In The Grey

This was something to get me going yesterday evening. I needed atmosphere for another project and was struggling to describe it. Once I had a feeling of a place, some people popped up. See below!

Grey mist settles like dust. Thick, like you could put your hand in it and leave a mark, an absence. Grey like the sea, like the birds, like the buildings squat against the rocks.

Winter.

When he first came to the islands, he loved the seasons. The dark curtain of winter, the switch to the bright light of summer, no messing about with anything much in between. Now it was just a black and white movie. Old. Predictable.

He kicked at stones to keep his feet warm. New boots. He’d get new boots for next winter. Spend a bit on them, this time, make it feel like his feet were part of him and not cold like the rocks below.

Someone coming through the grey. Short, squat, like a bruise.

Hughes. Hughes the bruise. He thinks he should remember that, tell Hughes, like a joke. Hughes the bruise.

Hughes comes closer, a face forming in the grey, granite.

He looks at Hughes, sees a lifetime of scars, forgets the joke he was going to tell. Not the day for it. Never the day for it. No joking with Hughes.

He waits.

Hughes comes to him. “Alright?”

He nods.

“Caught anything?”

He looks at Hughes, surprised, then remembers. The thin shaft of the rod is so light in his hands that he had forgotten it was there. Borrowed. From Hughes? Maybe. Maybe it was time to give it back.

He looks out into the mist. There is water, a lake of sorts, a dark pool beneath the mist.

He looks at the ground. Beside his cold feet in their cold boots, a couple of boxes, plastic. Living things in one, crawling: bait. Nothing in the other.

“No,” he says.

Hughes smiles at him.

He doesn’t know what to think when Hughes smiles. It is odd, like the sun shining bright in winter or the thought of being truly warm.

“They’ll come,” Hughes says.

Hughes pulls his coat around him and carries on along the path.

He remembers. He calls out.

“Hughes!”

Hughes turns to look back at him.

He stops now, still, like the rocks or the mist or the fish that will lie dead in his plastic box as soon as he’s caught it, reeled it in, teased the hook out of its jaw and cracked its head on the ground.

Hughes is looking at him.

He is thinking about the dead fish, completely still, then about the rocks, completely still. The mist moves, like breath, he thinks. The rocks move too, slower, like the breath of something about to die.

Hughes is waiting.

He can hear the tap of Hughes’ boot on the ground. A twitch that could become a kick.

“Hughes the bruise,” he says.

Hughes stops tapping his foot. Hughes folds his arms across his chest and tilts his head – just so.

“Hughes the bruise,” Hughes says.

“Hughes the bruise,” Hughes says again.

Hughes nods and turns and walks away, disappearing into the grey.

He smiles.

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