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Fog Masks

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It all started with those masked men popping all over the world. Nobody knew who they were or what they wanted but they had become a notorious sensation all over the web. A variety of pictures and videos of strange men wearing gas masks and winter wear began circulating all over the media. In these reoccurring images the masked men were usually standing in close proximity of small gatherings, individuals, or just off by themselves in the distance. Supposedly they never said anything to anybody, and they never identified themselves. They were only noticeable because there were several complaints about them mysteriously watching folk and so many had been seen in different areas.

Weeks later, in these same areas where the masked men were spotted, entire towns were getting covered in deep fog. The reports claimed that people from inside the towns were frantically making contact with the outside. Every one of these people claimed that they were trapped inside different buildings and interior areas. They were stuck inside because anybody who stepped into the fog either went missing or lost their minds. The latter of them were only known about because they could only stay in the fog for a few minutes before having to return to interior structures. These people were never the same after that. They were known to scream frantically, claim they could see or hear things that nobody else could, and sometimes they believed they were being followed.

The fog continued to appear in more cities across the world but nothing could be done about it. It was true what they said about people disappearing in the fog. Even the military and police tried to take action by moving into these fog covered areas but they never returned. No radio contact was ever made with them or anyone else who entered the fog for a long period of time. Only those who stayed inside could ever be contacted.

Recently another one of those masked men were reported here in my town. Somebody had caught them on tape and sent it into the local news. This one was doing the same thing as so many of the others. He was just standing there motionless, looking directly at the camera. There were no messages exchanged, no threats, nothing and it was a week later when the fog hit.

I woke up in the pharmacy but I couldn't remember how I got there. I just knew I was with my wife, my daughter, and one of our neighbors, Jack. I was sitting down in front of the glass windows and door, keeping watch. I couldn't see anything past a few feet ahead but I needed to make sure there weren't any more survivors. Plus I feared that those masked men would come looking for us.

Jack was lying down by some medicine shelves across from me, busy reading some old magazines and medical notes. I could hear my daughter snoring as she lied across from him and my wife had been coughing ever since we got there. She had a high fever, complained of nausea, and was sweating profusely.

I had to keep giving her medicine to calm her down and I was concerned about her condition. I knew whatever medication I gave her would only last for a little while and that we'd run out of supplies one way or another. There was no denying that the longer we stayed there, the higher chance of that happening or worse yet, one of us could get sick or get found by those figures in the fog.

I tried to keep my focus on watching the front and checking in on my wife every once a while. I did my best to ignore The TV that was playing on the wall, just within my peripheral vision. Not because there was anything entertaining or informative but because there was something wrong with what it was playing on the TV. I tried changing the channel but it was always the same thing on every one. I tried to turn it off and when that failed, I broke the thing on purpose. Yet I could still see those damn broadcasts after that. It seemed impossible but no matter what I did, the TV stayed on.

The content of the broadcasts consisted of a continuous stream of a jumbled up mess. They were dark visualizations of various people and what I believed were tragic moments in their lives. All I ever saw on those broadcasts were people in car accidents, death, domestic abuse, and so on. Some of these people I knew and others I didn't. I tried to ignore them because they were so goddamn terrible. I didn't want to have to face them. I just wanted to sit there with my own thinking and talking while I watched the front windows and door.

I must have stayed in that trance-like state for hours or maybe even days before I noticed the noises in the background. There was a soft thumping somewhere behind me and when I looked around for the source, I couldn't pinpoint its exact location. After a while it sounded like someone walking for eternity in a continuous line.

I darted my head around every couple of minutes or a few hours but found nothing. I got up out of my chair several times to search every nook and crevice for anything that could cause such a noise. The sound became maddeningly loud and not even Jack or my daughter could find it.

After that we all gave up on searching for the source of the noise. Now it was just another thing on the list of bizarre list of problems we were currently dealing with.

We all did our damnedest to avoid looking at the TV, and we paid no mind to the mysterious thumping in the air. That was when the voices started. There were so many people's voices and they kept telling us to "turn around" or "wake up". They were muffled as if they came through electronically but, like the footsteps, I couldn't find their source.

Everyone else could hear it too but there was nothing that could be done about it. We just kept on ignoring it all while we only focused on the fog and our own survival.

Maybe a few hours passed or maybe it was a few days again. I don't know either way but something compelled me to look at the TV after I switched shifts with Jack. I was on the verge of falling asleep in the corner of some medicine shelves when I casually looked up at the TV on the wall.

The following broadcasts made my stomach churn and they all happened so fast.

My wife was lying on a hospital bed with a life support machine sitting beside her. I was sitting next to her, holding her hand, as I leaned forward. No sound was emanating from the TV but I could see our lips moving.

The life support screen was fading and her expression became more distant. The scene ended after that, and it was immediately followed by another broadcast. I almost rushed to my wife until I recognized my daughter on the screen. I looked behind me to see her sleeping in the corner, and I could hear my wife's coughing again.

So I kept my eyes focused on the TV again. My daughter ran into the middle of the street to retrieve a ball, and a car was barreling down towards her. In an instant her body flailed into the air. The car shook violently as the car came to a complete halt and the driver door swung open. It was Jack and the scene faded into another one.

This time I was standing over Jack's unconscious body as a pool of red spilled out from underneath his back. I was holding something, but I couldn't quite make out what it was, and we were both in some kind of a living room but I didn't know where.

Then I heard that voice again: "Turn around"

My eyes widened as I looked up from the ground to see one of the masked men pulling my legs. The initial burning sensation was suppressed when I realized I had been in the fog the whole time.

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