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Lady Of The Lighthouse

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November 1st 2012  |  1  |  Category: Fiction , Suspense  |  Author: Adrien Leduc  |  1796 views

The Lady of the Lighthouse
“Carl. This isn’t funny, Carl.”
Still nothing. I step quietly on to the first step. Waiting. Listening.
I’ve never liked going into our attic. It’s dark, creepy, and always cold due to the lack of insulation and the numerous slits and holes in the ceiling. Dad swears he’ll get around to fixing it up real nice someday. But he’s been saying that for years now and until he does, Mom, Carl Junior, and I prefer to stay clear of it.
I shiver as I climb to the second step. “Carl?”
He’s up to one of his scare tactics again. I know this because when I tried the light switch, the light didn’t come on; my brother’s calling card. For the past year, at least once a week, he’ll unscrew the light bulb in the basement or the office and hide, waiting for one of us to go in before jumping out and yelling “BOO!” It’s usually me or my dad because he knows mom will ground him if he scares her. Not having such parental privileges though, I’m forced to grin and bear it.
“Carl?”
I could just wait him out. Not go up. Yell, “Bye, Carl! See ya, Carl!”, slam the door and lock it behind me. But I promised Lacey my old aquarium and darn it if she and her mom weren’t waiting in their car outside I’d turn around right now. Instead I’m stuck peering up a dark, wooden stairway just waiting for my younger brother to jump out and scare the Dickens out of me.
“Carl?”
I move up to the third step. Just ten more to go. Lucky number thirteen.
“Carl. If you scare me, I’ll tell everyone at school you still sleep with your Mighty Mouse doll!”
Still nothing.
Darn it, Carl.
I climb to the fourth step. Maybe it would be better to just get it over with real quick. Like pulling a Band-Aid.
I count silently to three then dart up the stairs.
“AHHH!”
It’s Carl and he’s wearing his Halloween mask and I’m hearing myself scream and then I’m running back downstairs and he’s chasing me all the way to the bottom.
“Carl!”
He’s rolling on the floor laughing.
“You should have seen your face!”
“Carl Lipton Junior! You’re going to pay for that!”
He’s not even listening now he’s laughing so hard and I step over him and climb the stairs into the attic to fetch the aquarium, all the while thinking how sweet it would be to scare him so bad he would never pull a stunt like that again.

# # #

My dad, Carl Lipton III, happens to be somewhat famous in Texas. Well, let me re-phrase that because it depends on how you define ‘famous’. He’s an author, see. And he writes a lot of books and papers and he lectures at the university and lots of people seem to want to talk to him. Though I can’t imagine why because he writes about…promise you won’t laugh? Okay. He writes about…lighthouses. The lighthouses of the South to be exact. Louisiana, Alabama, South Carolina. He can’t get enough of them.
So I wasn’t surprised when, at breakfast the following morning, he announced that we would all be going to spend the following weekend exploring the Aransas Pass Lighthouse near Aransas Pass, a small town outside Corpus Christi.
“That’s a long drive, dad,” I say, reaching for a fresh slice of warm toast.
“It is a long drive, Sarah. About eight hours. But it’s a nice opportunity to spend some time together as a family.”
“And boy do we need it,” my mom interjects, setting the jam and peanut butter on the table. “Your father’s been so busy lately, what with his new book and all.”
Carl Junior groans as he bites into his third slice of toast.
“Don’t you start, young man,” my mom warns, returning to the stove to stir the grits. “And by the way, I’ve decided that you’re grounded this week for scaring your sister yesterday.”
“But, mom! It’s summer!”
I can’t help but smile as I pour myself a glass of orange juice.
“I’ll let you go in the yard.”
“Argh, this isn’t fair! Tommy’s dad’s putting their pool up today and he invited me over.”
“Too bad, mister. You should have thought of that before you scared your sister.”
My brother glares at me and I know he’s already plotting his revenge.

