I remember, when I was little, my Mamma sitting me down by the fire and telling me stories before I went to bed. They were stories with reasons behind them, like “Don’t be cruel to children younger than you,” and, “Always eat what you given.” But I remember, one night, my Mamma telling me a different kinda story. She sat me down on a stool in front of the fire and began brushing out my hair gentle and real slow. Even now, I still remember the feeling of it tugging lightly at my scalp.
“Once there was a valley and in the valley everything was perfect. The grass was green; the soil was rich; and the weather warm and wet. But not many people lived in this valley. Despite it being so nice, people were afeared of it. Because the valley is surrounded by dark, gloomy mountains. And the mountains are cursed.”
Mamma had my full attention now. I stared into the golden fire, my eyes unfocused, focusing on her words.
“The mountains would spew fog that would drag itself down to the valley and swallow the town whole, till everything was grey. Then the fog would play tricks on people, showing them their dead loved ones and whispering words into their ears what turned their minds to soup. If you listen, then you gone for. It take hold of you, the whisper sickness, and you go mad; you try an fight your way out, into the fog, and the fog would swallow you whole. The next morning… they never find any bodies. And then next time the fog come, it got one extra loved one trapped in its belly, whispering lies.”
I was shivering by now, despite the hot fire flickering at my feet. Mamma turned me round to face her, and her face was so serious I was scared. Her voice was low and urgent.
“This is why you can’t go out at night, you understand? This is why you’ve got to hurry home from school. Because I don’t ever want to lose you and see your face in the fog.”
I nodded, partly out of fear for the fog, partly out of love for my Mamma.
She smiled and sighed with relief. She turned me back round again and carried on brushing out my hair.
“You’re a good girl,” She said softly. “Such a good girl.”