Bogleech.com's 2018 Horror Write-off:
The Old Lighthouse
Submitted by Randy
Finally, the car's headlights came upon a rotten sign on the side of the road, causing him to stop the vehicle. He left it running as he grabbed the map and documents before getting out and rushing up to the sign. Adjusting his glasses, he compared the worn sign to one of the documents and the map he had on hand. After a moment, he smiled. "Everything matches up." He trembled in excitement when he returned to the car and drove past the sign, which -under the years of rot and mold- read "Rücken".
As he drove further down the road, he could see the village rising up over on the horizon with the seemingly infinite ocean and his destination sitting near the coast. A little ways outside the town, he could just barely make out a tall lighthouse with its long beam of light sweeping across the ocean and surrounding land. He smiled as his heart sped up a little at the thought of what might lie inside.
Three days ago, Arthur was busy going over some papers in his office at the United States Coast Guard Historian's Office, when he received a set of documents and orders to investigate a lighthouse in the village of Rücken in New Hampshire.
He had raised an eyebrow and tilted his head at the order before opening it up and reading through the documents. Rücken was a rather small, coastal village founded in 1895 and was, for the most part, a thriving community. From what he could gather, most of the village's history after its founding was not all that noteworthy. That was, until 1915, when a lighthouse was constructed to commemorate the village's 20th anniversary. Then in September of 1918, Rücken was abandoned after much of the population was wiped out by an outbreak of the Spanish Flu, with the survivors having fled to various parts of the country. Accounts of the village stopped after 1921 with nobody returning to the village and all the remaining inhabitants having moved on. The Bureau of Lighthouses records regarding the Rücken Lighthouse after its construction appeared to have been lost.
However, in July of 2015, people living near the coast of Rockingham County began reporting a mysterious light beaming from the area. These reports lead to the USCG Historian's Office assigning him to investigate the lighthouse. He lit up as soon as he finished reading the document and quickly began making arrangements for his travel after work. It wasn't long before he was on a flight from DC to New Hampshire. He shook as he started hastily collecting what he needed for his trip to explore a place untouched for 97 years…
Arthur's car slowly crept across the dirt road of the abandoned village. The vehicle's headlights came on as twilight began setting in the sky above. Shades of blue and violet hung over the rotted, wooden houses while orange and yellow scattered the horizon. The lighthouse's beam became more visible as the night sky followed the setting sun.
He carefully looked at the houses around him while making his way to the old lighthouse. The houses were of typical early 20th century architecture with a bit of a colonial mix here and there. None of the houses went over two stories and all of them looked as old as the files had said. In fact, most of the houses' windows were either broken or too dirty to see through, and all but small flakes of their paint had crumbled away, leaving the bare, rotten wood exposed to the elements. At least two of the houses had already collapsed in on themselves due to the wear and tear of exposure from what Arthur could see.
Nature had been slowly reclaiming the village over the years since its abandonment. Moss, grass and various plants crept up the walls of the houses and pushed up through the floorboards. Weeds and thick brush filled the yards and rustled from the small rodents scurrying through. As he drove by, he saw a variety of wildlife cross the road and rush through the nearby patches of grass. He saw squirrels make their way across the rooftops before jumping on to nearby trees and witnessed a fox sink its teeth into a rabbit after leaping out from a darkened doorway. Suddenly, Arthur slammed on the breaks, his body jerking forward while his car kicked up some dirt. A stag had jumped in front of the road, causing him to shudder as the headlights reflected in its eyes. The animal stopped and stared at the man behind the wheel while he stared back at the majestic creature. After a moment of quiet, Arthur honked the horn and the deer sprinted off before he continued on his journey towards the lighthouse. Truly, the town belonged now more so to the ways of the natural world rather than to remnants of human beings.
It only took a few more minutes before the car finally pulled up to the tower. Carefully, he pressed on the breaks, bringing the car to a complete stop before he pulled the keys from the ignition and stepped out. Arthur was a rather short man, just barely reaching five-foot six, wearing jeans and a tan collared shirt. He had short, dirty blonde hair on a receding line and wore a pair of small, oval glasses.
