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Funny Horror

The light panned over the coast, gutting the night like a blade through a fish’s belly.


Emerson Leighe sighed. From experience, he knew the storm would be raging well into the next day. But he’d be safe here; this lighthouse had weathered many storms before this one. And it would weather many more after, too. It had stood here since before he was born, and it would stand long after he was dead, which wouldn’t be long now, he reasoned. He raised his metal cup to the windows, which looked out onto the frothing midnight ocean. He offered the night his cheers, then sipped his neat rum.


Lightning lit up the abyss, burning his retinas white for one faltering heartbeat. The wind whipped and whooped around the edges of the lighthouse. The rumble of thunder came three seconds later, reverberating through his bones.


Emerson blinked. The ocean was a cruel mistress, sometimes. He knew that more than anybody. He’d spent much of his life aboard fishing vessels, at sea for months. He felt more at home on the open sea than on dry land. That was why he’d taken on the task of lighthousekeeper after retirement. But it seemed that people had lost their respect for the water. Kids rode inflatable beds out on riptides and needed rescuing. Rich yuppies took their boats out in unsafe conditions and needed rescuing. Partying youngsters went for midnight swims whilst inebriated. They drew the attention of the sea beasts, which they then hunted for revenge. And thus, the creatures needed rescuing due to their dwindling numbers. Companies dumped their foul excretions into the blue, so the sea needed rescuing, too. Emerson growled and scowled out.


The thunder and lightning lashed from the heavens once again. The rain pelted sideways at the window, rattling against the glass. The gale screamed like a dying creature wounded by a harpoon. Another sound chimed throughout the lighthouse. But this had nothing to do with thunder.


He grunted. Somebody had rung the lighthouse’s doorbell. Who on earth could that be? The lighthouse clung to a rocky piece of coast that jutted out into the ocean. It was far from any town or village, as Emerson liked it. The only company he usually had came in the form of passing boats and hungry seagulls. Emerson took another swig of rum and set his cup on the table. The wood bore the marks of a million condensation rings from the rum mugs of history. He grumbled to himself and passed through the door to the spiral staircase.


The doorbell rang again as he descended, with care, the final treacherous steps. He threw the door open to the howling wind. ‘Yarr, I’m coming, I’m coming! Hold your seahorses.’


On the stoop, two kids huddled together, no older than eighteen. They clung to one another as the wind whipped at them, and the storm soaked them to their bones. ‘I’m sorry, sir,’ said the boy, raising his voice over the gale, ‘but our car broke down and we’re stranded. Can we please hold up with you until the storm has passed?’


Emerson was not a people person. But he was also not a heartless monster, either. He opened the door to the boy and the girl and guided them up the staircases. ‘Yarr, come in, come in! Yer wetter than water! I got some blankies upstairs. Come, let’s get you and your lass dry. Me name’s Emerson.’


The boy smiled and offered his hand despite the chill that shook him. ‘Thanks, man! You’re the best. Harry. And this is Skyla.’


Emerson led them up the winding staircase to the lighthouse’s upper room, lit by the beacon. He got some dry towels – stale and motheaten, but dry – and put the kettle on for warm tea. ‘Arr! You must be pretty frightened! What with you stranded in the dark and the rain while the sea beats her chest like King Kong! She can be mighty fierce.’


The boy pulled a face and shook his head. He wrapped a towel around Skyla’s shoulders before he tended to himself. ‘Err, no. Inconvenienced. And uncomfortable. But not scared.’


Emerson frowned but bit his tongue. He guided the youngsters to his couch – it wouldn’t be the first time it got wet – and handed them mugs of steeping tea. He sighed and sat down opposite them on his old rickety chair. ‘And what, if you don’t mind me askin’, were you two doin’ out here this late at night?’


The boy and the girl blushed. Harry started to say something, but then Skyla interrupted. She shoved her left hand into Emerson’s face. A diamond glinted on her ring finger. ‘Harry proposed to me tonight! As the sun set over the water, staining it red. The colour of love! Isn’t that romantic?’


To Emerson, red was the colour of blood once you’d chummed the waters to lure in the big fish, but he didn’t say this. ‘Yarr, it do warm this old sea dog’s heart to see young love in bloom. Why, my Bathilde and I, we shared quite a torrid love affair, we did! But she’s been sleeping with the fishes for longer’n you been alive. I still carry her picture in this old locket here, which I wear around me neck at all times. Here! Take a look at this beauty, lad. But don’t lose yer eye for the young lass, now, aye?’


The boy blinked at the picture in the sea-air-rusted locket. He did a double-take. He seemed to struggle for words; his eyebrows knotted together like a bowline. ‘Sir… that’s a manatee.’


Emerson recoiled. ‘Arr! You youngsters and your unrealistic Hollywood beauty standards! You shouldn’t perpetuate such unhealthy attitudes towards appearances. It only fosters anxiety and insecurity. Yarr! You might be young and lovely now, but see how pretty yer look in sixty years. Let’s see how yer are once the sea’s done rusted yer lungs, and yer legs been took by an orca and a great white workin’ in cahoots!’


The girl reached over and rapped a knuckle on his shin. A smirk touched the corners of her lips. ‘But sir, both your legs are still attached.’


