The Inspiration Behind “Deathly Fog”
By Adam Breckenridge
Heading into 2016, I got struck with one of the most insane ideas I’ve ever had as a writer: could I write a short story a day—every single day—for the entirety of 2016? That would be three hundred sixty-six stories, accounting for the leap year, more than I had ever written in my life up to that point. I felt like a lunatic for even thinking the idea, let alone moving forward with it, and yet on January 1, I sat down to turn out the first of the stories.
Writing a story a day for a year is one of the most challenging and rewarding things I’ve ever done. It requires commitment, an intense pace, and it requires you to latch onto any idea that pops into your head, no matter how flimsy, just to have something to work with that day.
And at some point, a strange and quite flimsy idea popped into my head: an image of a boy grasping a globe of fog in his hands, blowing on it to try to keep it between his palms. I can no longer recall what inspired the image, all I knew was that I had something I could spin into a story. It was enough to get me through another day.
On December 31, I wrote story number three hundred sixty-six, and on January 1st I sat down to start reading through them. When I had started out I had figured that, even going by the old adage that ninety percent of everything is crap, that would still mean I had produced thirty-six good stories in the previous year, an effort any writer could be proud of. I just had to figure out which thirty-six were the good ones.
I think I wound up doing a little better than ten percent, but at any rate, there are a number of stories I extracted from the morass that I thought had promise. “Deathly Fog” wound up being one that particularly stood out. Though the original draft is an anemic and atrophied little wastrel compared to what you get to read today, I immediately saw in it the potential for a sort of Jamesian ghost story of uncertain ghostliness, of boys coming to terms with their childhood fears, of brothers growing apart, and of a girl who may be just a girl or who may be something else entirely, but who awakens in the boys something beyond the limitations of childhood play.
Quite a lot of my writing in the last five years has centered around mining the fruits of my mad undertaking. Several of the other stories have already found homes elsewhere, some have expanded into larger projects, and some are still waiting patiently for me to attend to them. In the back of my head I’ve been aware that, with enough time and patience, I could make something out of every single one of the three hundred and sixty-six stories, but it would require more time and patience than I have. I had to pick and choose among them, and it’s been gratifying to see that my faith in “Deathly Fog” was not misplaced, and I’m glad to have found it a good home.
Adam Breckenridge is a Traveling Collegiate Faculty member of the University of Maryland Global Campus, where he travels the world teaching US military stationed overseas and is currently based in South Korea. He has eighteen short story publications and, in addition to Horror Bites, has most recently appeared in Clockwork, Curses and Coal from Worldweaver Press and Mystery Weekly.