Chapter 1 – The Lighthouse Keeper
IN HIS FIRST THIRTY LIVES he had survived when the torpedo blew a hole in the hull of his freighter, but this time it hit the engine room. The bubble of air and debris rushing out of hole below the water line sucked him into the icy sea and tangled him in sinking wreckage that pulled him ever deeper. He fought the need to breathe, fought the searing pain in his empty lungs.
Make it to the surface…hold out…don’t breathe don’t breathe don’t breathe…
He sucked in water, felt the sudden relief of giving in then the thick wrongness of it, tried expelling it without breathing in, pulled more water in again. Then again.
He heard a deep note. Soothing. Calming. Its low vibration shook him, began breaking him apart.
He started floating up. A light flashed in an arc a few feet above him. He broke through, fought a wave that engulfed him, struggled to stay on the surface and make headway toward the shore.
He lay face down on the beach, his awareness ebbing and flowing with the waves. A distant foghorn blew. A dog licking the sand off his forehead roused him. Beyond its huge mastiff head he saw a man’s weathered round face bent over him and attached to the face a short burly man with a seafarer’s cap. The corners of his eyes were crinkled. The old man reached down, pulled him to a standing position, and steadying him by his elbow, began to walk him down the beach.
The old man turned to the dog. “Well Bruno, it looks like the dead are washing up now.” A lighthouse beacon swept toward them, cutting through thick fog. As the light passed, it backlit his benefactor’s silver hair and beard and caught silver trim on the collar of a worn jacket.
“I don’t feel very well.”
“You don’t look so good,” the old man replied.
No doubt. Shirtless, shoeless, my trousers little more than rags attached to my belt.
“Welcome to the Lighthouse, son,” the old man said, gesturing toward the brick tower up ahead. “I’m the Keeper.”