Scrawling a Bit of Fiction: Chances

1 06 2013

Woefully late in the week, here is another entry into the Ermilia Picture it and Write event held weekly over at Ermiliablog. As always the picture is not mine, they provide it for inspiration and then I write stuff. Sometimes, I like the stuff. Sometimes, the stuff is even kind of good.

Fingers crossed on the last one.

P.S. There might be a spot of profanity. Totter on at your own risk.

            Terrance woke to the cold, salty spray of the North Atlantic. Harsh winds whipped the sea into frothy white foam that obscured the edges of the rocks he had come to rest on. The man-made menhirs rose from the shore around him, jagged and clustered atop one another, built to protect the shore from being pulled into the violent sea. The remnants of a ship cluttered the base of each one like twigs in a giant’s game of jacks.
            He struggled to his feet, the slick stones fighting each attempt to steady himself. Finally finding purchase, he scanned the shoreline. Not far off a lighthouse stood lonely, oddly dark, a large cross crowning the top just above where the light should have shone.

            Too dark to make out any other signs of civilization along the beach, Terrance climbed down onto the sand and made for the silent beacon.

            The closer he came to the lighthouse the fiercer the winds became until the howling of the great hurricane settling over the coast drowned out the roar of the sea. He shielded his eyes from the wind’s terrible assault and climbed the steps to the massive double doors almost cathedral-like in their design. One side hung open.

            Terrance waited for no invitation and closed the door behind him.

            Inside it was quiet. The winds howled on outside and now, from the comfort of his new-found sanctuary, the rhythmic roar of the ocean could be heard once more, lapping greedily at the stones on the shore.

            The interior was a single large room; wide and long. The center was full of chairs and the walls were lined with the trappings of old churches; paintings, shelves of bibles, a basin that once held holy water. A single barrel fire lit the room from the far end near a smashed up podium.

            Perhaps this place served two masters; a coastal church that provided not only a path to its congregation within but to its ocean born brethren as well.

            The floor boards groaned as he walked, ancient shreds of green carpet wrapping themselves around his boots with each step.

            Terrance searched about the chairs. Old bibles, ocean charts, and the transcendental tomes of the likes of Nathaniel Hawthorne lay in piles of ash and burnt up bits of wood; testaments to campfires past.

            He inspected the barrel fire. Books as well, it had died down and was nearly out. He noticed a hole cut into the ceiling above it. There was light upstairs, spilling through the hole, faint but welcoming like the glow of a kerosene lamp.

It was now that he saw a passage out of the room just behind the barrel. A set of stairs spiraled upward into immediate darkness.

“Guess that’s all I’ve got.” He whispered to himself.

He took a last look around the room hoping that a familiar face would appear. Satisfied that he was alone, Terrance climbed the stairs.

*   *  *


            Terrance leaned over, hands on his knees, sucking in quick gasps of air. The other man had emerged suddenly from the shadows, startling him; he had lost his footing on the slippery steps and tumbled halfway down.

            But it was only a mirror, hanging lopsided in the stairwell for gods know what reason.

            Fortunately, Terrance recognized the sandy-haired, middle-aged sailor before he took off into the turbulent night without giving the light upstairs a second thought. A moment after he was climbing again.

            The second floor was much like the first; dark, wet floors blanketed in the ash of words penned long ago. In one corner a leather pack and a shattered lantern lay beside a dingy sleeping bag. Torn cloth-covered the mess and the sick scent of peppermint hung heavy in the air.

            An open door led into another, better lit room. Terrance approached the door way and leaned up against the wall beside it. Peering around the frame he could identify the trappings of an office or study. Well stocked bookshelves, a desk buried in mountains of loose leaf papers. No fewer than eight oil lanterns were spread evenly across the floor creating overlapping pools of light from one end to another.

            A poorly aging man sat in a chair near the desk. His weathered face was framed with long gray hair and a look of terror. In one shivering hand he clutched a crucifix, in the other a small pistol wobbled in the direction of the door.

