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He gestured to the door. “Just a door.”
“Making the noise. False alarm.”
“But I heard footsteps. Just like when you were up here.”
He shrugged. “I know. I thought I heard that too. But there’s nothing here, just like there wasn’t anything here earlier.”
He shined his light up the staircase. “I never made it up there, though. I bet that’s where he is.”
“He?” I asked, my chest tightening. Who the h.e.l.l was he?
“Old Roddy,” Dex said simply and started for the stairs.
I reached out and grabbed his arm firmly. It felt nice. There was muscle under there after all.
“Who the h.e.l.l is Old Roddy?” I said angrily. I was sick of feeling like I wasn’t being told the whole story.
Dex was silent. I shined my light in his face, causing him to squint harshly.
“If you don’t know then I don’t have time to explain,” he sneered in the brightness. He eyed my hand on his bicep. I didn’t let go.
“Make time,” I said.
Then, from above, another thump. This time much louder than before. It definitely was not the sound of a door banging in the wind.
Dex stiffened at the sound. He looked at me intently, then relaxed. I let go of his arm.
He leaned in and pointed above.
“Old Roddy is the lighthouse keeper.”
I didn’t get it.
“There is no lighthouse keeper here. My uncle doesn’t employ anyone, there isn’t even a d.a.m.n light up there,” I said.
“Yeah, well, rumor has it that Old Roddy’s been here all this time.”
“All this time? How long is that?”
“About eighty years, maybe more, maybe less.”
“That’s impossible,” I scoffed.
“I know. Like I said, that’s why I’m here.”
I took in a slow, deep breath. Whatever Dex was saying wasn’t making any sense to me, and even worse, the more I tried to make sense of it, the more I felt dizzy and disoriented. This situation, this Dex guy, it was all too much for me to process. And unfortunately, when my mind couldn’t properly process what was going on around me, my panic attacks start to kick in and weird s.h.i.t happens.
“I need to go lie down,” I said quietly.
He c.o.c.ked his head, curious, and reached out for my hand.
He didn’t give it a comforting squeeze, though, which any normal person would have done. He just pulled me closer to him and led me up the next flight of stairs until we were now on the floor above, where the last few thumps had come from.
With my breath and heart stuck in my throat, Dex illuminated the level. It looked exactly like the one below it, save for a desk in the corner. The doors were also closed. And no lighthouse keeper was to be found.
Suffice to say, I had a bad feeling about all of this. Whether it was due to the creepiness of the whole situation or that I should probably head back before people started to worry about me, I couldn’t say.
Plus, I was starting to question the sanity of Dex and his quest for some lighthouse keeper who clearly didn’t exist.
“You know—,” I started to say.
I was interrupted by the door, which blasted open (by itself again) and swung back and forth wildly on its hinges, connecting against the wall with a BANG.
“What the f.u.c.k?” I yelled above the noise. It was literally the only thought I had in my head.
Dex took a curious step towards the animated door, the breeze from its steady swinging movement ruffling his hair.
He aimed the camera on the door for a few moments, the eerie glow adding to the mystery, and then shone it on me.
“What do you make of it?” he asked.
The light was blinding me.
“Are you seriously filming me?” I yelled.
The same sound of doors flying open and shut came from downstairs. The noise was overbearing and within seconds the whole lighthouse was vibrating sonically. I immediately put my hands over my ears. I could feel it in my fillings.
I took a shaky step towards Dex hoping for some comfort in a beyond-terrifying situation. The only thing he did was aim the camera back on the door, which was still flying open and closed as if some invisible angry teenager was slamming it. He took my hand off my ear and placed my own camera in it.
“You might want to film this!” he bellowed above the din.
Though filming was the last thing on my mind, I did what he said.
I made sure the camera was still recording and focused it on the door and Dex. With my ears exposed, the sound shook me from the inside.
I managed to record at least thirty seconds of the phenomenon until my vision was suddenly wiped out.
A white, overpowering light filled the room. My hand completely disappeared in front of my face, as if I was being airbrushed into oblivion. I shut my eyes in pain and crouched low on the ground, my senses knocked completely off balance.
The white, nuclear light, the banging doors, and internal vibrations—was this the apocalypse?
I positioned myself so I was closer to where I a.s.sumed Dex was and opened my eyes through the s.p.a.ces between my fingers. It hurt too much to keep them open for more than a second at a time, but I didn’t see him anywhere.
“Dex!” I yelled as loud as I could. I looked around me but all I saw was whiteout. Where was this horrid light coming from? Was I dying?
A movement from the direction of the staircase caught my eye. There was a dark shadow of a man (or creature) wavering in the light. It came closer and closer. My mind instantly conjured up images of alien abduction. Every single X-Files episode started flashing through my mind.
The shadow kept coming. For some reason I thought I should get the cause of my impending death on film, so I pointed my camera at it.
