It was night, and I stepped out of the park, emerging into shadows and soft streetlights. I glanced at my watch; it read a minute to midnight. I looked around and took a deep breath, the cool, crisp air carving into my dry lungs. I moved quickly across the street and around a corner, heading south until I could see the bridge. As I walked, I could hear the echo of my footfalls against the cobble street, resounding against the dull russet buildings. The fog was setting in, choking the available light. I glanced up at the moon again, imagining my smiling grandmother, and hurried. Soon after, I reached the bridge.
On my first step I kicked against something. Looking down at the metal floor, I saw a gun. I reached down and grabbed it. I opened the chamber, and a single, used bullet casing fell out. I looked around but saw no one, and threw the gun over the railing, hearing it splash into the river.
I suddenly became very aware of the sound of the water - slow, filled with lovers' vanities and the regrets of the dead. Looking ahead again, it seemed as though the world were simply made of fog, my only link to any outside world being the lapping of the river against the bridge's metal beams. I looked down over the railing, and I caught glimpses of the opaque river. Tearing my attention away, I quickened my pace across the bridge.
Though I initially thought it was my imagination, I soon realized that I could hear another set of footsteps. My breath caught in my throat; my heart froze, my fists tightened. I looked around, but couldn't tell where the footsteps were coming from. I could feel their faint vibration in the metal, crawling like roaches through my shoes. I looked around, as the sounds came closer. In the many other times I had made this trip, no one had ever been out. Fear shrouded me; what if it was a thug? A delinquent youth? I mentally performed a cursory inventory of my belongings. I had nothing that would help me in a life-threatening situation. Inwardly, I cursed myself for throwing the gun away.
I casually slowed my pace. A bead of sweat rolled down my temple, and I abruptly wiped it away. I kept glancing over my shoulder, waiting to see if my spectral stalker would emerge from the fog behind me. I then had the horrible sensation that someone was in front of me.
At that moment, I heard a scream.
I snapped my head forward, and the comfort of finding no one there quickly gave way to the vertigo induced by the scream. It was the most horrific thing that I had ever heard. The projection of the voice seemed to come from the fog itself, dripping with a deep, primal horror and despair. I unconsciously lifted my right hand to my temple, rubbing it furiously. I tried to ascertain where the scream came from but couldn't. Finally, something within me decided that the scream had come from ahead, and I rushed forward.
I stopped running the moment I heard something splash into the water. I quickly peered over the side, squinting as I surveyed the dark.
I could make out something in the water, oblong, floating away down the river and out of sight. I turned around to walk back in the direction that I came, when I saw a man emerge from the mist.
His features were pallid. I failed to contain my surprise, and my eyes dissected his form. He was tall, about six feet in height. He was slender, and wore a black trench coat. His cold, cerulean eyes stared at me, his glare gripping me. The man's skin was stretch tight against his cheek bones, jutting up like small mountain peaks. He reached up to his Stetson hat, adjusting it as he strode over to me. My body refused to move as he approached.
"Do you have the time?" he asked, his voice deep, low.
My mouth opened, my throat rattling for a moment as words failed to emerge. I looked at him stupidly for a moment, and then quickly glanced at my watch.
"A minute before midnight," I said, words falling out in a stutter.
He held my gaze for an agonizing moment, then smiled and looked up at the sky. "Beautiful night, isn't it?" the man said at last.
I followed his gaze up, peering at the crescent moon. It reminded me of someone but I couldn't remember.
"Yes," I finally ventured. "Quite lovely."
The man looked at me, nodded, and strode past me, heading north and vanishing into the fog.
I stood there, nailed to the metal floor. I wanted to move, but my muscles were tight and weighted. The sound of the river crashed in all around me again, and I resolved to move again. After a few seconds, I was in motion. Moments seemed to stretch out across an eternity. I just wanted to get across the river, to get past the fog and go home.
And that's when I heard the scream again.
It was the same scream, and reflexively I raised my hand to my temple. I rushed ahead, the fog denser now. I stopped dead when I heard something crash once again into the water.
I moved to the railing. I saw an oblong object in the water, floating away. This time, I could make out that it was a bag, several feet in length.
Slowly, I turned away, and I could now see the end of the bridge up ahead. I looked back at the water, and then back towards the way I had come. As I turned and walked towards the end of the bridge, when I felt something brush past me.
I looked down, and saw a small boy standing there. He was about five years old. His eyes were sunken. His left arm was bound by a tourniquet, and his right hand was so black as to not have been there at all. He looked familiar, a vague resemblance to a cousin of mine, I believe. I looked around, and found that he was alone.
"Hello," he said. His voice was shallow.
"Hello there, son."
"Do you have the time?" he asked quickly.
I paused, and then looked down at my watch. "It's," I began, and then stopped. I looked at the watch again. "A minute to midnight, sorry."
The boy smiled, tilting his head to the side as he said, "Thank you, sir."
Before I could ask where his parents were, he turned and ran off, heading north into the fog. My stomach clenched.
"No, stop!" I cried out. I took one tenuous step forward. "Don't go into the fog alone!"
The boy did not reply. I stood there for a moment, unsure, when the scream came again.
My temples ached, and I rubbed them furiously as the scream passed. I thought of the boy, alone in the fog, and... the pallid man. Horror diffused through my body. I ran back after the boy. My feet pounded hard against the metal, my lungs burning as I threw aside any concern of the fog's limited visibility. Vertigo assailed me, but I fought back the sensation. As I ran, I could hear the sound of something splashing into the water. I felt sick enough to wretch onto the metal grates.
Not the boy.
I looked over the railing again, throwing myself at it with such force that I almost tipped over. I saw something floating directly below me. I shifted my position, trying to get a better view. I looked at the object as it sat there, floating lazily. Slowly, it began to turn, and my eyes widened as the object rotated, and began to sink into the waves.
In the frigid, dark waters, I could see my own face staring up - lifeless, eyes milky, a hole in my right temple, with a look of horror etched onto my face. My body sank into the river.
And that's when I heard myself scream.