Built on Sand
Setting & Plot - Printable Version

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Setting & Plot - featherstone - 08-12-2017


<div style="font-family: nothing you could do; font-size: 20px; text-align: center; text-transform: uppercase;">Sandsbridge at a glance</div>

A coastal town of Essex County, Massachusetts, Sandsbridge is a thriving community, with a population of about 49,501 at the 2010 census. Once mostly notable as a fishing and shipbuilding center, it is now more remarkable for its tourism industry, whose surge has brought a new spin to the local economy. Sandsbridge is famous for its natural landscapes, for the quaint area of the old fishing harbor, and for its largely unexplained archaeological findings - the most famous one being the remains of a circular stone maze, about which many dark legends have been told, and whose shape is now carved on the ashtrays and keychains sold at every corner. Sandsbridge is also house to the Willowhill College, whose students considerably contribute to the local population, and to the Sandsbridge Historical Society.

<div style="font-family: nothing you could do; font-size: 20px; text-align: center; text-transform: uppercase;">Geography</div>

Built near the mouth of the Willowhill River, whose waters cut the town in half, Sandsbridge is surrounded by marshy lands to the North, and to the South-west by a tall trees forest, which makes for a rich hunting ground. Its sandy shores are fronted by five islands, suggestively called the Claws because of their shape, where seals can be observed on occasion.

<div style="font-family: nothing you could do; font-size: 20px; text-align: center; text-transform: uppercase;">History</div>

The Sandsbridge that we know was founded in 1641 by a company of fishermen from Cape Ann, led by Joseph Thornton. It is said, however, that what the settlers found was not a virgin land: there were, indeed, the remains of an older settlement, entirely deserted and undocumented. Its buildings were European by all appearances, except for a few oddly-shaped buildings and for several inscriptions in an unknown alphabet.

Thornton and his men, whose inclinations were more practical than intellectual, weren't greatly concerned with such findings; they settled in, using whatever structure was still functional, and destroying and rebuilding anything else. Roughly half a century later, however, the town had gained a sinister reputation among its puritan neighbors; a town of devil worshipers, they said; a den of every sort of perversion. The hysteria that accompanied the Salem witch trials hit Sandsbridge in its fullest, leading to the execution of 15 people, to the suicide of many others, and to the destruction of many books, city records, and even buildings, thus adding another layer of oblivion on the town's past.

Unlike Salem's, however, Sandsbridge's tragedy was relegated to a neglected footnote of history; as if its heirs were too ashamed to ever rekindle its memory, or as if some force kept prying eyes away from it. And afterwards, Sandsbridge's history is that of every town of its area; as unremarkable as humanly possible. Only recently the town's history has been investigated and partly rediscovered; only now that time has cooled down ancient fears, and that skeptical minds dare watch to their ancestors' insanity.

<div style="font-family: nothing you could do; font-size: 20px; text-align: center; text-transform: uppercase;">Notable landmarks</div>

The Maze: Located on the edge of the forest are the remains of a circular stone maze that dates back to before the first settlement. Its walls are almost entirely ruined, but the original pattern of its corridors is still visible. On some stones one can still see the traces of ancient carvings; abstract signs, by all appearances, although someone suggested they are indeed a language. At its center, a flat stone, resembling to an altar and similarly covered in faded signs.

The Remains of the Bridge: According to a legend, the town was named 'Sandsbridge' after a most unusual building that was found by the first settlers: a bridge that crossed the Willowhill river, shaped like a regular one, but entirely made by sand and dirt; as the bravest men - or the most unwise - dared walk on it, the bridge appeared as solid as one made by stone; while its sandy surface seemed to crumble when stroked, the underlying structure remained unconsumed, as if composed by an unending source of matter.

That night, all the men who had walked on the bridge had the same dream: one where they were running on the dried bed of a river, stalked by a panther they could not see; they went on and on until they realized they were running in circle, even though the path never looked the same (much later, a scholar of the Willowhill College argued that, while the legend of course wasn't real, the dream represented an archetype of the collective subconsciousness; that the men and the panther were the same entity, and that their path was comparable to the myth of Sisyphus). When they woke up the day afterwards, the sandy bridge had vanished. In its place were the remains of a collapsed stone bridge, its surface thickly carved.

For a long time, the entire story has been dismissed as fiction. Recent excavations on the southern banks of the river, however, found what looks like final segment of a stone bridge, large enough for a carriage to get through, and covered in carvings similar to the ones in the maze. Such remains have been incorporated in the restored embankment and are now a part of the town's landscape.

The Thornton Museum of Local History: Henry Thornton (1832 - 1897) may or may not have been a descendant of Joseph Thornton, the first settler - despite a life of research, indeed, he never succeeded in tracing down his entire lineage, most records having been destroyed during the witch trials. His curiosity which gradually developed into a burning obsession - prompted him to become the first prominent scholar of the town's history. After his death, his considerable assets were dedicated to the foundation of the Sandsbridge Historical Society. His family house, a textbook example of Georgian architecture, was its first seat. Later, the headquarters moved to a less charming but more practical location, and the house was turned into a museum, dedicated both to the memory of the scholar and to the object of his research: one floor displaying a large number of relics dating back to the earliest days of Sandsbridge, and to the dark spots of its past; and a second one being a faithful reconstruction of Thornton's workroom and library.

The Old Mill: Once a brick factory that exploited the river flow, the Old Mill is now a crumbling building, located on the Northern bank of the Willowhill river and in the less fashionable area of the town. Regularly, proposals to either demolish it or restructure it are advanced; with an equal regularity, such proposals are abandoned for more pressing concerns.

RE: Setting & Plot - featherstone - 08-20-2017


August 2017 - The town's quiet routine has been perturbed by a most gruesome crime: the murder of Sir Anthony Elliot-Calthrope, a British scholar who was visiting Sandsbridge, whose mutilated body was found laying in the marshy lands north of town. [Read more here]
Meanwhile, a new drug called Shubnam is growing popular among the local youth and not only - even though no-one can agree on its nature. [Read more here]