|The view from my house, before things got bad.|
Most literary events in Cardiff are poetry-driven and I hate poetry. I’m a prose guy. So, I widened my net and found events in Bristol and Bath. And, in a way, that feels appropriate. I am trying to make something happen, wanting to put my all into this goal, so why not drive 50 miles just to be able to listen to some folks read some things what they wrote? And why not do it in the fog?
The enormous roundabout I had walked across to get to Cube, the towering Holiday Inn I had passed, the courts building — all of them had been swallowed whole by the fog. A group of guys emerged from the nothingness singing “Flower of Scotland.” I walked past them, then felt perhaps I was going the wrong way. I turned around and they were gone but for their voices bouncing off unseen buildings. Eventually, I had to navigate back to my bike using the Google Maps on my phone: eyes down, watching the little arrow move toward its destination and hoping the signal was accurate, that I really was where the phone thought I was.
I did make it back to the bike. I took my time getting geared up, and clicked on the sat-nav (“GPS” for those of you playing along at home) to guide me home. I couldn’t see road signs or landmarks. I had to put all faith in the 4-inch screen of a TomTom.
According to that screen, the road I was on had a 70 mph limit. I was uncomfortable going more than 30. My visor was up and the freezing mist stung my soaking-wet face. I flicked on my hazard lights and slipped on and on into the ethereal unknown, keeping an alert eye on whatever might be coming up behind me.
Before long, the streetlight-orange tint disappeared. I was far enough away from the city centre that there were no street lights. Now it was just darkness. I was a tiny ball of white and orange light, the blinking lure of a deep-sea monster. There was no sky. No anything. Every once in a while, a great wall of light would come up from behind me and slowly, slowly a car would pull up in the lane next to me. I would look over at the driver, staring intently into the nothingness, and ease off the throttle to make sure we weren’t riding abreast. Everything was quiet, and slowly they would slip away.
I thought of the stories of the Mabinogion — Celtic tales from more than 1,000 years ago — and the heavy fog that would descend upon entering Annwfn, the other world. I watched the cars’ tail lights fade and imagined them as eyes of the hounds of Gwyn ap Nudd, out hunting for mortal souls.