The day is waning. Along the horizon, below the slate-grey bank of cloud, the sash of fiery orange glows brighter. The light orb appears, its white-hot heat ebbing into the cool evening, like the tide receding before me.
The sun sinks further, drawing a coral path over the sea, painting the smooth wet sand with blood red tones that fade to a slumbering violet on the shaded ridges.
Reverberations echo within. The warm being is climbing the steps. Round and round. He reaches the lantern room and pauses. I feel him become small for a moment, and listen to the panting breaths. If I concentrate, I am able to breathe with him as the air grows tight and cold and the stone dissipates the day’s accumulated warmth.
The being stretches tall and moves around; touching here, polishing there. Sounds burst from him, like the tweeting of a bird.
Do not awaken the dawn. Not yet. I draw in to myself, and hear a crack from the wooden railing.
The tweeting ceases. The door opens and the being comes outside. He sniffs. The wooden rail trembles beneath his hand. “Well, my lady, this is it, huh?”
The paint is peeling from my body and soon I will be useless, left for the birds to besmirch; the glass at first chipped, then slowly shattered as rocks are endlessly hurled by the sea. I am no lady, more a battered, disease-ridden crone.
“I’ll light ’er up then.”
I brace myself but he closes the door gently. I will miss the slam that ricochets to the ground and makes me tremble.
The next moment a stunning beam of light hits the waters. This time it’s me splashing a path over the ocean. I am queen when the king of the day sleeps.
Yet no longer; this is my last eventide as the sentinel of the seas.
The sun slips beyond the day, and darkness flows after the path of the beam, only to flee when my light chases back.
I wish for a crashing storm to mark the passing of my significance, a furious tempest; it would be a more fitting rite than the quiescence my eye beholds.
A light fog condenses just before dawn, but the ray cuts through the mist, strong, faithful. The air changes, softens. Birds awaken, and invite Aurora with their songs.
Below, the old wooden door slams shut. A shudder shakes my body; the light wavers a moment, then returns true. The warm being climbs slower today, his steps discrepant. He has lived long, but I, longer.
And now, after a century of exemplary service, my wide beacon will be extinguished, like a candle in a puff of wind.
Black greys into a muffling mist. He flicks the switch.
The world lives on, yet I am neither alive nor dead. I am nothing. Without a purpose. Invisible.
The being steps out and leans on the railing. Warmth curls around the wood. A finger of smoke lifts and snaps the freshness of the air.
“Hnh. Didn’t expect them so early.” He grinds the hot twig into the stone beneath his foot. “Come to watch the whales. That’s our job now, my lady.”
The sun lifts further. For a moment, the drops of moisture sparkle; iridescent rainbow shimmers that hover in the air until they burst, their colours coalescing into a brilliant white.
Warm beings swarm up inside. They lean on the rail, whispering, pointing. Then a squawk. “Look, a whale! There!”
My stone warms and expands; settles.
So this is who I have become.
Still sentinel of the seas.