The Fog

by Kawika Guillermo

Jack of the Bottom Floor

In the year 2055, I turned eleven. For those of us who live on the bottom floor, turning eleven means you no longer have to fear the dense chemical downdrafts of every afternoon, when the fog of apyrsime comes on gentle motherly-like from the upper layer, caking your lungs for hours, clinging inside your throat like a thorny seed growing thorny roots. I remember that day, when I walked the street for the first time without a gas mask. All of the people looked so clear.

Still, when the fog came, I huddled through the alley and into a small paint factory.

Someone screamed: “Wake up! Please!”

A child had died in the fog’s downdraft. I could hear the commotion across the alley as the mother attempted to shake the child’s lungs back to life.

When the fog sets, there is no telling which chemicals you will inhale, which will grow slowly through your body to cut you down later in life, and which will stop your heart in an instant. Only after age eleven does one become immune to those instant deaths.

Eleven was a rebirth. The chemicals could leave me sick for weeks at a time, but would never stop my breath or tear out my spirit. I did not know the child who died; even in death it was anonymous. Most of the children who met the instant death were cremated within hours in the lower city’s furnaces. The upper-levels, always afraid of our disease, gave food coupons for bodies brought to the furnace, enough to keep a family fed for weeks.

When I finally arrived at my eleventh birthday ceremony, everyone expected my head to be held high in triumph over the instant death. My mother was proud, my survival was supposed to be heralded as a good example for our brothers and sisters.

The true yarn came when one of the superintendents, an upper-level man dressed in black, bestowed a gold-star upon my chest. He gave a speech about my ability to pick up his language faster than the other children. How I transcribed the great poets so well. How I overcame my background.

“Luck does not exist,” he said. “This child is turning eleven today because he earned it.”

Through his speech I could barely hear his praise. Only the smooth, untainted breath in his lungs. Like everyone on the upper floors, the man barely knew the fog. He’d never lost one of his own to it. One day, I thought, I would teach him its curse.


Maria of the 108th Floor

I was born in 2055, and tomorrow will be my eleventh birthday. But it feels like a curse. On the evening news, after the newscaster reported that another child from the bottom layer had died, my parents locked every door and window, for fear that the great terrorizing villian, The Fog, would come for me. My parents were so certain that I was next. But I could not imagine something like that happening to me. We live so high above the violence of the bottom floors, with helicopters and police tracking our every move. Surely The Fog could not simply fly through our window. Besides, how could anyone kill a child just before her birthday?

Kneeling, father repeats to me: “Sometime, years ago, The Fog was driven insane on the bottom floors. He does not care whether you are good or bad. He only knows how to be bad.”

The news reported the first pair of deaths two years ago, when The Fog took the first upper level child, only eight years old. On that same day a child had died on the bottom floor, also eight. From that day on, the deaths came in the same pattern. For every child’s death on the bottom floor, The Fog took a child on the upper-floors, one of similar look and age.

Tonight, on the bottom floor, a young girl has died from The Fog’s disease. She was nearly eleven years old. Same as me.

My father checks the locks and my mother sits near me, holding the shock gun she bought years ago to protect herself in the lower markets. My father phones the police for security, but they say there are too many ten-year-old girls living on floors above us.

“Daddy—we still need to prepare for the party. Stacy and Jane—they’ll be over in the morning. Nothing will happen.”

At once, my parents fall to the floor, both of them convulsing on the carpet. Their eyes move from me to the figure standing near a broken window, a tall man dressed in dark robes, with purple and blue cloth masking his face.

I hold onto my mother’s shaking arm; her eyes direct me to the fully charged gun. I do not reach for it. I only watch the dark figure approach, enchanted by his dark brown eyes showing me an empty, savage battlefield of dust and sand. I recognize the tin gold star pinned onto his shirt, the symbol spray-painted on lower market walls to rejoice his coming, “the man of fairness,” they call him. This is him. This is The Fog.

The man picks me up, gently and motherly. I feel a strange dust enter my lungs. I cannot keep from inhaling it. He tells me I should not be sad, because it is not just random luck. No, he says, I have earned it.

Kawika is a gender-confused libertine, a gasoline-and-fire mixture of Irish, Chinese and Filipino, and a heathen with just enough faith to keep writing fiction. He has published over two-dozen stories in journals like JMWWSmokelong QuarterlyAnnalemma, and The Monarch Review. He spends his days in Nanjing, China, revising his novel about American Expats and editing for the journal decomP. Visit his website at and follow him on Facebook: