The heavy set door of La Sentinelle had swung shut, solemn footsteps traced the familiar path to the beach, for the last time.
That was years ago.
The tide of automation had risen, and with it, a slow silence had seeped into the stone. The majestic lighthouse had stood as she was left, tall, determined, and hollow. A thick layer of dust had damped the sunlight streaming through the windows, casting grey through each beam. The fading floorboards had warped, twisting against their slats, shadowed with the faint outlines of furniture long gone. The emptiness inside La Sentinelle had held a greater expanse.
For nine years, Hugo’s lonely voice had been the only one to resonate through the ancient granite. The last in a long line of voices who’s hope and worries had left their marks on the old lighthouse. Smooth patches adorned the walls - left by the passing caress of careless familiar touches. A plastery crack stretched around the kitchen door - drunkenly slammed one too many times. A pale orb streaked the glass window - regularly smeared clean to reveal that fateful stretch of coastline, still faintly visible below the years of accumulation. Echoes in the silence.
The life saving light of La Sentinelle spilled down the stone spiral stairs from the watch room. The glow glancing over bellied grooves worn by frantic footsteps; heavy with the sorrow of what had come before, propelled on by the urgency of prevention.
A stray kittiwake, a regular visitor now, leisurely perches along the iron hand rail lining the stairs.
Countless times, hearts had leapt as white knuckles had gripped the same banister, sensing the palpable shift in air pressure that could only mean one thing. Feet had thundering upwards; set to the swelling orchestral score of the storm, tumbling back down in the easy notes of a cloudless day.
With a distinctive keee- keee, lightening the symphony of late spring, dark wings lift, revealing their shining white undersides. The kittiwake takes flight, the wayward fall giving way to a graceful weaving dive down the tower towards the crumbling door.
Never again, Hugo had sworn the day he'd taken up residence at La Sentinelle, would the light go out. It had been too late for his son but Hugo had kept his oath, never knowing how many others he saved from his own suffering.
La Sentinelle no longer needed someone to turn her light on, to scan the horizon or monitor the barometer for signs, she would guide ships to safety from afar, as she was guided her self. The seer of the satellite foresaw every swirling torment of black clouds that whipped the waters into a furious foaming frenzy, crashing against rock, before it even formed. As the air currents that would birth a storm collided, the satellite reacted.
It was with a heart weighted like the pockets of sailors, bravely facing the immersion of the depths, Hugo had left La Sentinelle.
The years of solitude, the hope he carried with him of sparing another, couldn’t fight the undercurrent of regret that had dragged him so far. Hugo knew nothing would bring Micheal back, but for a long time, the thought of living life without his son felt like a betrayal.
The cement lines welding the patchwork of flagstones over the lighthouse floor have become an express line to the world outside La Sentinelle. Tiny padded feet scurry, taking sharp turns, the eroded furrow offering a sense of security despite the expanse above. Waves of air wash over the furry body, the twitching nose pausing to dislodge a loose shroud of grass from settling over it’s whiskers. Beyond the wall of debris, the tangle of sticks and crumbling wood; the sky shrieks with danger, yet still, cautious paws pick their way out, darting for the nearest cover.
Deep in the kitchen, tucked under a tattered, faded armchair, a bundle of pink writhed; claws protruding as scaled tails whipped about the mass of blind, furless young. The mouse would be back.
Day after day, Hugo had sank into the lone armchair, he had buried his head in his hands, a storm still ravaging his heart though clear skies shone outside. There were some things not even La Sentielle’s remote island could provide sanctuary from.
In Hugo’s absence, the lash and crack of storms had continued to hammer on La Sentinelle’s bulging door, aghast at being locked out, unable to accept the barred entrance. Until it didn’t have to. The door had given in to the assault, easing on its hinges, salt water seeping into the grain.
The swollen wood, spilt in the oranged confetti of decay, gathered around the entrance, reluctant to leave. It had been joined by the beginnings of a collection of water-worn sticks tossed high by the waves, of fallen twigs that hadn’t made it to the nest, of cast off grass sheathes seeking shelter from the charging winds. Through the gap, life crept in, first on tentative paws, and then on wings, cautiously slipping into the forgotten lighthouse.
The fraying door had once supported Hugo as he slumped to the floor, the words on the letter in his hand rapidly losing meaning. At first, Tracey had understood his need to be at La Sentinelle, the desire to spare another, then the weekly supply boat had brought that envelope. Divorce papers. He hadn’t heard from her since.
There had been nothing left for him to go back to after that. Hugo had found it strangely liberating.
He would be an old man now, sat out at Port Lutia, hawking his scenic photos to tourists, telling his tales to those who offered to quench his thirst. Maybe there, he had also found his peace.
The kittiwake returns, his mate catching his wake as he leads the way up the tower to their ledge. The frantic call of young surging through the silence.
This started as an entry to #finishthestory, i wasn't brave enough to post it there, but after a lot of work, it became something else, a story in its own right that didn't relate to the first half any more. Full credit still goes to @brisby for this though, as it was her character and her setting that inspired it. This is the first thing I have written in a while and I decided to make myself post it. In a way, this was one of those ones that was more for me than anyone else.