Fog – chapter 1 of a new story
You know how it is. You suddenly realise that you are driving along a road, but you have no idea where this road is, or where you are headed. The last ten miles are a blank too – did you stop at any traffic lights? Were there any crossroads, or tricky roundabouts? You really have no idea, and for several seconds you wear a puzzled frown until light eventually dawns and you realise that you’re off to B&Q for a pot of green paint.
Well, that’s how it was with me at first. It was as if I’d just blinked into existence at the wheel of this car, driving along a foggy road that appeared to be taking me through some woods. I couldn’t remember a thing about the journey I’d taken to get to this point. The car headlights were on, presumably because of the fog, but I had no recollection of actually switching them on. Not that unusual a feeling, plenty of people have experienced it.
Except that in my case I couldn’t remember anything else, either. Oh, it was pretty clear that I remembered how to drive a car, since I was managing to avoid smashing into the ranks of trees. And, hey, what about that? I managed to get around that sharp bend almost without thinking. Even changed gear. But nothing personal was in my head, nothing about me. For instance (and it’s a pretty big instance), well, who was I? I supposed I must have a name, but what the hell was it? Racking my brain, I felt like I could almost grasp it, but it was just out of reach, like when you can’t quite remember the name of that bloke who’s always in the background of black and white British films from the Fifties.
I eased off the accelerator as the fog thickened, and the woods on either side of the road did the same. I passed a road sign, which warned me that I might encounter some deer at this point in my journey. Now, how did I know what the sign meant if my memory wasn’t working? And shouldn’t I have “come to” by now? This sort of thing only lasts a few seconds, doesn’t it? I began to feel a bit dizzy with all these questions, and a seed of fear began growing in my mind.
A break in the trees appeared out of the fog on my left, and I pulled off the road into the dark gap, the beginning of a track that wound deeper into the forest. I turned off the engine. It was very quiet. The fog-shrouded trees that I could see through the windscreen looked pretty spooky, and didn’t help to ease my growing fear. I got out of the car, leaned against the hot bonnet and breathed deeply, which at least helped to stop my head spinning.
Perhaps I’d had some kind of mental stroke or, I don’t know, psychological trauma thing. I had absolutely no idea what any of those words meant, which probably indicated that I was not any sort of psychiatrist, but you have to understand that I wasn’t exactly compos mentis at this point and I was desperately trying to find some sense of what might be happening to me.
I had no idea who I was. I had no idea where I was. I was a poor little lamb who had lost his way (now where the hell had that phrase come from?). A thought slipped into the side of my mind, and before it could slip out again I clutched at it like a drowning man at a cliché. Maybe I just needed to see something familiar to ‘jolt’ my memory back into life. Like I said, obviously not a psychiatrist.
So, first things first, I started with me. I was male, and wearing an unremarkable brown jumper, unremarkable blue jeans and unremarkable trainers. I felt a brief regret that I wasn’t dressed a bit more impressively, say in a kilt with a sgian dubh down my sock, or in a cool black suit with cool black shades and cool black hair, instead of the wiry stuff that grew wildly about my head. With a little trepidation I checked out my face in the wing mirror. Unremarkable, wouldn’t you just know it? I seemed to be middle-aged, in my forties at a guess; reasonably good-looking, dusty brown curly hair beginning to thin. Brown eyes, no scars, no facial hair. I grinned at my reflection, and was pleased to see that at least I seemed to have a nice friendly smile and all the right teeth.
OK then, pockets. My right jeans pocket contained three fivers. I thought it interesting that I could recognise the woman wearing the crown as the queen, although this was not immediately helpful as the five-pound note failed to give her telephone number. I became distracted for a while trying to figure out why Her Majesty had what appeared to be a snail attached to her left ear, before carrying on with my search.
Left jeans pocket – sod all. Back pockets – also zilch. This was not going very well, I had to admit. So far I had discovered that I looked fairly ordinary, had fifteen quid, and didn’t wear a kilt. Great.
Sam Kydd! That was his name! You know him, that character actor that I was talking about. Sam Kydd. He was never the star, but he was in hundreds of films and television programmes in the Forties, Fifties and Sixties. He was in The Cruel Sea, and that Peter Sellers film, what was it – I’m Alright Jack. This brought me up short. How come I knew so much about Sam Kydd, but nothing about myself? Unless I was Sam Kydd, of course, but that didn’t seem very likely given that he would be well into his nineties by now.
I dragged my thoughts back to the matter in hand. This selective nature of my amnesia had me puzzled. I wondered why I could remember some things, such as driving and Elizabeth the Second and Sam Kydd, but not other, more important things such as who I was, or, say, whether I was married. I quickly checked my fingers – no rings, which of course told me nothing.
I turned my attention to the car. It was a blue Meriva, a few years old from the wear, and in desperate need of a wash. It had two window stickers. One told me that the owner of the car had been in the AA for ten years, and the other was from Grynigg Farm, which was apparently a Red Kite Feeding Centre. The road fund license had three months to run. I climbed into the passenger seat and opened the glove compartment, idly wondering whether there would be any actual gloves inside.
As it happened, there were. I smiled inanely as I took out a pair of ordinary grey woollen gloves such as an unremarkable man might wear. The glove compartment also disgorged a box of tissues, a CD of Mozart Violin Sonatas without a case, a CD case of the Jurassic Park soundtrack without a CD, and a bag of Maltesers. This last discovery made me realise that I was extremely hungry, so I jabbed the Mozart into the CD player and listened while I polished off the chocolates.
As I wiggled my tongue in the honeycomb, I considered the results of my search for an identity. So far, so bleugh. I turned around. There was nothing on the back seat, and nothing in the door pockets save a small pair of scissors. If the boot proved to be as fruitless as the rest of the car, I’d be knackered.
I sucked the chocolate off the last Malteser, climbed out again into the fog, and leaving the door open I walked round to the back of the car. The merry notes of the B flat sonata, K454, floated out into the murk. I pulled the latch and lifted the rear door, which rose slowly with a wheezing sound.
I think I said “Jesus!” at least three times, and “Fuck” a hell of a lot more than that. When people say that you can fall back in surprise, they’re not exaggerating you know. I staggered backwards and fell with an involuntary squeak into some damp ferns. My stomach felt queasy, and the Maltesers threatened to make an unscheduled re-appearance.
I managed to stand, and shakily took a step forward, hoping with all my heart that my imagination was playing tricks in tandem with my memory. I looked again. My god, she was still there. Oh fucking Jesus fuck. It was a young woman. She was naked, arms by her sides, legs curled up, eyes staring blankly out of her head. Unfortunately none of these parts – limbs, body, or head – were joined together.
I was pleased that I was listening to the Mozart rather than Jurassic Park.