“Must you go out tonight?” Emma’s voice quivered with fear.
“You heard William. Delia’s in hard labor. She won’t make it till morning.”
“The fog’s thick as a bobcat’s fur. A man that gets lost in that won’t see morning, baby or no.”
“William knows his way home, Emma.”
“His homestead’s on the other side of Dead Man’s Swamp.” She grabbed his coattails. “Please Harper, don’t go. Not tonight!”
“William will lead the way with a lantern. Don’t worry, woman!”
Harper stepped out into a pit of blackness. He’d never seen fog like this, especially so late in October. He held out his hand but saw only a grey shadow. Five fingers, three, then none as his hand was swallowed up by the fog. Never mind. His property was surrounded by a fence that led to the edge of the swamp, where William would be waiting with his guiding light. Harper put his left hand on the wooden railing. His right hand held a stout cudgel that tested each step – solid or quagmire. He moved slowly, carefully, not even daring to let go of the wood, simply sliding his hand forward. When he reached the end, he looked around for William.
There – the lantern! Harper breathed a sigh of relief. The light flickered, disappeared, then reappeared a bit further on. William was understandably in a hurry. Harper was just a few steps behind, following him. “William!” He called out, but there was no answer. No doubt William was too preoccupied for idle chatter.
Just follow the light. One step, solid. Watch the light. Next step, solid. Watch the light, veering a bit to the right. Probably a shortcut. Another step, solid. The light flared with a greenish glow. What kind of lantern glowed green? Just as Harper leaned into the next step, he remembered the legends of the will-o-the-wisp – green flickering lights luring travelers into the bog. He lurched backwards, but it was too late. He began sinking into the eerie mire, surrounded now with pale green flames.
“Doc?” William called to him from solid ground, far far away.