He sighed and stretched as soon as he got out of the car, his body relieved at being able to stand and move after sitting in the car for so long. He grabbed the files before walking behind the vehicle and opening the trunk. Inside was a flashlight and small suitcase, which contained a spare set of clothes as well as some reference books, notebooks, pens, and pencils. He put the documents in his suitcase before taking it out, along with the flashlight. He then closed the trunk and locked the car before walking up to the lighthouse's entrance and gazing up at the structure.
The lighthouse looked to be roughly over 100 feet tall and pentagonal in shape, with windows scattered near the top. The beam of light swept across the sea and land around the lighthouse and was almost blindingly bright up close, even if he wasn't looking directly at the beam. Despite the condition of the village, the lighthouse did not seem to be as damaged by time and nature. Besides missing a brick or two and marks from dirt or sea salt, the tower looked very stable and had almost no damage. And for a moment, he stood there, admiring the tower as the sounds of crashing tides and whirling sea winds filled his ears while twilight finally gave way to dusk.
"Well, no time like the present," he whispered before trying the door of the lighthouse and finding it unlocked. With a chill of excitement, he slowly opened the door and stepped inside.
The door creaked away from him, revealing a pitch black room, save for the moonlight seeping through a window and the doorway. Arthur turned on his flashlight and stepped inside while examining his surroundings. The ray of light glinted off a few jars as he swung the door open before finally settling it on a light switch next to the door.
"Let's hope this still works," he muttered before flicking the switch.
He heard a loud shutter, jolting him a little before a low buzz began filling the room and a small incandescent light bulb slowly came to life. While its dim glow was just barely enough to reveal the room, it was just enough for him to see its wonders. The room seemed to be a rather small living space mostly made up of a kitchen and a metallic spiral staircase looping up towards the top of the tower, with a bed space just beneath the first few steps.
The bed space contained a musty mattress with a worn black blanket on top of a metal frame. Just above the bed were a few framed pictures and some newspaper clippings, while a stack of books rested underneath it. The kitchen consisted of several cupboards surrounding a sink and a stove, all of which looked as unsullied as the outside, though, even these still had the telltale dust and cobwebs of disuse. In front of the kitchen was a small wooden table with two chairs facing each other.
However, what really caught Arthur’s attention was the massive collection of tunicates lining every available surface in the kitchen. The table and counters were stacked to the brim with jars of varying size, all of them containing the small, barrel-shaped animals, although he could only see the gapping maws atop their bodies in the less clouded specimens. Some of them were semi-transparent while others were completely opaque. Their colors ranged from faded, but dazzling shades of blue, pink and green to white with bright yellow rings around their mouths. Slowly walking around, he picked up and examined the specimens on the counters before opening the cabinets and cupboards, only to find they too contained more jars containing the creatures.
"Looks like the owner certainly had an interesting hobby," he commented before turning his attention to the table.
As he examined the specimens on the table, his gaze wandered to the center of the table, causing him to raise his brow. Hidden among the jars was a tunicate not contained within a jar. It was roughly the same size as a small urn and, unlike the other specimens, was black with dark blue veins, yet it still seemed semi-transparent. His eyes couldn't help but remain fixed on the black tunicate as it began swaying back and forth methodically.
Arthur set his suitcase down and slowly reached out to the creature, before gently clasping his hand around it, its smooth yet slimy skin brushing against his palm before picking it up. The unusual creature resisted at first, but soon let go of the table with a sickening pop. Carefully moving it around, he examined every inch of the black tunicate. His eyes locked on its gently squirming body, its deep blue veins and the thick ooze leaking out of its bottom. Suddenly, a thought emerged, as though it was a whisper softly spoken, cutting through the quiet air.
Arthur slowly brought the mouth of the black tunicate to his ear and listened closely. For a moment, he could only hear the silence of the room, before a faint sound emerged. At first it was too soft for him to make out, but gradually the sound grew louder and louder, graduating from a whisper to a cacophony in mere moments. He could hear several voices all speaking at once, each one rhythmically talking in succession while at the same time speaking simultaneously. The more he heard, the more his head and ears began to sting from voices penetrating his mind, his arm refusing to release the tunicate.
A loud thud echoed throughout the lighthouse, causing him to jump and drop the creature, silencing the voices as he came back to reality. Rubbing his head, he took a seat and glanced around the room while attempting to compose himself. His breathing was deep, but gentle, his heart racing in his chest.
