The blog turns two on Thursday. And to celebrate, both the anniversary and Halloween, Meghan Bode has offered the following little treat from her past. The conclusion will post on Thursday.
silv’ry dusk descends
drawing form from snowy earth
surely eyes deceive
Meghan Anderson grabs the dashboard as her fiancé pulls to the shoulder, avoiding the sliding, oncoming car.
“Damn it,” Rick Bode swears between clenched teeth. “Doesn’t it ever snow in Maryland? Don’t these idiots know to slow down?”
“Better get used to it if we’re moving out here. That’s our exit ahead.”
This summer, Meghan and Rick will wrap up their graduate studies and begin their careers near DC. But this is January, and Meghan’s working with her doctoral advisor on a plantation site in Maryland’s Prince George’s County. Rick is visiting over the winter break.
Rick slows the car before approaching the sharply curved ramp and eases onto the secondary road. Aging strip malls line the route.
“Nothing like Wisconsin, is it?” he says. “This’ll take some getting used to. How can there be any archaeology left?”
“There’s still open land when you get off the big highways. Try to imagine this place in 1790, with no cars and just a few old houses, churches, and businesses hugging the road. The blacksmith and miller would’ve lived here, near their shop and mill. Most people were farmers, though, and would’ve been scattered in the countryside.”
“Give me that empty road now,” Rick says as the car ahead of them slips over the center line. “So, what, this looked like Colonial Williamsburg?”
“Not so big. That was a capital. Think northern Wisconsin without the straight roads.”
“I’d rather not. Even with idiot drivers, give me a city.”
But now the strip malls have given way to trees and farms. Neither Meghan nor Rick expected such country to still exist within thirty miles of DC. In the fading afternoon light, they glimpse the charred skeleton of an old plantation house, set back from the old highway on an overgrown, tree-lined drive, the last remnant of a lost way of life.
“Why don’t they tear that down?” Rick asks.
“They will. A developer just bought the property. Another subdivision’s going up.”
“Now’s the time to buy, Megs. With the down payment from our folks, we can get a cheap fixer-upper or new townhouse. Imagine all that space.”
“Between finishing school and getting married this spring, you want to add long-distance house hunting to the mix?”
“I’ve already talked with an agent. He’ll show us some properties over spring break, and we can buy then. We’ll have a house ready by June.”
Meghan smiles, even though Rick is focused on the road ahead. She loves his drive and take-charge attitude, a good contrast to her more thoughtful and hesitant approach to decision-making.
Ground fog develops in the low-lying dips as they continue south. Ricks slows the car as visibility worsens.
“The next crossroad, right?” he asks.
Meghan scans the blanketed countryside for familiar landmarks. “About half-a-mile ahead. You’ll take a right when we get there.”
Yesterday, a nor’easter dumped 6 inches of snow and interrupted her fieldwork. Her advisor and two other students have spent the day processing artifacts back at the field house, waiting for a carpenter to fix the front door that refuses to stay shut after the storm. Winter veterans Meghan and Rick are returning from a research trip at the archives in Annapolis.
As they inch toward their destination, a wisp of fog emerges from the trees on the left, growing denser and brighter and reaching near-human height before stopping on the road before them.
“What the hell—” she says.
Rick stops the car. The mist hovers for a few moments and then drifts into the trees on the right, disappearing from view. “That was weird.”
“Have you ever seen fog do that in Wisconsin?”
“Nope. Guess it does in Maryland.”
“But it came from the air, not the ground.” Meghan shivers, despite the car’s warmth. “Let’s get going. It’ll be dark soon.”
Dusk has already fallen as Rick resumes their trek and turns onto the farm road that leads to the field house.
“Look—there it is again,” Meghan says, pointing up the road.
“Don’t be silly. That’s just more fog.”
Meghan leans forward in her seat. “Why doesn’t it move like the rest of it? Why is it silver and not gray?”
“Like you said, it’s coming from above, not rising from the ground. Being higher makes it look brighter.”
“Why isn’t there more?”
“Everything starts somewhere. Maybe it’s just the first of more to come. And I hope not before we’re back. How much farther to the house?”
“About a quarter-mile.”
“Just a few more minutes, then. After this drive, I’m ready for a beer.”
The mist picks up speed and again disappears into the trees. To Meghan, its movements run counter to conditions. With no breeze, the ground fog rises straight up. So how does the mist move horizontally and at a different rate?
They round the final curve to the house, their path now shrouded entirely in fog. Meghan gasps. Before them, the silvery patch hovers in the road again, as if waiting for them, brighter than the surrounding fog. In the headlights of the car, it seems more solid than before. Meghan almost believes she sees the shape of a woman.
“Hell if I know,” he says, slowing the car. Ahead, the house looms in the darkness. “But we’re here.”
The mist moves toward the house. Purposely, Meghan thinks. Not drifting.
Rick parks the car in the drive. As one, he and Meghan watch the mist climb the stairs to the front door. A tendril extends, like a hand reaching for the knob.
Meghan’s heart races as the door opens and the mist disappears in the bright light of the hall. “That’s not fog.”
I hope you’ll stay tuned for the conclusion on Thursday.