Yaquina Head Light Part 2
Clutching the ring of keys Kent provided, Sam ascended the creaking, slippery wooden stairway leading up the cliff face to the lighthouse. He could see the coming storm as it approached. It was as dark and brooding as his mood and moving in fast. Sam knew he needed to finish his search of the lighthouse quickly. Kent wouldn't be able to keep the boat against the dock long before fear of being battered against the rocks would demand that he get out of there. Lashed by the rain, wet, and legs aching from the seemingly endless climb of the cliff stairs, Sam felt a sense of dread. The gray and black boiling sky and the crashing of ever-intensifying waves gave the feeling of insurmountable bleakness. He crested the stairs, and there it was before him, stark white against the gray clouds, reaching to the sky like the arm of a dying man calling for gods redemption, the Yaquina Head Light.
He wasted no time getting to the two-story keeper's house attached to the conical tower. He tried the keys on the ring until he found one that slid home. As the lock clicked open, he felt a shock go through his body. This is it, he thought. Pushing the door open, he peered into the darkness of the building. The door creaked in protest as if letting out a moan of disapproval at being disturbed. Taking a deep breath, he stepped inside. It felt good to be out of the rain. He searched for a light switch and found it to his left. The room was a small mudroom with a door into the main house on the opposite wall. Some raincoats hung from hooks to his right, and a collection of boots lay haphazardly arranged on the floor. Sam moved to the door. It opened silently, casting light onto the worn wooden floor of what looked to be a common room. He strode into the main house. Finding the light switch, he turned it on. It was before noon, but you wouldn't know it from the darkness of the sky outside. Any light that was present was blocked by the drawn curtains and shuttered windows. The place was not much warmer than it was outside, but at least it was dry. He listened to the sound of the rain as it beat on the building, amplified by the echoing tower. He could see the flashing pattern of the light, two seconds on, two seconds off, two seconds on, then fourteen seconds off. The boat horn from Kent on the docks below pulled him out of the trance brought on by the light's rhythm. He needed to get this done before Kent left him here.
Sam quickly looked around the room. It was a living room of sorts with a wood-burning stove and couch facing it. There were built-in bookshelves, which boasted volumes on maritime history, local geography, and other popular literary works, nothing that seemed of any real interest. A phonograph positioned in front of the large window on the north wall reminded him of his younger days with Alan. They would listen to music on their father's phonograph, pretending they were important men hosting grand parties full of important people. He checked the collection of records on the shelf next to it; nothing was worth listening to. A flash of lightning lit up the room, followed shortly by a low rumble of thunder. The storm was closing in. He needed to hurry.
Quickly checking the other rooms on the bottom floor, he found a serviceable bathroom, a mop closet stocked with all of the appropriate cleaning supplies, an oil room stocked with ten five-gallon kerosene containers for the light, and a small study. He hastily scoured the study for any trace of Alan and his family. Nothing; Sam didn't even know what he was looking for, something, a sign that they had been there or a trace of where they might be going. Looking through the old wooden writing desk, he found the bottom right drawer locked. Turning behind him, Sam reached up, scanning the top of the bookshelf with his fingers. Amateurs, he thought as he pulled down the small silver key. He unlocked the drawer to find a single leather journal with the initials SW branded into the front cover's leather. As he opened the journal, he could hear the sound of the boat engines starting from below. The storm had picked up, and Kent would be pulling out. It was too dangerous to keep the boat against those cliffs any longer. Sam didn't blame him. He'd do the same if the shoe were on the other foot. Peering out the study window, he could see the small boat breaking the waves as it traversed the dangerously rocky corridor and broke free into the open water. He was on his own now. At least he didn't have to rush his search any longer.
It was just a bit after noon, and Sam knew he would not be able to make the trek back to Newport with the increasing storm. He resigned to stay at the lighthouse for the night; if the storm let up tomorrow, he could make it back to his hotel. Sam needed to get a fire started in the woodstove; it was as cold as a tomb. He wished he'd thought of a different comparison. Staring intently at the journal, Sam noticed that he could see his breath. The storm was increasing outside, with the flashes of lightning and peels of thunder getting more frequent. He tucked the journal under his arm and went about starting a fire.