Arthur looked up at the spiral staircase twisting up into the ceiling, before he carefully approached it and began to ascend the coiling path ahead. His heart began calming down while he was moving up, each metallic step making a faint clanking noise beneath his feet. However, his heartbeat shot up once more when another thud came crashing down.
"What is that noise?" Arthur wondered, his knees shaking a little as he continued going up the stairs.
Despite his instincts telling him to turn and run, his curiosity pushed him forward, begging him to investigate the source of the sound. After all, he was here to find out why the lighthouse was on and the noise might be the cause or at the very least related to it.
The minutes seemed to tick by at a snail's pace, with the lighthouse having once more gone completely silent. After some time, Arthur reached a point where he was only a few more feet from where the stairs entered the ceiling. He placed his foot on the next step, but instead of the usual clank he heard a low groan as he could feel the step buckling beneath him. His heart stopping with the feeling of his foot sinking into the step and the possibility that he might fall through to his doom, he quickly looked down to see how far he had sunk and pulled back his foot.
When he looked down at the step, he did not see a warped and sunken step, but one that looked no different from the dozens of others he had trekked. Tilting his head and raising his brow, he looked to his foot for a moment, and then back at the step before carefully raising his foot and lightly putting pressure on the step. When it did not react, he placed all his weight on it, but the step did not sink. He then took another step before continuing up another three steps.
"What was that?" He muttered as he looked back at the step before moving onward.
Eventually, he reached the top of the stairs which lead him to the light room. The room seemed as un-aged as the rest of the building with the light itself silently rotating, its beam shining incredibly bright and nearly blinding Arthur with every pass. He did his best not to look directly at it while searching for the controls. Carefully, he crept across the walkway surrounding the light while keeping his hand raised to shield his eyes from the beam. He would soon come upon a small alcove and a short staircase leading to it. He instinctively lowered his hand and leaned off to see what was in it, but he was met with a face full of white light temporarily blinding him as he carefully made his way into the space.
As his vision returned, a chill ran down his spine when he saw what lay within the alcove.
He could see the controls to the light, but next to them was a human skeleton covered by the tattered remains of what used to be its clothes. Its left hand was clutching a folded piece of paper while its right hand was holding a rusted revolver. His eyes traced the weapon to a large hole in the skeleton's skull. With his body trembling, he carefully approached the skeleton and reached for the piece of paper clasped within its grasp, taking care not to look directly into the skeleton's vacant eye sockets while prying the paper from its hand. At first, there was a little resistance, but he managed to free the piece of paper from old corpse and gently unfold it.
I won't let it get me, I won't let it take me away!
I know what it wants and all the knowledge in the world isn't worth it.
To become like them, to become a part of it, it's just too much!
But I still hear it, in my head, it's calling to me and it won't stop until I surrender.
Its already infected my mind with its thoughts and all that it knows.
There's no turning back, there's no escape, I must end it! End it all!
Flee Arthur! Flee before it is too late!
Arthur looked up to the skeleton only to see its head move up to face him. He took a slow step back, the skeleton's empty, black eye sockets staring intently at him. He stopped as his eyes locked with its empty gaze, his body locking up and his heart growing more rapid with its beats. With the note still in his hand and the skeleton still watching him, he managed to force his foot to take another step back. It was then he noticed that within the blackened pits of what were the skeleton's eyes, red rings began to glow.
He took another step back, the rings taking shape as they drew closer to the rims of the sockets and slowly, a pair of bright red, oblong tubes slithered out of the skull's eye sockets and gently swayed back and forth in perfect synchronicity. They pulsed with life while tracking him like a pair of eyes. Arthur froze up once more, unable to neither look away nor resist the gaze of the creatures until their tips began to open wide, revealing blackened voids within. They then bellowed forth a terrible sound, piercing his ears and clawing at his mind. He could not describe what it sounded like, only the agonizing pain greater than anything he had felt before. He screamed in agony, before he ran away from the skeleton and made his way to the stairs only to be met with the blinding light of the rotating bulb just as he was about to reach the staircase, causing him to trip and fall down the first several steps before banging his head on the railing. The infernal noise was the last thing he heard before finally blacking out.
