Lighthouse View by Rish Outfield
Location: A lighthouse
Item: A camera
Creature Origin: Volcano
*~*Judging panel has not altered/edited this text.*~*
*~*Text is posted as sent by the author.*~*
Carly arrived at the lighthouse just before ten in the morning, and the old man was already waiting for her.
“News lady?” he asked, putting down his large print Louis L’amour collection.
She had the camera and tripod on one shoulder, her sound bag in the other, but still said, “That’s me.”
He slowly rose to his feet. “You know you prolly made this trip for nothin’?”
“It’s not for nothing. I get to see your beautiful lighthouse.”
“Ain’t been beautiful in years,” he grumbled. He was an ancient-looking man with a white beard, a sailor hat over a bald head, and about a million wrinkles. “View’s nice, though.”
She followed him into the old building. It surprised Carly Page to find so few lighthouses on this part of the coast. Her internet search had classified the one at Puente Dormido as being “Closed.” Turned out the old man who ran it years before had bought the disused relic, and lived there now.
When she’d tracked him down on the telephone, he’d guessed what she was after. “There’s prolly a one in a thousand chance the monster comes here.”
“Good enough for me,” she’d said, sitting in front of her computer, satellite photos on the screen showing a tail, a bulbous head, and a long body, though not in the same shot.
The monster, or Quetzalcoatl, as CNN had dubbed it, had emerged from a volcano in the Pacific two days before. It seemed to be a giant snake or worm that either swam or flew–depending on if you thought the smudge in one photo was wings or not. Scientists argued about whether it would head for the mainland, go to an island, or never be seen again, perhaps burrowing back into the sea. Carly didn’t know why, but she had immediately thought of a lighthouse, and found the closest one. If the monster came here, she might get some great footage, if not, she would interview a fascinating old man.
The lighthouse was damp and foul-smelling, and had fallen into disrepair inside and out. “You okay?” The way he was breathing, she worried he might topple backward onto her.
“Just old,” he wheezed. Well, that was an understatement. Her grandfather had looked better the last time she’d seen him, and that had been in a funeral parlor.
On the upper level was a living area, with a sofa, several shelves lined with books, and a little radio.
“You say you’re from Channel 8?” he asked her, pausing to catch his breath. Above them, the stairs continued another ten feet or so to a thick door leading to the roof.
He squinted at her. “You got a face for the TV. What’s the problem?”
She figured the interview would go better if she earned his trust, so she told him. “The regular anchor had a baby, so I got the job to fill in for her. On my second day, I read a story with the word knickerbocker in it. Only I didn’t say it like that, exactly.”
“So, nobody caught the error?”
“Oh, about a thousand viewers did,” she said, though the calls and emails had actually numbered about twenty. “TV news is live. Goes out as you say it. They wanted me to apologize on the next show. I wouldn’t. On Wednesday, there was a new guest anchor sitting in for me.”
“So, gettin’ a picture of the killer snake monster will put you back on top.”
They emerged onto the upper terrace. The view was spectacular. Blue, grey, and white ocean water as far as the eye could see, a cool and refreshing breeze.
“The radio said the coast guard spotted it,” she said. “How far from us was that?”
“About eighteen mile from here.”
Carly’s odds of seeing the creature had just gotten better.
As if reading her thoughts, Walter said, “Eighteen is a lot of miles, Miss Knickerbocker. Don’t think we’ll be hostin’ a monster party today.”
They stood in silence, Carly and the old man searching the horizon for anything more interesting than a boat.
Finally, she turned the camera on him. “How old a man are you, Mr. Walter?”
“Ninety-one,” he said. He definitely looked his age.
“Does this discovery make you question your understanding of the world?”
“Stuff with the snake, you mean?” Walter gave her a wink. “Nahh, I fought Hitler and Benito, I always believed in monsters.”
She smiled at that. He was a charming man, even if he wasn’t very photogenic.
They left the terrace and went slowly down the creaking stairs. Carly wondered if this building would still be standing ten years from now.
She set up the camera in front of the man’s couch. The question she had asked him had been on a lot of minds since Quetzalcoatl emerged from the eruption. Many took the monster as a sign that the Biblical end times were finally upon us, many took it as evidence that God did not exist. Some were now worshiping the flying serpent like the Maya of old.
She sat Walter down with a microphone and adjusted the camera angle to best capture his craggy face. “State your name and spell it for me.”
“Alec Walter Junior. Eye-tee,” said Walter, and grinned for the lens. It made him look like a bearded skeleton from a Disney pirate movie.
