Stay Lit

February 27, 2017

"That light must never go out," explained the old lighthouse operator for the hundredth time. "It’s not for the ships out there in the sea...they haven't needed us for hundreds of years. It's the people here on land who'll suffer if that light ever goes out...Hey! Pay attention!"
I quickly snapped my gaze back to the old woman. She had caught me staring out over the sprawling town below. "Sorry Ma’am," I said flatly.
"What’d I say?" She crossed her arms and looked at me impatiently. I dunno why she’s being so persistent about this. I’ve been getting the same speech since I began my apprenticeship.
"We’ve gotta keep the light on."
"Uh-huh," she barked. "But there's more to it than that. This light protects us from the dark."
“Yuuuup," I said, drawing it out. I was much more interested in the way the waves were lapping up against a bloated carcass on the beach
"If you don't make sure it stays lit, you'll have damned every person in that town to horrors you can’t imagine." A seagull landed and started picking at the corpse.
"David?" Another seagull swooped in from the sky. It started fighting with the other one over a scrap of meat hanging into the sand.
“David!” The old woman shouted at me. I jumped, then turned to meet her stern gaze.
She shook her head at me and glared. "Tonight is your first night tending the lighthouse by yourself. Can you do this?"
I nodded. "I've been apprenticing here three months. I think you've shown me the ropes," I said, a twinge of sarcasm creeping into my voice. All I got in response was a heavy sigh.
The night came, and I was ready. The job of lighthouse keeper is painfully simple, I really don’t know why it’s the tradition to have the valedictorian of our local high school tend the lighthouse for a week. We have a massive light that runs off a massive bank of batteries. When the batteries charge gets low, a light blinks and the system beeps at you. You flick a switch to charge them back up. The pattern of the light is all preprogrammed, I don’t even have to touch anything. I spent the last three months training for hypotheticals that will never happen.
Time passes slowly when there’s nothing to do but stare at an unlit light bulb. I pulled out my phone and surfed around for a while, but I couldn’t stop the boredom coming on. Hours pass. My legs stiffen up. Time to get up for a stretch.
I saunter over to the window, the stars are beautiful at this time of night. Resting my chin on my hand, I admire the cosmos. I should bring a telescope up here to pass these long and lonely nights…
Is that someone down there on the beach? I squint my eyes. A flash of blonde hair gets caught in the wind. What the hell? I know that hair. She’s screaming something...I can’t hear.
“Help!!” Oh my god. That’s my sister.
“Help!!” She screams again. I dash from the window. Down the stairs. So many stairs. It feels like an hour when I finally burst through the door at the bottom. I dash out onto the sand, my feet sinking in and robbing all of my energy. Where is she? There! By the water!
My lungs are on fire, my legs are screaming, I draw closer. I’m a hundred yards away. Fifty. Ten. What the hell? She’s standing up, but that’s not the girl I’ve known my whole life. Something’s different, something’s wrong. She smiles. That smile isn’t even close to human. It’s too big, way too big. She walks backwards into the sea and disappears beneath the waves, but that smile is etched into my vision.
I stumble back onto the sand and fall on my butt. I start scrambling up the beach, needing to get as far away from that unearthly imitation of my sister as I can. The lighthouse keeps the beach bathed in the same comforting light that I’ve known my whole life, but it doesn’t feel the same. I whip my head around, hearing things in every breath of wind. Ever dancing shadow becomes a menace.
Then the light starts to dim.
“S***!” I scream out into the night. The batteries must be losing their charge. I jump to my feet and begin a mad dash back to the lighthouse. It’s getting darker. My breath is already gone, my legs collapse from under me. The sand rushes up to meet my face, and I’m lost in how soft it is. This is better than any feather bed.
“NO!” I scream at myself, my eyes snapping open. I force myself up, will my legs to carry me back to the lighthouse. I’m a hundred yards away and the light is fading faster. I’m losing sight of the door in the darkness.
Finally, I reach the door and throw it open. The endless stairs rise up in front of me, and my legs beg for a break. I raise them, one after the other, eating up the stairs. Then my foot slips on the slick rock, and I fall. I throw my hands out in desperation, but my head slams into the dense stairs.
Everything goes blurry. The lights are flickering in the stairway. A loud snap echoes down the stairwell and everything goes black. For the first time in hundreds of years, the lighthouse has gone dark. The fuzziness melts out of my vision and I’m up, dashing back up the stairs.
Then, from the town, I hear tortured screaming.

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TheEvergreenThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Mar. 2 at 12:14 pm
Oh my gosh! I really hope you can write a second part to this! Also, extra description and background info would be great - I, and probably many other readers want to know what happens next! This is novel-quality entertainment.
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