Thursday, August 30, 2012

"The Mistral"

David's mind swirled.

The events of the past few weeks replayed in his mind at a dizzying pace; his promotion to full partner at the firm, his complete rearrangement of staff, his complete domination over the other partners- he had the firm in the palm of his hands.

Then the weather changed, and with it came the nightmares - the horrible nightmares. And then the voices. Always at night or in the early mornings, when the fog hung heavy over his new, very expensive house in the Hollywood hills. Those voices, always just out of the range of being able to understand, but always conspiratorial. Always accusatory.

Then he noticed a change at the office. He saw the looks. He knew they were talking - knew they were plotting. He saw the gradual turnover of office staff. Saw his hand-picked employees being replaced by new, unfriendly faces. He knew what was happening. Hell, he had invented the technique.

He took steps to stop it, but it was too late. They were all in on it. He was so frazzled already that he snapped in the board room. Right in front of the partners. Made quite a scene. They suggested he "do himself a favor" and take a vacation. They actually said they were being generous!

Then came the insult to the injury: that fair-weathered bimbo he'd invested all that time and money (Botox and silicon aren't cheap) just left. She hadn't even bothered to leave a note!

As the world slowly began to swim back into focus he remembered what had just happened. He was driving his Mercedes up the Pacific Coast Highway when out of nowhere he ran into a heavy patch of morning fog. He didn't even have time to hit the brakes when a powerful gust of wind hit the side of the car like a battering ram, sending the car over the side of the road.

As his vision cleared, David found he was sitting on the ceiling of the overturned Mercedes. He had a coppery taste In his mouth and the side of his face felt slick. He touched his hand to the side of his head and felt the gash running at an off angle above his ear. There wasn't as much blood on his hand as he expected to see. How long had he been out?

He leaned down to look out the window, strained muscles screaming as he craned his neck. The fog was gone, so no telling how long he had been sitting there. He reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out his Blackberry. Cracks spiderwebbed across the screen.

The driver side door was jammed shut, but with some effort he managed to get the passenger door open enough to squeeze out.

His car sat at an odd angle on a downward wooded slope. The trees were rather thick, so he couldn't tell how far down the car had rolled, but he knew it couldn't be that far, so he slowly and painfully started up the hill intending to get back onto the highway and flag down a passing car.

After a short time the slope began to level off, which was a relief for his aching body, but he found no sign of the highway. After five more minutes he knew something wasn't right. There was no way his car could have rolled that far, especially through trees. All he could think to do was to keep walking.

He came to a clearing in the trees. A thin layer of mist hovered over the clearing, casting a pale yellowish light over the grassy clearing floor.

As he stepped out into the clearing he noticed how eerily quiet it was. He was looking at the layer of mist trying to judge the time when suddenly the mist appeared to expand, enveloping the clearing in a thick fog. David stood there in the unearthly silence, unable to see as far as his own feet.

A slight cool breeze picked up. He sighed in relief, expecting the air to begin to clear. Then he heard the voices. Many voices, none speaking above a whisper and all just outside his range of understanding. He could only make out hints of words. He couldn't tell where they were coming from, but knew they had to be close. He called out for help. He explained that he'd been in an accident. The whispers continued. No one called back.

He thought of his nightmares. Thought about the conspirators in the mist outside of his house. Could the have followed him here? Why? He'd already been destroyed at the firm, what else could they take from him?

The oppressiveness of the fog seemed to draw back. Now he could make out the vaguest hint of trees. He made for them. The voices seemed to follow him - no doubt a trick of the fog.

He had entered the woods on the other end of the clearing when he suddenly stopped short. Had he just seen a human shape in the fog next to that gnarled tree, just out of sight, revealing only a hint of their presence? The vision was gone as quickly as it had come. He heard a concentration of whispers to his right. He whirled around and again just the impression that something had just been there, out of the corner of his eye. This time he was sure it had been the shape of a woman. Another burst of whispers from behind. This time it was the hint of two large men.

The whispering began to sound sharp and threatening. David started moving again, trying to get away from the accusatory whispers. Soon panic overtook him and he ran. He didn't care where he ran, he just wanted to be away from the whispers - away from that fog. He ran blind, narrowly dodging the hulking dark shapes of trees as they burst from the fog. Always the voices remained with him. Always catching hints of figures in the fog, just out of sight... standing there watching.

He screamed as a human shape suddenly came racing out of the fog at him. He was unable to avoid the shape and collided with it. The world spun again as he went sprawling. He landed hard on his right arm and heard a crunch. A sharp pain shot through his whole body. He cried out as he spun around, attempting to crawl away from the shape that was now laid out on the ground. The shape groaned.

"What the Hell, man!" The shape said, sitting up slowly. David could see that the shape was an old man. The old man looked at him.

"Sweet jumped up Jesus, you look rough, mister," the man said, pulling himself up.

"Help me, please!" David heard himself say. "They're after me!"

The man nodded as if he saw this twice every day. "Ain't no 'they' to it, son. It's just one and I thought it was after ME up until I ran into you. Sorry about that, by the bye, I was kinda runnin' scared there, I reckon."

"What do you mean there's only one?" David cried as the old man helped him to his feet. "What the Hell is going on?"

 The old man looked at him with an expression of both surprise and pity. "You been marked by the Dark Wind, boy."


"The Dark Wind, the Zephyrym, the Watcher in the Fog... the Mistral, for Chrissakes!"

David continued to stare at the man in disbelief. "What... the... FUCK are you talking about, old man?"

The old man's eyes darkened. "I would think a man in your position'd be a mite more polite. The Mistral has a liking for high falutin’ mucky mucks who's gotten too big for their britches. That's a mighty fancy lookin' shirt you're wearin' there."

David picked up on the insinuation. He bit back. "So why'd you think it was after you?"

The old man laughed. "You sure gotta mouth fulla spite there, boy. Everytime my momma'd curse me for bein' rambunctious, she'd finish up by sayin' 'Mistral take ya'. The way it came up on me like that I figured she'd got her wish" He looked at David sideways and spat. "That is, till I saw that it was just followin' you."

A cold breeze picked up, and with it the whispers returned.

"That's my sign to leave. May the Archangel show pity on you, son."

Panic flared in David's vision. "Wait!" He cried. "You can't leave me! Help me! You've got to hide me from them!"

"Hide you?" The old man looked shocked. "Don't you get it, boy? How do you hide from the beast once it's swallowed you?"

A sudden powerful gust of wind swirled up around the old man. An expression of absolute terror came over his face as the swirl became a tiny cyclone, lifting the old man off the ground.

David watched in horror as the old man's clothes were suddenly ripped away. The old man tried to scream, but no sound came. The old man's lips darkened as blood vessels burst in his eyes, turning the whites a bright red. The old man flailed wildly for a moment until his eyes slowly rolled up into his head and he stopped fighting. Then the wind changed course and the old man was pulled back into the mist, out of site.

David stood there frozen in horror and disbelief over what he had just seen. The whispers began accusing again. Always just out of his range of hearing, only picking up scattered words that spoke of deceit, of treachery, of betrayal.

He saw them. Under every tree, groups of four or five. Just far enough out of sight that they were only shapes, but they was no mistaking them now. Standing there watching him. JUDGING him. How many lives had he destroyed on his way to the top? How many confidences had he betrayed? How many good people had he deceived?

As the wind swirled around him faster, he opened his mouth and cried "I'm sorry!" No sound came. The wind had stolen his voice. And as his body was lifted into the air, the wind stole his breath.

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