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The Phantom Light

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Walmond Krainbery, a young keeper of a now decrepit lighthouse on the coast of Dilsark, met his untimely fate through unfortunate circumstances, albeit strange ones. A heavy mist had rolled in on the craggy shores, and the sea was practically invisible under its shroud. As on every other night (nights akin to this one especially so), Walmond ascended the multi-story staircase to the beacon and ignited its light, shining pillars of light down into the treacherous waters. This was a job for which Walmond was highly qualified and experienced, over only a decade. Thirty years of age at the time of his death, and with much knowledge regarding safety standards, it is surprising and somehow eerie that his death came to him by way of tumbling from the top of the flight of stairs and not stopping until reaching the ground floor. His pummeled remains would have been unidentifiable if not for the fact that he was the only person who had recently inhabited the lighthouse.

The word recently is an accurate modifier in this scenario, for the lighthouse is very old. Constructed in the late nineteenth century, the Dilsark lighthouse was originally surrounded by a clutch of smaller houses inhabited by simple but peaceful townsfolk. Not only this, but the town (at first called Dill's Arch, so called because of a seaside arch carved into the coastal crag; the name comes from the mad founder of the town, Dillon Harrington) was formerly a moderately popular center of commerce, producing reasonable but not exceptional amounts of seafood. Dillon Harrington, a hideous man with a low brow and soft nose, and dull eyes which were almost red, commissioned the construction of the lighthouse at the highest peak of Dill's Arch. This, of course, was highly reasonable: Ships returning to port would indubitably need a beacon to guide them safely through dangerous waters. What was not expected was the unnecessary construction of a deep concrete neck extending from the lighthouse's base under the ground and leading to a circular chamber.

In time, citizens of Dill's Arch began to disappear without a trace. At the same time, the remaining inhabitants became increasingly uneasy at Dillon Harrington's wild vagaries. Oftentimes he could be sighted creeping as if in a daze from street to street at midday; at dusk he retreated to his lighthouse and screamed from a high window in a voice that was only vaguely reminiscent of human vocal patterns. Despite his unpredictability, Dillon Harringon maintained his humanity by frequently engaging in polite conversation with passersby while aimlessly lurking. Notably, those to whom he spoke tended to vanish in the following days.

A mob of terrified citizens (those who hadn't vacated the town, that is) eventually surrounded the Dill's Arch lighthouse and demanded entry, only to be verbally assaulted and threatened by the undeniably lunatic Harrington within the heavy walls of the lighthouse. In time, the townsfolk managed to tear away the front door and ploughed inside, discovering that Harrington was nowhere to be found. However, a particularly keen citizen noticed a crooked floor panel — sure enough, upon peeling it away, the mob uncovered an immensely deep secret passage leading into interminable depths of darkness. A brave few descended the creaky wooden ladder, returning minutes later as impossibly disturbed beings. They never spoke of what they found in that damnable chamber, but it is known that they returned with cold blood staining up to their shins.

In modern times, Dilsark is a dead town with a dead lighthouse. Ships no longer sail into port, and all visits are rare and only with one purpose: To witness the so-called phantom light. Years after Walmond Krainbery's death, the lighthouse has fallen into a state of disrepair, and currently has no keeper to speak of. However, that has apparently not kept the beacon from igniting every now and then with no evident cause. It shines as it always used to, with vast pillars of light falling onto the ravenous sea, but only shines periodically throughout the night. When infrequently it shines, it shines periodically between on and off, and then dulls completely for another randomly given amount of time. Logic dictates that this should be impossible, not only because there is no keeper, but also because electricity has been disconnected from the dead town for five years.

Tourists assume by legendry that the spirit of Walmond Krainbery is to blame, and several of them have snapped photographs of the lit beacon in an attempt to capture a ghostly figure — and many have succeeded, although the figure's features have always been indistinguishable from such a distance.

Camera hanging from a loose cord around my neck, I rammed open the locked door and stumbled into the dark. A musty odor wafted into my nose, reminiscent of old times and strange incidents. Once my eyes adjusted to the dark, I ventured farther into the abandoned lighthouse. Every step I took toward the spiral steps creaked uncomfortably, and in more than one place I felt the wooden floor sagging into a passage, but it held me well enough. Step by step up the stairs, I could imagine the noises that must have been made when Walmond had his horrible fall. The rapid clanging of flesh and bone on metal, coupled with his grisly screams — and the final, crushing impact of his skull against the hard plaster wall at the end of the steps. The thought made me shiver, but drove my morbid curiosity and encouraged me to ascend with a nervously pounding heart. I was here for one reason: To snap a photograph of the beacon room while lit, to discern the features of Walmond's spirit.

A trapdoor was at the top of the steps, latched flimsily down. I placed my hands against it and pushed my whole body upward, bending the wood and provoking creaking and cracking sounds. As soon as I did so, there came another, less expected sound: Racing footsteps above me. For a moment I stumbled back a bit, listening for any further disturbances. When I confided that there were none, I attempted again my forcing of the trapdoor. All at once it gave way, and I threw myself into the blinding beacon room. A chilling breeze surrounded my body for a number of seconds, but then quickly dissipated. I paid no attention to it, too obsessed with starting up my camera and finding a good vantage point where I could snap a photograph.

With haste, I pressed my back against the glass facing away from the beacon and pointed my camera toward the light. Pressing a little black button, I captured a picture of not only the beacon, but the trapdoor beside it — but something was dreadfully wrong. There did stand in the picture an apparition, but it was not alone, nor was it Walmond Krainbery. There were two phantasmic apparitions, and the one standing was a markedly ugly man with a low, hairy brow and a flat and squishy nose — the other apparition, being thrown down the steps by the former figure, was unmistakably Walmond Krainbery. I stared, shaking, as I realized who the former was: Dillon Harrington. The realization was accompanied by the sudden dying of the beacon, and I was immersed in darkness. A sudden coldness overwhelmed me, and I listened in terror as the trapdoor slammed shut.

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