The night began like any other. The moon hung low in the sky and the waves crashed against the shore in a musical rhythm. The stars dotted the sky and a light breeze ruffled the flag at the top of the lighthouse. Whit was watching for ships and Al was manning the searchlight. I was on break, drinking coffee and playing solitaire. Then it happened.
“Hey! Al! Marigold! There’s a ship heading straight for us!” Whit said in his thick British accent. I almost fell off my chair. “What?” I grabbed Whit’s telescope. I looked through and sure enough there was a large three-mast-er, in good condition, heading straight for us. The ship gave off an eerie feeling that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. It was going at maybe a good 7 meters a minute. That’s pretty fast for such a big ship.
Al took a turn gawking at the mysterious ship and when he turned back to me he was paper-white. “Maybe I just ain’t seeing right, but I coulda swore there wasn’t anybody on board.” His voice was hoarse as if he was too shocked to speak. “Nonsense!” Whit spat. “The captain’s just at an angle we can’t see him at! Now shine the light!” Al swung the light franticly, but the ship did not slow. It chugged on, even faster now.
Now we didn’t need the scope to it. The ship had maybe seven yards to go until it crashed into the rocky shore. “This is bloody insane!” Whit cried before running downstairs. I leaned against the balcony railing as I watched the ship close the distance between its hull and the shore. I bit my lip as it came closer and closer. Only 5 more yards left. Closer…closer… Al sucked in a breath and prepared for a monstrous crash. Closer… closer… Three yards left… two… Suddenly it stopped.
There sat the grand three-mast-er mere inches from the shore. My jaw almost fell off. That… that was impossible! I rubbed my eyes, dug my fists into my sockets until my eyes ached. When I opened them again the ship was still there, only now Whit was standing in front of it, gaping. I glanced back at Al to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating from too much caffeine intake. I wasn’t because Al looked as if he was going to faint. He tilted his head towards the door and I nodded. Al wanted to know if I would follow him down to the ship. He didn’t speak much but always got the point across. He spun on his heel and raced downstairs, I followed.
Whit was still standing in front of the ship when we got down there. “Whit,” I said placing a hand on his shoulder “Let’s go back to the gallery. It isn’t-“CLANG! The ship’s ramp crashed onto the shore, inviting us onboard. Whit, who was always trying to prove he was braver than Al, pushed past me and walked onboard. Al and I exchanged looks. He muttered something nasty about Whit that I am not able to repeat before he too climbed on board. I was the last to get on the ship.
“Hello?” Whit called. The ship was dark, deserted, and yet seemed untouched, as if the crew had just gotten off board. A map was still sprawled out on a barrel, a pen acting as a paperweight. In the kitchen, mason jars were still open as if the chef was just about to start putting the dish together and the cookbook was still open on the counter.
I don’t even want to get started on the smell. On deck it was faint, barely even recognizable, but as we started exploring the ship it got stronger. The smell was of cinnamon, and I’m not talking like cinnamon pastry, no, raw cinnamon, freshly ground. It was intoxicating. The smell got so strong to the point where I thought I was going to start vomiting.
The odd thing is there was no cinnamon on board. There wasn’t much of anything on board. The cargo holds were empty. That’s odd. Cargo holds are always full because of continuous trade. When traders bring something to port they always go home with something else in their cargo holds. An empty hold could only mean… “They must’ve been robbed.” I said unsteadily.
Whit let out a laugh. “Pirates? Near the French Guiana? Fat chance!” He was laughing so hard that his face was turning red. I felt my cheeks get hot and forced myself to laugh. It came out sounding more like a cry of pain. “Yeah, how ridiculous.” I mumbled.
Al suddenly appeared, holding a slip of paper in his hands. He looked terrified as he held it up for us to see. It only had one word written on it, inked in red: LEAVE. A chill ran up my spine. Whit snatched the paper out of Al’s hands. “What kind of sick joke is this?” He turned to me. “Do you believe this rubbish?” I looked up at the sky, silent, then gasped. “Al! Whit! The moon is gone!”
The full moon, that had been there clear as day, along with all the stars had vanished. “In the name of all things holy…” Al trailed off. I Looked at him then saw Whit wasn’t at his side. I turned the other way, yet Whit wasn’t there. “Whit?” I called as I ran for the rest of the ship, but Al caught my wrist. “Marigold, it’s not safe here. We need to get off and if Whit went anywhere he went to the lighthouse.” Al was trying to be logical, to be brave, but underneath the bravery I heard raw fear in his voice, sensed it coming off him in waves. I let Al lead me off the boat and back to the light.
As we got closer to the gallery I started to smell something that was out of place in the light house. Raw cinnamon. I ran the rest of the way up to the gallery, almost falling down the stairs a few times. When I burst through the door and into the gallery I saw a sickening sight.
There sitting in my chair was Whit. He wasn’t alive though. His face was drained of all color, his dark eyes empty of logic and reasoning, his chest not rising and falling. He was dead. How had he died? How had his body gotten hear before us? I felt a tear roll down my cheek, the first of many I would shed tonight.
I approached the table where he sat and there on the table were my cards. There weren’t where I left them, set up in a very challenging game of solitaire, no, they were set up in a message: BEWARE. I looked at Al, who was as pale as parchment, and saw a reflection of what I felt: pure, raw, nauseating fear. Nowhere was safe. We couldn’t swim off the island, it would be too tiring and I could barely swim, someone had died in the light, and the ship, that retched ship, was the cause of our problems.
“The rocks,” Al finally said, “We’ll wait for a ship to come by out on the rocks.” It could take months before a ship passed through these waters but we didn’t have any better ideas. So we went out to the rocks and waited for a ship to come and save us.
“You should try and rest.” Al told me after an hour of sitting out there. “I’ll keep watch.” Rest? Was he insane? How could I rest knowing that one of my co-workers had mysteriously died and that the ship that had caused all of our problems was docked 4 yards away? But in the end I decided just to lie on the rocks and look up at the completely empty dark sky.
I woke with a start. Somehow I had fallen asleep. Something didn’t seem right. “Al, did you see anything?’ I asked groggily. I sat up and looked around. For a second I thought Al had disappeared too but then I realized that he was curled up on the rocks, asleep, so much for keeping watch. I crawled over to him. Then I noticed the smell. I rolled him over and gasped.
He had a giant gash on his forehead, probably from having his head banged against a rock, and his face was frozen in a look of horror. The smell, raw cinnamon, became so strong, it was stronger than before, stronger then it was on the ship. I turned and almost peed myself. A woman was standing in front of me, a hazy figure. She wore a long white dress, like she was a bride, and her long brown hair moved in a nonexistent breeze. Her dress was ripped to shreds and bloody to the point where you could’ve said the dress was dark red.
The woman pointed at me with a long pale finger and said in a soft, sinister, chilling voice: “The first was the denier, the second the braver, you shall be the last to die so I shall give you a privilege, what do you want to be known as?” My mind was racing, I couldn’t think of a name for myself! God, I could barely remember the name I’ve been given! Suddenly without even realizing it I blurted out: “The Ace!” The ace of spades had been the card I had needed in solitaire. It’s strange how in the last seconds you remember the little, unimportant things of before.
“Very well,” The woman nodded. “You are the Ace, the last to die.” Then she lunged at me. I didn’t even have a chance to scream before my world went dark, forever.
Two Days Later
The search boat docked and all the officials got off board. The light had been out for two nights now and they were there to investigate. The officials swamped the lighthouse and found no one. The light was deserted, not even any bodies were found. Strangely though, the island did smell heavily of cinnamon.