“Mister Walter, could–”
“Call me Alec.”
“Alec, could you tell me when you first saw this lighthouse?”
“Oh, surely. I was six years old. My pappy had decided–”
And then Carly heard the sound of a helicopter through the microphone. It sounded close, getting closer.
Carly wrestled the camera off its tripod, and carried it up the stairwell with as much speed as she could muster. The old man followed, almost disappointed about the interview.
On the terrace, he saw the helicopter hovering over the water only half a mile away–a big ugly military vehicle. Carly was filming something beyond the helicopter. White water sprayed where an enormous shape moved fast through the ocean to the northwest.
“I can’t believe it!” she laughed, and it was infectious, the delighted laughter of the young. “This is it! I’m back in for sure now!”
“Hope you got enough film in that thing.”
A moment later, the helicopter rose higher. The monster exploded out of the water and into the air. The damned thing did have wings.
“Did you get that?” he asked, but the way she was beaming, he knew that she had.
The monster angled toward the shore. Its wings were tiny, flapping so fast they were a blur, like a bug’s wings. And as its body became more visible, a pale flying caterpillar, he realized that it looked a bit like his home.
“Here it comes!” Carly called in awe.
Alec Walter grabbed the girl’s thin arm and gave it a pull. “We need to go.”
She looked away from the creature, just for a moment.
“Move!” he shouted, clutching her arm as tightly as he could manage, and pulling her in the direction of the stairs.
She thought of recording the creature’s truck tire-sized grey eyes. Maybe, while she’d been looking at it, it had been looking at her.
She moved. The old man focused on descending the stairs, and halfway down, he stumbled. She steadied him with her free arm. He was gasping, his whole back wet with sweat.
There came a sound above them–a skittering noise that insects made in the woods–but it was much, much too loud. “Go!” Walter coughed. But she kept supporting him until they finally made it to the bottom of the lighthouse.
He burst out the front door, but Carly didn’t want to leave the protection of the building.
“Come . . . on!” he managed, putting out his hand to her.
“We’re safer inside th–”
“It doesn’t . . . want us,” he coughed, and she ran to his side, helping him again as they moved away from the foot of the lighthouse.
The chittering stopped, and Carly saw Quetzalcoatl as it hovered next to the lighthouse. It darted in the air, seeming to dance.
Beside Carly, the old man collapsed onto his knees, then rolled to a sitting position, where he could see the monster. “Are you alright?”
“Yeah, yeah,” he got out. He was barely getting any breath in, but she heard him whisper, “Shoot your camera.”
Quetzalcoatl kept bending its lower body toward the building, like a wasp about to sting. “It thinks the lighthouse is an enemy,” she marveled, raising the camera–which had never stopped recording–to catch the full body of the flying worm.
“Ain’t mad,” Walter laughed, surprising Carly. “It’s horny.”
She looked at its body language anew, and realized he was right. The monster, though smaller than the lighthouse, was shaped very similarly to it, and was shaking its tail like a . . . well, like anybody who shook their ass for a suitor.
The helicopter slowly circled the top of the lighthouse, the only other witnesses to the giant worm’s dance. Then the creature rotated itself 180 degrees, and landed on the side of the lighthouse. She heard the building groan with the added weight, and saw brick drop off where the monster’s body connected. Its tail was now right at the top of the edifice, where the terrace was.
Carly saw through the camera lens something wet and yellow emerge onto the top of the tower. “It’s . . . laying eggs!”
“Now I’ve seen everything,” Walter mumbled beside her, and Carly felt an almost overwhelming affection for the old man. If she hadn’t been holding the camera, trying to catch each sticky sphere as it came out and stuck in a pile, she would surely have hugged him.
Carly slowly panned onto the monster’s big flat face. Later, she would remember it looking right at her, as though aware it had an audience.
Finally, the worm’s opaque wings began to vibrate again, and it disengaged itself from the lighthouse. There was a cluster of twenty or so eggs up there, and Carly’s heart now thumped from exhilaration. She had a big grin on her face, and the smile never faded as Quetzalcoatl’s wings blurred into motion again and it—she–turned and plunged into the ocean once again. The military helicopter followed, trying to keep up.
She held the shot a moment more, arm aching from keeping the camera steady, and finally stopped recording. “Yep,” she said, lowering her right arm. “That will probably make me a–”
She turned and stared at the old man. Alec Walter Junior was laying back, his mouth and his eyes both open a slit. He no longer stirred, no longer breathed.
“Now you’ve seen everything,” she sighed.
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