But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt. Genesis 19:26
An ocean of fog lays over the headlands. It creeps up the rivers, slides up the trunks of giant redwoods, kisses mouths of ghosts who live in the space between sky and earth.
A man and a woman run along a trail away from the ocean into the woods. The salt fog falls around them like snow. Their feet pound the earth. Their breath tickles the sky. The smell of the ocean recedes. Pine, fir and redwood offer up their pitch and pollen.
The two runners stop, sit on the bank, watch the river.
“Is it here?” he asks.
She gives him a judgmental look.
“Really?” she says incomprehensibly.
“Okay,” he says.
He finds it.
“I have it,” he says.
“Good,” she says.
She smiles while he cuts the space between them into tiny pieces, into pieces so small the two of them are almost touching. Almost.
The shadows of the trees fall across the river. Salmon swim upstream. Neither of them can see the fish. The river is muddy, brown, opaque.
Eventually, it doesn’t matter how long, the woman stands.
“We should resume our run,” she says.
“I don’t want to,” he says.
“I’ll go on alone then,” she says.
He watches the forest swallow her, first her head, then her shoulders, waist, legs, feet and then she is no more.
He turns to the river. Still there. The salt fog creeps along the surface. Salt crystals form on his hair, his face, on his chest, legs, feet.
The woman returns. The man is perfectly preserved. She takes him home, stands him up in a corner of the yard. Deer come around for a lick. Until he is gone.
Later, back at the river, the woman runs along the trail. There is no fog. The river is crystal clear. The silver bodies of salmon flash in the river, reflect in her eyes. Tears roll down her her cheeks. They taste of salt when they enter her mouth.
Days, weeks, months, years pass. What was is gone. Trees, river, salmon, deer. A thick salt fog envelopes the land. A planet of fog. A universe of fog.
A woman emerges, runs along a hidden trail dense with huckleberry, salal, redwood sorrel. The trail leads her up, up, up to where she escapes the salt fog. Up to where she can see. See him. Waiting.
“You still have it,” she says.
“Yes,” he says.
“Good,” she says.
He cuts the space between them into tiny pieces. The pieces fall into the salt fog.
He gives her his hand.
“Don’t look back,” he says.