The week flew by and the following Saturday morning we were all packed and loaded into our van, headed for I-20.
“Is there a mall there at least?” I ask, flipping absent-mindedly through my magazine.
“No,” my mom answers stiffly.
Through the corner of my eye I can see Carl Junior smirking at me.
“And even if there was,” she continues, “we’re spending this weekend together as a family. That means no mall, no T.V., and no video games.”
Now it’s my turn to smirk as I look at my brother – clearly shocked by mom’s announcement. The kid only ever leaves the T.V. or sets down his Nintendo DS to eat and use the bathroom – and even that isn’t guarateed. So an entire weekend without T.V. or video games? He’ll die.
“Ow!”
“Sarah,” my dad says sternly from the driver’s seat.
“I didn’t do anything!”
“You cut me,” my brother blurts.
“I didn’t cut you. How could I have cut you? All I did was put my my magazine on the seat.”
“And you cut me. Look.”
Carl Junior holds an arm up and models an inch long paper cut.
“That’s just a scratch,” I say as my mom gives me a reproving stare.
“Hey, I know what’ll get this trip started off on the right foot,” says my dad with gusto, trying way too hard to improve the mood in the van.
“What?” I mutter, gazing hopelessly out the window at my favourite outlet mall as it disappears into the distance.
“A ghost story.”
My brothers’ ears perk up. “A ghost story!?”
“Yeah. And it’s a real one too,” my dad says, trying to sound spooky.
“Oh, God. Do we really have to listen to this, mom?” I ask, though I immediately feel bad for sticking a pin in my dad’s balloon of enthusiasm.
“No, we don’t have to, but we’re going to. Now keep quiet and let your father tell his story.”
“Fine…”
“Well,” my dad begins excitedly, “this story is about the lighthouse at Aransas Pass – the one we’re going to see.”
“Yippee…” I cheer sarcastically.
“Sarah.”
My mom’s voice has an edge to it now and I can tell she’s getting close to her boiling point.
“Anyway,” my dad continues, ignoring my remark, “back in the eighties a professor named John Warren of the University of Texas took two graduate students to Aransas Pass to conduct field studies on Spoonbill nesting patterns.”
“What’s a Spoonbill?” my brother askes.
“It’s a type of bird.”
“Oh. Is it a big bird?”
“They can get pretty big.”
“How big?”
“About the size of a turkey.”
“And why’s it called a Spoonbill? Does its beak look like a spoon?”
“It’s beak, or bill as its refered to when one speaks of water birds, is shaped like a spoon, yes Carl.”
“Neat.”
“It is quite neat,” my dad agrees. “Anyways, they were busy working on the beach – searching for nests and taking photographs and what not – when a storm whipped up. They’d heard the warnings on the radio that morning, but the weather forecasters had said that the system would dissipate before it reached the western end of the Gulf. Well, as usual, they were wrong. And as dark clouds rolled in and the wind began to howl, Professor Warren and his two graduate students, Michael Fishburne and Harriett Matheson, knew they couldn’t make it back into town. So they jump into Professor Warren’s jeep and, desperately seeking shelter, make their way north along the gravel road. They know they can’t be picky – any source of shelter will do – and when Harriett spots the Aransas Pass Lighthouse – Professor Warren doesn’t hesitate to head towards it.”
“Did they make it?”
“Carl Junior, just listen!” my mom snaps.
“They do make it,” my dad continues, ignoring the interruption. “But by the time they arrive, the storm has gotten much worse.”
“Was there thunder and lightning?”
I can almost feel the steam coming from my moms’ ears.
“I believe so. And normally hurricanes don’t have thunder and lightning as those two weather phenomena are formed by vertical winds – ”
“Dad, just get on with the story,” I hear myself say, a little more rudely than I’d intended. Clearly I had become fixated on his story too.
My dad laughs. “Sorry. I forget you guys aren’t geeks like I am.”
I roll my eyes.
“Anyways, the storm had kicked up something awful and they needed to get below ground. The minute they pull up to the old lighthouse keeper’s house – that’s beside the lighthouse tower – they grab whatever they could – a few blankets and some crackers – and make their way inside.”
“Ohhhhh, I know,” said my brother. “The ghost is in there!”
When mom doesn’t scold him, I throw my brother a dirty look. “Just let dad tell the story!”
He huffs and folds his arms as we wait for my dad to continue.
“So, they get inside. And back in the day, it was where the lighthouse keeper and his family had lived. So it was set up like a house – it had a kitchen, a livingroom, and a cellar. Well, as you can probably guess, they decide to head down into the cellar where they’ll be safe underground.”
