This story is one of the October Writing Challenge entries chosen to be a featured story.
Her letter told me to meet her in the lighthouse at midnight. An odd request, to which I would have objected if we just texted like normal people, but we didn’t, and the letter wouldn’t have gotten to her in time to change the plan.
So, here I was — in gale-force winds and heavy rain that ripped and soaked my clothing. My boots were filled with water by this point, from endless wading through long grass to get across the white cliffs and down to the shoreline. The tide wasn’t completely in, so I was given the small luxury of being able to walk into the hidden cave in which we hid our boats instead of paddling there. On arriving in the dingy alcove, I found only my boat sitting nonchalantly in the sand, its soft falcon’s feather tied to the bow of the boat.
She must already be on the island, as I didn’t see her boat anywhere in the water – although it would have been hard to tell in the storm. Sighing, I untie the feather from my boat, slipping it into my pocket before dragging the vessel down the beach until I reach the sea, getting in as gracefully as I can before beginning my journey.
Mere minutes in, I can already feel my muscles aching from the effort of trying to fight against the crashing waves. It’s around the point when my boat starts taking on water – sometimes small splashes, sometimes bucket loads sloshing into the hull – that I realise how dangerous this is, but on thinking that, I realised I had no choice. If Mel had rowed out to the lighthouse, thinking I’d follow, I couldn’t just abandon her to survive it on her own.
It feels like hours of tirelessly rowing before I finally make it to the worn pier of the island, relief washing over me as well as another load of sea water when I see Mel’s boat moored against the wooden structure. She made it, and so did I. What a miracle. Struggling, I soon make it out of the boat and onto land, quickly stumbling towards the rickety door of the lighthouse and shoving my way through, relishing in the sudden end to the attack from mother nature.
Sighing, I don’t even bother to try and ring my clothes out, instead beginning the long trudge up the spiraling stairs to the top.
“Mel?” I call, hoping she might meet me half way. “Melanie, are you here?”
No answer. Another sigh escapes my lips as I continue up the lighthouse, eventually making it to the top.
“Melanie, I can’t believe you made me come here in this–” I cut myself short when I realise she isn’t in the room, having circled the massive bulb sitting unused and vacant of light.
“Mel?” I call out her name, about to go back down the stairs and look for her when I see something lying on the floor. Moving towards it, I realise it is a photograph and a small note attached to it with a paperclip. As I examine the photo, the colour drains from my face as I realise what it shows.
Me. Three nights ago. That bar. That girl.
“No,” I whisper, a sick feeling filling my stomach and crawling up my throat. With trembling fingers, I unclip the note, reading it with a growing sense of dread. Two words.
“Melanie!” I shout, jumping up and sprinting down the stairs, any lasting ache from the row across long forgotten. I make it to the bottom in record time, almost throwing the door off its hinges as I burst into the storm once again, my eyes landing on her in seconds.
She is in her boat, rowing back towards the mainland, a dedication that I can see with complete clarity. My eyes drop down to the pier, the feeling of sickness growing even greater as I see the absence of my boat. Broken pieces of wood float out into the sea.
“Melanie!” I scream.
She doesn’t answer.