There was wood by the stove, and it only took him a few minutes to find matches in the kitchen. The warmth of the fire was a relief as it sprang to life. He hung his coat and hat upon hooks above the stove; the heat would dry them quickly. He decided to look at the upstairs rooms before scavenging some food from the kitchen pantry. The stairs creaked loudly, protesting his ascent to the second floor. The hallway at the top of the stairs was dark and forbidding, with two doors on either side midway down and one door at the end. It was as cranky as the stairs, creaking with every step he took. If there were anyone here to alert, they would know full well someone was in the house by now. He opened the door to his left first. It was an empty room with no furnishings and no closet. The opposite door opened into another vacant space. The last keeper didn't have a family, so these rooms were rarely if ever, utilized. A layer of dust was visible on the floor of each, undisturbed and waiting. The room at the end of the hall was another story entirely. He opened the door and switched on the light. The tidy, modest room with it's neatly made four-posted bead had a nightstand and lamp on the left and a large dresser and mirror to the right against the wall. A taller chest of drawers to the entrance's right had a few pictures and decorative items on top. Lightning flashed, followed by an almost immediate crack of thunder. The storm was almost on top of him now.
Focusing on the chest of drawers, he began to open up each of its namesakes in turn. Some old clothes in each, but Sam found nothing of any interest. Sam's shirtsleeve snagged on the handle of the last drawer as he pushed it in, impatiently, he jiggled the handle to release his shirt. Doing so dislodged a yellowed envelope from behind one of the pictures on the top of the chest. This intrigued Sam. The envelope was old and had no apparent connection to his missing brother, but Sam's interest was peaked. As he reached to grab the envelope, it slid down behind the chest of drawers.
Moving around the battered wooden bureau, he could not manage to see where the envelope had fallen. He pulled it away from the wall and swung it slightly to the side, finding the envelope resting in years of dust. A flash of panic shot quickly through him as the lightning and accompanying thunderclap rocked the room. There before him manically gouged into the wooden paneling of the wall, sketchy and haphazard, betraying some panicked and horrified madman, were the words that Sam could not erase from his mind once he gazed upon them. It was an apparent warning or reminder to the crazed author of this ominous phrase that had been concealed from its intended audience. It read, "Not alive. They are all dead". Sam fell back against the bed sitting on the floor, staring at the hastily scrawled phrase.
The hair rose on the back of his neck as he sat watching the lightning light up the words on the wall, still aware of the lighthouse beacon's steady pattern. After a moment, he reached out and snatched up the old envelope, thrusting it into his pocket. He gave a hasty search of the rest of the room, which turned up nothing. He could almost feel the presence of the words on the wall as if they were a physical being, regarding him, waiting to pounce and drag him down into the hell from which they came. He was happy to leave the room and head back downstairs to the warmth of the fire. What had his brother stumbled into? Could he have found something that caused some devious keeper of secrets to feel inclined to silence him? What about his family? He needed to uncover the secret this sinister and lonesome beacon of the sea was holding. It had to come back to Shadrack Wass, the man Kent had told him of. He looked to the end table by the chair positioned in front of the wood-burning stove in the living room. The letters burned into the leather of the journal he had found in the study's locked draw, SW, initials, Shadrack Wass.
It was now just past two in the afternoon. It didn't seem like he had been rummaging around that long, but his watch read 2:10. With a sideways look at the journal on the end table, he crossed the room and headed for the kitchen. Clean and orderly, the last keeper must have been a military man. He opened the door to the right of the small, gleaming white, washtub sink. Relief washed over him as he stared into the wooden shelves crammed full with various cans, some labeled and some not. There were also dried meats and bags of flour and rice. He found a can of beans and pulled a few pieces of dried beef from the shelves. It didn't take long to find an opener for the can. With the can of beans in one hand, top tipped back, and the spoon he found sticking halfway out, and the jerky in the other, he returned to the chair to warm himself by the stove. The storm raged on outside with flashes of lightning and loud booming thunderclaps breaking the endless sound of the hard rain driving against the building and the chaotic tumult of the ocean below. He picked up the journal that lay on the table beside him, running his hand over the worn edges daring himself to open the thing. After a moment, he pulled back the leather cover revealing the yellowing pages beyond. Sam read the first line, September 19th, 1876, this was going to be a long night, and this was not what he would call favorable reading.
