rope bridge city fog

On the damp, moist earth, rested a cloud, clinging to the mire as tightly as a scared baby clings to its mother. But you don’t say “cloud” when standing inside it. No, there is a different word for this: fog.
The fog was milky-white and curiously layered: a rich, flowing river turning into thin mist abruptly just two metres above the ground. Sounds drowned in it, colours faded, life stood still, blanketed, muffled, put on pause.
Brikenok watched the fog river flow. He was safe up here, in the elaborate web of rope bridges connecting dozens of ancient trees into a city. Also, he liked the view... The boy was too young to remember the previous fog, so the novelty of the event hadn’t worn off for him yet. His experience was fresh and pure, with no strings attached.
His grandmas and grandpas argued in hushed voices, looking for omens lurking in the whirling white mass. Brikenok didn’t understand them, he rarely ever did; some said he was too dumb for that.
As much as he could see, nothing lurked below the river of white, the fog seemed harmless, beautiful even.
Was it tasty? Was it sweet? the boy wondered. Could you scoop it with a cup and drink it like milk? Well, this was definitely interesting, much more interesting than omens!
The fog was slowly rising with every passing hour, swallowing the undergrowth below and approaching the city like a flood. The higher it climbed, the more people worried. The more people worried, the less loud they were. Their arguments came down to a whisper at first but soon most of the words got replaced with gestures, meaningful looks, and solemn nods. No one wanted to get the attention of whatever lived in the fog.
Brikenok watched the eyes of his parents and grandparents burn with the kind of desire that they used to dismiss as childish before. They desperately wanted things to settle by magic. Wanted to hide under a blanket and wait, wait, wait for the monster to walk away without hurting anyone, just like that.
They’d always said that never worked, that any problem must be faced and solved… But, guess, they had no idea how to solve something that big.
On the third day, the fog swallowed the lower rope bridges of the city, cutting some areas off. The panic was silent, inner, well-controlled on the surface: people let their neighbours from lower levels into their homes and stayed indoors as much as possible. Now, when the fog had access to rope bridges, they expected an invasion, no less. It wasn’t happening but that only worsened the suspense.
Brikenok no longer understood his fellow citizens at all. He felt a stranger in his own home. All the fears the others spread just washed over him for some reason, leaving no trace in his heart, forming no connection in his mind. The dumb kid still thought that the fog was beautiful. He no longer wondered whether it was tasty, though. Because he had tried - when no one could see him - to scoop it with a cup and take a sip.
On the fourth day, the panic simmered down to despondency. Their heads bowed, their hearts resigned to their fate, people waited humbly for the fog to swallow them whole. Some prayed. Some wept. No one cared about what Brikenok was up to anymore.
That was when he stepped on a rope bridge descending into the fog and kept walking until the river of white engulfed him. The world looked funny there, true, but no one tried to hurt the boy. In fact, he was alone there, for there was no one else.
Brikenok knew the city like the lines of his palm, so he didn’t get lost. He emerged from the flooded world safe and sound, and smiling…

There was an old prophecy: one day, a great fog will swallow the world and end it.
But did it really happen? The fog Brikenok had survived dispersed in a few days, after all.
It did. It definitely did, just not in a catastrophic way. Prophecies are like that: they don't blatantly lie but they are ambiguous. And useless.

When Brikenok grew up, he was the first human to descend into a dying forest fire, grab a burning stick and bring it back to the city. No one had ever dared to do that before: forest fires were the reason Brikenok’s people never left ancient trees, after all. Fire was to be feared, not played with. But the curious youngster, the “dumb” one, did play with it, then tamed it, and started a new era: the era of machines, the era of science.

This is how old worlds die: it just takes one person to enter the dreaded fog and return from it unharmed and smiling.


When parents took Nokky to the Ancient Trees Park, their “dumb” child didn’t throw a tantrum as she usually did when being brought to an unfamiliar place. For the first time, she, an urban child, saw the sky full of stars where a sparkling river of Milky Way was shining in all its beauty, no longer hidden by city lights.
Nokky was in awe, she could barely breathe.

“I want to go there,” she said, pointing upwards.
“This is impossible, my dear,” said her mother, and then explained why.

But the girl didn’t follow. Her mother’s words washed over her, for some reason, leaving no trace in her heart, forming no connection in her mind…

You’d never thought back then, looking at little Nokky, that she would grow up to become the first space traveller. But she did...

(August 27, 2003)


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English is not my native language.
If you see an error or a typo, please, tell me. I will fix it.