Arthur woke up with a throbbing headache after an unknown amount of time had passed. While slowly getting himself to stand up, he took a moment to listen for the awful sound. Much to his relief it had stopped. However, upon climbing up the stairs and looking around, he found that the skeleton from earlier had been taken apart and its bones were pressed against the lighthouse's windows. Much of the bones were bent or broken at bizarre angles, forming shapes and what appeared to be symbols he had never seen before. His legs shook while he quickly descended the stairs before the light could make another pass.
Eventually, he reached the bottom of the steps, only to discover that the door was closed and the black tunicate had disappeared. Without much of a second thought, he grabbed his suitcase before rushing to the door. He gave the knob a quick turn only to hear a loud metallic snap; looking down he could see that he had broken off the knob. Arthur's heartbeat jumped up once more as the knob rolled out of his grip and hit the floor before he dropped his suitcase and started banging on the door. Despite the door's age, it was sturdy enough to resist Arthur's attempt to escape. After another six or seven beatings and three more shoves, he slumped down the door as his panic soon gave way to exhaustion. His heart pounded and his knuckles ached while he sat in silence.
Once his heart settled, Arthur brought himself up to the window and peered out into the night. Outside it had become much darker due to the overcast; he could see his car parked out front but beyond that he could barely make out the distant shape of the village. However, as his eyes trailed from the horizon back to his car, he saw a dark silhouette standing next to it. A shiver of joy and surprise ran up Arthur's spine as he started smacking the glass with his hand.
"Hey! Hey! Over here!" He shouted as he waved his arms.
The silhouette didn't seem to react or even move.
"Can he hear me? Can he even see me?" Arthur wondered.
Looking closer, he could see that while the bulb illuminated the kitchen and the bed space, it was barely able to shine outside of the window.
"How can I get his attention?" He thought aloud.
He then snapped his fingers and rushed to his suitcase before prying it open and taking out the flashlight. He turned back to the window, only for him to shudder as his excitement turned to cold fear.
The silhouette had moved from its spot near his car to stand directly in front of the window where Arthur could feel its gaze. He carefully took a step forward before clicking on the flashlight and shining it on the silhouette. Immediately he could see the figure's chest was a weave of thick veins and arteries occasionally broken up by patches of moss or mold. As he moved the light up its body, he became briefly fixed on its neck, seeing it heavily contract and expand while a small cloud of condensation formed on the window. Finally, he shined the light in the figure's face. The creature's head was like a misshapen skull with most of its cap sinking behind it and it had a Y-shaped mouth filled with razor sharp teeth. But its most prominent feature was its swollen eyes, which took up most of its head and bulged out of its sockets. These were completely black save for the two tiny white pupils which were staring back at Arthur.
Arthur stood frozen, his hand trembling as the creature's gaze remained fixed on him. He could feel his body shaking as it urged him to move, but he couldn't see anywhere for him to run. The creature then suddenly jerked to the right and moved out of sight. For a moment, he breathed a sigh of relief, but then he heard the door knob gently turn and the door begin to creak open.
"No…” He took a step back “No! Go away!" He shouted, as he stumbled back and knocked over several jars, causing them to crash to the ground.
The door began to open.
All the man could do was shut his eyes and braced for the worst.
And yet, nothing happened. After a few moments of waiting, he opened his eyes and saw the door was still closed with no sign of the creature from before. He carefully stood up before he walked up to the entrance and listened carefully. This time, however, he did not hear any rustling or turning of the knob, but a whispering like the one before, only this time there were some scarce words he could make.
“Listen… Above… Stars…Consume…”
He pulled away from the door as he raised his eyebrow and backed away once again. He was then struck by a moment of clarity and reached into his pocket for his phone. His heart sank when he found nothing but pocket lint. His mood quickly swung up as he clenched his fist and kicked the table and sent another jar to ground with a loud crash.
Arthur looked down on the floor and saw the mess he had made in his panic. The floor around the table was a now cluttered with broken glass and stained with whatever preservatives were used, the smell of the preservative already starting to burn his nostrils while the tunicates that were once contained within the jars now resembled indistinct blobs. He gave a sigh before walking past the mess and taking a seat on the bed, the old springs squeaking beneath his weight. He looked around the room once more, his gaze trailing past the table, the specimens, the kitchen, and the broken door. He stopped at the window and looked back at a chair near the table. Briefly he imagined shattering the window before making a break for his car, but then a shiver ran down his spine as he thought of the creature grabbing him as soon as it found an opening.