The journal began relatively benign, entries about taking the job as a keeper, his love of the sea, and his hopes that the position's solitude would offer a chance to pursue other interests. He spoke of a fondness for woodworking and art, which came as a surprise to Sam. He was expecting a miserly old sea dog but found a sensitive artist instead. There were day-to-day notes written about various mundane occurrences that Shadrack thought profound. The mating rituals of the gulls that made their home in the rocky cliffs below the lighthouse. The weather patterns for particular times of the year. It seemed as though Shadrack was happy here, at peace. All the while, there was an undercurrent of loneliness. It never seemed to kill his undying love of the sea. He spoke fondly of the sea's beauty, which proved to be his undoing and the cause of the loneliness that ate away at his mind like termites in the wood. Sam found nothing of real interest. He was lulled by the sound of the storm and sea, and the endless droning pattern of the light, two seconds on, two seconds off, two seconds on, fourteen seconds off.
Finally, an entry in February of 1883 broke the droning lull to which Sam had succumbed. It matched itself perfectly with a clap of thunder that shook the storm shutters and echoed up the tower to the light as if to challenge the beacon's authority to illuminate the night. It was a short entry, disjointed, unlike the entries thus far. It would make little sense had he not heard Kent's tale of old Shadrack Wass. The entry read, "How could I, one indulgence and now this. They seem to be fine. I understand them somehow. They won't survive down there. What have I done, how many more. The sea has betrayed me."
Sam put two and two together, one indulgence, they said he got drunk and forgot to light the light. That could be what he was referring to, but what did he mean by they won't survive down there. Was this the fledgling ravings of a man who had finally reached the breaking point? The termites had finally sapped the integrity of the wood; it was only a matter of time before the collapse. The guilt must have been too much to bear. He believed he could communicate with the drowned victims of his negligence.
Sam noticed that it had gotten considerably darker as the evening approached. How long had he been there reading? The lull of the storm and the ocean had taken him away. That light, the endless droning of the light, two seconds on, two seconds off… He turned on the lamp beside the chair. The light thrust back the encroaching shadows and served to dampen his awareness of the droning beacon in the tower above. He checked his watch, five, he thought of getting something more to eat, but his curiosity got the better of him. He returned to the journal, giving a glance around the room. What a fine place to be reading the writings of a madman, he thought in the madman's self-made asylum.
The journal entries took a steep dive off the deep end after that. They were strange and broken. Never a full thought completed riddles and fragments. Obviously, something had shaken the man. He had made a complete change. It was as if the man who loved the sea was gone. Some stanzas struck Sam, he couldn't put his finger on it, but there was a narrative there somewhere. He spoke of a book, in one entry, "That book of ole, they kept it, they wrote it, they gave it. I will read the nine, but it hurts. I dream of them, they gave it to me". Another spoke of some cave around the cliffs of the lighthouse, "I didn't even know it was there, they did, they showed me, just like my dreams, a lake of black, inside, underground, darkness, the cold waste." Another seemed to speak about this, "they," he kept referring too. This entry solidified in Sam's mind that Shadrack was to blame for the shipwreck and its passengers. "I woke to the cracking and grating sound of the ship going down. I tried, I found them in the water, and they were alive, are they. I brought them to the beach, survivors, I could help. And that chest the one held onto, they all raised in unison, as if they were one, motioned for me to follow, showed me the cavern. They stare, deep and dark, like the depths of the ocean. They told me to open the chest, the books, that thing. They want me to use it. I must learn,". There was a sound outside that startled Sam. He looked toward the window. He sprang from the chair cautiously approaching. He couldn't see anything. The rain was driving against the window in a steady wash. He stared into a wall of black. All light blotted out by the dark rolling clouds. Lightning flashed against the horizon. In an instant, Sam could see the silhouette of a man at the edge of the north cliff. He was just standing there. Fear gripped him for a moment as Sam tried to adjust his eyes to the darkness. He could no longer see anything near the cliff. It was so dark, could it be someone who needed help, could it be Alan?
Rushing to the door, Sam instinctively rested his hand on the .38 tucked in his pocket. He drew the weapon and unlatched the door. The old iron deadbolt resisted then finally slid free with a high-pitched squeal. The door opened into darkness and rain. The wind blew rain into Sam's face as he strained his eyes to see anything in the inky blackness. He closed the door behind him, sealing off the light from inside, allowing his eyes to get accustomed to the dark. The lightning flashed again, illuminating the section of the cliff where he had seen the figure. The figure was gone. Sam moved toward the edge and stopped short. He must have been mistaken. The darkness can play tricks on you in the rain. On a night like this, it was hard to see your hand in front of your face, let alone a figure in the distance. He turned and headed back inside.
