SOMETIMES IT'S BETTER TO DROWN - FREE COMPLETE STORY - HOUSE OF HORRORS!
It was a beacon to all who saw it—a place of safety, a haven from harm. No one knew how long it guided ships, nor was it known how many were saved, plucked from the angry seas and certain death.
The guardians of the keep sat watch, never faltering—ever constant in their vigil. So devoted were they.
The lighthouse keeper and his granddaughter often sat staring out at the sea, wondering if a ship would lose its way, wondering if those in peril on the sea would need their help.
“We shall bring them ashore if they need us, Emily. We shall do whatever it takes to draw them forth from the angry waves.”
The girl smiled and dimpled as her grandfather reached out to touch her golden hair.
How he loved her.
“You are Emily the fairest and the dearest thing in the world to me!”
She smiled for she loved her grandfather.
She loved, too the quiet life of the lighthouse. Yet though it was quiet, there was enough to do, for there were so many jobs. Her granddad did most of them but she helped. She lit the lamp at sunset and put it out at sunrise, filling it with kerosene each day.
She tidied the place too sweeping and cleaning the tower and the stairs and all around besides.
Her grandfather had enough to do, not only maintaining the lighthouse but seeing to it that there were candles and blankets for those in need.
Sometimes they were too late or ineffectual and they’d find drowned men, scattered on their island shore like so much flotsam. They hated that as it was such a waste of humanity.
At times like those they’d shake their heads and hope to be more successful in the future. They could only hope.
Then on a particular day, shortly after dusk they knew they were in for something major. They heard how the winds picked up for now great, violent gales were causing the windows to rattle noisily in their wooden frames.
“A great storm is brewing, Grandfather!”
He knew it too, for he could hear the thundering noise bounding up all around them. It sounded as though the place would be brought down upon their heads.
The lighthouse shook and the fire in the grate soon died, as the gusts blew down the chimney extinguishing it.
He lit another for it was best to be prepared. “No telling who might be here ‘afore much longer, Em!”
She nodded and smiled and soon settled back to see what the night brought.
They were conversing quietly; he was reading poetry to her or trying to for he could see she was distracted by the noise of the wind and the intermittent creak of wood. The lighthouse groaned for 400 years and was likely to groan for another 400.
“I shall put the light on—come child we shall see if there are any ships about!”
They climbed the winding stairs and though they tried to brace themselves they still gasped as the cold air hit them. It was something they could never get used to.
They saw it almost immediately. There was one, small fishing boat, pitching up sharply with each giant wave. It looked so precarious being thrown about as though it were a toy.
“Look there, do you see?”
She nodded. “They are done for. I shall go out with the lantern!”
She hurried down the stairs and onto the shore waving the lantern over her head.
“Over here, make your way here, to our lighthouse beacon! It is the only way!”
They both watched then; Grandfather from his tower and Emily from the shore.
It was hard to see, for it was deep night and the sky was moonless. But then a wondrous thing happened. The ship began firing flares, great red flares that burst almost gaily overhead. How they crackled and exploded.
“They’re coming Grandfather!”
A lifeboat was headed straight toward them. But it hit one of the rocks and was split asunder as its cargo of half-drowned men was tossed ashore.
There were ten men at least, lying about, trying to crawl, calling out for help, begging and pleading to be saved.
When they saw they were saved, they wept.
“Bless you and thank you!”
“There now, you shall share our food and rest beside our fire. You are safe now.”
Some of the men laughed with the joy of relief, others were stony silent, seeming to disbelieve they had come to safety.
They were given dry clothes and blankets, and something hot to drink. It was for them, a miracle.
Their eyes followed Emily about--grateful eyes, shining with tears. Watching this beautiful young girl and calling her an angel.
For she was one to them.
“Aye you are that Miss, a golden haired angel sent from heaven!”
This, from the youngest of the men, a lad already stirred by love.
How grandfather beamed for he was pleased.
“Sleep now, and be at peace for a watery grave shall not be your home!”
The men nodded and smiled and bade their two saviors good night.
It was quiet then. And Grandfather and Emily smiled at one another and closed the door for they could already hear the even breathing of their guests.
“They sleep so soon.”
“They are tired and need rest.”
“Aye, but we don’t.”
Emily giggled and was quieted. “Shh, my dear. We must begin our preparations.”
There was truly a great deal to prepare. This was to be no massacre, for their bounty would be ruined.
The men would not be slaughtered out right. That would never do. Emily was always the anxious one. So eager to begin.
“Patience is a virtue.”
“Yes, Grandfather I understand.”
She hadn’t always understood. She had made a right mess of things. Done proper carnage in her time, torn flesh apart and feasted wildly like a hungry animal.
Her grandfather taught her. “There must be order to our existence. For without it we should have no nobility. And truly that would not be acceptable.”
She understood then and she understood now. After all, as Granddad taught her something worth doing is worth doing well.
She smiled and hugged him. “We shall keep them alive so that we may enjoy their blood and flesh and eat to our fill."
“Yes, there is no rush. Let us savor what the sea has chosen to give us.”
“Offerings from the eternal sea, I like that!”
They were pleased with their existence, not that it hadn’t been fraught with worry on occasion.
Grandfather sighed. “We have been here so long, my child, we fear leaving the island, though it could be the cause of our destruction by starvation! What weak-willed creatures of the night we are.”
Emily smiled, for she was already licking her lips and thinking of that which she would soon be consuming. Not only the rich, ruby blood but great quantities of living flesh.
“I wished for good fortune and it has come, I am grateful as well as happy! But I must tell you I cannot wait long, for it has been too long a wait as it is!”
Grandfather nodded. “Be calm; for I shall get the chains and the long knives now while you set the table for our feast!”
The youngest of the fishermen lived the longest. He felt the chains upon his flesh but he felt their teeth first, teeth feeding quietly, almost delicately.
He saw her then, the golden haired angel. She looked up and smiled and began to feed some more. He listened to the sounds she made.
Was he dreaming? He began to watch her. He saw her hair turn red with his blood as the light grew fainter.
But there was no pain, for he was past it and past caring too and embraced death as a friend.
© 2012 Carole Gill
"Carole Gill’s talent is a wonder to experience. She has the uncanny ability to craft horrors imbued in fairy tale finesse. The dreamy landscape of her imagination flows across the page with thoughtful, thought-provoking sophistication.
There is no doubt that she soars above the endless parade of independent horror authors to shine as a true star in the darkness. With the brilliant anthology House of Horrors she proves why she is a perennial favorite. To put it simply, this is a great assembly of tales anyone would be proud to have in their collection."