“Is that what you do in a hurricane – go underground?”
I gape at my brother. “You didn’t know that? And you’re from Texas?”
“We live in Longview. We don’t get hurricanes in Longview. Dummy.”
“I’m not the dummy. You are. It’s the same as when there’s a tornado.”
“Alright, kids,” says my mother. “Jeepers, can’t we have some peace for five minutes?”
“Sorry, mom.”
“Sorry.”
“And so,” my dad continues, ignoring this latest interruption, “they’re all down in the cellar, right? It’s pitch black. They don’t have candles. They don’t have flashlights. It’s getting late anyways – it’s sometime after supper – and so they snack on the crackers that Michael had grabbed from the jeep, they chat a bit, and after a little while, they go to sleep. Well, sometime in the middle of the night, Professor Warren awakes and feels someone massaging his shoulders. Thinking that its Harriett, he lies back and enjoys it before falling back to sleep. A short time later, Michael awakes, and he too feels someone massaging his shoulders. And, just like Professor Warren, he thinks it’s Harriett and so he lies back and enjoys the shoulder rub before returning to sleep. Oddly enough, Harriett, who’s been asleep the entire time, awakens to feel someone massaging her shoulders. Well, unlike the two guys, she screams and flails her arms and wakes up Professor Warren and Michael and they all rush upstairs.”
“Was it the ghost massaging their shoulders?” my brother asks, his mouth in the shape of an “O”.
“Well, just a second. See, Harriett accuses the two – Michael and Professor Warren – of being innappropriate. But then they tell her that they too awoke to someone massaging their shoulders and sheepishly admit that since they thought it was her, they didn’t object. As much as Harriett is offended by this information, she’s more frightened by the idea that someone else – or something – may be in the cellar and may have been touching them. They call down the stairs. ‘Hello? Is anybody down there?’ And nothing.”
“So what do they do?”
“Well, the storm has passed by this point – luckily it didn’t do any damage to the lightkeeper’s house or to their jeep – and so they decide to head into town. They arrive at Aransas Pass fifteen minutes later – after seeing a number of felled trees and utility poles along the roadside – and they pull into a twenty four hour diner. You know the kind that are attached to those gas stations?”
“The ones where all the truckers go?” I ask, glancing at my mom because I know she hates twenty four hour diners – “greasy spoons” is what she calls them.
“Yeah, those,” my dad answers.
He changes lanes to pass a slow-moving pick-up truck before continuing his story. “Anyways, they arrive at this diner and all the local yokels are sitting in there chatting about the storm. So Professor Warren, Michael, and Harriett all head inside and order a big meal. After a little while one of the men asks where they’re from and what they’re doing because they look like they’re from out of town with their big city clothes and their different accents and what have you. And Professor Warren tells them who they are and explains that they’re from the University of Texas at Austin and tells them that they’re studying Spoonbill nesting patterns and what not. And then one of the women asks how they managed the storm and Professor Warren tells them that they took shelter in the lighthouse. Well, at this, several of the people are shocked. One old man says, ‘You know the old lighthouse is haunted, don’t ya? Especially during a storm.’ And Professor Warren says, no, he had no idea it was haunted.
‘Oh yeah. People round here seen lights on inside – in the middle of the night – when no one’s supposed to be there. They’ve seen the Lady of the Lighthouse – that’s her name see – the Lady of the Lighthouse – through the window. She’s got long hair hanging down past her shoulders and she’s wearin’ her nightgown.’ And at this, Harriett immediately becomes scared and she tells them about the midnight shoulder massages. Well, that about does it. The whole place says that was the Lady of the Lighthouse comforting them during the storm. They explain that it was a storm that killed her – a hurricane in nineteen-o-six. Brick wall of the house fell in on her. Her husband and daughter weren’t at the lighthouse at the time – according to the story – they were at his sister’s in town, visiting, when the storm kicked up. Anyway, they found the woman’s body the next day and buried her not far from the house. And from that day on, so they say, she still calls that lighthouse home. And every now and again – especially during a storm – she comes out.’”


