‘Fog’ by Anna Kavan 

Chosen by Nicholas Royle
 
Anna Kavan’s best-known work, Ice, is a bleak midwinter wonderland of a novel. Her story, ‘Fog’, may be short on snow and ice, but there’s thick fog and it’s so cold in the police interview room that the officer’s breath condenses in the air. An unnamed narrator tells us she always liked to drive fast, but she wasn’t driving fast that day, partly because it was foggy and partly because she felt ‘calmly contented and peaceful’. She adds: ‘The feeling was injected, of course.’ The narrator, like her creator, is addicted to heroin. The rhythm of the windscreen wipers has a further tranquillising effect, making her feel she’s driving in her sleep. The fog adds to the dreamlike atmosphere, the world looking ‘vague and unreal’, so that when she drives past a group of long-haired teenagers, they look as if they are wearing Japanese dragon-masks. They remind her of the ‘subhuman nightmare mask-faces’ in an Ensor painting. Since they are not real, then, what would it matter if she were to run one of them over? When the police stop her, she thinks, ‘I might as well be at a police station as anywhere else.’ The inspector who interviews her is ‘just a sham’; she disassociates from everything and everybody. Nothing is real. All she wants is to be ‘a hole in space, not here or anywhere at all’. There’s a desperate, wintry sadness to the story. Rhys Davies’s introduction to the posthumously published collection, Julia and the Bazooka, reminds us that the author suffered from depression and twice attempted suicide, but she couldn’t half write.
 
First published in Julia and the Bazooka, Peter Owen, 1970. * Nicholas Royle’s latest short story collection, Manchester Uncanny, is just out from Confingo Publishing. It follows London Gothic and will, in due course, be followed by Paris Fantastique. He edits the Best British Short Stories series for Salt, who published his non-fiction book, White Spines: Confessions of a Book Collector. He runs Nightjar Press, publishing short stories as signed, limited-edition chapbooks. You can read his other contributions to A Personal Anthology here.

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