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The Monster in the Swell

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Low, pitch gray clouds rolled in the western sky as I approached the McKann Lighthouse. I noticed a change in the air; it was a cold, salty wind foretelling a severe storm. I knew as much from my decades of sailing. Analyzing the new lighthouse's elevation on the island, I suspected that it should be fine come the front. Perhaps only the western docks would see real damage.

My three companions in the lighthouse were less experienced than I, although they were more familiar with the grassy island for which the lighthouse was named, having resided there for upwards of a year. They were Malcolm, a stocky fellow with a bum leg; Alfred, tall and skeletal; and Hale, the youngest and least experienced.

"He's a special one, that Shirham lad," Malcolm remarked in his thick Scottish lilt, "Damned if he ever stands around water without shaking like a leaf."

The storm rolled in a few hours after my arrival. The four of us sat and chatted over coffee, ready for a long night, as the first patters of rain and the first rumble of thunder came. Alfred, being scholarly to some end, recorded the onset of the storm in a log. A nervous tinge came to Hale's eyes as he peered out the window at the swelling storm (damned if Malcolm was wrong).

The beacon failed one hour into the storm, to which my three companions reacted with no surprise. I learned that the beacon here was highly faulty, and had died repeatedly in recent weeks. Their inaction to replace it stunned me, but I chalked it up to their inexperience. The four of us went up the tower to reignite the beacon.

The storm's power was audible even in the confines of the lighthouse's steel walls. Wind and rain battered against the exterior with such force that I wondered for the first time whether I had been wrong about the lighthouse's chances of survival. A similar unease must have crept into my companions; Malcolm's joviality gone, he now limped up the stairs with a quiet look of severity. Alfred gripped the guardrail so tightly that his knuckles whitened, and Hale lagged behind and stopped to peer through each port we passed on the way. It truly was a storm of unusual proportions.

Tightening several bolts and adjusting each of the beacon's large bulbs, the beacon was repaired. Its light overwhelmed us at first, effulgent in the black storm. We acclimated and then peered outside to assess the water level, but then we spotted something horrifying:

In the crashing waves just beyond the island's western coast, there churned a titanic set of shapes, bobbing up and down in the water. The center one rose above the others, calling to mind a bowed head between two slouching shoulders. My three companions and I stood still, unable to tear our eyes from the panic-inducing sight. Hale's teeth chattered audibly.

The longer I looked, the more I came to realize that what I was witnessing was, in fact, a swollen cranium nestled between two rubbery shoulders — but of what, not even God could tell. It was then that I declared that the four of us must depart for downstairs, lest we madden ourselves trying to comprehend the monster in the swell. All complied.

In the coffee room, we speculated the monster's identity. Malcolm supplied frenzied tales of sea monsters and the wrath of God. It wasn't coffee that he drank now, but whiskey. Alfred sat mostly quiet, again recording the situation in his log with shaky hands. Hale cowered near a window, still glued to the outside.

At the peak of one of Malcolm's tales (which I had beared with growing fatigue), Hale let out a piercing shriek and tumbled backward from the window, seizing and rolling on the floor. I ran to his side and shook him furiously in an attempt to reclaim him, but he retreated into a catatonic state, only staring upward into nothing with jaw agape.

"Good lord," Malcolm moaned. I joined him and Alfred at the window, where I saw what had caused Hale to seize. The monstrous form in the sea now stood closer to shore, with a full upper body — humanoid — and octopoid head exposed to the beacon's light. But it was not just that — crawling from the waves were legions of obscured, humanoid creatures, mere shadows even in the light.

The three of us only stared, utterly stunned and afraid. Our reflection did not last, however, as suddenly one of these creatures emerged from the shadows just yards away from the window. The pelting rain distorted its appearance, but there was no mistaking its piscean upper body or its protruding teeth or its bulging eyes which blinked one at a time at us.

At its appearance, I could not stifle the sudden flow of hot tears from my eyes. I collapsed onto the floor beside comatose Hale, and was only able to watch as Malcolm and Alfred flew into a frenzy to board every window at ground level. If not for their efforts, I fear that I would not be here to share this tale.

When at last the windows were boarded and we were in absolute darkness, a collection of rapid bangs exploded around the lighthouse, as of many fists pounding against it. Glass of boarded windows shattered and the boards flexed, but they held against the force. The noise rose to a dreadful chorus, with a crescendo of guttural groans, pouring rain, and roaring thunder. Somewhere amidst the nightmare, I lost consciousness either out of exhaustion or horror.

I woke to a cold breeze the next morning, lying alone on the floor. Warm sunlight shined on me from the doorway, left ajar. I rose and stepped outside, seeing no sign of my companions or the loathsome creatures of the previous night. The western docks, I saw, were destroyed as I had predicted, but the lighthouse was unscathed save for the broken windows.

I went back into the lighthouse, where I discovered Alfred's log resting open on the couch. I picked it up and read the final entry:

"Storm gone. Sea calm. God watches over."

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