A Wolf in Hallowed Places

The light is a covetous hymn that sings in my blood; a suicidal canticle which promises of fiery rapture.

We are like the delicate moth, who too, is drawn with an unthinking alacrity towards it; we ache to bask in the threads and tangles of golden Sun.

And like the Sun, we are drawn to you too. To us, we see the dawn that breaks under your skin. The heat of everything that we desire to have, pulsing in the sacred cartography of your veins and pouring from every inch of your drenched skin.  You are luminous to us and we cannot help but consume you.

The heavy mechanism of the massive light slowly rotates and as it engulfs me, I close my eyes; feel my skin becoming momentarily translucent. My thin, bare fingers and spindly arms become like pale, silvery spider webs, revealing the ancient knots of old, black blood slowly moving around the circuitous tract of lines that are visible under the heat of the beacon.

It feels like a moment of near-life. The sound of the sea crashing against the dark rocks below, the roaring wind, and the nocturnal gulls that hang on it, fades away and I hear with perfect clarity, the sizzle as the light sweeps its perfect blade across me. Each rotation of the noisy artifice like the finger of a fiery deity brushing across my skin, and yet it sustains me just enough so that I do not wander into the daylight.

I am the keeper of the light here and I have always been; since dirt tracks and cobbled stone, where the seeds of your town sprang from. You bustled noisily from your primitive scatterings, to wooden shacks and into a cluttered and busy town. For that I am grateful, because now, I arouse less suspicion moving among your kind. I can feed on you without the chance of inciting an angry mob; the cause of many of our deaths.

I recall in the early days of religious fervor and mania, the casting of rabid suspicion and blame among the dwindling number of townsfolk. “A curse,” they cried, “we are cursed,” and in a way, you were. You just never figured to point your finger at me, the friendly old lighthouse keeper.  Why would you? I sat at the periphery of your world, an unquestioned ward against the encroaching dark and I was entrusted with your protection, even though I was the very wolf in hallowed places that you so viciously sought.

And when you suspected something was amiss, you did what you people all do in your moments of mania; you persecuted and murdered your own kith and kin, hoping that it would stave off the machinations of some slighted figment of your collective imagination. You enacted deranged and fruitless blood rituals to sate the fairies and imps, and evil spirits that you imagined haunted you.

Then I watched as the old buildings fell and new, grander, more elaborate ones rose up to blight the brilliant horizon with their steeples. And with them; the assimilation of old beliefs into other, newer doctrines of faith, far grander and more eloquent in their insidious deception than the last.

We have a unique connection, you and I. Like tangled tree limbs. I have moved amongst you for generations, unchanged, and unquestioned in my position. One by one, across the ages, I have reached in and touched the lifeblood of every family; like a loving finger across the spines of familiar books- I would stop and carefully select one of you. I would bring my covetous hunger down upon them, savouring in them the other, distant ancestors with whom we have both shared blood.

I watch out to sea, at the slow feathering of the sky from black to lilac to pale blue. I consider closing my eyes and just waiting. Waiting until I slowly feel the morning Sun as it rises to claim me.

I have sent letters to the other lighthouses that are occupied by others of my kind. I can only assume from the silence that I have received, that I am very possibly the last of my race. I cannot help but wonder if they decided to transcend, as we cannot, as far as I am aware, die from the passage of time. I am envious of their transcendence, but I am saddened by this idea also. There is a grace and beauty to us that will be lost with me should I decide to go, and that, now, is yet another burden to me.

Every moonfall, I descend the winding, stone stairs into the cold dark of my room to rest and I lock my door so that I can fight the temptation to ascend. I may one day take my place in the light, but until I do, I have decided that I will document the history of my people.

I have been a curse, a monster, a vengeful spirit, a spell, a hex, a punishment, a plague, both holy and unholy wrath, a demon, a disease and now a fairy tale, a book, a movie, a legend. Yet, I have no name that I call myself; to you, I am the lighthouse keeper and I keep your ships safe in the dark.

Freedom is a crack of light

He floated between the partially sunken buildings, the waves limned in bright sunshine. Under the surface was an ancient stone dais, mostly sunken into the sandy seabed, and covered in rough, grey-green lichen and brightly coloured anemones that waved in the current.

There were words carved into the flat circle of stone, but the old man who floated above it on a cobbled together raft, could not discern them, as they wobbled and distorted.

The old man, whose leathery hands gripped oars fashioned from driftwood, had seen this coming. He hadn’t always lived out here in the outliers, in the same way he hadn’t always been old.