Emerson yelped and tucked his legs back under his chair. ‘I jumped into the blood-stained brine, I did! Wrestled me legs back from the bellies of the respective beasts at the same time. Fought them both off. Using nothing but me bare hands. I sewed them back on, I did! Using nothing but a bit of old gut fishing line. I cleaned the wounds by spitting on ‘em, then patched meself back up. It hurt fer a while, but it didn’t affect me well-trained balance on the deck. Yarr, at sea you needs good sea legs. Especially whilst Poseidon’s throwin’ you about like a dusty old rug that yer mama’s trying to clean!’


The kids exchanged a glance and snickered. ‘That didn’t happen, did it, sir?’ asked the boy. ‘You’re having us on.’


Emerson bit his lip. He knew how to get through to these young’uns, to teach them the proper respect they ought to have for the ocean. Emerson had seen waves taller than buildings and fish bigger than elephants. He’d seen currents sweep sailors to their doom in seconds. Emerson had seen men sink into the abyss as waves pummelled them like a boxer in a match with no referee to ring the bell. These kids had been on dry land, but the ocean was hungry. She could reach out and snatch you from the shore if she wanted. They had gotten lucky the midnight tide hadn’t pulled them out to see whilst the boy popped the question. Emerson got to his feet and slipped out the door to the spiral staircase. ‘I ‘ave somethin’ ter show yer. You wait right here, my lovelies.’


Confused whispers came from behind him. Outside, the storm continued to rage. The wind screamed, and the rain lashed. The ocean roared and threw itself against the lighthouse’s base. The foundations shuddered.


Emerson found the switch – covered in warning stickers – and flicked it.


The lighthouse went dark. A small shriek came from above.


He ascended in shadow, grinning at the panicked voices. He barged through the door and clicked the torch on. He illuminated his haggard face from below and bellowed. ‘IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY NIGHT!’


Harry and Skyla screamed and clung to each other; their faces pulled in a rictus of terror in the torch’s beam. ‘What the hell—’ began the boy, but Emerson cut him off.


‘THE OCEAN WAS RAGING! THE NIGHT WAS BLACK! YOU COULDN’T TELL WHERE THE SKY ENDED AND THE WATER BEGAN! AND WE ALL KNEW THAT SHE, THE CREATURE, WAS OUT THERE HUNTING US! THE HUNTERS HAD BECOME THE HUNTED! WE—’


A foghorn shattered the tension, deafening them all. Harry jumped up, knocking his chair over backwards. Skyla shrieked and threw her hands up to her face. A flick of a fish’s tail later, the lighthouse shook around them. A great, wrenching metallic crunch rocked the world.


Ice froze his limbs. He broke through the paralysis and staggered to the window. He shined his flashlight onto the rocks below. ‘Good God,’ whispered Emerson.


The jagged stones had acted like a shark’s teeth, puncturing the ship’s hull. It leaned, like a drunken sailor, 45 degrees to the side. On top, seamen clung to the rails whilst others tried to scramble about the rain-wet deck. Baffled shouts punctured the storm’s wailing. Boxes of cargo crashed into the surf. Some sailors tossed life rings into the brine to rescue men overboard.


Emerson whimpered. This lighthouse had not had a single accident for almost a hundred years. And now, in one swift hour, he’d caused a disaster. He should never have exaggerated the truth to impress these kids. The ocean was scary and beautiful enough as it was. It didn’t need cheapening with manufactured myths and legends. But he’d tried to scare them into respecting the fierce hand of nature, tried and failed. They thought he was an old coot who’d messed up on the job. And they wouldn’t exactly be wrong, now, would they? He’d forgotten the very lesson he’d been trying to teach. His shoulders slumped.


‘Yarr, I’m not the brightest bulb, methinks.’

March 03, 2024 11:44

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8 comments

Darvico Ulmeli
19:34 Mar 14, 2024

Enjoyed. I was expecting a monster to appear, and it did. But not in the way I expected. Nice one.

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11:25 Mar 16, 2024

Thanks, Darvico! Glad to have subverted expectations.

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John Jenkins
17:38 Mar 14, 2024

Overall: This was an amazingly engaging story, and entertaining! Beginning: I must say that you really set the scene in the beginning. After the first couple of paragraphs, I knew that it was going to be a great story. The way you characterized the people here was superb. I usually don't like slang in dialogue, but this was different. It was entertaining, yet tasteful. Middle: He comes to the two visitors. I assumed that they were around ten years old, brother and sister, but they were elopers. You didn't harp on the eloping part, which is p...

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11:24 Mar 16, 2024

Thanks for such an in-depth comment, John! I'm thrilled you liked my story.

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Trudy Jas
20:23 Mar 03, 2024

OL "But sir,... that's a manatee." And it descentds into one big fabulous fish tale. :-) Did not ecpect anything less. Thanl you.

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11:58 Mar 09, 2024

Thanks, Trudy!

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Alexis Araneta
17:32 Mar 03, 2024

As usual, a very buying tale with so much humour ! What a riot. Perhaps, Emerson should stop teaching kids lessons. Hahahaha ! Great job !

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11:59 Mar 09, 2024

Thank you, Stella! I don't think ol' Emerson will have much chance to impart wisdom after this...

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