Chapter 27. 'The lighthouse at the edge of my mind.' Aornis style. By Kimberley Callaghan, B2.
I nudged one of the oars at my feet and willed the boat to go faster. As I went I tipped the contents of 20 or so silver vials into the water. They weren't necessary, but the memories those silver vials had recently contained would make all the difference to my triumph. As I tipped the final vial into my sea of memories the island came into view, the roar of the nearby waterfall demanding attention and tribute. I quickly retrieved my hand mirror and working quickly attached it to the edge of one of the oars lying uselessly at my feet. After ensuring the mirror was securely attached I lowered the pair of oars into the water and started rowing my way around the island. Despite the light lent by the towering monstrosity of the lighthouse it took longer than I had expected for me to navigate my way through the surprisingly treacherous waters. By the time I had moored the boat I was quite out of breath and felt disgustingly sweaty and wet. I quickly pulled the oars back into the boat and retrieved the dangling mirror off the end. Drying it on a towel that disappeared the moment my touch left it, I made my way over to the lighthouse.
As I climbed the plane metal staircase leading round and up to my triumph I started shivering slightly from the cold leaking into my skin. Purely disgusted at the state I was in I carefully extracted my hand mirror and pulled one of her previous memories of me away from the sea. As I stared at my reflection in the mirror the surface rippled and my eyes were forced closed. After an odd moment that I always despised I carefully plied my eyes apart. The reflection in the mirror was now no longer of a soaked sweaty middle aged woman, but of a dashing triumphant young lady ready to receive her victory. I continued up the stairs and climbed up to the top room of the lighthouse.
As I paced towards the chair I had constructed for my use I clicked the heels of my red shoes together happily. I probably should have changed the red shoes as they had being the trigger before, but I reasoned, what was the point. The victory would be all too boorish if she didn't remember a thing.
Lightning flashed outside, resonating off the top of the lighthouse as spray from the rocks spattered down on the outside of the tower. I heard a gasp outside and smiled. My moment was coming, and it was on the express gravitube. I settled down more comfortably into my chair, then changed my mind and sat up on the edge of the chair. As the cold, steel door slammed, barring off her exit I pulled my mirror out. As clanks started resonating off the stairs I pulled my mirror out and as the steel ladder groaned softly under its new weight, I started powdering my nose.
She entered through the hatch in the floor and let her eyes wander efficiently over the room. They came to rest on me as I knew they would. Pointing her gun at me she asked "Who are you?" I put my nose powder away and slowly lowered my mirror. As I focused on the gun she held outstretched, pointed at me I smiled. She had always being so naïve.
"Dear me!" I exclaimed "Always the woman of action, aren't you." I knew better than to answer her question.
"What am I doing here? She stared at me with eyes only full at face level.
This comment confused me slightly. I didn't realise those vials had being so effective. "You really don't know, do you?" A small frown lit my face as she answered.
"No," she lowered her gun and stared at me again. I could see the panic in her eyes as she sorted through the only senses I had left her with and tried to figure out who I was. I almost felt sorry for her.
"My name is-"
I stopped and caught myself.
"No, I think even that is too much." I smiled half to myself and half to hide the horror of the truth I had almost given her. The power I had almost given her.
I rose and slowly carefully walked towards the woman holding a gun and pointing it at me. "All you need to know is that you killed my brother."
The woman recoiled, almost in shock "I'm a murderer?" She whispered the sentence, not believing it or wanting to. Slowly she searched through the few emotions she had left, most likely looking for the seed of guilt that I also had looked for. Like me, she also found none. "I…I don't believe you."
"Oh, it's true" I reassured her of her crime, "and I will have my revenge. Let me show you something." Now came the good part.
I beckoned the woman over to the window and as she looked out I pushed myself into her shoes, imagining what she must be seeing.
A flash of lightning illuminated the scene below. We were on the edge of a massive waterfall which curved away from us into the darkness. The ocean was emptying over the edge; millions of gallons every second, falling into the abyss. But that wasn't all. In another flash of lightning I could see the waterfall was rapidly eroding the small island on which the lighthouse was built – and as I watched, the first piece of the rocky outcrop fell away noiselessly and disappeared into space.
As the woman spoke I pushed myself away from her and back into the safety of my own shell. "what's happening?" she demanded.
