As usual, when I was at my cabin by the lake I woke early, almost before the sun. The chill of the late fall night had begun to seep indoors while I slept. I made a pot of coffee to warm myself and threw an old flannel shirt on with my pajama pants and t-shirt so that I could take my dog outside. As I stepped out of the door I felt as if I’d stepped into another world.
Although the clock had told me that it should be daylight the world outside looked and felt as if it had been lost in some sort of lugubrious netherworld in which natural light was forbidden. A thick, dense fog had settled over the area. The sun surely rising in the east could not penetrate the oppressive blanket of moist air. Breathing felt as if I were trying to pull a milkshake into my lungs. Either the lake behind me was completely still, or the fog had effectively muffled all sound. Not even a morning bird chirped in song. My dog disappeared into the swirling mists and returned a few moments later. After she had her breakfast I threw on a pair of jeans and we headed out the door once again. The fog had not abated and the dreary gray-ness of the air seemed ominous. It wasn’t like regular fog. It seemed as if the whole world was in it’s grip, slowly suffocating.
My black lab and I hopped in the car. I needed my Sunday paper and it was only a short drive into town to the small gas station that opened at 7 on Sundays. My headlights offered no help, but fortunately I knew the lonely back country roads well and other travelers were usually few and far between at this hour. I drove slowly, my eyes alert, searching the fog ahead of me for movement. This time of day it wasn’t other drivers I was worried about, but deer, who with a few hundred pounds of fur and hooves could wreak horrific damage to a car should they stray into its path.
As I passed the small golf course, where only a few months earlier The Golden Boys had enjoyed a night to remember, I noticed a car parked at the edge of the lot by the entrance. The headlights were on. This seemed odd. I couldn’t imagine attempting to golf in these conditions and I couldn’t imagine that the course was even open this early after Labor Day. A half mile later I arrived at the gas station, picked up my paper and headed back the way I came.
Approaching the golf course, this time it was on my side of the road, I noticed that the car with it’s headlights on was still in the same spot. That’s when I saw it. Although I was driving relatively slowly, it was still difficult to make out details through the fog while my car was moving. It looked like a body, a person, lying on the ground next to the car. By the time my brain had processed what it had seen I was past the golf course and 100 yards up the road. “What should I do?” I thought to myself. What if he’s dead? What if he’s not and he needs help? How did he get there? The thick fog still casting a foreboding pall over the world did nothing to ease my apprehension, my sense that something was wrong. I couldn’t ignore a person who might need help. I pulled over and made a U-turn. If I was watching a horror movie this is the point where I’d be in your seat yelling for the person not to be so stupid. To just get away while they can.
I used the second entrance to the parking lot, the one furthest away from the car, and the body. I parked about 20 yards away. Whoever was lying there on the ground didn’t even stir at the sound of my wheels on the gravel. I paused before I got out of my car, looking for any sign of movement or life. I saw none. I took a deep breath and stepped out into the gloom. The body didn’t even stir at the sound of my car door closing. This wasn’t good. Then I realized that the car that the body was lying next to was running. Hmmm…a parked but running car, with headlights on. A possibly dead body on the ground next to it.
My cell phone was in my glove compartment, but just like the dopey teens in horror movies, I didn’t think to use it. I decided I wanted to investigate. A little part of my brain was thrilled at the opportunity for this kind of adventure. The fog, the aloneness of being out in the middle of nowhere, and finding a body. Stephen King would have been hard pressed to conjure up a scenario more fraught with peril. I slowly began to walk towards the body. It still did not stir at the sound of my footsteps. Then as I got closer, perhaps ten feet away I saw something on the ground next to the body. A cell phone.
Had he been trying to call for help before he was assaulted? It couldn’t have been a robbery or they would have taken the phone too I thought. The car continued to idle, it’s headlights stabbing out into the fog. The world remained silent. Not another car passed. There was no one there to help me. What do I do now? Though this poor man had obviously been smart enough to take out his cell phone, I still wasn’t. Then, reprising my role in my own real life horror movie I decided to reach out and touch the body. I had to see if he was alive. I took a step closer, crouching down. Still, no movement. “Sir?” I said aloud. Nothing. I reached over, my hand inches from his shoulder…