The Lighthouse: A Short Story by Mike Cole

He had reached this shore many times before. The waves crashed against the rocks as the fa├žade of the lighthouse came into view. Faded were the once bright colors, the bricks long since crumbled on a shore unknown to man. He was trapped and every time he ventured, he eventually wound up back where he started. His memories were beginning to fade and his reality had become a blur. How many years had it been? Ten years? One Hundred? Time had no relevance here. He could see every reality play out, timelines that were no longer his own. When the rift had opened up, he had thought nothing of it. A glitch in the matrix, a blip in time and space. He thought he could make it back but the further he ventured, the more the route changed and the more it stayed the same; twisting and turning as if a machination of his own imagination. For every step forward, a step backwards. It was always the Damn lighthouse. A shelter in the storm and now a prison. He would always end up back here. He could be gone years, live a life and travel as far as his body would take him, but eventually, he would find himself back.

The light had not shone in years. But every so often it would begin to flicker and come whirring back to life, focusing its beam on some unseen shore in the darkness. And every time he would follow the light. Sometimes through storms, other times dead stillness. The waters were always an inky black. Heaven or Hell, he could not tell, more of an in-between if anything; purgatory, if you will. At first, reality jumping had been fun, living a different life from his own. He could see how his life would have played out, if he had only made different choices. In one he had a family, found love early on and kept it. The other he was a CEO, another a treasure hunter. Each a piece of him and each uniquely different. There was no life in this Ocean as far as he could tell, only darkness. Funny, considering the rifts he jumped through. He was getting closer to the rift and he wondered what he’d find this time around. Would spiders crawl out of it? Would he feel the splash of water? Rats? Anything was possible when traveling through the rift. He felt something brush up against the boat. A moment later, he capsized.

The Night of the Green Owl

He was exhausted. The rain pattered and whistled in the evening air. He could hear the tick of the clock as it moved closer to midnight. His new home held an eerie quiet to it. The floorboards creaked and the fire crackled even as the howling wind began to pick up. He heard thunder strike. ‘One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi, four, five…’. Another crack, one mile away. The lights flickered and then the lights were out. He made his way downstairs; with each step the floorboards creaked. Thunder and then a flash of lightning. “Was that a streak of green?’, he thought. No, it couldn’t be. Lightning flashes are white, not green. The owls were hooting tonight. On most evenings, he typically only heard one. Tonight, it sounded as though they were hundreds; every owl in the forest must have been awake, watching for some unknown presence in the dark. He heard a light tap on the window. Just a gentle, *tap, *tap*, *tap*. As he walked down the stairs, he stumbled. He caught his fall on something furry. Soft, almost like feathers. It was his trench coat, hanging neatly on his coat rack. At least he had made it downstairs. He walked by his fire, growing dimmer with each passing moment. The flames danced back and forth, illuminating the shadows on the walls. He found his way to the kitchen, where he fumbled to grab a flashlight before heading down to the basement, where the breaker was located. *creak*, *creak*, *creak* went the floorboards. *creeeeaaak* made the door handle as he opened it and peered into the darkness below. Each step was heavy and the sound of wood made the journey tense. Water splashed as he hit the ground floor. He went deeper into the basement. He heard a gentle hoot and his flashlight beam hit glowing, green eyes in the dark.

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