I’ve got goosebumps now and a chill despite the hot sun streaming through my window. “Um…dad? Why are we going there? I don’t want to be somewhere where there’s a ghost.”
“Sarah, sweetheart,” says my mom gently, “it’s just a story – and besides – I thought you said you don’t believe in ghosts.”
“Well…I…” I splutter.
“Finish the story, dad!”
“Don’t shout, Carl Junior,” my mom snaps, suddenly, turning in her seat and glaring at us. “Sarah. It’s just a story. And we’re not staying at the lighthouse. Your dad just plans on taking us there for some exploring. Taking a few photos. That’s all. We’re staying at a motel in town.”
I sigh and feel my shoulders relax. “Alright.”
“So what happened, dad?” asks my brother impatiently. “How does the story end? What happens to them?”
I watch as my dad shrugs. “Nothing happens to them. They go home, write a report to document their findings with regards to the Spoonbill nests, and they never speak of the incident again.”
“Well,” my mom sighs. I can tell by the way she says it that she’s glad dad’s finished his story. “That’s that then. Nothing happens to them. My guess is that it was the professor giving the shoulder massages all along. I’ll bet he woke up, couldn’t see properly in the dark, moved towards the male graduate student – what was his name?”
“Michael Fishburne.”
“Yes. Professor Warren moves towards him and begins giving him a shoulder massage and then realizes after a minute that he isn’t Harriett. He goes back to his corner of the cellar, lets Michael get back to sleep, and awhile later moves to Harriett and gives her a shoulder massage. Maybe he was hoping for something more from her even. Obviously he had misread the signals though – Harriett sounds like a smart girl and smart girls aren’t interested in schmucks like that – and when she cries out and makes a fuss and they all go upstairs, the professor pretends he’d gotten a shoulder rub too. Even though he didn’t. He was just saying that to cover his tracks,” she says, finishing her story with a measure of authority that makes it hard to disagree with her.
“That’s definitely possible, honey,” says my dad encouragingly.
I sit back in my seat, not entirely convinced by my mom’s explanation.
What if the Lady of the Lighthouse is real? What if we see her?
After a minute my dad cranks the A/C, puts on a DVD, and we drive for the next hour in complete silence, Josh watching the DVD and me thinking about the mysterious Lady of the Lighthouse.

