Thelonius climbed the ladder through the open hatch in the roof of the chamber. Caleb stood by, watching the door at the bottom of the stairwell nervously.
He emerged onto the roof of the building and into thick fog. Like aural beacons, the grunting, motor-like vocalizations of loopers punctuated the sound-smothering blanket of fog. Immediately in front of him, protruding from the roof, was a wooden platform, and attached to that a pulley, which in turn was connected by a loop of rope to another pulley fixed on the cliff side, some yards above the roof. The upper pulley was not connected to anything else – it jutted out of the bare cliff face like a useless appendage. As he lifted his face to inspect the tools, a breeze wiped across Thel's cheeks, across his lips. He caught scent of something sweet and rotting, like blackened bananas or pipe tobacco.
Thelonius peered outward. Caleb had indicated that there was a stony beach just beyond the building, and beyond that water, but Thelonius could detect nothing of this in the fog. He could see no black bugs, and no loopers – only their calls he could hear, which sounded as though they were coming closer and closer to the shore. He looked hard, tried to discern shapes in the mist, but could only make out shadows and wisps of fog.
He snapped as many photographs as he could.
In a breath, the fog roared. Raspy and omnipresent, the call seemed to issue from everywhere. It blared like a horn, but there were irregularities - like phlegm, like breath - all around the long, deep note, so low and resonant that it shook the men's bones and made the ladder clatter against the hatch's frame. Such huge lungs. The sound rattled the reporter's soul.
"Down here, pardner!" Caleb said.
"I'm coming back down."
The loopers' calls resumed. Thelonius put a foot on the topmost rung of the ladder and started to lower himself down.
The chorus broke - no longer howling, barking at one another like strange dogs, now the loopers were coughing.
"What didja see up there?" Caleb was already asking before Thelonius had even really stopped looking.
Impelled by the gunman's question, Thelonius did cast his attention once again in the direction of the shore. Fog, only fog – in the distance, water lapped.
And it rose. The loopers were coughing and farting ferociously now, and Thelonius could see, ever so vaguely, forms writhing in the mists. Below him, something shrieked. Some thing on the ground writhed and sputtered, scraping rocks beneath it. It was the size of a boar and its elongating-and-contracting body flipped on the stones like a fish dragged from water. But, God! There it was! Moving below him, in a window in the fog. A looper! Like a fish from water indeed; more like a giant black leech, it squirmed on the dark surface of the beach. From both ends of its many-segmented body pink antennae or tendrils or tongues lashed about in the air. It was absurd to think, but it seemed to be flagellating itself in the fog, which was mercifully moving to engulf the thing once again.
Thelonius understood now what was happening, or a part of it at least. Half-perched on the ladder, he turned his attention back to the water and watched the tide rising. But now he knew that it was not water that was rising in the wake of the fog's roar, but a moving mass of fine, black bodies.
(Thelonius failed against the foghorn call, -2 sanity, but was able bear with the terrors of the self-flagellating looper, and the oncoming tide. The latter is still pretty terrible: -1 sanity. Caleb was unshaken by the bellow from the sea.)