by Reagan Jackson
It wasn’t unusual to awaken to a misty morning. After the ash of fire season and the yellow acid skies you had seen enough unprecedented celestial events that had made you wonder if you would live through the day. The gray rolled in, viscous and deep, but somehow also unnotable, even comforting in the way it clung tight and close, blanketing the house in wool socks-weather. This was a thing that happened most winter mornings and when the dawn broke it would burn off and dissipate into a slightly less oppressive gray. Except this time it didn’t.
Noon came and went without a shift in visibility. You were working remotely anyway so you didn’t really think to leave, but as the afternoon stretched towards evening you walked from the porch to the sidewalk. Just this far was enough to realize you didn’t want to try to venture to the park. When you turned back you were startled to realize your house was no longer visible from the street. For a moment you wondered if the fog had swallowed it and if you couldn’t see it because it simply was no more. You rejected this as silliness and pulled yourself back up the stairs gripping the metal handrails more to feel something solid than to steady your balance. And then there was a porch and a door and a house that remained very much unchanged in the three minutes it took you to wander down to the street and back. You shut the door behind you and turned the bolt.
This is how it began, or rather how it ended, with a Trojan horse of normalcy, one foggy day that bled into the next and sparked a season full of unwanted and uninvited consequences.
By the third day driving was no longer an option. There had been too many accidents, too many casualties. It was said that I-5 had become a parking lot of cars that people had abandoned, but that tow trucks in route to begin the excavation had been caught in accidents too. This is what snow days have always been like in Seattle. For this there was precedence, a protocol even.
You pulled on jeans and a fleece, wrapped a jaunty hot pink scarf around your neck for cheer. You and your neighbors walked to the store, safety in numbers. You were well stocked, having taken up canning over the spring. You always bought water and rum by the case and the ubiquitous Costco toilet paper that would last for generations to come. You had enough dry goods and freezer meat to eat well for several months, but this was what you did when the snow came, so you did it for the fog too.
You arrived to mostly empty and picked-over shelves. No water or produce or even a carton of eggs or a jar of peanut butter. No trucks had been able to make any deliveries. You suspect the only reason the store was still open is that the manager lived too far away to get home.
Still you bought the last box of butter, a can of fire roasted tomatoes. and a case of apple pie larabars. There was one rotisserie chicken and it was runty and wrinkled. To avoid a brawl you bought it as a collective and ate it right then, parsing it out on white paper napkins and crowding around the little patio chairs and tin tables next to the deli. Celia who lived two doors down asked to take the bones to make soup stock. She didn’t care that you had each manhandled them and even sucked the meat off. You had always questioned her hygiene from the vinegary smelling film that seemed to cover all the surfaces in her house. Her fear nettled you, but you were still in denial. Even the worst snow days had always resolved within a week. But this was not snow. This was something different.
You walked back arm in arm, singing and talking loudly as if to make the gray feel more festive and less oppressively terrifying, folks splintering off as they arrived at where they thought their house might be. You had left a spool of red yarn at the foot of your property and felt relieved when it came into view. As you fumbled your way to your porch you felt a tug on the cuff of your jeans. The tendril of a blackberry vine had slithered off the lawn to land on your concrete walkway. This too felt deceptively normal. You were used to cutting them back and periodically digging them out at the roots, but who would waste precious time and energy or landscaping when the fog obscured it all.
When this is over, I’ll hire someone to do a bear cut, you thought. Except it simply never ended. A couple of days turned into a couple of months. You can’t remember how many steps it takes to get to Celia’s house but you wonder if she has any more broth. You’ve been eating beans and rice for long enough to be repulsed by it. For now, there is still water and electricity, but the cable is out and internet was the first luxury to go. The fog had managed to do what neither rain or snow or sleet or hail had. The postal service abandoned you. With no mail arriving and no internet you can’t pay your bills. You have filled every empty container with water just in case and you ate all your microwaveable Marie Callender pot pies because some things really can’t be cooked over the stove. There is wood in your basement, but you are saving it. For what you are not entirely sure. This is the emergency. Every time you venture out onto the porch you notice the blackberries have grown higher. Sometimes you take out shears and cut the ends that have curled up around the railings, but by the next day they are back and with a vengeance as though cutting them only encouraged them to come closer. One day you notice they are starting to grow near the windowsill, then all of the windowsills.
It isn’t the fog that gets you or the thirst. You don’t starve right away. But one day when you try to open the door, you realize the brambles have grown so thick and so deep that it won’t budge. Maybe this was her plan all along, mother nature’s way of reclaiming what was always hers.
Reagan Jackson is a writer, artist, activist, international educator and award-winning journalist.
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