Welcome to Cliffhaven
Down in Tennessee and up in the mountains, in the middle of nowhere and the ongoing woods, amongst the critters and the bugs, there was a sleepy town known as Cliffhaven.
It was, as you could guess by the name, near a cliff that led off into a beautiful lake. The hike down to the beach was worth the trip. The lake was crystal clear, the gentle waves sparkling under the Tennessee sun. The sand was white and soft, and there were three, small waterfalls lining the side of the cliff that lead into the lake. It was calm, serene, and breathtaking.
The town less so.
The town was small, just a clutter of scattered, old buildings. And the people? As old as the buildings. Everyone in Cliffhaven was an adult, and most of them in or over their fifties. Sure, you’d get a twenty-seven or thirty-three here and there, but most of the Cliffhaven folks were white-haired, wrinkly-faced, and old-perfume-y-smelling folks.
Cliffhaven was boring indeed. But when you look past the blandness, you might find that the town has a...wacky side. A very wacky side. It seems that most of its inhabitants are convinced that magic is a real thing. They’ve never seen it, nor does anything very interesting happen in Cliffhaven, but the people were believers nonetheless. It must come with age.
There was a greasy cafe and a small police station in the most “busy” part of town. There was a nice lamppost next to a wooden bench, and behind those was the post office. There was a laundromat right beside that, and a shopping mart beside that, and a gas station beside that!
Separated from the rest of the town, however, was Mister Edgar Maklif’s house, the slightest bit deeper into the woods. It also happened to double as the town hall. Edgar Maklif was the mayor.
Despite the large population of elderly folks, two children can be found in Cliffhaven. Their names are Dylan and Ella Maklif, the grandkids of the mayor and his wife, who’d been forced by their parents to go up to the town in the mountains for the summer.
Seven-year-old Ella ran through the living room with a small blankie tied around her neck like a superhero’s cape, and a plastic, rhinestone-bejewled tiara was perched on her unbrushed mop of shoulder-length brown hair. She giggled and ran around the couch, her large brown eyes sparkling with mischief and innocence that only a seven-year-old could pull off. She picked up a plastic sword from the ground and waved it around. “Dy, play with me!”
Her twelve-year-old genius brother, Dylan, sat on the couch she was playing around, his nose in a book. “No, thank you.” He looked a lot like his sister, with a messy mop of brown hair, big, curious brown eyes and freckles spotting the siblings’ noses and ears.
Ella pouted. “Play!” she demanded, smacking Dylan in the shoulder with the plastic sword.
“GAH!” Dylan dropped his book and clutched his shoulder. “Oooowwww, Ella, what the heck?!” he grabbed her by the shoulders and pulled her into a headlock, knocking off her princess tiara.
“Lemme go, lemme go!” the child whined, wriggling under her brother’s grasp.
“Say you’re sorry!” Dylan ordered.
“Sorry, sorry!” Ella gasped. Dylan let go and Ella stumbled away.
“Good girl. But you have to be punished,” Dylan grinned in a menacing way, grabbing a nerf gun off the couch and pointing it at Ella.
Ella squealed with delighted laughter, placing the tiara back on her head and pointing the plastic sword at Dylan. Dylan shot a nerf “bullet”, which bounced off her forehead. She giggled and began to chase Dylan around the living room.
“Kids, kids, no violence,” a kind voice called into the room. A small woman in her mid-sixties waltzed into the living room. Fitting the kindly old lady stereotype, the plump woman had white hair tied up into a neat bun. She wore a pink dress with a blue, lace apron tied around her waist. She was none other than the mayor’s wife, Edna Maklif, a stern but creative and intelligent woman with a twangy Tennessee accent.
“Granny, come play!” Ella waved her sword in the air.
Grandma Maklif laughed, picking up the basket of dirty clothes. “I would, but there is work to do,” she reminded them. “Remember, play time is-”
“-much more rewardin’ when it’s done after work,” Dylan mumbled at the same time as her. “We know. You’ve told us.”
Edna laughed. “That’s my boy. Why don’t you two go upstairs and organize the attic, huh?”
“What? Why?” Dylan whined. “Nobody goes up to that dusty old room.”
“And maybe we should change that,” Edna held out a feather duster.
“Grandma always makes me do the work around here,” Dylan grumbled under his breath, digging through and old cardboard box. “Clean the kitchen!” he hissed in a high voice, mocking his grandmother. “Wash the bathroom! Go organize the attic!” he pushed the cardboard box to the side with an annoyed grunt.
“Yay! Attic!” Ella, still wearing the tiara and cape, cheered from behind him, dancing around the stuffy room and waving the feather duster like a wand.
