Image by Pixource from Pixabay 

Risa had just moved into a quaint little town surrounded by woods and mostly cut off from the rest of the world. Having grown tired of the bustling and hectic city life, she intended to finish her degree course remotely, on the edge of civilization. She was not very smart and did not fit in with her classmates anyway. She had just finished unpacking the night before, and this morning, declared her entitlement to a well-earned meal and coffee after a night of hard work. A pamphlet fell off while scanning through her morning newspaper and magazines in a lazy hurry. She picked it up and read the words, “BEWARE OF THE CROSSROADS ON FOGGY DAYS”. Giving a skeptical huff she crumpled the paper and tossed it into the bin. “These locals.” She murmured, easily irked by the smallest of inconveniences.

Ignoring the rest of her morning paper, Risa set out to grab a magnificent breakfast. Half an hour later, she had choked through a gritty sandwich, trying hard to forget its taste over the watered-down texture of her “coffee”. Calling it coffee was an overstatement. Then again, the blame was hers for expecting anything more from a shoddy little café like this. Having fallen into a positively bitter mood now, she did not pay attention to the locals whispering and glancing outside at the narrow streets, and stepped out, stomping away in the direction of her apartment.

She had been walking quite a while in fury when a low groan carried through the pothole-filled street, followed by a thump. The strange sound made her pause mid-stride and lookup warily. A hundred feet ahead of her was a man slumping in the middle of the crossroads on his knees. His eyes looked vacant while a woman held him upright by his collar. What was she doing? The woman’s face looked ghastly pale, just like her hair and clothes. A malicious glint in her eyes shone under the sickly yellow lamppost, shrouded by thick grey fog. Suddenly, snapping her head she looked at Risa who froze as the woman’s face curved into a broken, crooked smile. Thunder boomed overhead as she snapped out of her stupor and ran aimlessly to get away from that monstrosity.

The next day, Risa had convinced herself that her coffee was just bad and had resulted in a number of hallucinations that made up yesterday’s contents because in no world could she justify to herself what she had seen there. The morning paper was once again promptly ignored as the owner of the house set out to grab the same gritty sandwich on another foggy day. God, she was growing sick of the fog. Having gone off without another thought, she found herself once again on the street leading to the crossroads. Risa hesitated for a whole minute before shaking her head resolutely and walking anyway. The lamppost above her head flickered and grabbed her attention. She looked up at it with distrust. It looks yellower than it was a second ago. Maybe I should get checked for jaundice-

A hand grabbed her shoulder, yanking her away from her idiotic thoughts and she shrieked in panic. Whipping her head around, she found herself staring into a pair of shining, hypnotic pale eyes.

Risa’s mind yelled at her to run but she could not will her legs to do so. She felt frozen to the ground, and although terrified something was gravitating her towards the pale woman. The latter smiled that eerie grin of hers and grabbing both of Risa’s shoulders, she opened her mouth. A sharp snap sounded followed by a cacophony of the wind howling, mixed with something inhuman. Before Risa knew it all her energy suddenly abandoned her making her fall to her knees. She tried to take a deep breath but her entire body jerked as she felt a burning sting on her right cheek. Someone was wailing, spiders were climbing up all over her body. She shuddered. Then abruptly, the howling stopped as quickly as it had begun. In its wake, all it left behind was a deep, terrible numbness and a high-pitched ringing in Risa’s ears.

She blinked, disoriented. In the next millisecond, it felt like someone had pushed their fist through her chest and ripped her heart out- with it taking away all joys of life and leaving behind just a hollow chest cavity. Suddenly, the world seemed hateful, her life seemed futile and so did her entire existence. She felt so tired.

A crackly voice flowed into her ears, “If you hand me over your life you won’t have to feel tired anymore.” YES. YES! Risa thought but being way too exhausted to say it out loud she settled for nodding her head instead. It was a pathetic attempt seeing as how her head just fell in front of her upon the effort.

The woman desperately willed Risa to give her assent, her impatience growing as the seconds ticked by, but the latter was locked inside her hateful mind, spiraling deeper by the minute. Eventually, the woman gave a frustrated huff and shoving the limp weight in her arms to the side, disappeared.

In a few hours, Risa woke up in a stupid languor and walked back to her apartment through the maze-like streets in a daze where she slept for three days straight. When she woke up with a throbbing head, everything felt disoriented as if she had just woken up from a coma. She desperately willed herself to remember the last time she was awake until all the memories came rushing to her. Recalling every detail she decided that living in this town was no longer an option. She drew out her bags and packed all her stuff. The same afternoon she hopped on a train to a different town, one with a scorching bright sun.

A year later, while skimming through her morning paper she read news of her old town becoming a ghost town. The townspeople had deserted the place as they believed it to be cursed. A series of inexplicable deaths had begun getting reported the week after Risa had left. Shivering, she threw the paper in the bin. It was safe here, in this town where they get sun 24/7 and fog is a rare phenomenon even during winters. She went out for a quick walk to forget that article from the morning. She was too distracted by her paranoia to notice that a slight fog had started forming around the crossroads she was at. By the time realization hit, it was too late. A yellow lamppost had already flickered overhead.

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