            Terrance raised his hands and walked slowly into the light.

“I’m unarmed. I just woke up on the beach. I’m just looking for shelter.”

            The old man gained a temporary command of the shakes and tilted his head as if listening for something said far away. “Who’s there?” he said.

“My name is Terrance. I’m just looking to keep out of the storm and figure out where I ended up. I was on a ship. I think.”

            The old man’s eyes darted back and forth trying to peer out into the dark beyond, near the stairs from where Terrance had come.   

“I don’t know what you are.” The old man shouted. “You get out of here, leave me be, I’ve done nothing to you.” He snarled as he spoke. The shaking had returned.

“Sir?” Terrance took another step closer. The light was becoming hot and uncomfortable. The old man kept his wild stare fixed on the doorway as if Terrance wasn’t in the way at all. “Sir?”

The old man screamed and pulled the trigger. Gunpowder filled the room in thunderous puffs that dimmed the light. A rush of heat and the smell of sulfur and sweat assaulted Terrance’s senses as he tumbled toward the door. Hot led rushed past his head and chest. He fell into the dark and scrambled to make it to the stairs.

Half running and half falling he bolted down and into the dark of the cathedral below. For a long while he peered up the stairwell waiting for a sign that the old man was giving chase. Terrance could hear him coughing, choking on the smoke.

“Still just guessing aren’t you?” A woman’s voice giggled in the dark. Terrance jumped and searched for the seeker, straining to catch a glimpse of a face. Near total darkness had claimed the downstairs, the barrel fire having become little more than a collection of coals and pulsating embers.

Then he spotted the outline. And then a face. He struggled for a moment to identify the shadow before he realized he knew the voice.


“Yes, Terrance. Don’t be so damn surprised. I hate it when you act surprised, like we haven’t done this a hundred times already.”

His skipper’s face came clearly into view as she lit an oil lamp, banishing the darkness around them. She stood in a puddle, her deep blue uniform dripping with sea water. Despite that her face was speckled with mud, her long, blonde hair had fallen from its bun and was now plastered to the side of her face.

“You don’t remember a thing do you?” she sighed.

“No Ma’am. But listen, there’s some crazy old coot upstairs that’s lost it. I tried talking to him but he ignored me than just started shooting, I thought I was a goner.”

The captain shook her head and chuckled.

“Ma’am? I’m serious, we should probably go, it’s not safe here.”

“Oh Terrance, you just can’t get it right can you?”


“I tried telling you how badly you scared the poor man last time. Now he’s got a gun. The light house was pretty nice when we first wrecked but now you’ve got that poor old light keeper so shook up I think he might be close to turning that gun on himself.”

Terrance took a step back as the captain began to advance toward him.

“Wait, I don’t understand.”

“Don’t worry Terrance; I won’t give up on you. I got the rest of the crew. You’re the only one left. You just need to try again and hopefully you get it right this time before the old man dies.”

Terrance slipped on a partially burnt book and fell backward, his head making a sick smack against the wall. His vision swam, he could just make out the captain kneeling down beside him. She took up his hand and rubbed his head.

“You have to wait, try to remember to wait.”

As he slipped from consciousness he could still hear her whisper.

“I won’t give up on you.”

*  *  *


            Terrance woke to the cold, salty spray of the North Atlantic…




4 responses

1 06 2013

Good ghost story!

2 06 2013
Kyllan Brindle

Glad you thought so – I ended up going rather long with this particular entry.

1 06 2013

Ooo! I really like how you finished it with the beginning sentence. A cyclical ghost story. Will he get it right next time? I could see this as the beginning of a horror movie. Great storytelling, Kyllan! 🙂 Thanks for contributing this week.

– Ermisenda

2 06 2013
Kyllan Brindle

Kind words are much appreciated. I spent the better part of two days just staring at the closing line wondering, “Did I get the point across?”

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