Friday Fiction - In the Fog

I've gotten back into doing the Faithwriters Weekly Challenge
Here's my spooky entry for the topic - Fantasy.
(based on the photo at the end of the story) 


The fog closed in like a hungry invisible creature – stealing my vision, my hearing, and even my courage. 

My shirt clung to me in the chilly mist. All I could hear were the oars. 

“Splash” – into the silvery water, 
"Clunk” – against the oarlocks, 
“Drip, drip, drip” – back again. 

Day after day, I’d scrounged for clams in the sandy coves at low tide – a tiresome, boring job – until my hoe hit an old wooden chest. Stories were told of pirates along these shores, but I thought them only tales – until today. 

It’s mine. I found it.

The gray fog thickened. I couldn’t even see the water anymore. I felt like I was suspended between earth and sky – no up or down, no east or west. I stopped rowing with a frightening thought.

I could be heading into the open sea!

I heard a sound – like a far away lighthouse horn, but a wild and mournful bellow. I waited. It sounded again. Whatever it was, there had to be land, and I pulled my oars toward it. 

I stretched my arms and back, pushing my skiff through the water, until it grounded fast upon a sandy shore. Silence. The horn had stopped. The only sounds were the waves lapping the shore and a soft whisper of trees. 

Grabbing the coil of rope, I stepped over the edge. I slowly sloshed through the shallow water toward the shore and secured my boat. 

“HELLO!” I called, but I heard only the waves and whispering trees. 

I considered bringing my treasure ashore, but decided to leave it safely in the boat. I’d need only to wait until the tide turned. I hoped the fog would lift by then. I scrambled up beneath the dark trees. Under their sheltering branches, I laid my head on the crook of my arm for a few hours of rest. 

I awoke with a start!

Something had touched me – something I couldn’t see. My pulse beat in my ears. My eyes darted left and right. 

A shadow emerged from the fog – a creature, the size of a child, yet with the appearance of a very old man. He wore a large shell on a string around his neck. With his gnarly hand, he beckoned me to follow. We walked on and on, through dark pines and grassy meadows. He led me beside a smelly swamp and even across a swinging rope bridge. 

We finally arrived at a clearing with a fire in its midst. Its light revealed several more little men. Their clothing was dark, like mossy bark. Shaggy beards covered their faces, except for their eyes, which shone with reflected firelight. They stared at me without a noise. 

My guide offered me a steaming mug, and the others turned back to their discussion.

I took a sip. It tasted like honey cider. Sitting on a stump near the campfire, I listened. Their words were strange to me. They snacked on tiny shelled snails, cracking them like peanuts. 

Two men dragged a box into the clearing and opened its lid. They laughed and tossed some of its contents into the fire – which made the flames shoot sparkling cinders into the starry sky. 

It's my treasure! “Stop! You can’t have that! It’s mine. I found it!” 

They laughed and continued their game. Some tossed the coins up into the trees, where they got stuck high in the branches. It became a contest, and they all had a turn to see who could score the most. I shouted and tried to stop them, but the game went on until the box was empty. 

With their contest ended, they returned to their babbling conversations. I drank a few more rounds of hot honey cider until my mind got fuzzy with sleep.

I woke to a light flickering on my face. The sun was playing with fluttering golden leaves above me. The fog was gone – and so were the little men. There were no ashes or any gold coins. 

In only a few strides, I returned to the beach and also an empty skiff. With daylight to help, I searched for my missing treasure. I circled the tiny island with less than a hundred steps. 

Where was the forest, the swamp, or the swinging rope bridge? 

As I pushed off from shore, I noticed an over-turned stump. Its roots were positioned like arms and legs. Some moss hung down like a shaggy beard, and a large shell lay at its feet.

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