Fog and Halloween. I can see the way KL Caley’s mind is working for the week’s #writephoto prompt at New2Writing.com. I have a series of features I’ve written in the past, featuring the guinea pigs as themselves, tangling with supernatural creatures in the style of Rocky Horror Show, or meeting a not-quite-alive former companion in an underground tunnel. Some of the early ones are now in Critters and Crises.
After a long conversation with myself, thinking about what I’ve written so far, and what readers expect of Jemima Pett, I’ve shelved other ideas and gone back to what I often do, write about my guinea pigs. I’m toying with the idea of The Cavies of Flexford Common as the next book, in the style of Messenger Misadventures, but set in Hampshire, with the boys I brought down here. Still stuck for a female protagonist, of course…
This week’s effort is another 1,200 words.
Tendrils of mist curled around the reflection in the water. Neville watched in fascination as they obliterated his face, his nose, his chest in turn. If the mist had surrounded him and covered his eyes, why could he still see his reflection?
“I don’t like it.” Roscoe shifted beside Neville, and scratched his ear with a hind leg.
“It looks safe enough. Just get in the rowboat and head downstream. Just float, not even row.”
“Why this fog, though? I don’t like it.” Roscoe sniffed the air.
“It’s probably the effect of the warm air over the damp meadows. Something like that, anyway. Evap-something.”
“Evaporation, Nev, that’s the word you’re looking for. Evap-or-ation. But why? Why is it so warm. It’s practically November. Something is wrong in the world.”
Tomorrow, Neville thought. November is tomorrow. Then it’s December and it’s winter. And there were no adventures to be had in winter. Sitting at home with their nice cosy runs, and food delivered on time every day, in warm rooms.
Not standing on a river bank in the fog.
It had been Roscoe’s idea. A last adventure before they stayed home for winter. Usually his ideas worked out well. This seemed to have gone astray. They had nipped out the back way, which they were sure their Mam didn’t know about, and headed over the common as usual. They’d climbed down the bank, avoided the smell of Mr Fox, waved to the Rabbit family, and sniffed along part of Mr Hedgehog’s nightly trail.
And somehow, they had ended up here, in the morning, fog hiding the usual landmarks, if indeed there were any. How would they get home before Mam noticed they weren’t there?
“If this rowboat takes us downstream, Nev, will we be closer to home, or further away?”
“Er… well, we know we’re on the wrong side of the river, because the stream is going that way instead of this way. So if we go that way we go downstream, but we can cross the river. And then we’ll be on the right side again.”
“And if the fog is still thick, we still won’t know where we are.”
It was Neville’s turn to scratch his ear. He was sure this was the right way to go, he just couldn’t explain why to Roscoe. If either of them could explain being on the wrong side of the river, they’d both be very happy.
“If we cross the river, we’ll be on the right side. We can walk directly away from the river and we should come to something we recognise. A hill, the bank up to the road, something like that.”
“A well known tree, even?”
“Maybe even Farmer Collins’s buildings.”
“If we get to Farmer Collins’s buildings we’ll be south of the common.”
“Exactly. We’ll know where we are, and how to get home.”
Roscoe looked along to where the rowboat floated, tied up to a post. Very handy for anyone who wanted to cross the river. Too handy? Was it a trap?
“Oh, let’s just get in the boat.”
Neville jumped in, and Roscoe followed, then pulled them up to the post by the rope.
“I can’t see how to undo it.” Roscoe was beginning to get grumpy.
“Oh, look!” Neville held up a dripping, weed encrusted rope that led from the post under the water. “This must be a ferry boat! We just pull ourselves along to get to the other side!”
“I’m not getting my coat all green and slimy holding that.”
Neville let out a deep sigh. “Just unhook it from the post and put the hook over the rope. Great. Now you go up for’ard and I’ll take us along.”
With a great deal of wobbling and ouches, they swapped positions. Roscoe sat in the bow, rubbing his feet where they’d slipped off the struts or where Neville had trodden on them. Neville ignored his mutters and concentrated on pulling the boat along the rope, safe from being swept away by the hook over the rope.
The fog got thicker.
There was a strange sensation of weightlessness as they floated across the river, enveloped in the grey mist: grey water below them and grey sky above them, although they could see nothing but white. Neville could just about make out Roscoe’s ginger eyepatch.
“Do you think there are ghosts?” he asked.
“Don’t start going all mysterious on me just because it’s Halloween today. I definitely want to be safe inside before dark. Before Mam wakes up, in truth, but I reckon she’ll be awake by now, and wondering where we are.”
“Maybe this is all in preparation for Halloween, then. Spirits evaporating and wrapping their non-corporeal selves around the atmosphere.”
“Have you been reading Mam’s dictionary again?”
Neville focused on the rope, and the steady pull of the current trying to take them away from it. What if he had been looking at Mam’s books? He liked long words.
The boat shuddered to a standstill.
“We’ve arrived,” Roscoe said, pulling the boat right up to the post on the bank, and getting green slime on his hands. “Yuk!”
“Just don’t wipe them on…”
“Too late.” Neville frowned at the large green streaks that had appeared on Roscoe’s coat. How would Roscoe explain that away?
The fog was just as thick on the other side, but the meadow grass was shorter, with lumps and bumps of earth barring the way.
“Oh, I know where we are. Come on Nev, this way.”
Neville shook his long hair, and the accumulated drops of mist flew off it. He followed Roscoe, weaving in and out of the mounds. Yes, this was the south side of the common. They knew their way home from here, even if the mist was hiding the trees. They’d soon be there. Then up the slope, though the big trees, out through the last copse, and onto the road. Then home, and squeeze through the tunnel back to their runs.
They could do this bit blindfold. Just as well, as the fog hadn’t even started to lift.
Ten minutes later they were home.
It sounded like Mam was in the shower.
“Just don’t say anything!” Roscoe told the others. “We got a bit lost in the fog.”
“You’d better work out what to say about the state of your coat, then,” Biggles replied.
Roscoe stared at his coat, and started scuffing it to get rid of the weed stains.
“Come over here, and leave it to me,” Neville instructed, as he turned their waterbottle into an impromptu shower, cleaning off the green as he manoeuvred Roscoe around.
“There. Now she’ll never know we were out in the fog.”
The morning light shone through their window as the sun burned its way through the murk that had confused them so much.
“Morning, boys,” Mam said, stepping into their room. “Ah, there you are, you sleepy heads. You were all hidden away when I looked in earlier.”
Roscoe looked at Biggles.
“I never said a thing. Just don’t go out in the fog again.”
Roscoe looked at Neville, who shrugged. “She never mist us.”
Roscoe dissolved into giggles.
© J M Pett 2022