It was raining on the day that the old man was buried, though it wasn't a proper kind of rain, more like a drizzle that left one chilled to the bone and despondent.
this rain should not be interpreted as a symbol for the sadness that is assumed to invade the hearts of those who are left behind after the passing of this well-respected part of society.
It was raining, because it rained a lot on the island, which could be attested by the green meadows and mossy rocks - it was as simple as that.
As for the sadness: it might be a stretch to say that there was no sadness present in the gathering of people surrounding the swiftly disappearing coffin, but the old man had lived a long life,
longer than anyone else on the island, and he had no close family left that might mourn his death more deeply.
Instead of sadness,
the setting inspired a kind of curiosity and determination in the younger male population; a curiosity that only grew when the coffin was at last completely covered by earth and the clothing
of all those present had become damp and remarkably sticky. One of these young men was Kai.
He, just like everyone else, had lived on the island his entire life and was expected to stay and die on it as well.
Together with most men of his age, he had been looked after by the old man during his childhood,
when parents were too busy or wanted a break from the nearly inexhaustible energy their child possessed.
Quite often, the old man would tell the boys that were gathered around in his small home, similarly to the way in which they now gathered around his fresh grave,
stories about his own youth which the boys sometimes ignored or were fascinated by.
In these stories, the old man insisted that the impermeable mist surrounding the island had not always been present and that he, when he was a child,
had been able to see and experience what lay beyond.
Of course, no one on the island believed what the old man said, even if they respected his opinion on all other subjects and held a deep respect for his grey hairs.
The children that usually drank in his every word could not fathom such a thing and concluded that these stories were just that, tales made up in order to induce a sense of wonder and disbelief,
all the while thinking of all the possible places where the elusive elves might have made their homes on the island.
Now, however, these boys were grown and they watched how the simple grey stone, which would all too soon be concealed by a layer of soft moss, was placed on top of the fresh grave.
The old man's stories repeated themselves in their heads,
all of them complete except those about the unknown beyond as they had always been interrupted in favour of more interesting ones or had simply been brushed aside.
Curiosity grew because of the knowledge that the old man was no longer there to fill in the blanks that only now had truly garnered attention.
This was followed by the realisation that the answer to the question whether the old man had told the truth, whether there was something beyond the mists, was still attainable,
and by the subsequent understanding that the answer could only be obtained by going beyond the mists themselves.
The drizzle stopped and the people headed back to the village.
The path down was wet and one young woman slipped, but was able to right herself by grabbing onto the brown sleeve of the burly young man walking beside her.
Once they reached the centre, the company immediately split up.
The men headed towards the tavern, the landlord leading the party and the others following closely behind,
whereas the women regrouped and talked for a little while longer in order to enjoy the momentary lack of rain.
Inside the tavern, the men were soon seated and provided with steaming cups that helped to warm their calloused hands.
Steam rose from wet fabric and the condensation lent a filthy sheen to the two small, square windows.
The younger men had chosen a table in the corner of the room that allowed them to easily observe all others.
As the evening progressed and eyes became glassier, conversation shifted from the old man to the Unfinished Stories. That night, the landlord shook his head as plans were made.
The next morning all other villagers shook their heads as the plans were revealed and brushed them aside. The following six years, they shook their heads as the group of men put them in motion.
They shook their heads as meat, fish and fruit were dried and stored in clay pots.
They shook their heads as a ship that was larger than any of the existing fishing boats was built and when it was declared finished on the same day the burly Kai married his grey-eyed Penny.
They shook their heads as the order for an impossibly long piece of thin, but sturdy rope, that was to be covered in wax, was placed.
They shook their heads as, at the end of those six years, all provisions and large casks of water and liquors were loaded onto the ship.
They shook their heads as a large pole was put in the ground on top of one of the cliffs by the shore and the rope was tied to it; as their sons and husbands said goodbye and boarded the ship.
They shook their heads as the ship did not stay close to the shore, like all fishermen did, but sailed straight towards the wall of mist,
and they shook their heads as the ship and its crew were swallowed up. Penny was the last one to leave as she tied a frayed apron more tightly around her waist.
At first, everyone assumed that the men would soon return home, after a day even, but they soon realised that this was not the case.
Several weeks later, the rope that was tied to the pole became taut, now forming a straight line which disappeared into the mist.
People were convinced that this would be the end of the adventure, that the ship would be turned around after a failed mission,
but the rope that was meant to lead the men back home did not become slack.
As time passed, people would speculate about what might have happened to the ship and a suggestion to build another ship and to follow the rope was made,
but no one dared to put it into practice. Eventually, it was silently agreed upon that the men were lost to the island and that put an end to all speculation.
Still, every day, Penny would walk to the pole to look whether anything had changed, frequently scaring away the birds that had taken to sitting on the rope. But nothing ever changed.
Ten years after the ship had taken off, on a cold and rather windy day, a large form could be discerned in the mist.
The village rippled with agitation and a large crowd assembled on the shore as the form became clearer until it showed the outline of the same ship that had left them all those years ago.
The nearer it came, the louder the shouts and the cries of both children and distraught babes got and the more hands were wrung, yet as it moored,
all that could be heard were the trustworthy waves and defying cries of the gulls.
The disembarking men were dressed in formfitting clothes of, as later confirmed by the town's weavers, unknown,
rich fabrics in bright colours that made the villagers resemble the circling gulls.
The men were thin, skeletally so, and their cheeks were covered by trimmed beards that did little to disguise their gauntness.
The last man to leave the ship, also the tallest one, led beside him a gangly boy with wide eyes and a serene face.
As he set foot on shore, a strangled sob escaped Penny and she flew towards him, throwing her arms around his neck.
For a single moment, he pulled her closer, letting the boy's hand slip from his, and rested his head upon hers as he closed his eyes; yet soon pushed her away gently.
He took the boy's hand again and started walking. The men ignored the slow shouts of recognition and followed the narrow path up the cliff in a silent procession.
All villagers followed them confusedly and arrived just in time to see Kai take out a rusty knife, cut off the still taut rope and throw it, together with the knife, into the sea.
After this task was seen to, the men re-joined their disrupted families and followed the concerned parents, siblings and wives, some holding their newly born babes, home.
Kai took his wife's hand and led them to their home where he rekindled the fire and created a place to sleep for the boy.
Daily life resumed quickly, but the men never spoke about the place beyond the mists, none of them. In fact, they never spoke at all.