The ceiling of the cathedral is lost in the heavy mist. It’s like being right underneath heaven, if heaven dripped on you ceaselessly and ran down the walls like sweat. Not the most faithful of thoughts, but every moment of inspiration is a blessing. It’s cold too. It’s always cold. I’m just here to light a candle for the fallen. It sputters and spits, reluctant to take a light in this damp environment. Eventually I coddle into a weak flame. I’ll watch for a bit and see if it goes out, like half the other candles in this memory stand. It’s not the candles’ fault, how are they supposed to keep going in an atmosphere swaddled in thick condensation. Even outside I don’t think I’ve ever seen upwards beyond the second storey of a building. It feels claustrophobic, even though it’s just water. Hanging there. Waiting to fall. I reach out and snap a drop of water out of the air before it strikes my guttering candle, but the motion puts it out anyway. Worse, the moisture clinging to my waterproof jacket sprays outward, extinguishing a few more. I sigh, inhale slowly through my nose to minimise the amount of water that will saturate my lungs, and dab at a few of the candles with a tissue, then relight them. Perhaps it’s all just a metaphor for faith, that we must keep trying even when it seems futile. Or maybe it just rains indoors here. I decide to count merely lighting the candles at all as being the goal. They’d burn in my mind. It’s not quite as damp inside as out. On the way out I see the vicar tending to a small woman standing by the sculpture of Aasus striking down the heramouth. Our eyes meet over her head and I nod in acknowledgment.
Outside it’s actually drier. The cold stone of the cathedral makes the condensation so much worse. At least it isn’t raining all the time out here, you just feel the moisture on your lips and in your breath all the time. For saying we have a cathedral, this isn’t close to a large town. Three long roads that converge on, or spread out from (depending on your perspective) the cathedral. Between them lie industrial units and construction. Where the roads end, the farms begin. Does it all flow out from the cathedral, or it is that we’re just dragged back there, over and over. The cathedral is the heart of our faith, the last intact remnant of the vessel that brought us here, its matter converted to stone instead of the sleek anti-radiation polymers and metals that survived space and re-entry. What a waste. I keep my heresies to myself, although I’m sure they’re shared more widely. We’re told there was no way back through the dense fog. We lacked the fuel to carry on, especially after blundering into that asteroid field. And thus, the small town of Vellus, swathed in fog, invisible from above. A community cut off and forgotten. No one will ever find us here. Light can barely penetrate the clouds they’re so thick, and we only know it’s daytime when the darkness shifts to a diffuse dullness.
The cathedral always puts dark thoughts in my head. Better to accept our fate, to move on. Be productive, support one’s community. Do, don’t think. I honestly thought I could live in a religious community, but I think it’s driving me crazy. The road is empty as almost everyone is at work between the lanes or out in the fields, but I’ve the day off. A mourning day, in recognition of loss. I suppose I was intended to spend it all in the cathedral, but that felt like drowning. I’ve done the ritual with the candle, I’ve played my part. Now I’m going home. Home. The two-storey house is assembled from local materials – slick stone outer walls – and the interior largely taken from the century ship that brought us here. It takes an effort to cross the threshold, and not just because the door has grown a little deformed from absorbing so much moisture. I should take it off and see what can be done to repair its surface, but right now I just want to be dry. The dehumidifiers kick in with a roar as I shove the door back into place. They’re the only sound in the place and it dries my skin, catches the drops from my jacket before they strike the floor. I remove the jacket and my hat with its long flaps that hung over the jacket collar. My boots go in a heap. The dehumidifiers’ roar fades as they wind down to a general desaturation of the atmosphere. It’s a tricky balance. Too dry and your airways dry out making you susceptible to far too many diseases; too wet and you begin to drown. All cheery thoughts.
There is nothing to do on a rare day off. Even though this is a day conceded to me to deal with my grief, it feels like a holiday. Not a holiday I want to be on, but a holiday nonetheless. I sit for a while, looking at nothing, thinking of nothing. Then I go upstairs. Most people have their homes arranged so the bedroom is on the ground floor, but we chose the first floor for it. The curtains are open, revealing nothing but white. Currents do flow through the clouds, and we used to watch them for hours, a curl weaving its way through them, the whole mass seeming to convulse softly. Strangely hypnotic. I sit on the bed. Our bed. I’ve been sleeping in the chair downstairs recently. It’s easier to pretend that she’s still here when I’m not waking up next to empty space. I shouldn’t really be pretending that she’s here at all. That’s not getting on, not moving forward, not losing with grace. Funnily enough, the dehumidifiers make it hard to cry, and my skin feels like paper. Perhaps I haven’t been sleeping properly at all. Given that I’ve been trying to sleep in a chair, that makes sense. I’ll just lie down for a while, in the fog.
I wake up coughing, spitting out water. Where am I? All I can see is white, but I’m still lying on the now very damp bed. A window breach, must be. I clear my mouth of moisture and lie back. I’m in the cloud, it’s invaded my home, and without my protective clothing I can feel it soaking me. All of me is slick and growing heavy. I could just lie here and drown. The air tastes like burnt sugar and I open my eyes again, the fog’s proxy tears coursing down my cheeks. The cloud is around me, under me and inside me. I can taste that burnt sugar deep down. I’m not lying on our bed any more, I’m cushioned by the cloud, held up by it, supported. I let my limbs go slack, allow the mist to take that weight. I don’t need it, not if the cloud can carry me. We rise up, the cloud and I, drifting through the dense whiteness that blankets this world. I drift forever. I am wet, cold and numb. Any yet, the dull haze of sunlight is growing stronger, brighter than I’ve ever seen it. It’s warm, penetrating the fog, digging into my frozen arms and fingers. We must be so high now. As my fingers tingle with returning warmth, I’m sure I can feel your hand in mine.