for the density of the fog was so intense, even the radar equipment failed. Scientists speculated that fine grains of mercury were suspended in the vaporized water, wreaking havoc on the instrument readings. But no one could capture any of the gaseous air for analysis. It simply defied the normal properties of a vapor. Nothing and no one was a match against the white substance, as Al found out on his way to the store.
Al Harsten’s was home in West Seattle watching the Monday Night football game when the fog rolled in. He saw the newsflash crawl across the bottom of the screen just before the television went dark. It read, “A dense marine layer is approaching Seattle. DOL asks that drivers stay off the roads and to exercise extreme caution if driving can not be avoided.” Then the screen went black.
“Shit!” Al exclaimed to the blank screen. The Hawks had been kicking a field goal that would put them up 3-0 over the San Francisco 49ers, when the ball seemed to just disappear into the fog that was creeping up the goal stanchions. Then the warning message had rolled and now the screen was blank.
“This blows.” Al said to the dog, who was stretched out on his side in front of the blank television screen. The dog briefly thumped his tail on the floor, mistaking Al’s comments as an invitation to go for a walk. But sensing the disgruntled tone of his master’s voice the dog quieted his tail, and slumped back onto his side with a sigh.
Getting up from his lazy-boy recliner, Al glanced out the window. The incandescent porch- light cast a yellowish tint on the incoming fog. He saw the white cloud hugging close to the ground and coming towards his house. It began oozing over the 5’ hedge and swirling into his front yard, like a noxious fume.
“That can’t be good!” Al proclaimed to no one in particular. He opened the door to the mists and smelled the air for any signs of what it might be. The dog came up behind him and sniffed the air as well. But the fog was odorless and gave no clues as to its source. Feeling the need to do something, Al grabbed his Seahawks ball cap and keys off the hook by the door and headed out towards the truck he parked alongside the house. “C’mon Charlie,” he called to the dog. Charlie hesitated at the door but then hopped down the steps towards Al. It was almost impossible to see the truck even at such a close distance. Al reached out his hands to prevent himself from running head first into any unseen objects and was relieved when he felt the cold metal of the truck. Sitting behind the wheel Al considered where they might go. He turned the key and the truck sluggishly chugged to life. “Sounds like the carb needs some more tuning” Al informed Charlie, who sat stoically alongside him in the truck. Al turned the headlights on, flicking between high beams and low beams, to see if either offered more visibility through the dense wall of white. Neither did much of anything other that throw a white glare back. “We’ll just have to go by feel then,” Al said.
Backing out of the driveway, Al turned slowly onto the street in front of his house. He could barely see the bluish glow of the streetlight, which normally blazed like a 10,000 watt star since they’d put in the new LED lights. He’d been meaning to complain to someone about the new lights, but now he sort of admired that they were the only light source able to penetrate the fog. “Maybe we should try the hardware store for some of those new fancy bulbs!” Al declared. With a new sense of purpose he pushed on the accelerator and felt the truck shudder to a stop. They’d barely made it to the end of the block. Charlie looked at him dejectedly.
“Well buddy, looks like we’re going to have to find our way back home in this pea soup.” They both climbed out of the truck and into the cold mist. Al felt the fog against his skin like a cold and clammy hand that was trying to reach down the collar of his jacket. He tugged at the zipper trying to seal out the icy fingers but the fog was unstoppable and quickly engulfed Al in its smoky embrace. Choking on the baleful air, Al turned back to the truck opening the door for Charlie to hop in first. The dog turned to look at his master as he sank to his knees with his hands clawing at the collar of his jacket. Al felt Charlie’s warm tongue lick his nose. Summoning his last bit of strength Al pushed the dog into the cab of the truck and pushed the door closed behind him.
When the fog lifted many were surprised to find a lone dog, waiting in a pick-up truck parked in the middle of the street. His owner was never located and Charlie went on to live a long happy life with a family at the end of the block, although he never would go outside on foggy NW mornings.