Doctor Karen Fuller stepped out of the helicopter, shielding her eyes against the debris swept up from the spinning rotors. Bowing her head, she ran toward the only vehicle in sight, a dirty, older model, blue Land-Rover. The driver scurried to open the back passenger door. The lines on his face and his short, gray hair, glistened with sweat, under the hot African sun.
“Welcome, I’m Dage. Please sit. I will get your bags,” he offered, helping her into the truck. “The others send their apologies, they wanted to be here to pick you up, but business called them away.” Although thankful to be out of the sweltering heat, the smell of stale cigarette smoke, mingled with the stench of body odor caused her eyes to sting and water up. She turned her head toward the open door in search of fresh air. “Here, let me get that for you.” The driver shut the car door, she reached for the handle to roll down the window, “I’m sorry, but the window is stuck. It will not open,” the driver gave her a small frown. Nodding, she took a tissue from her purse and wiped her eyes, before placing it to her nose in an attempt to stave off the insult to her senses. “It is just as well.” Dage gestured towards the horizon, “looks like there is a storm on the way.” Walking around the rear of the vehicle, he opened up the driver’s side door and slid behind the wheel.
Karen gazed out the dust-covered window. “Is the sky always this beautiful before a storm?”
“Yes, but we must hurry if we are to get you home before it strikes. These roads are dangerous in the rain, and it will be dark soon. You don’t want to be out on the road after the sun sets,” the engine roared to life, the truck jerking forward, as he struggled to put it into gear.
“How long of a drive is it?” she asked.
“Not too far. We will be there soon,” relieved, she leaned back and closed her eyes drifting off to sleep.
The faint rumble of thunder in the distance crept uninvited into Karen’s dream, and she shivered from the chill of the rain beating down on her. She raised her hand to her throbbing forehead, before noticing the body sprawled on the ground next to hers. “Davy, no!” her screams filled the night air. A loud crack of thunder exploded waking her from the nightmare that had plagued her dreams for the past six months.
“Are you okay?” Dage turned his head to look back at her, “Do you need me to pull over?”
“No. I’m fine, just a bad dream,” managing a weak smile, she unclenched her fists, rubbing her sweaty palms on the legs of her pants.
“Some people believe that bad dreams are demons. The tortured souls of men, trying to free themselves,” he explained, tendering a little insight into some of the local beliefs before he focused his attention back on the road.
“Really, I’ve never heard that one before,” a chill ran down her spine, despite the sweltering heat that radiated throughout the truck. Old man, I know all too well, about the demons that plague a person’s soul.
“Yes, my mother would tell me that dreams were a warning to let us know something bad was about to happen,” he replied. Taken back by the change in the tone of his voice, the sweet rasp had been replaced by a cold and ominous tone, her eyes caught his in the reflection of the rearview mirror, and they seemed so cold, devoid of emotion, almost soulless. She squeezed her eyes shut, when she opened them back up, Dage’s expression was once more warm, and kind. She shook her head and chalked the whole episode as her mind playing tricks on her, due to her sleep-deprived state.
“Sorry, but dreams are nothing more than series of thoughts, and images, occurring in a person’s mind, while they sleep,” she countered, irritated by the old man’s rambling, she felt the need to educate him on the exact definition of the word, as it appeared in the dictionary.
“Yes, Dr. Fuller, you may be right. I did not mean to offend you.”
“Forgive me, I didn’t mean to snap,” her tone softened, “it’s just, between the jet lag and this God awful heat, my patience has worn thin.”
“No need for apologies. I am so glad you and the other doctors are here. You have been a Godsend to my people.”
“Godsend may be going a little too far,” she chided. “But I hope, I can do some good.”
“You already have, just by coming.”
“I can’t get over how beautiful it is here. The scenery is just breathtaking.”
“Yes. Guinea is beautiful, but its beauty only masks the evil that lies in the Mist.”
“What are you talking about? What evil?” leaning forward, she noticed he had tightened his grip on the steering wheel.
“Legend has it that the evil in the mist has the power to eat away at the souls of even the strongest of men.” he shot a quick glance through the rearview mirror, before shrugging his shoulders. “Please, I am just a superstitious old man. I did not mean to scare you,” he smiled back at her, yet, his toothless grin did little to settle the uneasy feeling brewing in the pit of her stomach.
“No, you didn’t scare me,” she lied, “I’m a woman of science. I believe in facts, not old wives’ tales,” gazing out the window, hoping the beauty of her surroundings would help ease her nerves, but the scenery, so vibrant moments ago, had grown dark and sinister. Looking down at her hands, she willed them to stop shaking, damn, woman, get a grip.