(Just joining us? You may want to start at the beginning.)
In a rush the pale mist collapsed around the house like liquid and raced by them in a whoosh. In an instant the air was moist and even more still.
"Aw, duuuuuude," Dillon whispered in a hush as the others faded to shadows and vanished from before his eyes. "I can't even see you guys no more."
He jumped a bit when Wendy grabbed his hand.
"DAMN, Wen, don't do that! Whaddaya, get off on that an' shit??"
"Sorry, Dilly," she giggled, "JD? Which way?"
JD was fumbling with the camera, opening the LCD viewer and noticing he could see absolutely nothing but a flat grayness in the tiny screen.
"Damn," he snapped it closed and tried the viewfinder. Nothing. "Damn!"
"Gotcha," Wendy said, snatching his free hand with hers while pulling Dillon along behind her with the other. "Now what?"
"The camera," JD said solemnly, "I'm not sure how much good it's going to do us. The fog's too thick."
"Dude, don' even tell me we're out here for nothin'."
"No, I'll still record, I just don't know how much good it's going to do. The fog wasn't as thick when we saw the replay of Brown last night; it got thicker as we tried to follow into the yard."
"Is that significant somehow?"
"Other than to say that the fog thickened quickly at some point during the recording mechanism, I really don't know."
"Dude, them ghosts're gonna come from this way," Dillon said nervously, "so I wanna be that way somewhere."
"No, we want to see it all," JD countered. "Let's step closer to the gate. We'll see him come in, possibly."
"I ... why we wanna do that dude?"
"I said we want to see it all," JD reiterated, a bit less patiently. "Wen, hold my jacket ... I need both hands."
"Okay." She grabbed the hem of his hoodie and kept up as he moved toward the gate, away from the house behind them. She tugged lightly on Dillon, who only resisted for a moment.
"Aww ... aw, man. I can't believe this."
He shuffled along behind the other two, and JD moved off to the left of the walkway. They kept walking, JD continuously shifting his gaze from the camera viewfinder to the yard and back. He was moving cautiously but not slowly as he continued traveling away from the house. He slowed a bit, still moving forward, trying to be careful, but glancing back over his shoulder where Wendy's arm blurred to a silhouette then grayed to nothing. He couldn't make out the features on her face, only the general shape of her form. Dillon was completely invisible.
"Wait," he said, standing up suddenly. Wendy couldn't stop and ran into him, jarring him slightly. "Wait a minute." There was a huff behind him as Dillon ran into Wendy and she jarred him again.
"Will you please wait?" JD snapped at the fog behind him. "Something's wrong."
"What? What's wrong?"
"Dude, don' start that crap, man. This shit's plenty creepy as it is."
"I'm not doing anything," he said emphatically. "But ... we should've been at the gate a long ... time ago."
"Huh," Wendy said, looking back and then forward around JD. "Yeah, you're right. It wasn't that far."
"No, it wasn't."
"Dude, what're you sayin'?"
"Just that ... the gate seems to be ... farther away. Or something."
"C'mon, guys, keep moving forward. JD, the gate should be just straight ahead and a tiny bit to the right, shouldn't it?"
"Yes. The walkway should be just a few feet to the right, too. Let's head for that. Keep pointed in this direction, so we don't get any more turned around."
"Dude, we're lost?? In the frickin' yard, man? Come ON, dude!"
"Shh, remember there are neighbors, Dillon. Let's keep going."
They walked a meter, maybe one and a half ... nothing. No walkway. No gate.
They kept moving. Only grass beneath their feet.
After another minute JD stopped again. He stood, looking around him over the top of Wendy's head, in a circle.
"What?" she said. "What is it?"
"This is ... well, I don't get it. Where are we? The walk should be ... the walk should've been right there. We weren't that far from it. We're moving toward the street and the walk. We should have reached one of them by now."
"Dude," Dillon's voice quivered on the edge of panic, "what's goin' on, man?? Are we, like, gettin' all mucked with by the ghosts, dude?? Huh??"
"No, no," JD asserted, "nothing like that. The fog rolled in fast and we got disoriented, that's all."
"Yeah, right, dude; disorientated an' crap. Now what?"
Wendy squeezed his hand a bit more firmly. "I'm ... I'm sure we're going the right way ... right, love?"
"Y-Yes ... Yes," JD said, becoming more sure. "We are." He didn't want to cause them to panic. "We are. Definitely. But ... we've just gotten off track a bit. Come on, let's ... let's just go back toward the house. It's bigger, and we can't miss it ... we can't."
"Yeah, dude, right," Dillon said from the murky depths. "We're gonna frickin' die out here, wanderin' aroun' like people in the dessert."
"That's DESERT," JD corrected.
"Whatever, dude. We're gonna die like that an' crap."
"Don't be ridiculous, we're going to reach the house in less than thirty seconds. We weren't that far away."
"How long until the cop shows up, JD?"
"I wish I knew, Wen."
"Dude, where's the house, man??"
JD stopped and looked up. There was only grass around them. They'd be steadily walking toward where the house should have been, nestled among its flower beds and low-growing shrubs and guarded by the savage, malicious trees. Instead they could only see the small circle of grass immediately under them.
"JD, what's going on?" Wendy's voice strained, tight and fearful.
"I don't know."
"Dude ... dude, are we gonna be all right?"
"Yes, just ... walk. It's fine."
They pushed forward. JD made sure that he could not feel his body listing to one side or the other, and that he was tracking generally straight ahead.
