The Morning of the Fog

Tuesdays never jived well with Maxine. She almost always woke up late, spilled her coffee, burned her toast, or forgot her lunch. Tuesdays were like a doubly bad Monday… following a Monday.

Maxine’s alarm went off on this cold January Tuesday morning and she stretched out, sighed loudly, and got out of bed. She hopped in the shower, realized that she was out of conditioner and then remembered that it was Tuesday; she knew that her troubles were just beginning.

She got ready for work, made a quick breakfast sandwich, grabbed a banana for a snack, filled her travel mug with coffee (always black), and she went off to work.

When she stepped outside, the fog was so thick that Maxine couldn’t see but a few inches in front of her face. She navigated her way to her car slowly and from memory. The weight of the air made walking to her like walking through syrup and when she reached her car and inserted her key into the keyhole and turned, she recognized the lack of sound that didn’t come from the three other doors on her Honda.

She opened the door and slunk into the driver’s seat while taking note of the lack of lights turning on inside. She put the key into the ignition, closed her eyes, prayed and turned. The familiar sound of a clicking dead battery pulsed from the hood of the car. After the first try, Maxine removed the key from the ignition, laid her head upon the steering wheel, closed her eyes and mumbled under her breath, Bollocks.

Maxine raised her head, looked at her watch, looked out into the fog, and decided that today would be a good day to walk to work. She worked as an ad designer for a marketing firm, so it wasn’t too big of a deal if she was late from time to time. She called in and let the office know that her car was dead and that she was going to be walking into work and then pulled out her headphones. She queued up a new minimal techno mix that her friend had sent her the night before and then she got out of the car and proceeded to make her way through the dense syrupy fog; walking in time with the 125 bpm pulse of the music.

As Maxine slowly made her way across town from the east side where she lived to the west side where she worked, she fantasized about the possible things that she could do with her upcoming weekend. Hopefully it will be more exciting than what she did the previous weekend, deep cleaning the grout in her bathroom.

Maxine rounded a corner and an odd man with a wobbly cane held out his hand to her. He was offering her a gem but she couldn’t hear him because of the headphones. She made it about four steps past this man when she tripped on the in-need-of-repairs sidewalk and fell to the ground.

Her earbuds fell out of her ears when she hit the ground and her coffee launched out of her hand as well. She heard the old man say something.

“Need to be careful on days like today Maxine” said the old man’s shaky voice

Maxine shook her head confused, got up off of the ground, brushed herself off, and then looked around for her fallen coffee mug. She also wondered about the body that held the voice of that seemed to know her name.

“Looks like you’ll need to get another cup of coffee this morning Maxine. The fog is after you today” and the old man cackled.

Maxine saw her mug with a blood like stream of coffee spilling its life-force onto the sidewalk. Her knee was a bit banged up and she felt the sting as she moved towards retrieving her fallen totem.

“Thick as syrup and as slippery as oil it is. Foggy mornings of torment and magic. Can’t escape the cloud. Nope. Not today” and the man wobbles towards Maxine as she snatched up her mug and assessed the amount of elixir left inside. “Tell me Maxine, how do monsters like their eggs?”

“Excuse me?” Maxine replied with unprecedented levels of confusion.

“I said,” and the old man began slowing his words, “tell me Maxine, how do monsters like their eggs?”

“How do you know me name? And what are you talking about? Is this a joke?”

“We all know your name Maxine, well those of us that matter do. We all know everyone’s name Maxine, and yes, I suppose that this could be a joke. Or maybe it is an honest question needing an honest response. Either way, do you have an answer?” The old man with the brown tweed jacket and faded carpenters jeans was now standing directly behind Maxine, pushing up his glasses from their slipped location on his nose.

Maxine turned towards the old man and paused. She didn’t know what to say. Should she inquire about him knowing her name, the purpose of the riddle, or simply ignore the man and continue her walk to work. She noticed that he had something in his hand.

“What’s in your hand?” she asked as she wrapped up her headphones’ cable and stuck it into her coat pocket.

“Oh, this?” and the old man closed his hand around the light blue gem in his hand. “This is something that should possibly be yours, but I can’t give it to you until you answer my question. How do monsters like their eggs?” and the man looked into Maxine’s eyes, smiled, and then began coughing a deep chest cough. He raised his arm and coughed into his jacket for a moment and then recomposed himself.

“Ummm,” Maxine thought about the riddle for a moment. She should really know the answer to something like this. The setup just seems too simple. “Scrambled brains?”

“Good guess” the old man said. “But unfortunately that isn’t the correct answer. And that’s too bad, because it would be good for you to have this gem. I traveled all the way here to give this to you.”

Now, Maxine hadn’t finished her coffee, was tired, had been walking through dense fog for a half-hour, and had just taken a massive fall to the ground. She was kind of in no mood to play games. But, at the same time, this weird old man had a gem, knew her name, and it was Tuesday. She then considered what she did the previous weekend, her thoughts about the coming weekend, the overall blase nature of her current life, and when she looked into the old man’s eyes, she could swear that something felt… interesting.

“Well, sir, I would love to stand around trying to guess that answer, but I need to get off to work.”

“You might need to stop and get yourself some more coffee too”

Maxine smiled, “Yeah, I suppose you’re right. So thank you for cheering me up and confusing me some. I hope you have a good day sir” and she gave the old man a short nod and began turning to walk to away.

“Now hold on Maxine,” the old man said as he reached out to grab Maxine’s arm, “I have something for you. I traveled a long way to give this to you, but I can’t simply let you have it. So here’s what I can do for you. I’m going to give you this gem, and this gem is going to do something special for you, but its powers won’t reveal themselves until you solve the riddle” and the old man reached out his arm and placed the gem into Maxine’s hand.

“How will the gem know that I solved the riddle?” Maxine inquired.

“You’ll figure that out after you solve the riddle” the old man said and he turned and began walking away.

Maxine stood looking at the gem in her palm for a moment and thought of the riddle. She pocketed the gem, composed herself, pulled out her headphones and began walking to work again. When I get to work, she thought to herself as she walked up the street, I’ll look this up on the Internet.

Maxine had barely had her headphones in for single minute before she was interrupted by a woman who looked eerily like her own mother. Maxine couldn’t hear what the woman was saying but she could tell that the old lady was trying to get her attention. Maxine paused the music and removed her right earbud.

“Don’t go treading where you don’t belong Miss Maxine. This isn’t business to concern yourself with. Lose the gem” and the old lady turned and disappeared into the fog.

What the fuck? Maxine thought to herself as she stood on the corner staring into the fog. What the fuck? Maxine checked the time and realized that she should probably get walking a bit faster than she was.

As Maxine got closer and closer to her work, she kept rubbing the gem in her pocket and thinking about the question, How do monsters like their eggs, and wondered why some old lady that looked like her mother knew her name and who that other old guy was too. She kept repeating the question and thought of various answers. As she approached her office building, she thought to herself, They like them terri-fried, and at that moment, the fog cleared, the sun shone bright and warm, and there was a loud crash right behind her that she could easily hear over the sound of her headphones.

Maxine turned around and laying on the sidewalk was creature about 15 feet long, 4 feet high, furry and with large droopy ears. It had wings like a bat and a strangely cute face, kind of like a Koala. The creature was staring right at Maxine.

What the fuck? she thought. What the fuck?

…to be continued…

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