The latest Friday Flash Fics photo is a bit haunting, and a concept occurred to me but not a resolution. I hemmed and hawed throughout the week, and then decided not everything needs a tidy resolution, and thus “LIFE” was born.
The fog was even thicker the morning after Wendall left. Isaac stared out of the small cabin’s windows, measuring things the way he had since he’d woken up in the strange place: how far down the lane could he see?
This morning, he could barely see the first few the small trees. The large oak beyond was completely obscured. The ditch was barely visible, and the dirt path itself was smudgy and indistinct.
Isaac made a pot of coffee—what happens when I run out of coffee?—and poured himself one cup before putting the rest in the thermos he’d found the first day he’d woken up here. The scent of coffee helped, the way it always did.
If he ignored the windows on the front of the cabin, he could almost feel cozy here. The sagging but still comfortable bed took up a third of the available space. There was a small table near the oven, half-fridge, and sink, with two stools, which made up the “kitchen” and took up another third or so of the open room. What remained was filled by two comfortable—and mismatched—chairs, between which a bookcase stuffed full of random paperbacks covered the wall beside the door to the tiny bathroom with the shower stall and toilet.
The cabin had power, though not much beyond the appliances used it.
There were no lamps.
The first day he’d woken, Isaac had tried and failed to remember arriving. In fact, he couldn’t remember departing, either—he had a vague sense of heading home from work, but beyond that, nothing.
He was just here.
It should have bothered him, but instead of anxiety, there was a soft sort of acceptance.
He was here. That was okay. He’d make a fire in the small fireplace, and relax.
Lord knew he could use a rest, right? Wendall had been telling him that for weeks.
Even the lack of Wendall hadn’t worried him, though in distant way he considered that it wasn’t like them to take a separate holiday.
Of course, this didn’t feel like a holiday. They preferred warmer climes. And being together.
But then, on the third day, Isaac woke with Wendall beside him, and that was that.
They read some of the paperbacks, cooked some of the food that was in the fridge—it was well stocked to begin with, though it wasn’t large and they’d gotten through the bacon within the first two days. They found a battered Scrabble board and played a few games.
And when the sun went down—not that they could really see it beyond the fog—they climbed into the sagging bed together, and drifted off to sleep. There was no clock in the place, so they lived by the light and the dark.
“Where are we?” Wendall asked, on the fifth day.
Isaac looked up from his rack of Scrabble tiles. He didn’t know, of course. Behind him, a log on the fireplace popped.
“This isn’t right,” Wendall said.
“It’s restful,” Isaac said. “And we’re together.”
“But when did we come here. And where is here?” Wendall shook his head, as though the next words were difficult to say, and had to be forced out with effort. “Why aren’t we scared?”
There was a flutter then, in Isaac’s stomach. If it wasn’t fear—like Wendall said, they didn’t seem to have it in them in this cabin—it was something akin. Worry, perhaps.
“We…” Wendall’s breath hitched, and he had to clear his throat. “We could leave.”
Isaac looked down at his tiles again. The first four letters, he noticed, spelled STAY.
“I—” he said, then closed his mouth. He had no idea what he wanted to say.
“Let’s go for a walk,” Wendall said. “At least that.”
Isaac eyed the fog, but he could never disagree with Wendall for long.
They held hands, and walked as far down the little lane as they dared—the fog grew deeper the further they went, but when Isaac realized he was starting to lose sight of the road beneath their feet, he stopped walking.
“We won’t be able to find our way back,” he said.
Wendall looked ahead, into the soft grey nothingness.
“Please,” Isaac said.
“Okay,” Wendall said, and they went back to the cabin.
That had been the beginning of the end, Isaac realized now. Wendall had asked him to try again, despite the fog growing thicker, and he had, though it had resulted the same: at a certain point, it was clear if they kept going, they’d be lost, so he’d stopped, and all but begged Wendall to come back with him.
“I’m going to keep going,” Wendall said, the morning they used the last of the eggs. “You don’t have to come with me,” he added, though the way he looked at Isaac, Isaac knew it was an unspoken request.
“I… I don’t think I can.”
Wendall nodded. “As far as you can, then.”
That was what he did. And he watched Wendall walk further into the fog until he couldn’t see him. He called out a few times, and heard Wendall’s voice from ahead, growing more muffled with each reply until he couldn’t bring himself to call out again in case there was none.
He stood until the fog dimmed toward what he knew would be night, and then he returned to the cabin.
Now, he poured his second cup of coffee from the thermos, and took a sip.
Maybe… Maybe when he ran out of coffee.
Their last game of Scrabble still sat at the table. Wendall had gone out before him, leaving Isaac with five tiles remaining: two E’s, an F, an I, and an L.
FLEE, he thought. Then LIE.
He bit his lip.
Isaac drank his coffee, and watched the fog grow thicker outside the window.