R.J. Miller, “Lighthouse 43”

October’s Final Days, Honorable Mention, Fiction

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The jingle of keys in the distance brought me back to the present. Lately I’ve had more and more moments where I’m pulled back to my past. Who could blame me? Being stuck in this cold, dark, wet hell hole would make anyone reminisce.

“Where did you go there, boy?” Mickey said.

Mickey was the tough old bastard in charge of Lighthouse 43. My current place of residence. He was a stout man, broad shouldered and strong. His hair and beard had gone grey a long time ago. He wore all black from his boots up to his peacoat and watch cap. His stormy grey eyes were fixed on me as he fingered a ring with old iron keys that hinted at untold secrets.

I hiked up my shoulders and turned up the collar on my coat. The bite of the wind-swept sea stung my face and ears.

“Back home. In Arizona.” I said.

Mickey let out a laugh, deep and full. I looked at him, the humor escaping me completely. I tucked my hands in my coat pockets so he wouldn’t see my clenched fists.

“You’re gonna have to put that aside, son. If you’re to make it here, forget your life back home. You’re an apprentice of the lighthouse now. Did you finish reading the manual yet?”

Truth be told, I hadn’t finished it. I spent the better part of the day going through the tome, but it was difficult and technical reading. I wasn’t exactly top of my class back home, but I wasn’t going to be sent back. As much as I wanted to be anywhere but here.

“No. But I’ve read a fair amount.” I said.

Mickey gave me a curt nod and turned back to the gate. He put in one of the iron keys and turned, the lock made a loud clang as the bolt slid closed. He removed his key and gave the gate a sharp tug. Satisfied, he headed back towards me.

“That’s more than I can say for my first day. I fell asleep trying to get through the damn thing.” He smiled back at me and gave me a quick pat on the shoulder. “This way” he called back over his shoulder as he walked past me on our way to the main building. I shook my head and followed. Apparently, it was time for the tour.

Lighthouse 43 was a bit of a complex. The main tower was three floors high and rhythmic white light shone from the top. The lighthouse was built on the edge of the sea; nothing was around for miles and miles.

I followed Mickey up the stairs, and we entered the first floor. When the door slammed closed behind me, I was swallowed up by silence. The absence of sound was jarring. The crashing waves were almost deafening just moments ago. Mickey was already up the stairs and to the second floor and I had to run to catch up. The third story was made of floor to ceiling windows, with a massive bulb overhead.

“Wow. This view must be amazing in the daytime.” I said.

Mickey nodded. “But it is the night that counts, son.”

“To the ships that count on us.” I said back.

Mickey gave me a look that made me swallow hard.

“This lighthouse does not stop ships from crashing into the shores. We defend the world from what is beyond.. in the Darkness.”

My blood turned cold and the flesh on my arms and neck crawled. “From what?” I stammered.

Just then, a large flash of white light erupted in the distance. Both of us turned towards the pinprick of light in the darkness. Then there was another. Followed by another.

“Are those ships?” I asked.

Mickey didn’t take his eyes off the horizon. He unbuttoned his coat and withdrew a large pistol from its depths. With his other hand, he pressed a large red button that I hadn’t noticed before. The lights inside the room suddenly turned red and the beacon of light we were standing in hummed.

“Not hardly.” Mickey said.

Suddenly, a pulse of blue light and heat shot out from the lamp overhead. The light turned dark blue and burned brightly in the distance before flickering out. The beacon shot out again and again, rotating slightly each time. The lighthouse was tracking whatever was out there.

“What is out…”

A loud crashing sound came from below and cut me off. Mickey gave me a stern look and we headed to the door and looked down.

“Cabinet over to the right.” Mickey said, tossing me his keys. “Quickly.”

I raced over to the cabinet, fingers fumbling with keys until I found the right one. I reached inside and pulled out the strangest shotgun I had ever seen. I racked the slide once and took up a position on the other side of Mickey. The pulsing canon had stopped and all that I could hear was my short, ragged breathing and the slow clicking of something coming up the stairwell. A black tentacle suddenly shot through the doorway and went through Mickey’s chest. He pointed his gun straight ahead and fired, over and over. The creature forced itself through the doorway, pushing Mickey back as it came through.

I raised my gun point plank and fired a single burst into the creature. The echo rang through the small room and both figures fell to the floor.  I rushed over to Mickey who spat up blood on the floor. He gripped my hand once and then he was gone.

I am now the keeper of the keys. If I survive the night, I will brave the darkness and hold fast. Let this journal entry stand witness if I fall. I can hear more knocking on the steel door below, and slow clicks coming from the stairwell.  

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