I hold up the skirt of my gown in one hand so I don’t trip on the staircase, the lantern in my other hand swaying with each step. The sun is reaching for the sea, longing for its cold embrace as night draws nearer.
The wind is picking up. Clouds are building, promising an impressive sunset and a terrible storm. I will stay up tonight, I can never sleep during weather like this.
My memories hold the ghosts of ships resting at the bottom of the sea.
It doesn’t matter how often I walk these stairs, I’m always out of breath by the time I reach the lantern room. Below, the waves are crashing harder and harder against the rocks, and if I listen to them long enough they tell me about the souls lost beneath them.
And I’m always listening.
I know some of the lost souls by name now, I know what their last thoughts were, I know the panic they felt. The waves tell me all that they know, which is usually too much. It is not in their nature to hold back.
Carefully, I pull the candle out of my lantern and use its flame to light the thick wick of the large oil lamp. The lenses around me amplify the light, and I find myself squinting as I check the oil level. Tonight will not be the night my light goes out.
I walk back to the staircase, but I don’t go down. There is a cable-knit sweater I keep on the end of the railing, and I pull it over my head, mussing up my braided hair. I don’t care, the wind will do the same.
I step out onto the gallery quickly, shutting the door behind me and checking to make sure I haven’t blown out my light. The wind is strong up here, and it tries to carry me away. It is too confident in itself to realize it would drop me.
The dark clouds are on fire as the sun sinks. I hear thunder in the distance. It is summertime, but the air does not listen to seasons and it is cold tonight. My nose and cheeks are red and my hair is flying into my eyes but I scan the horizon, praying for the ships that will have to weather tonight.
Tonight, my beacon of light screams danger. Tonight, the waves may tell me new names. Tonight, I will wait up in case of a wreck. In case there are survivors. In case I could help.
I go back inside, picking up my lantern. The stairs groan and settle as I start my way down. I think I shall set a kettle to boil for tea. Perhaps bake some scones. Anything to occupy my hands and pass the time.
I have a long night ahead of me.