City of Fog

Contributor: Christopher T Garry

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Nothing but the soft hum of the ship's electronics accompanied Michael as he lay dreaming again. The crew's quarters were in almost perfect darkness. Glasses, water, a pen, a pill wrapper and a communicator all individually reflected the dim pinpoint lights that could be seen in the bedside console. He dreamed as he had every night since leaving the colonies months ago. In his bunk he was perfectly still with only his eyes moving from side to side under his lids.


In his dream he was looking for someone. Michael stepped from the train and looked about the platform uncertain of where exactly the boy had gone. Steam obscured his view of the platform, the train yard and industrial district beyond. The men were all in hats and there were a few women bundled against the cold. Soldiers lined the edge of the platform, chatting amongst themselves, keeping wary eyes on the crowd with tired, lined faces. Clearly no child was going to be trailed directly in such a disarray of gray and brown dreariness.

He drifted toward the terminal with the rest of the people. He knew his job and he knew the station well. As long as the boy had no idea he was being followed he could safely assume that the child would follow a predictable path off the train, out of the station and into the city. He knew where he lived, where he went to school. He knew the disposition of his family and where his usual haunts were during the short daylight hours of winter in the village that they had left behind. What he did not know was why the boy had broken his routine and taken the train here to Sterngarten with such apparent urgency.

The city was a transportation hub along the eastern borderlands, home to few but the most resolved artisans and tradesmen. There were factories, warehouses and shipyards along the riverfront. Most of the populace here were transient following private agendas, working for a few months and then moving on. No one remained attached for very long during wartime. Work was long and hard and dangerous and then bombs would fall setting back progress. Workers would sort through the rubble, rebuild, retool and start again. It was a metropolitan anthill that would suffer any amount of destruction merely to shift and restore itself in a few days to a new shape but with the same purpose. Survive and supply the war.

There was no reason for the boy to come into the city. Children under 13 were forbidden from work. There were no schools or homes left, no parks or cultural centers since they had stopped bothering to rebuild them. Food was scarce here and most lived underground at night to avoid the air raids. The trains brought more workers, building supplies from the countryside, food and news of the progress of the war.

Michael felt strange and began to feel more urgent. He spotted the boy finally, standing near the cab stand staring straight at him with set resolution in his face. Not angry but not childlike either. The boy suddenly became transparent showing the traffic behind right through his body. In a moment he was gone. Michael stood in the mad rush of people with isolation crowding around him.


The dim pinpoint lights of the bedside console reflected in the boy's eyes as he watched his pursuer sleep.

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Born in Illinois CTG lives outside Seattle with family and pets. If he were born at another age perhaps he would stare blankly at the sunset as he wipes mastodon blood from his chin, tossing the bone aside.
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