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Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Action/Adventure · #2321229
A lighthouse keeper investigates a flashing light in a storm.

This was the third night of the storm. From the window near the top of the winding staircase, Arnold watched the dark ocean heaving and raging at the lighthouse’s foundation rock. Lightning gave sudden, startling visions of the rain and wind wrestling with the waves and the intermittent beam from the lantern above swept through the night, veiled in squalls of spray and driven rain.

Arnold hadn’t seen a storm this bad for more than five years. And that was the one that had taken the Henrietta Marques. He’d been assistant keeper at the time and he and old Harry Norne had had gone out into the storm to rescue those they could.

There hadn’t been many.

Most of the crew were gone, either ripped apart when the old ship broke her back on the rocks, or drowned and smashed between the lashing waves and hard bones of the tiny island. It was a sad, half frozen little group that huddled in the shelter of the lighthouse when all hope had gone.

The constant vibration under his feet, caused by the ocean’s hammering away at the lighthouse rock, brought Arnold back to the present. He was the keeper now, promoted after Harry’s death last spring. And no assistant had been appointed as yet.

Not that Arnold minded. He preferred his own company and the daily routine of maintenance demanded by the job. A new workmate would only force him to adjust his ways to fit with another. Arnold was not good with societal niceties and he knew it. That was why he’d applied for the job in the first place.

And then, in the darkness interrupted at intervals by the lightning and the lantern beam, he saw another light, just a flash, far off and close to the horizon. His eyes narrowed in the effort to pierce the darkness and see the light again. It came, another brief stab of light, and was gone.

It had to be a ship, way out in the ocean and deep in the troughs between the waves, its masthead light showing only when the vessel was carried high enough on the swell. Arnold watched intently as the light came again and again.

He expected it to travel in a westerly direction, the usual route past his little outpost. But the light stayed resolutely in one place, only growing slightly brighter as time passed. Arnold realised that the ship must be heading directly toward him, as though attracted like a moth to the lighthouse lantern. But surely the crew must know that his light meant something to be avoided, that he warned only of danger that could kill them all?

Still the light grew brighter, and now it held steady for longer, only swinging in great arcs through the blackness as the ship rode the waves. It looked as though…

Arnold turned away, hurried down the stairs, taking huge steps in his haste. Once down on the ground floor, he threw open the closet and yanked his oilskins from the peg. It was a matter of moments before he had shrugged his way into them, then he was kicking off his shoes, to be replaced with his high, waterproof boots. The sou’wester was last and then he was rattling at the door handle, desperate to drag it open. The wind sucked at it from outside, as though bent on preventing him, and then suddenly relented and bent its full force on it.

The door slammed open and Arnold fought his way through the gale to exit the house. The shock of the cold and wind battered at him so that he stumbled but he held his own against it, determined that, if the ship were going to wreck upon his rock, he be there to help the men to safety. He staggered to the seaward side of the lighthouse.

The ship’s light was closer now, visible most of the time, and the great, dark bulk of the vessel sensed rather than seen, below it. It was very close. Arnold braced himself against the wall of the lighthouse and waited for the ship to hurl itself on the rocks. There was no way to warn it of the danger and too late for it to turn aside. It came on, growing taller and darker as its vague outline began to hide the lightning flashes from far out at sea.

On came the enormous darkness until it towered over Arnold and he realised the danger that he himself was in. At this rate and course, the ship must crash directly on to the rocks, riding them until it reached the lighthouse and crushed him like a bug beneath its vast weight.

Pinned against the wall by the ferocity of the gale, Arnold watched in horror as the bows towered above him, seemingly pausing for a brief moment as the hull groaned and shrieked across the rocks. And then the lightning flashed immediately overhead, illuminating the scene in a white light of intense and searing brightness. Arnold could read the name of the ship in that instant, in clear white lettering emblazoned either side of the bow.

Henrietta Marques it read.

And then the ship disappeared and Arnold was left alone, untouched, in the howling rain and wind.

Word count: 880
For: "Game of Thrones" The North Remembers, Travel Marvel, Prompt 9
Prompt: Set your story in a lighthouse surrounded by powerful gale-force winds.
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