Hunting Ground

Unlike those who huddled inside their hovels and homes protecting stuttering candles, Cullen stared out into the wet fog, wondering why its wisps never stroked his windows or crept under his door. It would not even pass his fence.

Cullen frowned out over the softly churning grey waiting for sense to return. No one wandered in a fog; at best you’d lose yourself and find a quick end at the bottom of ravine or below dark ice, much worse you’d fade off chasing something calling your true name.  Cullen knew he should back away inside, stoke his forge awake against the chill, and wait for it to pass as all in the little township did in the repressive weather.

And he almost did retreat. His hand was back on the door handle when the smell hit his nose, sharp and sweet as granny smith apples. It made his mouth twist as the sour flesh broke under his teeth. Summer past nine at night but the sun was still shining orange between blushing clouds. A mother’s laugh, a child’s delighted shriek. The memory was as sharp as the apple on his tongue.

Cullen jerked back towards the fog.  Like a hound to a scent, his muscles tensed at the sight of the shifting shapes forming from the thick mist. There was no apple, no sun, no people save the dead ones in the mist. Even as he shook the unfamiliar voices and things and sour taste off himself, he could feel more waiting just beyond the fog bank.

The ghosts inside the dark mass shrank back from him as he moved forward, but their darting fear spurred him faster. He stopped at the gate, the fog retreating from him like he was the sun burning it away. Cullen’s lip rose, angry with confusion, and suddenly hungry for whatever waited in beyond his yard.

The rusted chain and lock forced him to remember his fingers, and he fumbled with it before throwing open the fence gate. The fog still crept from him, its dark shapes merely suggestions of people deep inside. Cullen licked his lips and plunged into the hunting ground.

Thank you Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie for another wonderful Wordle Prompt. 

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