Prose Feb 2011

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Into the Gathering Storm

by Diane Davis

At first the voice was lost amidst the cries of the seagulls. The squawking was an integral part of the soundtrack of his life at the lighthouse, so he paid no mind to it. Sean didn’t know when his ear separated the sounds, but when it did, he laid aside his book and went to the window to peer into the greying day. A flutter of white amidst the rough tumble of rocks caught his eye.

“What on earth?” He pulled on his coat and checked the pocket for his gun, then shoved his feet into his gum boots. He slipped out the door and paused in the shelter of the porch to brace himself against the cold. He squinted into the gathering dark. The icy wind stopped the breath in his throat, but it was the sight of the girl that made his heart stumble and then race.

She looked like a red-headed wraith, with skin as pale as the filmy white dress she wore. She hopped from rock to rock, as carefree as a wee child, oblivious to the quickening wind and piling clouds. Crazy lady will catch her death, he thought. But not on my watch.

“Miss! You mustn’t be here,” he called. He picked his way through the jagged outcroppings. One wrong step and he could twist his ankle. A rock slid and he bobbled but caught his balance. A curse slipped from his lips.

A snippet of song tickled his ear. He paused. She’s singing? Sheesh! What a nut!

“Miss, there’s a storm brewing,” he said, louder in case she couldn’t hear well. He squinted into the darkening evening. Rain began to fall. Great. The treacherous rocks would soon be slippery and even more treacherous. Thunder rumbled and lightning arced, illuminating the finger of land the lighthouse stood on. The woman was a stone’s throw away.

“Come inside with me, miss. You’re going to get soaked and catch your death.”

She laughed, a tinkling trill that thrilled him in spite of himself and the situation. She danced away across a dozen more rocks with the agility of a mountain goat.

He was surprised by his next action. He followed, not because he wanted to, but because he felt compelled. What game was this? She was a witch, for sure. “Please, you must come inside. I’ve a fire and some hot coffee to warm you.”

Fat raindrops fell faster and harder. He pushed himself, determined to catch her and drag her inside if need be. She stopped just out of reach, perched on a large boulder. For the first time she turned and looked at him.

Peace washed through his being in a warm flood. The world faded in the brilliance of her beauty. She smiled and a single word echoed in his mind. Stay.

Urgency seeped away and calm replaced it. He sat down without looking around because he couldn’t break away from her gaze. He was right where he should be, where he needed to be. He no longer felt the cold and wet. He was safe.

The air crackled. A split second later a ragged shaft of lightning stabbed the lighthouse with a mighty crash that reverberated all around him. Sean threw his arms over his head. The ground shook, and a deep rumbling vibrated through his body, going on and on until he thought the peninsula would slide off into the sea. He clutched the boulder as though it could save him.

Instinct made him look up in time to see the lighthouse collapse into a smoking pile of rubble. Its light was extinguished. If not for the woman, he would have died there. Had she known? Did someone send her?

“Who are you?” he asked, but when he turned, she was gone. A gust of cold, rainy wind broke over him and he shivered. He looked once more at the mound of debris that used to be his home. It seemed he had a guardian angel. Praise the Lord she’d been on the job tonight. He wrapped his arms around himself and set off for the town. He had four miles to come up with a plausible explanation. First he needed to figure out for himself what happened.

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