After the Storm
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by Chrissy Munder
Category: Erotica/Gay-Lesbian Erotica/Romance
Description: Angry and frustrated with his chronic illness, Vincent Poulsen moves into an old lighthouse to live out the few days he has left. After a dangerous collapse, he meets the ghostly Captain Cason, who shares stories of his distant past. In the process, Vincent stumbles over the tragedy that binds the captain to the lighthouse and his haunted memories. Then fate offers them in death a chance to make right what they couldn't in life....
eBook Publisher: Dreamspinner Press/Dreamspinner Press, 2010 2010
eBookwise Release Date: May 2010
7 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [73 KB]
Reading time: 43-61 min.
5 very tearful stars!! This story shows the true & strong beauty of a pure spirit, and how courage can be shown in many forms. Love, forgiveness, and ultimate appreciation of a different type of beauty makes this a favorite of mine. by Tamerut Adams
"...and so with a burst of fire and brimstone the evil spirit snatched Obadiah from the lip of the well and the brilliant light of day and life that lay before him, so close he could almost touch it, and dragged him back down into the deepest pit of hell."
The speaker held the last syllable, letting the words hang heavily in the chilly night air. For a moment, the only sound was the crackle of the fire and the sound of the water hitting the shore. The small group of boys shivered with morbid delight as they sat in the damp sand and huddled closer to the flames before breaking the silence with their excited demands.
"Tell us another one."
"Do you know one about the lighthouse?"
Their storyteller hesitated before leaning closer to the group of boys. "Plenty of dark tales about this lighthouse. Full of death and danger on the big lake. Ghosts too."
The boys clamored as one, eager to hear more, the lure of the unknown calling to them from the darkness as the storyteller held up his hand to catch their attention before giving in and beginning another tale.
"It was in the mid-1800s; lumber was king and fortunes were made ripping the pine from Michigan's forests and shipping it to Chicago and Wisconsin." He swept his eyes around the group of boys, making sure no one had wandered off, drawn by instinctive fascination to the surf.
"The lighthouse here at White River was an important one, manned by one keeper and one keeper only. It was a hard and solitary life with only a local crew of volunteers that would come to aid in rescue and recovery efforts. Captain Cason was a stranger to this land, exiled from his native England. He'd been a ship's captain and had sailed most of the known world before he retired young.
"The reasons are lost with time. Some say his wife had just given birth and wanted him on dry land." The storyteller's voice lowered ominously. "Others say he committed a deed so foul that the sentence was banishment from his ship and the life he loved, and he was left stranded here on the Michigan coast, alone in the windswept tower of the lighthouse."
"Oooooh," the boys breathed as one, each speculating as to what foulness could have been the captain's base crime, suitable to earn such a terrible punishment.
"Still others say he fell in love and here is where he and his lover retreated to spend their lives together; outcast and adrift from Society. Whatever the reasons, Captain Cason was a braw man. Hard as the stone the lighthouse is made of they said, and just as fearless. He saved more men from this Point than any other Keeper and on his watch the lighthouse burned brighter and clearer than either before or since."
"So what happened to him?" one of the bigger boys called out from the darkness. The low flames flickered, casting scant light on the face of the storyteller as he continued.
"Well, not a soul really knows for sure but 'tis said he and his one true love fought and his love left the lighthouse, leaving Captain Cason alone. A great storm blew in--gale strength winds and waves strong and deep, high enough to swamp the best of them.
"Too late the captain's love had realized they couldn't be apart and had taken passage aboard a schooner called the Titan, which was caught out in the storm. The ship foundered and split clean open, mayhap by lightning, mayhap by God's wrath.
"The storm was so fierce the local volunteers couldn't make it to man the rescue boat, and Captain Cason took her out alone against the elements. He battled with great might, but couldn't reach the vessel in time and all aboard were lost. They say he found his one true love washed up on the shoreline: hair dark as night, tangled with weeds from the lake bottom and stirring softly in the current, skin cold and pale.
"The captain cursed God and swore he'd never save another soul since he couldn't save this one. The captain drowned that day as well, holding close the corpse of his love and refusing to let go even when the tide rose, kissing the lips that could never warm to his again. Be it fact or fiction, their bodies were never found.
"And so for his sin he haunted this lighthouse, God's punishment for his curse, unable to join his one true love in heaven until he saved another soul."
"Aaaaahhhhh." The group of boys looked up at the abandoned lighthouse as one, straining to see some sign of the captain's haunting spirit in the darkness. "So he's still here?"
"Well, now." The storyteller began again, satisfied with the results of his tale. "Let me put a bit more wood on the fire, and I'll tell you another tale of the old lighthouse. One more recent and more strange. You see, there was an artist...."
* * * *
Vincent stumbled as he climbed the stone steps to the main door of the old lighthouse, watching with detached amazement as his hand shook, making it difficult to fit the old-fashioned key into the lock where it turned grudgingly.
He was weaker than he'd thought. The short hike from the end of the lane, where the local taxi had dropped him off, left him trembling and gasping for air, but it didn't matter. He had made it, and that was enough.
The door was stiff, resistant even, and he shouldered it open as the warped wood stuck slightly to the frame, seemingly determined to deny him entrance. He dropped his pack down in the middle of the floor, listening as the assortment of medications rattled in their plastic bottles.
His nose twitched at the stale and fetid odor he attributed to disuse. A few open windows would take care of it. Vincent walked over to the front room and tried to open the rusted locks in the casements with no success, tugging before he just shrugged and gave up. He'd figure it out later.
What mattered was that finally he was alone.
He knew there would be a small uproar when it was discovered he'd left the hospital, but he couldn't seem to make himself care. Vincent had discovered that a chronic illness didn't make him a nobler individual--not even close.
Instead it had left him angry and discontent, selfish and introverted. He cared--he still cared deeply about those he loved--but right now he needed all his energy, all his emotional strength, just to get through each day, and he didn't have any to spare.
Tired. God, was he tired of the hugs and the suppressed tears of those around him, platitudes that were voiced because no one knew anything else to say. Vincent wanted to scream and yell and wallow in what lay ahead and he couldn't do that when he was expected to be strong for everyone else.
Those he loved each had their own perception of how he would face the end--one based on their own immediate needs--and he found he simply couldn't bear it any longer. What about his needs? What about his wants?
Why was he constantly torn between doing what was best for those around him and doing what was best for himself?
Vincent needed to do what he had always done; he needed to immerse himself in the moment. He needed to paint and write and find a way to cope with the end of this life. He couldn't do any of that surrounded by the hushed voices with their demands that he rest and save his strength.
Rest. He'd be resting soon enough.
Luckily his doctor had strong views on the rights of the dying, and with his help Vincent had readied himself. He'd gone over his decision with both a counselor from the recommended hospice and his physician. They had given him a timeline of what to expect and enough pain medication to hopefully see him through it.
Even taking residence at the old lighthouse station had been at the suggestion of his doctor. He knew the Preservation Society had been renting it out for the last few summers.
Now here Vincent was, on his own, crawling off like a wounded animal, every instinct telling him to find a place to die alone. He was afraid, he wouldn't deny that, but at least in solitude he could face his fear without distraction, absorb it and let it consume him until he could hopefully emerge on the other side--ready.
Vincent joined his pack on the floor of the hall, placing his head on the bulky surface and closing his eyes for just a moment. He'd look around soon enough. His tiredness made it easy for him to drop into an uneasy slumber and he never noticed the shadow that crept over him and hovered, motionless, watching as he slept.
As one, the sealed windows on the first floor opened, shutters slamming against the stone sides of the old lighthouse as the cold breeze off the lake blew in one side and out the other.