The room was shaped like a triangle, being inside the building’s roof. Cobwebs could be found in almost every nook and cranny. Cardboard boxes littered the room, along with old, dusty furniture. Illuminating the room was a swinging light bulb and the sunlight seeping in from a circular window on the far side of the room.
“Do you think it’s haunted?” Ella asked.
“Of course not,” Dylan answered instantly, without looking up from his work. “Ghosts aren’t real, Els.”
“You’re no fun,” Ella pouted. “Maybe there’s some ancient treasure up here!”
“The only ancient things you’re going to find up here is Granny and Gramps’ old junk,” Dylan said. “Entertain yourself with that.”
“Ooh, old stuff!” Ella swooned. Dylan shook his head and sighed.
“You’re too easily impressed,” he said as he opened a new box filled with a bunch of old books. “Huh,” he mumbled, his interests peaked. Even at twelve years old, he was a gifted child and loved to read. As he pulled book by book out, he would blow off the dust, read the title, and toss it into a pile, occasionally leaving mental notes to read them later. “Ella, will you start puttin’ these in that bookshelf?”
“Ye!” she waddle-ran over to Dylan and began to pick up the books. “Ew, these look boring.”
“Because they’re not for you,” Dylan said, picking up the next book.
“The Storybook of Princesses,” he read off the cover. “Eugh,” he was about to toss it into the pile when he remembered his sister’s love for princesses. “Hey, Ella, wanna check this out?” he held up the book.
“What is it?” she held out her hands. Dylan handed her the book. “Princesses!” Ella gasped excitedly. She hurriedly opened up the book as Dylan turned to go back to organizing the books. “Uh, Dyl?”
“Yeah?” Dylan mumbled absentmindedly.
“It’s missin’ pages. Like, lot’s of ‘em,” Ella held the open book out to Dylan. The boy rose to his feet and took the book from her hands.
“It does look pretty old,” he commented, flipping through the few pages it has. “That’s weird. The pages look like they’ve been ripped out,” he touched the edge of what remained of a page and hissed in pain, pulling away. “Paper cut!” He continued to flip through the book, the tip of his thumb stinging with the cut. He reached the back inside cover of the book, and his eyebrows furrowed. “Huh.”
“What? What?!” Ella asked, jumping up to see what her brother was looking at.
“This is a weird lookin’ symbol, Els,” Dylan tapped the symbol with his thumb to point it out. There was a star within a circle, surrounded by writing in a strange language. After pointing with his thumb, the tiniest speck of blood was left in the middle of the symbol.
“What’s that say?” Ella pointed at the unique language.
“I’m not sure,” were rare words to come out of Dylan’s mouth. He was an A student in high school level Spanish, and was self-taught in German and French. “These letters are nothing like I’ve ever seen. DBKZ DROW?”
The speck of blood on the symbol started to glow, and Dylan and Ella both gasped. Blue, ghost-like figures began to pour out of the book right before their eyes.
“AH!” before either of them had time to process what was going on, they had dropped the book and stumbled backward. The ghost-like creatures continued to rise from the book’s pages, swirling around the room like a rampaging tornado.
Dylan held his little sister close as the wind began to pick up around them, their hair whipping around their heads like lion’s mane. The blue glow from the "ghosts" reflected in their brown eyes. The walls of the room were tinted with blue, or perhaps it was just the blur of the moving spirits.
“WHAT DID YOU DO?!” Ella yelled over the wind and screaming of the creatures.
“I DON’T KNOW!”
The lightbulb, swinging around in the wind, shattered above them. Ella shrieked as broken glass rained down on top of them, and Dylan hovered over her for protection. As the room began to crowd with the “ghosts”, they slipped down the stairs and, undoubtedly, out the door. The rest of them smashed through the one window of the attic, sending the glass flying off of its hinges and outside, where it shattered upon hitting the ground.
Just like a vacuum, the blue “ghosts” were sucked out of the room. The wind died down, and the noise subsided, and Ella and Dylan were once again left to the silence of the attic, to the sounds of their frantic breaths, pounding hearts, and slight creaks of the still-swinging wire where the light bulb once was. Ella clung to Dylan for dear life until the moment of terror passed. Slowly the siblings released each other, both staring in awe at the hole that once was the window. The wood around its pane was cracked from the strain, and a gentle, unknowing breeze from the outside began to swirl in.
“Holy Fishsticks,” Dylan breathed.
“What...was that?” Ella tried to ask, her voice coming out in a barely audible whisper.
Behind them, without either of the siblings noticing, six figures slowly turned to face Dylan and Ella.