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It hit them fast, rolling in like a wave from the ocean that can't be outrun as it foams around the ankles, the fog washing over them and drenching them with moisture and a bath of eerie white as what little light there was diffused throughout the cloud. Draped in its billowing cape was warmer air that dripped over them like sap from the majestic maple trees, now lost in the white mask over the night.
They couldn't see each other any more, standing mere feet apart in the still, the sounds of the night seemingly smothered by the quilt of wetness from the river.
"Duuuuuuuuuuude," Dillon whispered, "this shit's freaky."
"This is weird, JD," Wendy said, reaching for his hand and finding it in the dark. He was surprised by her grasp in the misty dark, but he squeezed lightly and held the pressure there.
"Yes, this is not normal at all," JD agreed. "This fog ... it shouldn't even be here. It is -- or was at least -- far too cold for fog."
"The difference in temp can't be that great down by the river," Wendy agreed.
"So -- JD, dude, if it ain't natural ... then it's ... what? SUPERnatural, maybe?" He chuckled at his own joke.
JD was silent.
"JD?" Dillon said more soberly. "JD, you there, man? JAYDEE DON'T LEAVE ME HERE!" he shouted, groping madly through the fog until his hand clutched JD's shoulder.
"SHH! Dillon, be QUIET!" JD said harshly.
"Oh God, man ... Jeez ... I thought you guys left me. I thought you left me, man ..."
"Shut up already," JD snapped. "We're right here."
"No one's going to leave you alone, Dilly. JD, we should go," Wendy pressed herself against his arm as he held his hand in both of hers. "I can't see my hand in front of my face, and I don't think that guy was a cop."
"I don't either. Not a real one at least."
"He wasn't a freakin' cop? What the flip was he then?"
"That's what we don't want to find out, Dilly."
"We don't? How come?"
"Because if he wasn't a cop, he could be the serial killer you were afraid of before," JD said dully.
"We should leave and contact the police, JD." Wendy's voice was grave and serious, hushed in the pea soup fog.
"How d'ya know he wasn't a real cop?"
"He didn't ask us for ID, Dilly."
"Good thing, too. I ain't got none."
"He's been gone for quite a while," JD said quizzically. "He should have been around the house by now."
"All the more reason for us to leave, JD."
"I know, Wen, but ... I think we should try and have a look at him at least. We need something to provide the police by way of description."
"What's t'describe, dude? A freaky, creepy-ass fake cop. How hard's that to find?"
"I really think we should leave now," Wendy was clearly getting concerned. "Who knows what that guy's doing?"
"We have to have more to go to the police with, Wen."
"Bull, dude ... all we gotta do is go inside an' call 'em. Let 'em do their own damn homework. That's what my tax dollars are for."
"Yeah, I agree."
"Okay, okay. We can go inside. Or ... Wendy, have you got a cell phone with you."
"OH! I never thought of that."
"Aw, Wen ... you mean JD thoughta somethin' you didn't?? Dang, I hate it when he's smarter 'n us."
She fished in her jacket for a moment and pulled out her phone, flipping it open."
"Huh," she said. "No signal."
"No signal? Here?"
"Aw, crap! Crap! A ghost is muckin' with our technology an' shit, man!"
"Dillon, please," JD said patiently. "That's ... that's just strange. And where on earth has that man gone?"
"JD, let's just go inside before something terrible happens to one of us."
"Like me," Dillon chimed readily. "If somethin' bad is gonna happen, it's gonna happen to me, dude."
"Don't be absurd."
"DUDE, I already fell in th' bushes, and Wen scared the crap outta me, and I seen the ghost in the house ... it's so gonna be me, man. It is SO gonna be me."
"Fine, let's go into the house and ..."
JD never finished his sentence. There was a muffled sound, something like a startled shout smothered beneath a blanket or hand, from the depths of the fog. The three of them froze, and Wendy grabbed JD's hand hard again, pressing against him in the murk. A half second later he felt another body against his back and two hands grip his shoulders above the collar bone ... Dillon.
