The ship sailed smoothly on the cold, dark open waters. There was an icy chill in the salty air as they approached the crag on the horizon. And it was there that he saw it, the lighthouse, his new home. The black tower stood out like a great beacon in the storm, it’s light spinning ever on.
The rain pittered down Walter’s spectacles, and he watched as Carrion Isle approached slowly, the grey rocks rose high into the black torrential sky, an ominous sight to be sure, but he realized that he would have to make this deserted island a home, if he was ever to keep his precious sanity.
It had been two nights of hard sea travel since they left port, and Walter knew that his duties would continue far after he was dropped off at that cruel rock; That tiresome realization was all it took to send him down a narrow road of restlessness.
The grizzled sea captain Moore was looking out into the sea before he turned to face the new keeper in the eyes.“Where are ye from lad?” He said softly, almost warmly.
“New Orleans sir…”
“New Orleans!” Moore cut in, “Fine town. Fine town indeed. Been once or twice, out on a fishing expedition in the gulf I was. Though the stink swelled me very nose out to here!” Moore gestured.
Walter smiled, “And what about you, sir? Where are you from?”
“By golly boy! The sea! That’s where I’m from! And that is where I so shall return! As will you, if ye maintain this here particular job!”
“What do you mean by that?”
“The lighthouse association requires men to staff and command the barges and ships in between the island and the mainland. Ye could find a good job working with them if ye can prove yerself to the right folk…”
Walter thought about it a moment, but soon thought of other, better questions to ask, “What is the island like?”
“Foul, dirty, shit-smelling! Ha, her! It is a beautiful crag nonetheless. That is what you mainlanders call the “eye of the beholder!” You will come to love it in your own way as well, just ye wait! Har!”
Walter was not so sure, “Why am I the only keeper scheduled for the eight weeks…”
“Ah, ah, ah! Hush now lad. Best not go prying where you’re not meant to pry! The association would not like that! Not one bit. Ya see, they are very strict on the rules. Especially here, at Carrion!”
“Cheer up lad! Eight weeks is not so bad.
“So you say…”
“Did I ask for ye insolence? Nay, nay I did not! Watch yer tongue, or ye will lose it!”
“I meant no disrep…”
Moore cut him off, “Save it lad! We’re here!”
Walter began a reply, but Moore had already turned and left at that point. They landed about seven o’clock in the morning, right on the west side of the isle. The landing perimeter was little more than a sandbar with a few windswept rocks here and there, so they had to make the rest of the sail by skiff. Captain Moore accompanied him on his last journey on that catalytic day, that evil day. Walter very nearly expunged his stomach contents overboard as they made a rough landing at the edge of Carrion Isle.
Colonel Moore handed him his pack, and helped him unload a few crates of supplies, the supplies that were meant to last him eight weeks; And those supplies themselves had been doubled, as for redundancy. And after all of the supplies had been unloaded, the old salt of a captain turned to Walter and spoke in a high voice, a voice worthy of authority… A voice that seemed to channel the sea whenever it came from Moore’s wet, whisky-smelling gob, “It is not me wish to leave ye alone on this rock. But you are here nonetheless. I expect you to perform yer duties as instructed in yer manual. Is that clear?”
“That’s a good lad! We’ll make a lighthouse keeper out of you yet! Good luck lad, and I will see ye in eight weeks!”
With that, Captain Moore descended back into the skiff, and sailed off into the black oceans.
The keeper’s house was connected to the main lighthouse by a little causeway that ran up a small hill into the side of the tower. Walter did not feel at home here. In fact, it seemed like a force was telling him to depart, to flee, to sail away… But he soldiered on anyway, paying no regards to his weak feelings.
There was a foul stench in the air, and the island radiated a wicked energy, and unbeknownst to Walter, a foul enemy was lurking beyond the waters.
And so the new keeper came into his little home and unpacked his things, so unbearably naive of the situation, so unbearably stupid. The house was no more than fifteen feet in length, and little more than nine foot in width, and it was cramped and cluttered with a bit there and a bob here. Salt and rushes were thrown about the floor as if there was no order and structure to the sanctity of this decrepit place. And there were stains too! Oh God the stains. How they stank and blotched up the walls, lord knows what foul ingredient could have caused the discoloring, but Walter paid little attention, and he put it out of mind.
The little house had two floors, the upper story was the living quarters, and below was meant for the day to day activities such as cooking and cleaning; Though proper maintenance of the establishment must have been wavered in favor of more salacious activities, and that would very much explain more the erratic stains.
Walter lugged his belongings up the stairs and plopped them next to a little cot by the wall. There were six cots in total all about the quarters, which left Walter to wonder why he was alone on this isle, when he could, and mayhaps should have been joined by an altogether more experienced keeper. Moore and the Lighthouse association simply gave him a handbook to read, and when old Walter had read it and returned, they questioned him little on the fundamentals of lighthouse care (Albeit a very dull subject of conversation!).
He began to sit down on the little cot when he saw three little rats scurry from a little hole in the innards of the mattress. He jumped away and clung to the side of the wall, for he hated rats, mice, and general small abominable creatures he deemed ‘Unsanitary’. He was always a prude for unclean things, preferring to clean and sanitize the smallest of grimes. So he simply removed the mattress and laid his belongings on the rack that lay mattressless.
That day he would not do much, other than prepare for the upcoming eight weeks, which hung on his shoulders like a burden. And so that night he took to reading a good book by the fire, and thereafter inscribed the details of the job into his little journal.
He put on a warm fire in the cramped fireplace, and smoked on his pipe. The rain slowly dripped down the window as poor Walter began to doze off, completely unaware.
There came a storm that night that rattled the house. The rain poured down the windows, harder and faster. Then the thunder came, and knocked Walter from his seat, sending him onto the foul ground. He wiped his eyes slowly and cursed before standing up and bending down to retrieve his book and glasses, when he thought he had seen something outside the window. He bolted upright and gazed out into the storm, and there was nothing but the cold. Strange.
He yawned and retreated upstairs to finally get some easy rest. He slept on the floors that night, surrounded by thin sheets and blankets that were thoroughly washed. And that morning he woke up stiffer than the floorboards. Somehow, the rain had seeped in through thin cracks in the walls which soaked him from head to toe. He would find no comfort on that first night. There was a chill that sent him curled up from head to toe whilst he clung to his thin bedspread.
The wind beat on the boards of his little shack, the subtle pounding upon the glass, like a tapping, or a knocking on the walls. The sound of the sea slammed against the black shore, which could be seen from Walter’s little window. Again and again the sea smacked the desolate coast, again and again. Again and again.
He awoke with a start, a rattle, a jump. In the dim darkness of the upper quarters. His breeches were soaked and tattered about his waist like a sick flap of greasy skin. He pulled himself from the damp blankets and rubbed his eyes.
He removed his soaked clothing and replaced them for a stained set of navy blue waders and boots. This morning he would seal the leaks and cracks of his new home. The water was enough to send him over the edge.
He spent hours in the hot sun, beating down nails, and holding down boards. He was no good with tools, so he often slammed the hammer into his thumb or forefinger, the crimson blood oozing from the wound like a leaky faucet that had overflowed.
He just sucked the blood out, and kept going. There was no first aid or medical staff at Carrion, so he had to make do on his own. That was one luxury he would miss.
There was a calm that came over Walter when he worked. Which was not something he had when working in corporate business, a field he so desperately hated. Which was a primary reason for his acceptance of the job. He needed a little get away, in a far off fairy tale land. And though his first night was rough, he honestly believed that his conditions would improve, and he’d find his stay at Carrion somewhat enjoyable.
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