I closed my eyes, made a silent prayer and braced myself.
The noise and vibrations had stopped and the light behind my sore eyelids was quickly fading.
I opened my eyes to complete blackness, with throbbing fuzzy dots filling my vision. It was almost scarier than all white blindness. Someone could have been standing a few feet away from me completely undetected.
Slowly, I got to my feet and flicked on the light of my camera, bracing myself for illuminated terrors and the things that went b.u.mp in my night.
There was nothing. The darkness remained. My camera was unresponsive.
“f.u.c.k,” I swore under my breath. I tried to examine it in the dark but all I could figure was that the battery must have died. Great f.u.c.king timing.
I took in a deep breath and tried not to let the wild feelings take over, that the blackness was alive and ready to eat me.
“Dex,” I called out. I was still, listening, but heard nothing except my voice echoing across the hallway. Where the h.e.l.l could he have gone?
“Old Roddy?” I joked, half hoping some decrepit lighthouse keeper would answer me. It was better than this unnerving silence.
There was still some moonlight coming in through the windows and that soft illumination was enough to put the idea in my head of getting downstairs and getting the f.u.c.k out of there.
I had inched over to the staircase and was just about to step down on the first step when another light came on below.
What now? I couldn’t take much more of this.
But it wasn’t like the apocalyptic virtual H-bomb going off. It was a weak light, which danced on the staircase walls and then settled in one spot. If I were to head downstairs, I would walk straight into its path.
It reminded me of Dex’s camera light. In fact, I was certain that’s what it was. But in my heightened state of paranoia, I wanted to make sure before I began my descent.
“Dex, is that you?” I asked rather loudly. No answer. “Dex, I can see a light downstairs. Is that coming from you? Dex, answer me!”
I didn’t know what to do. The fear was palpable; it was physically running up and down my arms in p.r.i.c.kly flashes, swarming my body, flaming my racing heart and my throbbing head.
I must have stood there for five minutes just listening for any sounds whatsoever, terrified of what I might find downstairs. My imagination was conjuring up images of kelp come to life, like some kind of monster. Where was Dex then? Where did he go? Why was the camera light on and not moving? One part of me believed he must be playing a cruel joke. The other part thought he was dead. Or worse.
And with that thought in mind, I slowly made my way down the stairs. I winced at the creak of each step, though I’m not sure why I bothered trying to be quiet. The moon disappeared behind the clouds, making the light below look sharper and colder. Sly shadows of creepy crawlies skittered across the sweating walls. I turned at the landing and made my way down the rest of the staircase.
The light was now in front of me on the ground, aimed at my feet. I stopped, wishing I could see beyond the glare.
“Dex?” I whispered. “Please answer me Dex, this isn’t funny.”
If he was trying to freak me out, he succeeded, and I knew he would hear the terror in my cracking voice. But still...there was nothing.
I took a deep breath and bent down to pick up the camera. Only it wasn’t a camera at all. It was a flashlight.
Confused, I turned it over in my hands. Did Dex have a flashlight before? I was wracking my brain trying to remember when I heard a low groan. Not the groans of a person (or a thing) mind you, but the impersonal sound of a door opening on its hinges. It came from the door to the right.
I aimed the flashlight into the blackness. For a split second, I was afraid I was going to see something vaguely horrifying like Dex standing in the corner of the room and staring at the wall (yes, the last scene of the Blair Witch Project came to mind) but instead the hall was empty. Nothing there except the door leading to the circular room, which was now wide open.
I shuffled toward it and stepped inside.
It was a bedroom. At least it had been at one time. Now all that was left was a thick wooden bed frame that looked partially burnt, a side table with a stack of books, and a wardrobe in the corner. On top of the wardrobe was a porcelain washbasin, with a mirror propped up against the wall. The flashlight’s reflection glared sharply in it.
There was a round porthole-type window facing the ocean, coated with a thick layer of grime and salt. Something about the window registered in the back of my overworked brain.
Had I been here before? Was that...possible?
I took a few steps closer to the window when—
The door slammed shut behind me.
I screamed and dropped the flashlight, the light spraying the walls as it landed on the ground with a clunk. I winced and quickly scooped it up. The light wavered and then started to fade. Panicking, I shook it hard but the bulb had been jarred out of place from the fall. There was still light, but it was growing weaker by the minute. That, or the darkness was growing stronger.
That’s when it happened. That’s when it hit me.
A light from the hallway went on.
The edges of the door glowed amber.
The image seared into my head and, like pieces in a puzzle, it slowly fit together with another image that came shooting out of my memory.
My dream. This was my dream. My breath caught in my throat as all the puzzle pieces found each other. The round room, the porthole, the light outside of the door. Sure, I wasn’t standing in a nightgown and barefoot, but it was the same place. It wasn’t possible by any earthly means, and yet…