###

We arrive at Aransas Pass at four-thirty in the afternoon and after grabbing drive-thru from a local burger joint, we head to the lighthouse. A man by the name of Hector Newman from the Friends of the Aransas Pass Lighthouse is on hand to greet us.
“So where y’all from?” he asks as we march up the boardwalk towards the looming brick tower.
“Longview,” my dad answers.
“Longview? Can’t say I’ve heard of it.”
“Hundred miles east of Dallas on I-20.”
Hector scratches his head. “Hmm. Must be a nice place. My wife’s people come from up that way.”
“Oh, it really is nice,” says my mom, adjusting her sun hat as the wind coming off the water threatens to tear it from her head. “You really should see it in the Fall though. When all the – ”
“WHOA!”
“Oh my God! Carl!” my mom shrieks.
I whirl around and see my dad on the grass, clutching his ankle. Evidently he’s fallen from the stairs. Judging by the look on his face, he’s in pain.
“Darn it. Here,” says Hector, pushing me gently aside and making towards my dad. “You’re not the first one to have done that.”
I’m worried. “Dad? Are you alright?”
“Yeah…I’m fine…” he says through clenched teeth.
Hector jumps from the side of the stairway and lands beside my dad. “You took quite a tumble there, Mister Lipton. Did you hurt your ankle?”
My dad nods, wincing.
“We might have to take you the clinic.”
“Oh, Carl,” my mom moans.
“Dad? Are you alright?”
It’s my brother asking now.
“I’m fine, son.”
“Here. Up you get.”
I watch as Hector helps my dad to his feet – carefully so to avoid putting too much weight on his ankle.
“Boy, that hurt pretty bad,” says my dad, his arm looped around Hector’s neck. “Think I might have sprained it,” he adds, glancing down at his foot.
“Well, only one way to find out,” says Hector. “Like I said. Best we get you to the clinic.”
“Oh, Carl…”
“It’s alright, honey,” my dad says, throwing my mom a small smile. “It’s probably just a sprain.”
“Here, Mister Lipton,” Hector interrupts.
I’ve quickly learned he’s the type that doesn’t like to be ignored.
“How’s about I take you to the clinic? They can x-ray it there and see what it’s all about.”
My dad nods. “Sure, Hector. Thank you. And I’m sorry to trouble you like this. Of all the rotten luck, hey?”
Hector shakes his head, laughing softly. “Oh, ’tis no trouble at all, Mister Lipton. Like I said, you ain’t the first to take a fall from them stairs. Probably won’t be the last either.”
I glance at my mom. She’s wearing a worried expression and I can tell she’s upset.
“Don’t worry, honey. I’ll be fine.”
My dad’s words seem to reassure her – though just barely.
“Let’s get you to my car, Mister Lipton,” says Hector, motioning towards the parking lot at the base of the hill where a teal green sedan sits parked in the shade of a tree. “I’ll have you to the clinic in no time.”
“I’m coming with you,” says my mom suddenly, turning and starting her descent of the stairs.
“No. Laura,” my dad says, the tone in his voice one that I’m not accustomed to hearing.”You stay here. Watch the kids. Y’all can enjoy the sights. We came here to see a lighthouse and you’re going to see a lighthouse.”
“Carl – ”
“Laura. Stay with the kids and look around a bit. Kids, you alright with that?”
I can tell from the expression on his face that he wants us to agree. We both nod.
“Alright, that’s settled then. Hector and I will go the clinic – Laura I believe my insurance card is in your purse?”
My mom sighs. “Yes, it is. Just a minute while I get it.”
We watch as she rummages through her purse and extracts the card. “Here we are,” she says, reaching down and handing it to my dad who’s still got one arm wrapped around Hector and one foot off the ground.
“Thanks. I’ll be as quick as I can.”
My mom nods and we watch as Hector leads my father down the hill and towards his car.
“Well that’s just a fantastic way to start a weekend away,” my mom whines once they’ve gone, flopping herself down on the stairs.
“Aww, mom,” I say tenderly, taking a seat beside her. “It looks like it’s going to be a nice night out at least. We can go down to the beach. Collect sea shells? Take some pictures?”
My mom smiles and pulls me in for a sideways hug as she kisses the top of my head. “You’re the best daughter a mother could ask for.”
“Thanks, mom,” I say, blushing fiercely.
“Hey mom! Can we explore the lighthouse?” my brother asks excitedly from atop the stairs.
“I suppose…but be careful. We don’t need another accident happening. And don’t go too far. It’ll be dark soon.”
“I won’t. Hey, Sair!”
I turn and look up the stairs. Carl Junior’s leaning against the railing.
“Yeah?”
“Are you coming?” he asks, as though he shouldn’t have to.
My mother gives me “the look” and I bob my head from side to side. Going trapsing around in a musty, old lighthouse is about the last thing I feel like doing right now.
I sigh. “Fine.”
“Yay!”
“But only for a bit. Then I want to go down to the beach.”
“Alright!” he yells, already running towards the lighthouse.