"You are forgetting everything," I said it simply, as if it was no big matter, merely a molehill. I swept my hands grandly around the room. "These are just a few of your memories I have cobbled together – a last stand, if you like. The storm, he lighthouse, the waterfall, the night, the wind – none of them is real." I walked up to her, until my very scent enveloped her. Savouring the moment, I continued, "All this is merely a representation of your mind. The lighthouse is you; your consciousness. The sea around us your experience, your memories – everything that makes you the person you are. They are all draining away like water from a bath. Soon the lighthouse will topple into the void and then-"
"And then I will have won. You will remember nothing – not even this. You will relearn, of course – in ten years you might be able to tie our own shoelaces. But for the first few years the only decision you will have to make is which side of your mouth to drool out of." I smiled victoriously as I finished my speech and watched the fear and confusion swirl across the woman's face. It was going to be soon, I knew it. Already I could feel the pull of the ocean as it eroded away at the island. Soon, I would be victorious.
The woman turned to leave, to run, to hide. I called out, pride swelling in my voice.
"You can't run. Where will you go? For you, there's no where else but here."
The woman reached the door and stopped. She swung around, madness clouding the confusion in her eyes. Raising her gun she fired a single shot. The bullet whistled through me, impacting harmlessly and uselessly on the wall behind. There was no point for her to have shoot, but the fire I had stirred made my victory an even prouder one.
"It will take more than that, Thursday."
"Thursday?" She echoed. "That's my name?"
"It doesn't matter," I responded too quickly. Infuriated with myself that I had given her such a weapon. Just let it slip out. I quickly tried to recover the situation. "There is no one you can remember who will help you."
"Doesn't that make your victory a hollow one?" Thursday demanded, lowering her gun and rubbing her temple. I could see her trying to remember something, anything that would help her. I quickly changed the subject, avoiding her question completely. Unless I kept her on the defensive, things would swing out of my favour. They were already swinging.
"Ridding your mind of that which you value was the hard bit," I replied, pushing myself to look at ease. "All I had to do then was to invoke your dread, the memory that you feared the most. After that it was easy."
"My greatest fear?"
I smiled again, the grin coming easily this time, like the grin of a lioness, ready to pounce. I handed Thursday the hand mirror I had so carefully prepared. It had only being a prop earlier, for it carried no reflection. Merely images of Thursday's past that flashed past anonymously. Thursday took the mirror, knuckles white as she peered deep into it, trying to reach the bottom and make sense of the empty memories.
"These are the images of your life," I told her, watching her knuckles grow whiter and her face further strained as they started making the smallest bit of sense. I hurried on before they made any more. "Your memories, the people you love, everything you hold dear – but also everything that you've ever feared. I can modify and change hem at will – or even delete hem completely. But before I do, I'm going to make you view the worst once more. Gaze upon it, Thursday, gaze upon it and feel the loss of your bother one last time!"
The scene on the mirror changed to show the war of so long ago, the violent death of the man which then had being her inspiration, but know was my weapon. The familiar soldier who drew on a pain that I watched tear through Thursday, even though she hardly knew why. Watching her pain, I laughed as the scene repeated itself with more death, more destruction and more pain. I let her pain wash across me, mending the wound she had wrought within me. Her pain, helping mine. As I looked up Thursday closed her eyes to block it out, to block all of it out. Within a split second they were open as Thursday gasped for breath, as if she had just come out of a deep dive. The fear encircling Thursday wrapped through me pulling away my courage and poking holes all through my enjoyment. This fear was alien, and it scared me.
"What is it?" I cried, the alien fear hurting as it spread through me, tugging at my seams. "There is something I have missed? Worse than the Crimea? Let me see!"
I reached for the hand mirror, grasping at it like a drowning person, grasping for a lifeline. Thursday pulled away from me however and dropped the mirror. The mirror shattered on the concrete floor echoing the thump on the outside door as it landed. As lightning flashed throughout the sky, illuminating the shattered shards, colour seeping out of them as they dissolved into a dark pus, we heard a second thump and then a groan as the door started to shift.
"What was that?" I demanded the knowledge of Thursday as understanding and courage swept through her and her fear entered the very soul I existed as. She had found a weapon, one strong enough. She knew it, and more importantly, I knew it.
"My worst nightmare," She told me "and now yours."
"But it can't be! Your worst nightmare was the Crimea, your brother's death – I know I've searched your mind!"
"Then," Thursday spoke this word slowly, weighing out the single syllable as the last of her fear left her, confidence filling it's place, along with a strength I thought I had stolen away, "You should have searched harder!"
"But it's still too late to help you," I said, my voice quavering as I wished it to be true. "It will not gain entry, I assure you of that!"
I heard another loud crash. It resonated through me, cutting me like the shattered glass the dark pus had once being would have. This thump came from the steel door on the ground floor. So cold, hard, steady and reliable: it had being torn off its hinges
"Wrong again," Thursday said quietly, her voice no more than a whisper filled the room more than a yell. "You asked it to attend, and it came."
I ran to the stairs, dread filling me with speed. I yelled.
"Who is there? Who are you? What are you?"
