I’m the last lighthouse keeper in Scotland. And something calls to me from beyond the waves. - Chap 6
“Heather!” I shout, stumbling backwards in fear. Recent memories of the unseen nightmare that knocked upon my own lighthouse door come hurtling in return to the forefront of my mind, afresh. Hearing her voice was one thing, but seeing her… seeing her standing right here before me… I cannae believe it. For my heart’s sake, I can’t. I refuse.
“Heather- how!? You can’t be real, you can’t! What cruel trickery is this!? Please, I’m a hard man, and I pride myself as such, but I can’t be taking much more of this tonight. I can only handle so much…”
Heather scoffs and puts a hand to her mouth. “A hard man?” she chortles good-naturedly, in the way she always did. “Ye’re nothing but a big softie, Douglas! You certainly took yer time!”
Well blow me down. It’s her.
It’s really her.
I swoop in at once and hold her tight. She squeals as the icy wetness of my jacket and beard connect with her skin, warm and soft. I plant the wettest of kisses upon her lips and she laughs and kisses me back.
“How?” Is all I can manage, tears buddin’ at the corners of ma eyes.
Terrible, supressed images from five years ago flash painfully through my head. Images of Heather falling from the wave-wracked little fishing vessel and into the sea. I can still remember the powerlessness of my position in the lighthouse, unable to do a thing but watch and scream to the boat’s panicked driver…
I shake the memories away. “All this time, Heather. All this time I thought-” I swallow. “I thought you were fucking DEAD, woman! How? How are you here in this place?”
She smiles and cups my face in hers. “It’s so good to see you again, Douglas”, she whispers. “Though ye’ve certainly let this awful thing grow out of control, haven’t ye?” She gives my beard a playful tug and draws me into the lighthouse, closing the door behind her. She snaps her fingers and points to a wardrobe tucked by the wall. “You need oot of those clothes before you catch hypothermia! So come on, quick quick!”
I’m still in a daze, I think. I’m struggling to process. But I do as she says, grabbing a rough and mismatched set of dry gear from the wardrobe.
“There I was Douglas, caught in the swirling seas”, she begins, moving her arms about dramatically. “Strugglin’ to breathe, thrown this way and that… It was so dark, so cold… and then there it was. I saw it, glowing through the gloom. Gold and white. Shining. Rippling like liquid glass. An arched door in the midst of the waves… I felt myself get carried right through it and I found myself in a foreign sea, gasping for breath amongst silver waves beneath an amber sky! And as I coughed and splashed against the surface I felt someone grab my arm. Grabbed me and hauled me up into their boat; a boat made of mist! Shining and shimmering like a spectre, they were! And ye’ll never guess Douglas, ye’ll never guess who it was!”
I chuckle. “…Was it old ‘Mad Jack’ Candles, by any chance?”
She splutters and furrows her brow, suddenly cross. She puts her hands on her hips. “And how the devil did you know that?”
I’ve taken the wind right out of her sails. And lookin’ at her now I can’t help but laugh. A hearty laugh, for the soul’s sake.
“I’ve missed you Heather”, I chuckle. “I saw Jack myself. Just now. The fucker saved me from certain death. He didn’t stick around”.
My smile falters. I grow more serious and I look ma wonderful wife in the eyes. “The twin beams, Heather. The twin beams must be manned. You’ve an issue with the lighthouse, haven’t you?”
“It went out, Douglas. The light went out!” Heather says, and she clasps her hands together.
“Mad Jack… Just after he rescued me and I was still onboard his ghostly vessel, he told me his tale. He told that he had died upon the water. He wouldn’t say how, said it hurt to talk about… But in his own words, he: ‘wouldn’t allow a little thing like death get in the way of his mission’”.
I smile. “Heh. That certainly sounds like our Jack”.
