Author : Ian Hill

As if caught in a sudden zeal, Adrian spun the locking mechanism and pushed the iron door open against the howling wind. Torrents of needling water cut in at steep angles, slicing to the bone with unchecked frigidity. The light inside the cabin’s entry room immediately shut off—a technological remnant from a darker, war-torn time when enemy hunters prowled the waters, eyes open for any sign of light from a victim. Adrian stood in the darkness, embracing the harsh nature as it pummeled him with salt, froth, and tiny chunks of withered sea creatures.

Slowly, Adrian stepped out onto the deck, pushing the heavy door shut behind him with the aid of the all-too-accommodating wind. It was like it wanted him to stay outside, to witness the unholy gale, the surging ice vapors, and the glacial maelstrom. When lightning struck, Adrian saw mountains standing at the horizon, looming. He saw oddly uniform ramparts of stone, clawing towers, and bulbous palaces. Darkness fell again and when lightning next struck he saw that the apparitions were merely clouds, immense and stretching from the ocean to the firmament’s apex.

Adrian shook his head and blocked the stinging rain from his eyes with an upraised hand. Carefully, he moved to the guard rail and followed its length to his normal station. He assumed Barlow must have been in this general vicinity when his mind fell ill. Adrian mechanically clung to the iron railing, leaning over the edge and gazing out at the swirling sea. It was a confusing sight, the endlessly extending planes of conflicting darkness. For a moment he wondered why he had left the safety of the vessel’s interior. It seemed out of character.

Another bolt of vivid electricity cut across the sky, burning the air around it and cleaving a path of purity through the toxic clouds. Adrian took this brief moment of clarity to imprint the image that Barlow had seen into his own mind. The deep violet waters spread from peripheral to peripheral, unbroken and perfect. The stabbing light caught all facets of the choppiness, giving new meaning to each wave and dune. Blue illumination also splashed across the monstrous clouds, changing a flat picture to a multi-tiered fortress of puffy ridges and mushroom-like bulbs. Descending blades of rain shrunk under the lightning’s glare as Adrian stared out from the dwarfed ship.

However, not all was normal in the single frame of vision that nature granted the shivering professor. At the furthest edge of sight protected by fog, haze, and the growing thickness of rain coverage stood a pillar, pristine and perfect. It was an out of place figment of the manmade world, an impossibly immense column with a semi-reflective ivory surface. It hung resolutely at the horizon line, stretching from the water upwards until the canopy of spreading clouds obscured it.

Adrian flinched as the bolt’s radioactive heat faded. His hands opened and he fell backwards, collapsing onto the slippery deck, the anomalous pillar hanging in his mind’s eye like some sort of demonic specter devoid of any clear meaning. The innate terror management found in everyone’s subconscious acted quickly to disregard the column as another mirage. Adrian lay silently as rain thudded down upon him and the wind brushed against his cheek almost comfortingly. Somewhere up there his writhing cloud tormentor waited, watching. Adrian Galbraith began to question his own sanity.

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