Because all of life is stories.
You may have been expecting a book review here, as that is the only thing I’ve ever posted and this is a book review blog. However intermittent the updates may be. Today though is one of my original flash fictions (1000 words or less), written for a Chuck Wendig writing challenge. He does them every week. You should join us.
Find Chuck’s books, writing advice, and other nonsense over at http://www.terribleminds.com
The prompt this week was to pick a random title from a list, using a random number generator, and then write that story. As you can see, I came up with The Apocalypse Lighthouse.
I hope you enjoy it.
Joel Winston Marshall awoke to the sound of sirens. From under the covers he could hear the sound of blaring klaxons and distant explosions. Calmly, he raised himself and put on his slippers. There was woman at his door, her frame highlighted by the red light behind her.
“It’s time Joel.”
“Seems that way.” He took a few minutes to drape his robe over his tired shoulders, and to tie it around his waist. It had been a smaller waist when they’d been stationed here all those years ago, he thought.
The woman’s name was Marie. She handed Joel his cane. She had lived here longer than he had. Back when natural disasters were the only reason to trigger the beacon. Nowadays, they had considerably more to keep them active.
“How does it look?” asked Joel.
“It’s still calm here. But for the rest of the world…” she trailed off, uncertain of what say.
“We knew this day would come Marie. How bad is it?”
“Total. The Western Hemisphere, Africa, Russia, most of Europe. It’s everywhere at once.”
Joel grunted. They knew this day would come. It was why they were there after all. Slowly, but calmly, he and Marie left the house, and made their way to the old old lighthouse at the end of the pier. It had stood there for time beyond counting, waiting for today. He had been waiting almost a century for it. Marie, well Marie had been waiting quite a bit longer.
The weather around the pier was calm, serene. It was a stark contrast to the sirens and wails heard inside their home. Joel knew the rest of the world was not so peaceful.
“What was it then?”
“Does it really matter at this point?” said Marie. Then, “It’s over. Who cares if it was a meteor or a war?”
“Was it a meteor or a war?” asked Joel.
“Plague. Something mutated in a lab in New Mexico and got out.”
“I guess I lost the pool then.”
“I guess.” said Marie.
They arrived at the lighthouse. It wasn’t overly tall. Just tall enough, they used to say. Tall enough to tell everyone from Heaven to Hell. The End was nigh.
They walked up the worn steps, taking each one carefully, gingerly. The view spilled out for eternity in every direction. Green rolling fields behind, glassy ocean ahead. A small line of beach marked a meridian between the two vistas.
Marie and Joel reached the top of the tower, and opened the glass door that led into the lantern room. It was just large enough for them and the lens that sat in the middle.
“You know it’s never been used.” said Joel.
“There’s never been an apocalypse before.” answered Marie.
“I’ll get the vents. You can have the honors.”
“Thanks. I’ve never signaled the End Times before.”
Joel went to work opening the vents. If they weren’t set to create a draft the glass walls of the lantern room would fog over. “Wouldn’t do to delay Armageddon because of foggy windows.” He used to joke. Tonight though he worked silently.
“What if it doesn’t turn on?” asked Marie.
“What if it doesn’t light? What if after all this waiting it sputters for a few seconds then goes out? Sorry world, technical problems, we’ll have you back to your regularly scheduled apocalypse in a moment?” She laughed nervously.
“It will light just fine.” said Joel.
“That’s what worries me.”
They continued their duties quietly for a time, making ready the true end of the world. Not the one that came from the plague, or from man. The one from above. The one from below. After awhile though, it became clear that there were no more chores. No more surfaces to dust. Nothing else to do but be done with it.
Marie turned on the light. It flickered for a moment, before its light became steady and bright. It was not a white light. Or a yellow or a blue. A cool red shone out through the lantern room and out over the pier.
Nothing happened that Joel and Marie noticed.
“What’s supposed to happen?” asked Joel.
“Nobody ever told me. I just knew I was supposed to turn it on when the world ended. Nobody ever told you?”
“Nope.” Joel kicked a rock off of the lighthouse and watched as it plopped into the glassy water below. The ripples soon died out.
“The world is ending right? I mean, everyone should be gone soon.” said Marie.
“Maybe whoever is coming is waiting for the last person?”
“So what do we do now?”
“Make breakfast?” said Joel.
“I’m being serious you idiot.”
“Me too. Whoever does end up coming for us, if anyone ever does, is obviously not in a hurry. And I’m in the mood for an omelette.”
“You really are an idiot you know that?”
“I do. Still hungry though.” Joel took Marie’s hand and they began walking back down the stairs, across the pier, and back into the small house on the hill that marked the only developed land as far as the eye could see.
“Who do you think will come?” asked Marie.
“Oh, I don’t know. Jesus, the Devil, Thor, aliens, who knows? I guess it doesn’t really matter at this point. Someone will come. We’ll be here.”
“You really are an idiot.”
“And yet, here we are.”
Joel set about making breakfast for Marie and himself. He spared a gaze for the calm red light shining out over the endless flat bay. He whistled a somber tune. Somewhere out there the world was ending. But here, alone in the odd realm of the lighthouse, it was breakfast time. His favorite time of day. He laid strips of bacon in a frying pan.
The lighthouse said nothing.