Charlie and Betsy Shaw and their eight-year-old son Andy made their way through the fog toward their flat, still in a daze after a special Sunday evening service at their church. The Japs had bombed Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. It was still so hard to believe. Betsy’s cousin Elwin was a Seaman First Class on the USS Arizona. Everybody was saying that Roosevelt and Congress weren’t going to keep us out of the war after this.
“I can hardly see where we’re going, Charlie.”
“We’re almost home, Hun. I know it’s been a hard day.”
Andy didn’t say anything, but he looked up at his parents searching for some kind of reassurance that his world hadn’t fallen apart. They both looked so lost.
“We’ve got to stop. I really can’t see though the fog. I think we’re lost.”
“How can we be lost?” Charlie didn’t want to admit he couldn’t see anything except fog and diffused light. “We’ve lived on this block for over ten years.”
“It’s alright, Mom. I just walked into something.”
“See, I told you the fog was lifting.” Charlie smiled weakly, as if the news would somehow give their family hope in a new uncertain future. He looked at his son to make sure he wasn’t hurt, and his eyes happened to see a discarded newspaper in the trash can next to him.
“What the hell?”
He quickly retrieved the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle.
“It’s Obama,” he read from the headline. “Who the hell is Obama?”
“Don’t curse in front of Andy,” his wife chided.
“Election 2012, Wednesday November 7, 2012. 2012? This has got to be a gag.”
“Charlie?” Betsy looked around as the fog continued to clear. All of the cars were different, smaller, shaped strangely. There were people walking across the street. She reflexively covered Andy’s eyes because two of the women wore scandalously short skirts.
Charlie Shaw only had eyes for the story he was reading. A colored man won the 2012 election and was President of United States. “What happened to Roosevelt? Now could a nig…?” He stopped himself for Andy’s sake.
“Something’s wrong. We’ve got to get home.”
Charlie looked back the way they’d come. The fog was thicker in that direction.
The people across the street and another group up the block were laughing, and some were cheering about this “Obama” person. He grabbed Betsy with one hand and Andy with the other and stepped back into the fog, walking fast and pulling them along.
“What’s wrong? What are you doing?”
“Trying to get us back to where we belong.”
“I thought you said we weren’t lost and that we’ve lived on this block for ten years.”
“Not here we haven’t. Not here at all.” His voice was a study in determination and fear.
Grey fog enveloped them so completely that it was almost impossible to see the street lights. The voices of the people near them faded. So did the sound of traffic. Even the sidewalk under their feet changed. By the time they reached the end of the block, they started to be able to see their surroundings again.
“Great, Charlie. We’re back where we started from at the end of the block. We still have to turn around and get home.”
He started laughing. “Yes, we are back home. Look.”
She swiveled her head. The cars looked more familiar again. People were dressed normally. Whatever strange world they’d walked into before had disappeared. Charlie was right. They were back home.
“Pa, what happened?”
“I’m not sure son, but whatever it was, it’s gone now.” He patted the little boy’s shoulder causing him to smile. “Let’s go home.”
The Shaws turned around again and walked across familiar territory toward the street they lived on.
Just to reassure himself, Charlie stopped at the same trash can, which looked like an ordinary trash can now, and pulled the headlines of the Chronicle from the bin. He read it and almost choked.
“Charlie? What is it?” Betsy put her hand on his shoulder and leaned over to read with him.
“San Francisco Chronicle, Tuesday, August 7, 1945.” She fell mute after that but Charlie kept reading aloud.
“Japan Hit By Atom Bomb — Mightiest Weapon in History! Tokyo Admits Heavy Damage.”
The Shaw family was almost home…almost.
I wrote this for Tale Weaver – #166 – A Cold and Foggy Night hosted at Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie. Today, the idea is to use the image and the idea of being lost in the fog as the inspiration for crafting a poem, short story, or other creative work.
Back in the day, science fiction author Larry Niven wrote a series of short stories about how fog was really the diffusion of the barrier between our quantum reality and others, and that sometimes a person lost in the fog might cross over into a parallel world.
A 1960 episode of the television program “The Twilight Zone” called The Last Flight told the tale of a British pilot during World War One flying into a strange cloud during an aerial dogfight and then coming out and landing at an American Air Force base 42 years later.
I used those themes to write today’s wee tale.
The place where the photo was taken doesn’t look like San Francisco, but I lived there some decades ago, and their fogs are certainly the stuff of mysteries…and perhaps time travel.