Without touching it, I know the gate’s coldness will bite. Wrought-iron, intricate and sharp, an elegant warning sweating with droplets of condensation. It traps the world of fog beyond.
Shapes move in the mist, faces that scream in silence and then withdraw in rolling waves of gray. They left the path. They are the lost souls forever cursed to wander the endless fog.
The dampness seeps into my bones, dampens my clothing, wets my eyelashes, mutes my ears. I tighten my numb fingers into a fist, startled to feel the hard edges of metal that can never be warmed. Somehow, I know what it is without opening my hand. The key to the gate.
Fingers of fog curl between the wrought-iron’s twisted rails, beckoning me closer. I discern nothing beyond the mist. No silhouettes of trees, no promise of blue sky.
But there might be.
Such a prospect pulls me closer. What lies beyond? The key fits perfectly into the lock, though it protests when I turn it. The gate yields with grinding reluctance. To say I had no fear would be a lie. For a moment, I am just a statue at the threshold of a cemetery with no corpses. Then my foot is drifting forward, my knees creaking like the rusted gate hinges, the wings of my heart frantically trying to flutter free of their cage.
The gate is gone, vanished behind me. The fog has swallowed me whole. Its dampness presses in all around me, sightless eyes, voiceless lips, the icy essence of intangible fingers trailing my skin. I must keep to the path. One step at a time. Only the faith of sunlight beyond the mist gives me the strength to place each foot carefully before the other. One step at a time.
That is as far ahead as I can see.
~This special piece was the very first prompt I wrote for the Sandcastle Writers two and a half years ago, shared in honor of the first ever Sandcastle Literary Journal being published this year~