His daze was interrupted when he saw something move out of the corner of his eye. He looked back to the mess on the floor and saw one of the tunicates twitch before its body contracted and pulsated, slowly regaining its original size. He tilted his head before he stood up and saw that the other tunicates on the floor were growing back to their original state as well, their smooth bodies slowly turning towards him while their gapping maws stared at him. Arthur shivered a little but slowly stood up and walked around the table while keeping his eye on the tunicates. He carefully approached them, leaving at least a foot of distance between them and himself while he watched their bodies contract and move forward much like a worm. At first, they seemed to crawl around at random, but gradually they began to turn towards him and creep his way. He took a step back, a tremble making its way up his body as they approached yet he still couldn't help, but watch the tunicates despite his growing anxiety.
That changed when he noticed that, as they drew closer, they began to form random lumps on their bodies. These lumps pulsated and twitched until they ripped open, revealing human- like hands or feet, which Arthur assumed they used to crawl faster. His heart raced while he backed up further, his gaze still fixed on them. Some of the tunicates stopped before they jerked back and forth, as though heaving before a large eyeball slipped up from the depths of their maws and looked up at him. The tunicates began closing on him before he backed up and tripped on the stairs, falling back onto them and crying out as his back slammed into the metal steps.
He looked down and saw the tunicates had already reached his legs. He could feel their tiny hands pulling themselves up his shin and dragging their slimy bodies over his thighs. He could barely move as pain shot through his back, though he managed to swipe two of them off his leg, although a third managed to climb its way onto his torso before he managed to smack it away. While he continued to fend them off, he heard a faint noise among them. At first it was a low whisper but as more of them drew closer, it grew louder and louder. The faint whispers turned into monotonous chants.
“YEX'IDL QY'RE STARS XV'WUQ ZO'JUIN DEVOUR.”
He screamed while adrenaline coursed through his veins, allowing him to kick away the tunicates and run up the stairs as quickly as his aching legs could go.
Arthur soon reached the top of the staircase once more. He panted and heaved before collapsing at the top, his legs sore from running and his body still aching from the fall. He turned towards the window as the light from the bulb moved past him. The bones of the owner were still stuck to the windows, but he was too exhausted to examine them. He lied there for what felt like an eternity while his pain gradually subsided.
It was then he began to hear a new sound coming from outside. This one having a more methodical rhythm to it, yet he couldn't place what it was or its precise source. Arthur managed to pull himself up and avoid the light while he moved along the window until he found one he was able to open. He carefully unhooked the latches and pushed the panel open before he stepped onto the guarded platform. The sound was a little clearer, but he still couldn't quite make it out. He took a moment to listen and could hear that it was coming from above him, so he jumped up onto the open window and used it to pull himself up enough to climb onto the roof of the lighthouse.
Once he reached the top, the sound became clear. It was information. Information from all around the world, the collective knowledge of every person from around the world. He could hear it all flowing into his mind. Every thought, every fact, every piece of knowledge known and even some lost. Despite the overwhelming tide of information, Arthur felt his body relax and his mind become peaceful. As he laid back his mind slowly wandered into the depths of consciousness while the torrent of knowledge continued to flow. Meanwhile, his arms and legs began to contract as they withered while his body began to expand into a barrel shape. His neck sank into his body before his mouth opened and grew wider than it ever had been before, encompassing most of his head. His limbs soon receded into his body and his mouth became the most prominent part of what remained of his head as his clothes fell off.
Arthur felt no pain when he re-emerged from his mind, now warped into a new apparatus within him. He now felt as though he were consuming a delicious banquet, the seemingly endless flow of knowledge nourishing his new body. But it did not last as the clouds soon parted and an enormous beast flew down from the stars. The great beast was long and rod-shaped, ending in a head with a hood full of tentacles. Its body was covered in other large tunicate-like entities, all of which craved the same knowledge as Arthur. The great beast then used one of its tendrils to lift Arthur up and he was placed amongst the rest before the being flew off, back into the cosmos in search of new and obscure sources of nourishment for its passengers.