tales [ short-story seus ]

Маяк (Mayak)

Warmth was no longer welcome in the coastal village of Petrovsk. The world normally sleeps as snow covers it in thick blankets, but nobody in Petrovsk slept; not because of cold, but from fear. A fear that was amplified as the lighthouse beam cut through the dark.

The area surrounding Petrovsk was prone to bitter winters. Getting more than a two shipments in the winter months was rare. The small number of families and recluses relied on hunting and farming to gather enough supplies to survive the colder months.

A group arrived to the town in the Summer, The Communion of the Hearth, their self-proclaimed aim was to help the town stockpile supplies and prepare for the winter. “Even in the darkest of nights, the lighthouse shines on. And so shall the Communion of the Hearth!” They put posters with the phrase in windows and held local meetings in front of the lighthouse to gain awareness and support. They gradually earned the community’s trust.

In the late fall, just weeks before the cold weather was expected, the group started distancing themselves from the community. Distribution of supplies trickled and social functions slowly ceased. Doubters theorized that The Communion would move on to a warmer area and leave the town to fend for themselves. When the lighthouse keeper, a man who had maintained the building for more than 30 years, passed The Communion claimed the structure as their own and any doubts about the group wilted.

As the icy winter began its occupation of the area the townsfolk noted that the lighthouse was no longer lit every night, as had been tradition with the old keeper. Townsfolk began to see shadows creeping through the eternal blizzard. The figures appeared out of nothing, stood still and watched as the villagers huddled in their homes, before melting back into the storm. The howling winds created deep drifts that ensured the town would remain isolated for the remainder of the winter.

It was several days into the deep freeze before the lighthouse’s beacon burned again. On that same night the Petrov family was taken from their homes and dragged, screaming and pleading, through the dark blizzard to the illuminated candle. As neighbors ventured out into the world they uncovered red stains in the snow. Nobody talked about what had happened that night, but everyone knew.

The Petrov family was only the first to go missing. Every few weeks the lighthouse would send its floodlight out in search of new victims; each time another family would vanish and leave trails to that cursed beacon. By the new year only two families remained.

Alexis sat huddled in his small home, a fire blazing in the hearth. In the past few days Alexis had seen the shadows past home’s windows. They were closer than they had been before. They watched for much longer.

The lighthouse shone again tonight. The beam lit the curtains of the home with every rotation. Every rotation, Alexis peered out the window praying there would be no watching shadows.

The beam from the tower rotated slowly and covered the outside world with darkness. How long could he watch like this? The light returned. No shadow.

The light withdrew. How long before he would go mad? These conditions were unforgiving, he could feel the fabric of his mind stretching. The light advanced. No shadow.

The light fell back. What would he do if The Communtion came for him? No other victim had yet escaped the lighthouse. The light drew forward, and Alexis felt his throat constrict. A shadow stood on the road, watching him. His eyes just playing tricks on him, he told himself. He rubbed them and shook his head.

When he opened his eyes the beam had retreated once again. He stared into the darkness anxiously. The light returned, and the shadow stood just feet from the window. There were at least five others this time. All coming from the street. Alexi’s blood ran cold.

Warmth was no longer welcome in Petrovsk. Nobody in Petrovsk slept; not because of cold, but from a primal fear of the hunting beam of light in the dark.

Cody’s Choice on /r/WritingPrompts SEUS thread
Photo by Aditya Vyas on Unsplash