"What the -- what're you doing?"
"Dude, what was that?? What was that, man?"
"JD, we should go ..."
"Wendy, we have to see what that was. That sounded like ... someone could be in trouble."
"Yeah, dude, US! I toldja, JASON'S out here killin' people! We gotta go, man! It's so gonna be ME next!"
"Dillon! Be quiet!"
They listened. There was nothing more.
"I think it came from the other side of the house," JD said quietly, nearly whispering.
"JD, this is something the police should handle."
"Dude, please -- Wen's right, man, we gotta call the cops."
"Go on," JD said finally, "go into the house and call the police. I'll see what I can find."
"NO, JD. We've got to stay together. You don't know what's going on out there."
"Dillon, take Wendy inside, please."
"What'm I supposed t'do, carry her?"
"JD, don't be an ass," Wendy spat. "Don't be stupid. We have to call the police."
"JD, man, she's right, quit screwin'. You ain't like, Chuck Norris or nothin'. You could be killed an' stuff."
"I'll be fine, but we have to see what that was." He moved away and released Wendy's hand, but Dillon was still clinging to his back.
"You're holding onto me."
"Let go, please."
"Dude, I so can't."
"Wh ... all right. All right, let's go in the house."
"I knew you'd get smart sooner or later, m'man."
Dillon let go of JD and turned in the dimness. And JD walked quickly toward the sound into the murk.
"Aw, that is SO not cool, man!"
"Sorry -- go inside and call the police," his voice drifted to them.
"Damn it, JD!" Wendy hissed, "I'm going with you then!" She stomped after him.
"Aw, shit, man!! Don't leave ME out here!!" Dillon scurried quickly behind Wendy, hands outstretched to his sides probing, groping. "Aw, hell, c'mon, you guys! Where ya at?? Huh? Where ya --"
He smashed face first into a tree trunk as it emerged from the heavy mist, and his sudden momentum change knocked him down heavily onto his hindquarters. He whooshed loudly as the air was knocked from his lungs, and he madly fumbled trying to stand, to see in the dark and wet fog.
"JD!!" he called weakly, gasping for air, "JD, Wen, somethin's got me!! Help, somethin's got me!!"
He tried to scream when a hand seized him by the collar and pulled him hard off the ground. He flailed wildly, kicking and trying to scream, arms windmilling blindly, but he could only squeak and gasp as he fought for air.
"Dillon!" JD snapped in his ear. "It's me! Calm down!"
"Dilly, are you all right?" Wendy emerged from the cloud and took him around the upper arm, pulling him away from JD.
He shook his head violently "no", still gasping. "Can't ... breathe ... ugggghhhnnn ..."
"You've had the wind knocked out of you, just relax. I'm going on to see what that sound was ... if I can, now."
"JD, damn it, just wait for us."
"Wendy, we don't have all night. And if this person is someone we should be wary of, there's no sense in all of us being in jeopardy. Just please go in the house and call the police."
"If I don't have a cell signal out here I'm not going to have one in there, either."
"My phone is on the desk with the monitors," JD said flatly. "It does have a signal, because I checked it when I got here. Use mine."
"You're really getting on my nerves. Do you have some reason for playing hero, because no one is impressed."
"I'm not playing hero," he spat. "I'm trying to see if someone needs help. He'll be exsanguinated before we get there if I wait for you two."
"C'mon, Dillon ... can you walk? I don't want Captain America here to get killed."
Dillon wheezed, "Yeah ... you're such a dick du..." but ran out of breath before he could finish his insult.
JD fumed, but went on. Wendy reached out and suddenly clutched his hand hard, pulling him viciously back.
He turned, brows knit in bewildered irritation.
"We stay together this time, ass," Wendy forced her words through gritted teeth.
JD softened. "All right. Do you have Dillon?"
