The mist here thickens. Though sunlight pierces the autumn-sparse forest canopy, it does little too alleviate the chill.
You pull your coat more snugly about you and rub your hands together. You can see your breath, a small fog among the wider mist.
It’s not too late to turn back. The mist makes the forest floor treacherous. It rolls about your boots, obscuring. Veiling.
You pause, taking in this scene. The dark pillars of the fading trees. The plushness of the mist.
Some might call this haunting, and you suppose it is, but it’s also beautiful. You’re reluctant to leave it even as you know you must.
‘Another day,’ you mutter to the air. ‘When it’s safer.’ You feel a gentle disappointment as you make the choice.
As you turn back, the mist starts to churn at your feet. An odd breeze, you suppose, though you don’t feel it.
You walk back. Slowly. Carefully. Something cracks loudly behind you and you startle and trip, falling sideways down a large drop. You close your eyes. You brace yourself.
No impact comes.
You open your eyes. The mist is thick about you and for a moment you can’t see but the you realise — not a mist, but a person. No … a bear. No … mist?
It towers over you. The faint outline of a muzzle. Enormous arms encircling you, placing you gently on the ground.
You can see eyes, almost — fizzing points of shadow among the swirling white.
It steps back and drops to all fours. Even in this position, it looks down at you.
It turns away.
‘Thank you,’ you say, but it doesn’t turn back, lumbering away with the heavy pace of a bear, leaving no mark and no sound. You make to follow it, but it dissipates and then a kick of breeze clears all the mist away.
This microfiction was a commission for Rowyn!