We drove up the rutted lane that led to the lighthouse at the edge of the cliff. The top was lit up as always at night, looking like a star had been stolen from the sky and imprisoned inside it. But the old living quarters had a light burning, too, and that wasn’t usual.
“Look there, Janny,” I said and pointed.
She parked and turned off the car. “One of the guides left it on again. My guess is it was Andrew. That boy doesn’t seem quite right in the head.”
“We’re old. No one young seems right in the head, given the music they listen to and the crap that comes out of their mouths.”
Laughing together, we got out, gathered our cleaning supplies from the backseat, and trudged uphill to the door. In daylight it was a cheery bright red, but in the darkness it was dark and muddy-looking.
I never liked coming to this place after dark, especially since the last keeper had committed suicide by climbing over the railing and leaping off the lantern catwalk. Janny and I had had this job since the lighthouse was automated, way back in 1993. Judging by the way I huffed and puffed, and my legs ached in protest, I wouldn’t be doing it much longer.
During the day, tours were given to the tourists, and that’s why we cleaned at night twice a week. I didn’t like it. The place was haunted.
Janny unlocked the door, and we went inside. A cold chill went down my back, and I hurriedly flipped on the lights. The inside of the lighthouse lit up. Shadows leaped and jumped, and I moved closer to my friend.
“Let’s start down here,” she said.
A door on the right opened into the cottage the keeper had lived in. We went through into the living room and kitchen area. Guides, visitors, and maintenance people weren’t supposed to use the cottage. If someone needed a bathroom, a porta-potty was outside. We were allowed in to dust and vacuum, then expected to lock up and leave.
In the kitchen half the cabinets were open, and plates and silverware had been set on the table as if a meal was about to be served. I stepped back. “It wasn’t like that when we were here last.”
She shrugged. “One of the guides probably ate their lunch here.”
I opened the fridge; there was nothing in it. Nothing in the cabinets, either. “It was the ghost.”
“What ghost would that be, Liz? The keeper who jumped off the catwalk? Pshaw. You should write stories, you have such a good imagination. It’d probably pay better than this piddly job.”
She thought I was barmy but had learned to ignore it. We’d been friends for over sixty years.
We quickly set things aright, then started up the stairs to the level just shy of the top, where we never went. There were windows on that floor so people could look at the water, and they sometimes left trash behind, so we always checked. Halfway there something brushed against my shoulder, and I jumped, startled, and dropped my bucket. It hit the edge of the step and clattered to the floor. The noise it made was loud and echoed. I winced at the racket, then trembled. Who knew what that would awaken?
“What the hell, Liz?”
“Something touched me, it did.” I rubbed the offended spot.
“A cobweb, no doubt. Place is full of ‘em. Make a note to bring a broom next time.”
It wasn’t a cobweb. It had felt like a hand, but I clamped my mouth shut and said nothing. I climbed back down, holding tight to the railing, while Janny continued to the next floor.
While I was picking up the scattered cleaning supplies, a voice whispered in my ear, “Leave,” all drawn out and menacing like.
I dropped the bucket again. “Who’s that then?”
“Leave.” Something gave me a hard shove, and I went down on my arse.
The shadows moved, thick and thin, turning slowly until they formed the shape of a tall man with heavy shoulders. Features gradually formed where a face would have been, and I saw eyes and an open mouth.
“Janny!” I shrieked. “Come down.”
“What?” She sounded far away, and her voice bounced off the walls.
“We’re leaving!” I screamed as loud as I could.
The shadow man wavered like mist, then firmed again. His eyes flamed red. “Never come back.” He bent over me, still sprawled on the floor. “Never!”
Abandoning my things, I scurried to the exit like a crab and almost fell out on the grass. Getting to my feet, crying in fear, I ran to the car. I heard a dull thud behind me and turned.
There was a broken lump on the grass, close to the edge of the cliff. I recognized Janny’s red sweater and shuddered.
I looked up. Red eyes glowed at a window on the level where Janny had been cleaning. A few seconds later, the shadow man was on the catwalk, wisps of darkness fluttering out and back. He glared at me; I could feel his hatred across the distance between us.
Who he once was, or why he’d decided to take back the lighthouse now, I’d likely never know. I got the hell out of there and never went back.
One more person had to die from falling off the lighthouse before it was closed to visitors. I still have nightmares about it, about the shadows and the red eyes. Sometimes I think I see them peering at me from a corner of my room at night, when I wake shivering, but I’m too afraid to really look.
Because what if he’s there, watching me sleep?
Genre: ghost story