I was walking on a long and straight road, nothing more but a dirt path. To my left and right I could see a stretch of open field filled with nothing but grass as far as I could see, which wasn’t a lot as after a few meters everything disappeared in a thick mist. In front of me the mist veiled whatever was coming up to me on the path and when I looked behind me it looked just the same. There was nothing to tell me what way was forward, if forward was the correct way to take or if there even was a destination I could reach before I succumbed to fatigue. I passed no trees to rest under or find some apples to pluck, no berry bushes for some nourishment, no streams for a quick drink. Nothing to do but to move forwards, or backwards, at all times.

After walking what felt like days, I thought I started to see a figure in the mist before me. I called out to it, but the shade didn’t respond. I called louder, but the man or whatever it is was, still didn’t hear me. I started to walk faster, even running, but I didn’t get any closer to the mysterious spectre. I halted, and so did the shape in front of me. I moved backwards a bit, and the mist cloaked the figure again in nothingness.

I quickly took up my steps again, trying to catch up on the person in front of me. It took me quite a while before I finally had my sights on him again, but I still couldn’t get any closer, the figure dancing on the thin edge between barely visible and completely disappearing. My determination grew stronger, I wanted to see who this other man was on this otherwise empty road. I tried and retried everything I could think of. Walk in peculiar patterns, stopping every few steps, crawling and even rolling. Then I had the idea to walk backwards, so I turned around to face the road behind me. I startled, for there was another man behind me.

He too was barely visible in the mist so I couldn’t distinguish his face very well, but I had a feeling of familiarity nonetheless. I was sure I knew that person somehow, so I hailed this misty figure too, but in vain. I stopped, the chaser didn’t. His approach didn’t make his face any clearer, but I was overwhelmed with the sensation of recognition without actually knowing from where, but it also filled me with a sense of dread. The presence wobbled as if he was drunk, and I felt his anger even over this distance. It felt like he was looking for something, but could never find it. I was sure that this man catching up to me would not be a good thing, so I turned around again and started walking. Looking back over my shoulder, I saw that the distance between me and the pursuer was wide enough to be comfortable again though it still seemed like he was getting closer. I looked forward again, focusing on the one I was following, hoping that whatever was behind me, wouldn’t catch me. For the longest time, it didn’t and I felt safe.

There was something odd about the man in front of me. He didn’t look quite the same, though I couldn’t put my finger on it what had changed because I couldn’t really see anything plainly in that thick mist. Maybe he didn’t change at all and I could somehow just see more details now. It looked like he wore a business suit, which I thought a bit odd to wear on a walk like this. But he looked successful in it, important. I couldn’t do anything but admire him, hoping that one day I could be alike. So I picked up my pace once again, maybe I could catch up this time. It seemed to work, the figure became clearer and clearer and I could see more of his features. His hair was cut short and was highly stylized. He carried a briefcase that seemed to be filled with papers, sticking out of it as if there was not nearly enough space inside. He must be about the same height as me, but walked as straight up as an arrow and that way looked a little taller. I couldn’t see the face, but it felt like the man was smiling, but not a friendly smile. It felt more like a cruel smile, like a criminal that knew that he just got away with his evil deed. It was then that I saw the stains on the man’s hands, blood-red, and I stopped my steps immediately. The figure disappeared in the mist again.

Whatever that man was, I did not want to see him again, so I waited for a good while before I continued my walk. I quickly glanced back to see if the presence behind me was close to catching me but he was at his usual vague spot. What was going on with that man? It felt like he wanted to catch me, but couldn’t get near enough, just as I couldn’t catch up with that business man who I wanted to meet before I saw what it would mean, shaking those stained hands of him. No, I would never. He might’ve looked like someone I could aspire to be from afar, but if that blood meant anything, I would have nothing to do with it. I turned my head forwards again and was yelped in fear, for a shade had appeared again, much closer than I ever had seen the business man. I feared it was him for a moment, but this man was dressed in shabby clothing, almost nothing left but rags. He stooped over much more than the business man did and his hair was a tangled mess. While the businessman had strong and long paces, this man just shuffled along. I didn’t feel very partial to this man either, but as he was so near and seemed to be someone I’d rather meet than the business man, I reached out to the bum and touched his shoulder. He was friendly, but I felt there was a deep sadness in him and almost wanted to embrace the man. I didn’t feel quite enough at ease to do so and walked just a little behind him. He introduced himself as Tom. I asked him what he was doing on this road, and told me ‘just going forward, as like everyone’. He was evasive of most of my questions, but when I asked him about the other man behind us, he told me this: ‘he’s a fickle thing, he can bring you a lot of joy looking at him one way, but as much sadness if you turn yourself around a little to see more of his face. Both the joy and the sorrow he can show you can make you stop walking, and that’s when he gets you. It’s better not to let him catch you as his embrace is a tough one to break. He will whisper things in your ear to make his grip even stronger, and yet, sometimes, they are the wisest of words you could hear. You would do well, if he does get a hold of you, to distinguish between the poison and the wisdom, and come out stronger than before, or forever be rooted in place.’ I asked if he had a name. The sad man answered ‘I just call him Jasper’.

I wasn’t sure of my newfound friend. The more I talked to him, the less inclined I was to continue my journey with him. So I fell back and Tom disappeared into the mist again. I turned around to face Jasper who was getting close now. But he wasn’t alone this time. There were two figures walking beside him, a woman and a little boy. I recognized them immediately. The woman had been my wife and the boy was our child. A car accident a few years back had taken them both. I walked towards them, but stopped a reasonable distance in front of them. They got some steps closer, but stood still just out of reach, Jasper in the middle, wearing my face, looking genuinely happy with a hand around my wife’s waist and his other on the head of my son. My wife spoke to me ‘come here, husband, I have missed you’. I said that I missed her too, and that I loved her. But I did not reach out, remembering Tom’s words. I said to my wife and son that I would never forget them, but that I had to go. To Jasper I said to be strong, that things will get better and not to despair. Life keeps going. I turned around and walked away, waving at them, but not looking back though it pained me to do so.

It was soon after that, that I saw the mist slowly revealing something else. Not a person, but a crossroad. Several paths lay in front of me, all shrouded in the same mist that was my only constant companion. In some of the roads, I could see other shapes waiting to be followed, some more clear than others. Other roads looked empty. There were gravel paths, grass paths, paths filled with high rocks and there were even a few that looked like they were leading up a mountain. I wasn’t sure what path to take, so sat down in the middle to think. It was then I heard a voice behind me. ‘Excuse me’, it said. I turned around and saw a woman standing there. ‘I’m afraid I’m a bit lost’ she said to me. ‘I was wondering if you would like to travel together?’

This blog was brought to you by: Fever Ray – If I Had a Heart

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