He started to count off seconds in his head.
After forty, he stopped again.
"What's going on?" he said, clearly confused.
"Where's the house, JD?"
"Dude, whiskey tango foxtrot, man?? Huh?"
"I don't -- did you say whiskey tango foxtrot?"
"JD, where's the house?"
"I ... I don't know."
"Aw, crap, man ... this sucks ASS."
"Uh ... it's this way." JD tried to sound sure of himself. He was anything but.
"Are ... should we go back?"
"Dude ... flashlight."
"Oh!" JD said, reaching into his pocket and pulling the tiny Maglite out of his pocket. He clicked it on and pointed it away from him.
The beam shone out a few inches from the end of the light and died in the pea soup fog.
"What? What's wrong?"
"The fog's too thick. The light ... doesn't really work."
"Aw man," Dillon groaned forlornly, "we're dead, man. We're dead!"
"Dillon, try to relax. We're not going to die."
"Dude, how d'ya know? You said we'd be at the house by now. You were wrong then, an' now we're all, like, lost an' shit, man."
"We're not lost, really," JD said. "We're in the yard of the house. We know that much. We haven't reached the fence or the street, and we haven't hit a tree. We ... we just need to keep going."
"JD, are you sure?"
"I ... yes. Yes, I'm sure."
"Dude, you so ain't."
"Yes I am."
"Naw y'ain't. We're lost."
"No. We're fine. Come on, let's keep going."
"JD, I don't know. Let's try a different direction."
"Yeah, why not, dude? We're already screwed. Ghosts are gonna start pickin' us off now, so let's just move aroun' an' stuff."
"It's okay, Dilly, let's just ... let's go right now, JD. That's where we came from. Maybe going back that way will ..." Wendy trailed off, biting her lower lip nervously.
"Yes, all right," JD said positively. He was trying to be confident, but they were all getting nervous. "Let's go that way. Try to walk side by side instead of single file. Maybe we'll have more success."
They moved forward, Dillon coming up alongside Wendy as she moved beside JD, and they pushed into the fog. The tiny flashlight beam seemed to simply stop just a few inches into the thick, swirling mist. They moved their heads from side to side, but the unearthly, diffused light was too weak to see and too strong to allow the light to show through. The wisps of the cloud teased over their faces like wraiths, and they plodded onward.
JD counted off seconds in his head. Ten. Twenty. Thirty. Forty. One minute. A minute twenty.
"JD, what's going on?" Wendy was openly scared.
"Dude, this is Twilight Zone-y shit, man." He couldn't see Dillon but could hear his voice breaking with fear.
"Uh ..." JD couldn't think of anything else to say. He was out of ideas, out of explanations. They'd walked for much longer than it should have taken them to reach something -- some marker of their position. A tree, a bush, a walkway, the house ... anything. But they had only the tiny patch of grass directly beneath them. JD realized the camera was swinging from his hand, and he opened the LCD quickly, then rewound the recording. After he reached the beginning, he replayed it, but only a blank gray screen beamed at them. He heard their conversation, but the scenery never changed. He fast-forwarded, but the image never changed. Only a monolithic gray staring back at him.
When the recording stopped, he snapped the LCD closed again.
"Well, that could've been more helpful."
"JD, I'm ... I'm a little scared."
"It's okay, Wen," he soothed and put his arm around her shoulders, squeezing gently.
"Dude, it's so not okay," Dillon was on the edge of panic. "The ghosts are screwin' with us, man. We're muckin' around in shit we ain't got no business with, and they're takin' their revenge or some crap like that, man. We're so frickin' screwed, man!"
"Shh, Dillon, please," JD said. "Calm down. Remember, the replay is only a couple of minutes long. After it's finished, the fog's going to clear and we'll be fine."
"That's right," Wendy said, relaxing. "Even if we miss it all, it will pass. We'll be able to see where we are."
"Dudes, we're not gonna live that long! The ghosts're gonna kill us out here, man!"
"I can't! Dude, maybe we should scream for help and let the neighbors call the cops an' shit!"
"Dillon, damn it, keep it down," JD hissed. "You're being irrational. We're going to be fine, even if we have to sit here in the middle of the damned yard and hold hands. Now get hold of yourself."
Dillon tried to breathe more deeply. "I just ... I just know it's gonna be me, dude. I'm ... I'm scared."
"I hadn't noticed," JD deadpanned.
"It's okay, Dilly," Wendy slid her arm around his middle. "We're going to stay together and nothing's going to happen. To any of us."
"Yes, please listen to her."
"Dude ... dudes ... where's the frickin' house, JD? I gotta pee, man."
JD rubbed his hand over his face in exasperation. "If you get desperate, turn around and pee here."
"Dude, if Wen sees my johnson she SO ain't gonna want yours no more."
Wendy swatted Dillon's arm hard and laughed in shock. "Dilly!"
"I'm all serious an' stuff."
"Finding your wonder worm in this fog isn't likely when we can't even find the house. I'm sure it will be fine."
"Seriously, though ... I gotta pee."
"Can you please just ... pinch it, or something? We have to wait for the fog to lift a bit."
"Uh ... well, I'll try, but ... no promises, dude." He was clearly calmer, more like himself.
"JD -- the fog."
He looked up. The mist whooshed past them again as quickly and quietly as it appeared, and vanished into the dark of the night.
And they were standing at the foot of the stairs, exactly where they'd been when the fog appeared.