In his youth, he lived in the city, inside the so-called safety of the wall. He ground out a meagre life in administration, where every day he would review archived financial reports, for what purpose he could no longer remember. But, that is what he did, and he did not stop to think whether he should be doing it or not, he just did it.

Another life ago, he lived in a cramped, one bedroom apartment that was sandwiched on all sides by angry, screaming, and brutal life. Until one night, he left. He did not attend his work, and instead, under a sliver of moon, he ducked under a fence and hopped aboard an old and battered train, that was slowly pulling out of the train yard.

Behind him, in the wailing night, great searchlights threw up great bars of light into the dark sky and he heard the sound of helicopters. He cowered in the back of the empty carriage, afraid that the lights were searching for him.

He made it as far as the coast. Here he stood on the shore that was once a main street, flexing his bare toes in the warm water and looking out past the corpses of scuttled boats, run aground out towards the end of the earth, and he watched seagulls dive and pick glittering fish from the water.

A line of buildings broke the waterline; sky scrapers, museums and schools, homes, hospitals and theatres; a whole submerged city, lost to history as water levels rose and rose and rose to drown the people denying it all.

He selected a modest home a short walk from the water that lapped over old tarmac, and building sites. He lived in the shadow of a crane. Like a rusted sword of Damocles, he would dream that it was falling and would wake up sweating and crying, as the architecture in his mind pinned him down and swallowed him, dragging him down into the depths.

He grew crops, finding seeds from scavenged gardens. He knew the rules. He knew what it meant to grow and harvest his own food and yet he did it anyway, so that he could live.

On the days in which he was merely waiting, he built a boat and he spent his time slowly gliding between the old architecture that pierced the water. He placed nets and lines in the water. Some days, if he hadn’t been out on the water for a while, there would be a dead fish floating on the end of the line. Other times, the line would just be gone altogether.

One night, it rained so hard that the ceiling of his shack collapsed in on him. He crawled out from the ruins of his home in the wet dark and staggered, shivering and soaked into a house that contained the grey bones of an entire family. Each skeleton wrapped in their bedsheets as if they just went to bed forever.

He slept on the floor and awoke to the horrifying metallic screaming of the crane tilting and failing. He watched through a grimy window as it fell, crushing the place where his previous home had stood, and finally came to rest at the foot of the sea; the rusty cables, just like the roots of some old tree, finding their home in the water.

He counted a thousand dreamless nights from then, until the first stranger came; tatterdemalion, and near death. The stranger begged him for help, and the old man who had come to the sea to escape a constructed society, helped him, and saw the seeds of some future being sown.

The stranger stayed with the old man. Proficient in little of any practical use, he dedicated himself to learning how to make clothes, and how best to sow crops. In the top floors of an ancient building, where the salty waves lapped upon the white marble floor, he found books, flowering with mould. He discerned from some of surviving tomes, how to build engines, how to survive in the wilderness, how to build homes. Skills that were lost for generations.

The former, Data and Risk Assessment Co-ordinator found true happiness in the construction of new things.

A second stranger came. Bewildered and broken, he fell to his bony knees amongst the rows of corn and wept.

The old man nursed him back to health and found happiness in others wellbeing. The first stranger, who was no longer a stranger, scavenged a book on medicine for him, and the old men read it from cover to cover and hungered for more.

Over a decade, more and more people came and soon the old man and the first stranger, became the founders of a community.

In the nights, by the great fire that burnt in grand old building where stories were told and kept, the old man worried about the attention of others who lived in the city a great many miles and a lifetime away, covetously spying on them from behind the wall. The first stranger would call him paranoid and laugh at him, in a way that was friendly and reassuring.

They came in winter.

In large grey trucks they screeched to a halt in the centre of the empty cornfield, and men dressed in black and armed with guns clambered from the back.

He watched this from the tower of a skyscraper through the lens of his makeshift telescope; a birthday gift from the first stranger. He stood and watched as they dragged people from their homes and loaded them into the backs of the large vehicles.

The first stranger, whose name was Robert, resisted, and the old man stood helpless in his cold tower as the brisk, sea wind riffling mouldy, blank papers and crying through broken glass, and he watched his friend die.

Amongst the rows of neatly tilled earth, the old man buried his friend in the cold earth. Then he gathered his books and dragged the raft down to the shore, where ancient macadam met sea water, and he gingerly climbed aboard and pushed off.

Upon the ancient dais, the remaining words simply said, all men should be free.

The midday sun trembled on the surface of the water, and he disturbed the image of it by pushing the driftwood oars in and rowing; following the jagged shoreline, west this time, he hopes that he may find some kind of peace that he has yet to know.