I got no reply; only a soft sigh came floating up the stairs, accompanied by the sound of footfalls, too muffled to be true and they slowly advanced upwards, carrying their hulk of dread along with them. I turned back into the room as Thursday looked out the window to see another chunk of the island fall away. I followed her gaze as I watched the rock disappear into the abyss the lighthouse was now poised on the edge of. I knew that if I looked down to the ground I would never see my goal as the abyss disappeared below to a dizzying depth, that no-one knew of. I steadied myself as a tremor rocked the foundation of the lighthouse, allowing it to bend and shift towards the abyss, like a ballerina ready to leap as her hair came loose, just as the plaster that fell off the wall around us, tumbling down, down and down.
"Thursday," I yelled it out pitifully my last trickle of confidence gone. "You can control it! Make it stop!"
I slammed the door to the staircase and the fear shut, my hands shaking as I drew the bolt, letting it slam home as hurriedly as I could. I knew it would not work, but I needed something, and it was better than nothing.
"I could hide it if I chose," Thursday answered me staring straight into my eyes which had gone from clear white to a glazed, shot red. I heard the footsteps quieten and breathed a half sigh of relief, "but I choose not to. You asked me to gaze upon my fears – now you may join me."
The footsteps started again, with renewed vigour as the lighthouse shifted again and swayed closer to the abyss, a crack renching open to reveal the sea, storm-tossed below and beyond as it emptied itself away. The arc light above me ground to a halt as the metal twisted. Whether to the evil presence so close, or the tilting foundations, I did not know. As a thump sounded at the door, I decided I did not want to know.
"There are always bigger fish Aornis," Thursday spoke slowly as my time wore itself quickly away and the ocean began pulling at me. I realised, too late, I had given her too much, and I had being too slow. "Like all Hades, you were lazy. You thought Anton's demise was the worst thing you could dredge up. You never looked farther. Hardly looked into my subconscious at all. The old stuff, the terrifying stuff, the stuff that keeps us awake as children, the nightmares we can only half glimpse on waking, the fear we sweep to the back of our minds but which is always there, gloating from a distance."
The door collapsed inwards, the lighthouse pitching as a large section of the wall fell away. An icy gale flew in, the ceiling dropped two feet and electricity sparked out in irregular bursts from a cable, severed beyond repair. As the wind froze, the ceiling threatened and the cable singed I froze and stared. I stared at the dark shadow of a creature, filling the bulk of the doorway and quietly salivating away to itself in anticipation.
"No!" I whined the words. I was beyond thoughts and the fear of the creature in front of me had me pinned on the spot. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to disturb you, I-"
I felt my hair turn snow white as I started draining away. I willed myself to go faster, but I knew it was no use. Just as I could not scream in shock, pain or hurt, I could not disappear. The vials I had being so proud of before ensured that.
As the hulking mass of black advance towards me I fell to my knees, pulled closer to the water where I belonged just as much as the evil presence pushed down upon me. My hands started draining away and I felt my feet go numb. It was not long now.
I watched Thursday creep around me like the leech she was and take the steps two at a time. She would get out, take my boat and survive. All with that which I had worked so hard to rid her of.
My calf started going numb as the form reached me. As it's fingers touched my throat an icy mixture flowed downwards, coursing through my veins and making very short work of the knot in my throat. At the same time the roof collapsed, crushing me and the form with me. I screamed as immense pain rippled through me, both from the burns it's touch had left on my neck and the weight of the roof pushing steel splinters through my skin, while crushing me down so I couldn't move.
I pushed myself into a small gap, dragging my legs behind me uselessly. They were completely white and had being crushed by the roof. I realised too late that I wasn't the only one in the gap. The dark mass was sitting in the back corner, curling in on itself. I bit back a yelp of pain as I pulled my legs through steel and into the gap. It looked up at me and started crawling forwards, slowly dragging itself towards me. As it's fingers reached outwards, groping at me I started yelling. I didn't know quite what I was saying. I was beyond that.
I yelled as the lighthouse pitched and threw me towards it, my finger grabbing at the steel of the roof to keep me room sliding into it's grasp. The roof pitched again and this time I was left trying to swing away it, avoid it and get away from it. I failed. My voice still running at a million miles an hour it reached for me. It's fingers swept across my skin, igniting the last burns and making new ones. The lighthouse pitched one last time and it fell out the window, falling far below, it's touch dislodged by it's desire.
With it gone I thought about how things had turned out. I hadn't won, I hadn't conquered, and I hadn't even succeeded. I had failed completely and as the lighthouse I had created with such pride fell and became my tomb, only one thought was left swirling through my head. As my arms turned white and I started gasping for breath only one realisation was left.
I realised now that when Thursday had first spoken of her greatest fear, she had not being thinking of her brother.