She turned to head back to the cottage. Her eyes darted around in panic. The mist had thickened and all she could see of the way she had come was a swirling cloud of white. She tentatively walked a few paces and waved her arms in front of her but it made no impact. She turned back again – she had been able to see ahead of her without many problems so maybe she could continue towards the church and wait there until it cleared. But the fog had fallen thickly all around her suddenly and silently, and she was no longer sure in which direction she was facing. Breathing heavily, she stopped and tried to remain calm. She knew that the most important thing was not to walk blindly, in case she roamed too close to the cliff-edge in her disorientation. She suddenly heard a sound to her right and she spun uncertainly.
The mist was silent.
She sank down to her knees and crawled carefully in the direction she thought that Mermaid Cottage should be. Although she wasn’t totally sure where she was going, she knew it was a lot safer to feel with her hands in front of her on the ground than to go blundering off on foot as she might easily trip. Her knee scraped across a sharp stone and she swore, feeling a trickle of blood. Her jeans felt damp and heavy as she crawled on, her hair was plastered across her face and she breathed quickly, heart thumping. She was vaguely aware in the author’s part of her mind that she would laugh about this later, crawling through the mud not half a mile from the cottage, totally lost. But right now it was far from a joke. She knew distances could be deceptive but surely she was nearly at the cottage now? She stopped and peered around again in case the mist had lifted. It was still as thick as ever.
She thought she could hear something. Like someone speaking? No…she strained her ears, keeping her body completely still…it was like someone singing.
“What the hell?” she growled. “I’m stuck in the mist and someone is singing?”
It struck her as odd that she could actually hear anything anyway – even when she spoke aloud the sound was oddly dampened, but the voice she could hear was clear even though it was distant. She carefully turned on her knees, feeling around on the ground to steady herself, and painstakingly made her way in the direction she perceived the voice to be coming from. If someone was there, albeit someone weird enough to be singing outside in the morning, she wanted to head in the direction of civilization rather than go blundering further away. From time to time she paused and listened. The singing was definitely growing louder. It was melodic and female. She couldn’t detect any words but she was suddenly struck with the feeling that she had heard it somewhere before. In a dream! That was it – the half-remembered dream she had the night before had been about mermaids singing.
“Christ, I am really cracking up” Stef muttered, heart pounding furiously. Even underneath her coat, the hairs on her arms prickled and a chill tingled at her spine.
“I am thinking way too much about my book. I swear I’m going crazy”.
But still the voice continued, and Stef very carefully followed it, half out of curiosity and half out of desperation because right then, she had no better idea of how to find her way back. Her knees throbbed and her head ached, and the singing was now so loud it filled her ears with a haunting melody. She stopped and closed her eyes and shoved her hands over her ears to block it, crying out in frustration.
The music stopped. She opened her eyes tentatively and removed her hands.
The mist was gone.