The Howling Cliffs

Preface, part II: The Vanishing
There are others like you... but they're disappearing.

The madness appears to be spreading and so are the rumors. You’ve seen others with dark circles under their eyes. Their heads twitch in response to voices when the tavern is sparsely occupied and quiet. You recognize that spasm. You’ve done it yourself ever since the voices in your head started getting louder and louder while you were still awake.

A self-proclaimed prophet has climbed a small building for a high vantage point to preach loudly to the gathering crowd about the end of the world. “Can’t you hear their screams?” he asks. “The gate to Hell itself has flung open and its tortured souls will soon be swarming us!”

But you’re learning to suppress it. The prophet appeared every day like clockwork to describe in great detail how the world would end. It changed a little each day. But suddenly he was gone. So was the other guy who you overheard talking about the voices to a small group of friends. They eyed him, both suspiciously and fearfully, and the next day they were sitting there without him, hardly speaking a word. Certainly they made no mention of their friend or where he had gone. There’s talk of evil spirits possessing people, of the dead rising from their graves, of demon worship and witchcraft.

And now there is talk that the gods themselves have been silenced. Some say the gods no longer answer the prayers of their followers, that their clerics are losing the power to protect us from evil, to heal the injured, or cure the sick. The rumors are quickly dismissed by the clerics who insist that nothing could separate them from their gods.

“What is next?”, people ask. “Who will be next?”

Could it be true? You can’t help but wonder. Maybe the apocalypse approaches. Why else would troops of armed guards from the mainland be walking the streets of your small island town? The knights are dressed in fine mail led by clerics, all wearing white tabbards with the symbol of Pelorus, a gold circle with many rays shining out from it to represent the life-giving sun.

They’re in search of an answer, but in the meantime seem content to settle for someone to blame.

Preface, part I: A creeping madness
Setting the mood

You’re standing at the foot of towering rocky cliffs as the sea before you rages. You wait, but for what you can’t recall. A ship perhaps? The sky is filled with thick, gray clouds. A wet breeze blows through you sending a chill up your spine. As it continues, it scrapes against the rocky face of the cliffs. The sound it makes is unnerving as it mimics voices screaming. Out in the deep, you see a bulge in the water, a massive wave forming and rolling toward the shore, toward you. You look behind you and see the cliffs. They go straight up hundreds of feet as far as the eye can see except for a wide swath cut out just behind you. Though rough and randomly formed by eons of friction with the sea, this part forms a jagged ramp going into land, reminiscent of a staircase for some gigantic creature.

The wind blows harder as the wave gets closer until it is the cacophony of thousands of tortured souls wailing angrily at you. You cover your ears and press hard but it’s no use.

Then you wake. You’ve been woken by the same dream for several weeks now and each time it takes longer to shake it. It’s the same every time, but you wake covered in a cold sweat to the relief of comforting silence. You lie back down and eventually your breathing calms and slowly your plans for the coming day push out the details of the nightmare.

But this time is different. This time there is no calm at the end of a storm. You still hear them—the tortured voices are still screaming inside you.

Preface, part II: The Vanishing (Coming soon!)


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