"Yes. Move it." She was clearly irked. Her irritation made JD feel badly. Maybe her accusations were right ... he was being pushy and the smarter thing to do was to go inside and call the police.
But something about that sound compelled him. Something about that sound was disconcerting, jarring to him. He had to know.
They went as quickly as Dillon was able, moving in the mist like specters, JD with his arms panning from side to side in front of him, trying to avoid Dillon's mistake. Dillon hacked a bit from the rear, but at least he was quiet for the moment. He saw only the dark and the damp fog as they progressed, trying to gauge their location relative to the house.
"Dude," Dillon whispered, his breathing easier, "we are so lost in this stuff, man. Where are we?"
"I ... I'm not sure, exactly. We should be near the corner of the house by now. We were near the parlor before, and the house went on a bit. We should probably go left at this point."
"I can't remember how far down the cop went before he turned," Wendy said. "Then the fog rolled in."
"Man, I bet we can't even get back t'the house if we wanted to now ... and I do. We are so lost in the yard. They're gonna find us all starved an' skeletons an' shit, out here 'cause JD wouldn't go call the cops."
"Starved and skeletal?" JD retorted.
"Well ... I'M hungry. Anybody else? We should call the cops then call for a pizza."
"Let's keep moving, guys."
They went to their left, feeling their way gingerly through the fog, the stillness only broken by the sound of their steps through the wet grass. JD occasionally shook the flashlight in his pocket, trying to make it come on.
"I can't figure out why my flashlight stopped working," he thought aloud.
"Batteries, numbnuts ... you need t'change 'em sometimes."
"I know that, Dillon," he said irritated. "I changed them just before I got here today. They're brand new. It's not the batteries."
"Then it's a ghost."
"Everything is as far as you're concerned."
"Most things so far."
"You think Wendy's a ghost? Dude!"
"Not me, cretin, you."
"I never said Wendy was a ghost."
"You thought she was when she startled you."
"No I didn't, I thought she was a werewolf. Nyah."
"That's what I thought. I didn't think she was a ghost though."
"You thought her flashlight was a ghost."
"I did not."
"Yes you did."
"Dude, I know what a flashlight looks like."
"No, no ... you thought the flash she made with it on the monitors was a ghost."
"And you thought the man we saw was a ghost."
"I still do, dude."
"Hellz yeah. He disappeared an' shit, right? Just like a ghost. He was all weird an' shit, right? Just like a ghost. He was --"
"You're weird, but that doesn't make you a ghost."
"JD, do you see anything yet?" Wendy was irritated.
"I can't see anything at all. I never could. I can only guess where we may be in the yard."
"This was stupid, JD."
"She's so tellin' the truth, J-bird. Big time stupid. Major stupid. Stupid royale. Stupid-atouille. Stupid-ala-mode. Stupid --"
"Thank you, I get it."
"Well, it is."
"Wait! I see something!"
The other two crowded closely beside JD, watching.
In the mist, outlined by a weak flashlight beam, were three figures: two standing, one laying on the ground with one arm held up in a defensive posture, an illuminated flashlight clutched in the upheld hand. They gasped as suddenly one of the standing shadows raised an object, like a small club, and brought it down savagely on the head of the prone figure, the flashlight-wielding arm dropping limply to the ground, the light rolling away pointed at the horrific scene. There was a sickening thud as again and again the club fell, until at last the two figures fled into the mist away from the tiny area of illumination cast by the light.
JD sprinted forward, moving as fast as he could, trying to make sure there weren't any objects between him and the still shadow on the ground. The figure twitched, trying to stir, then collapsed again.
And just as quickly as it came, the fog rolled past them, beyond the edges of the house, like a cape trailing away from a fleeting figure in the night, leaving only the dark, crystalline night, the cold collapsing back in behind the vanishing mist.
JD stopped dead in his tracks, staring in wide-eyed disbelief.
There was no figure, no flashlight ... nothing. No sign that anyone had ever been there.
There was only the biting chill of the still night.