“He wouldn’t share the logistics with me Douglas, but he was still able to fix the light, the first time around. And he’d been waiting in the lighthouse ever since. Waiting for a living soul to come relieve him of his duty”. She rubs her chin. “I haven’t seen the man since then. In all these five years. I thought perhaps he’d.. ‘passed on’… But if you saw him too-”
I shrug. “He wasn’t a ghost, Heather. He told me so himself. An ‘echo’, he said. The last traces of light from a faraway star, perhaps…” I trail off. “What did he tell you? What did he tell you about the lighthouse?”
“The same as the scrawling above our sink, Douglas. ‘The twin beams must be manned’… And I’ve done my duty, I’ve done it as best I can… But about a year ago the light just stopped! And I tried and I tried, but I just couldn’t get it working again! I couldn’t do it! And the storms… the storms and the horrors out at sea… I see them at night… They’ve just been getting worse and worse…”
“Aye. It’s been rough for me too”, I reply. “But these things happen, don’t they? I’m sorry it took me so long to come find you”.
She smiles and squeezes my arm; chuckles and says she forgives me.
“Right then”. I clap my hands. “It sounds like I’ve got a job to do, eh?” I wink, and I clamber up the stairs as the fearsome, hungry wind roars beyond the walls, and the waves crash against the shore of the island.
There’s a reason my lighthouse remains un-automated. I’m not just some babysitter for the great bulb, I’ll have you know.
I know my shit.
And it takes most of the remaining night, and a fair deal of creative engineering, but for now, I reasoned, it’ll do. And sure enough, about an hour or so before the sun’s rise, the gears turn and the centrepiece whirrs, and the beam of the lighthouse returns at full blast.
It’s a wonderfully welcome sight, and its presence fills with me a relief and a peace of mind that’s difficult to put into words.
Around it goes. Rotating surely and steadily and casting its warning light out over the waters.
And the terrible storm begins to calm.
I stand with Heather on the deck, and we watch as the wind settles, as the swirl of the sea starts to slow, and the great light rolls gently around and around.
…We’re approachin’ the end of ma tale now, lads and ladies. Thank you for sticking with me. It’s been a real pleasure.
Not much left to do now but wrap up the loose ends, I suppose.
The Door lasted a wee bit longer, that night. Before it disappeared. I’ve never seen the thing last so long, in fact. I think it might have waited, you know. Waited for us.
…It held strong, and the waters were kind as Heather sailed away across that silver sea.
We couldn’t stay together. It just wasn’t feasible. It took some heavy and quickfire conversation, but we both ended up at the same conclusion.
The twin beams must be manned.
There were no more angry waves as she pushed the boat out, no monsters from the deep as she pulled the rigging, and the woman was careful to sail a great distance from the sharp, teeth-like rocks that lurked beneath the surface.
…The sea was so calm, however, that I should think she could have sailed right over them without issue, if she’d been so inclined.
She was difficult to make out as she passed through the golden arch of the Door, twinkling in its reflected light, but I could still just about see her waving to me. I waved back from the island’s shore, and she disappeared safely through.
A minute or so later, the Door faded away.
And the sun rose high on a new day.
I’m still here.
In the ‘other’ lighthouse, of course, but still doing my job as a keeper. I’m perfectly happy. As I said to you at the start, I like my peace. I really do enjoy my solitude. My wife was always the social one. She’ll be happy to return to her friends and family. To spend time in the village on the mainland. She’s got five years of catchin’ up to do, after all! Though I’m not sure how she’ll ever explain it!
…There’s a village here too though, you might be interested to know. That’s where I got my new boat. The little town lies beyond the cliffs of shining black stone, and is occupied by a strange and curious folk indeed. They’re not much for conversation… but, that’s a tale for another day, methinks.
For now though, I’ll keep doing my duty. Together with my wife, we’ll ensure the twin beams are always manned.
…And once a month… once a month on the very same night, the glittering Door beyond the waves returns…
As agreed with the echo of old Mad Jack, the fellow takes over the lighthouse for me. He doesn’t mind. He can manage. It’s only one night per month, after all.
And I sail across the waters.
I sail across the waters to spend the night with my wife.
Through the glimmer of the glittering Door.