sunset sky over sea and lighthouse located on hill

The Lighthouse Keeper

28 Days of Flash — Lucky 13 of 28

As Thomas climbed the 203 steps up the center of the lighthouse, he whistled a song he wrote himself which had exactly 203 notes. It made him smile to fill the echoing tower with music whenever he had to make his way to the top, whether it was to clean the glass, maintain the wick, or light the torch. It was his own ritual, and it made the job of keeping the building and its lifesaving lamp more entertaining day after day.

Speaking of which, the days had been lovely of late. He didn’t remember a single storm passing by in weeks. Maybe longer. The lighthouse’s interior gleamed a lovely bright white, and the exterior brick hadn’t a single spot of missing paint, thanks to his tireless effort.

As he got to the top of the stairs, he referred to the checklist hanging on a peg near the door. Another ritual he had completed since his first day here when relying on the checklist was a necessity. Nowadays, it was another ritual comfort which helped him to stay alert.

After lighting the lamp and setting the wick, he paused to look out over the sea. Calm and beautiful, he turned and began a prelude to his stair whistling tune when he heard something strange. A crackle.

Not quite like paper being bunched up, but more like a small, contained version of a lightning strike. That kind of crackle. The hairs on his arm stood up. He looked back out at the calm sea. The stars were starting to peek out from the inky blackness. No clouds, no lightning. He shook his head. Maybe he was hearing things.

Stepping on the top stair, he began whistling his tune. The crackle surfaced again. This time it was slightly louder. He put his index fingers in both ears and gave each a vigorous wiggle. When he removed them, he began his tune, but more quiet this time. That’s when something whistled back.

“Who’s there?” He yelled, peering down the central circle of the lighthouse. He stood completely still. The crackle was in the air, and again, a whistle.

“Jerry, is that you?” he called out.

It would be like Jerry Johnson to sneak into the lighthouse on a day when everything had been so ordinary. But Thomas was certain he had locked the door prior to his ascent. “Jerry?”

Something that sounded like a far off whisper attached itself to the crackle. “I think it said something like Jerry.” He planted his fingers in his ears again and wiggled them.

He righted himself, took a deep breath, and marched down the stairs, yelling.

“Jerry, I know it’s you. You can give it up now. I’m heading down, and when I catch you I am going to give you the biggest punch in the arm!” he announced. He began singing the Star Spangled Banner at the top of his lungs. He couldn’t hear anything but himself, which was fine with him.

Thomas was nearing the bottom when the entire lighthouse went dark. He stopped singing.

“Okay, Jerry. Very funny turning off the lights.”

Thomas made his way to the master switch by memory and flipped the lights back on.

No one was there, least of all Jerry, but that far-off voice whispered again on the trail of the electric crackle. This time it sounded like, “who’s there?”

Thomas decided to act fed up as opposed to terrified.

“It’s Thomas McCoy, you very well know me, Jerry.” Thomas kept with the thought it was his friend pulling a prank.

Yet as he stood there, staring at the light switch, he watched it turn itself off.

“Oh sweet Jesus, Mother Mary, and Joseph!” Thomas yelled. He held his chest and stumbled backwards.

The whisper lilted up again on the crackling sound.

“Was that praying?”

Thomas ran to the switch and turned the lights on. He yelled, “I don’t know what you are or why you’re here, but in the name of the Lord I command you to leave!”

He stood holding the switch in the ON position, and holding his ground, as well. He felt the slightest jiggle under his fingers. The switch was trying to move by itself.

“I’ve had about enough of this! You need to leave!” Thomas yelled.

The whisper found its way through the air again. “Is your name Thomas?”

He let go of the switch and decided to be bold.

“I told you my name. Yes, it’s Thomas McCoy!” His breathing had become exasperated, and he was getting dizzy. He staggered backward to a chair and sat down, incredulous.

As he caught his breath, he swore there was another whisper. He couldn’t be sure, but it sounded like, “Dude, that chair just moved and I caught it.”

Thomas furrowed his brow and shook his head. “The chair is on the ground. How could you possibly have caught it? And who is ‘dude’?” He said with more confusion than fear.

He placed his elbows on his knees and leaned forward, focusing intently on the atmosphere and slowing his breath. Out of the ether, a faint red light appeared in front of him. And it was blinking. The whisper came from thin air the crackling static.

“We can hear you. Can you say something?”

Thomas pushed himself up to standing. With all of his breath in his loudest voice, he screamed, “Whoever and whatever you are, GO AWAY!”

Thomas ran to the lighthouse stairs and ran to the top. The lighthouse torch wouldn’t go out. The torch would keep him safe from whatever was here. Was this the beginning of his own descent into madness? He couldn’t be sure.

He sat with his back against the wall opposite the door at the top of the stairs. The sounds of footsteps and that infernal crackling sound and whispering went on half the night. He finally dozed off.

It was the first of many nights his routine would be disrupted.

* * *

Tanner found a rock near the base of the lighthouse and settled on it to record his final thoughts. Raising his phone in front of his face with the video rolling, he said, “That’s a wrap on this lighthouse investigation in Florida. We had a ton of activity right off the bat, but once we settled down to go to sleep, it calmed down. I’m so glad that we did this investigation and got some proof that Thomas is still here, even though dying at the top of this lighthouse probably wasn’t in his plans.”


About Christine Wilcox Anderson

Writer, former corporate communications exec, and perpetual student of life on this rock.
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