“I’ll catch up!” I holler after him, the wind whipping the words from my mouth.
“It’s gettin’ a little windy out,” my mother comments, pulling her sweater more tightly around her.
“Yeah, it is,” I say, looking out at the water, a million whitecaps bobbing on the blue surface.
“I’m going to grab my jacket. Do you need anything from the van, sweetheart?”
I shake my head. “Nah. I’m good.”
“Alright.”
I watch her descend the stairs and then pull myself to my feet.
Time to go find my brother.
Scampering up the steps, I find myself on the boardwalk connecting the lighthouse keeper’s residence to the lighthouse and I suddenly get an idea. I still haven’t gotten my brother back for scaring me in the attic last week and I realize that I’ve just been handed a perfect opportunity.
Time to beat him at his own game.
With my brother still in the lighthouse, I hurry into the grey-blue lighthouse keeper’s residence.
The front room has been done up like a miniature museum with framed newspaper clippings on the walls and glass display cases exhibiting various artifacts. Dim rays from the setting sun filter in through the window and there’s just enough light to find my way through to the narrow hallway at the back of the house.
I think of my dad’s ghost story and the Lady of the Lighthouse as I step into the narrow hallway and see what I presume is the cellar door. Dare I go down?
It’s only a story, Sarah.
I open the door and am hit in the face by a cold draft of air. My heart begins to pound.
Ghost? Easy, Sarah. It’s just cold air. Just regular, cold air.
I take one last look behind me. The house is dead silent except for the whistle of the wind through the screen door. The dim light from the front room windows carries through the hallway, but stops at the cellar door. I’m hesitant to follow the stairs down into the darkness, but then I hear my brother yell for me and I make up my mind.
It’ll be totally worth it, I tell myself, planting my foot on the first step. I descend. One foot at a time. My feet scuffing on the dusty wooden steps. My heart is jumping into my throat now and I feel another cold draft of air.
What if mom was wrong? What if the Lady of the Lighthouse is…real?
I remember that the Lady of the Lighthouse isn’t a “bad” ghost and this comforts me a little – though not much. Ten more steps and I reach the bottom. I can hear Carl Junior’s voice in the distance. He’s calling me and I slowly make my way towards the rear of the cellar, stretching my hands in front of me to feel my way.
This better be worth it.
I hear the door bang open upstairs and I crouch down, holding my breath.
“Sair? Hey, Sair!”
I smile to myself in the darkness. I’ve become the ghost.
“Sarah? Where are you?”
I can hear his footsteps on the hardwood floor. He’s drawing nearer to the cellar door.
“Sarah! This isn’t funny! Where are you? Mom’s looking for you.”
I know this last bit is untrue. Or if it is, she’s only just asked about me.
“Sair?”
He’s at the door now. I left it open and I can almost hear the wheels turning in his head.
Come on. Come on.
“Sair?”
I hear his foot touch the first step and I snigger as I grow increasingly excited by the prospect of scaring my brother.
“Sair?”
He’s definitely on the second step now.
Come on. Come down.
I don’t want him turning around and I know he’s close to it so I tap on the rock beside my foot.
“Sair?”
He’s curious now and he descends the rest of the way, slipping on the dirt as he arrives at the bottom.
“Sair?”
I can’t see him, but I follow the sound of his voice and as soon as I’m close enough to hear him breathing I reach out and grab hold of him.
“AHHHHH!”
His scream is blood curdling and I have to cover my ears as he tears back up the stairs, shouting, “THE LADY OF THE LIGHTHOUSE! THE LADY OF THE LIGHTHOUSE!”
I waste no time in following and I make it outside just in time to see him pounding down the steps towards our mom. She’s making her way towards the beach and as he catches up to her I sit down on the steps and begin picking absent-mindedly at the bottom of my sandal.
“SAIR! WHERE WERE YOU!?” he yells angrily.
He’s holding mom’s arm and pointing towards the lighthouse keeper’s residence.
“The…Lady…of the Lighthouse!” I her him stammer. “She’s…real.”
His teeth are practically clacking now and my mom smiles sympathetically as she pulls him in for a hug.
I’m holding it in, willing myself not to burst out laughing or the game will be up and he’ll know it was me.
“The…Lady…of the Lighthouse! Mom! She was in there! She…grabbed…on to me!” my brother protests, breaking free of her and running towards the van and I have to lie back now as laughter spills over me.
Revenge is sweet.

 

 

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One Response to Lady Of The Lighthouse

  1. duuuuude. totally enjoyed itttttt!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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