Quickly shutting the door behind him, eyes scanning the room, he let his weight fall on the closing door leaning back against it. He was still holding the revolver in front of him. He looked at the journal on the end table, closed, with those letters burned into the cover. SW, the man had gone mad. He couldn't hold up against the crushing weight of guilt he felt for the tragedy he had caused. Sam stalked across the room and into the kitchen. He checked the back door and found it locked. He turned and went back to the living room. Checking the door that leads to the tower, he found it locked, which allowed him to lower his weapon. Sam slowly slid it back into his pocket, more aware than ever of its weight. When he did, he felt the envelope he found upstairs. He held it up to the light; there was a letter inside, but nothing on the front or back. It wasn't sealed. He pulled out the letter carefully. It was old and brittle. He sat in front of the stove again and began to read the fading yellowed pages.
"If you are reading this, then you may already know what I am about to put to page. I do so only as a warning to those who come after me. This place is cursed. Leave immediately. Do not take the job as keeper. They will lull you. They will promise things. Do not be swayed. I have taken the book and hid it from them. I think they can read minds. I will write this down as quickly as possible and tuck it away. If you have found it, please heed the warning I left behind the bureau. There is a loose stone in the wall at the eightieth step in the tower. The book is there, do not read it, keep it hidden, keep it from them. Don't go to that cave, don't. God help me, I am going now if I can just make it to town, get help."
Sam stared in shock as he remembered the words carved into the wall behind the chest of draws upstairs. "Not alive. They are all dead." Lighting flashed, and quickly the thunder followed with a loud crack. He went to the window again, nothing. He stared out the window, the rhythm of the rain as it battered the glass, waves crashing, and that light, two on, two off, two on, fourteen off. Turning quickly around, he went to the tower door. He unlocked it and entered the conical tower heading straight for the stairs. They ran around the tower and up, he counted, at the eightieth he stopped. Kneeling, he began to run his hands over the bricks in the wall. One of the stones shifted as he touched it. Moving the stone away, he found a cavity some two feet deep, by two feet wide, having a height of around six inches. It was empty. If there had been a book here, it had long since been pinched, judging from the cobwebs. Suddenly, Sam caught a sound from outside, a voice, more specifically a moan. He rushed down the stairs and back to the living room, locking the door to the tower behind him. Heading straight for the window, Sam gazed out as a flash of lightning lit the sky. Again he saw the figure on the cliff.
Another flash of lightning lit the sky. This time there was no mistaking the silhouette on the cliff. It was a man. It was, moving towards him. He dashed from the window to the door; the old wood made a loud slap against the wall as he threw it open, raising the gun as he walked out into the darkness and rain. Lightning again, thunder boomed above his head. There was no one at the cliff's edge. "Come on out, you coward, you wanna play games, I've got a game, it's called catch the bullet. Come on, you bastard". Sam screamed, his voice carried off by the storm.
Then Sam heard the sound again. A low moaning sound, it sounded human. It wasn't a seal from the rocks below.
"Whose out there? Show yourself,"
Silence, just the sound of the rain and ocean, the rumble of thunder and that light, that damn light, two on, two off, two on, fourteen off. Backing his way to the lighthouse, he strained to see anything in the darkness. He rushed inside and began looking for an electric torch or lantern. He grabbed the oil lamp in the windowsill above the phonograph. Then moved quickly back to the door. Raising the lantern to the sky with his left hand, he cautiously walked toward the sound he had heard. With his pistol held tightly in his other hand, he moved out toward the cliff's edge. Sam reached the edge and noticed a trail that ran on a ledge along the cliff's face. With the light of the lantern, he could see the shelf ran down, around the cliffs' bend toward the north side of the outcropping. Against every ounce of better judgment he had, he began to follow the trail.
The ledge was barely two feet from the cliff face to a sheer drop. You'd die from the fall. If you happened to survive, you'd be battered against the rocks by the raging sea. It was not a good idea to traverse this in the rain. The ledge angled down as it ran around the cliff. Once Sam had rounded the north side, he could see the beach below. The white sand seemed to glow against the darkness around it. He had followed the trail a good hundred yards and was now fully twenty feet below the top of the cliff. Where does this go, he thought as he followed along? Then the moaning sound was heard ahead. Sam increased his pace. The roar of the ocean waves dampened as he headed further down the trail and toward the beach. The trail wound itself along the cliff face, inland, and let out on the sand north of the light. Sam walked further up the beach, and then he saw it. The shantytown everyone had talked about.
It stood before him; small tin shacks and tents made from driftwood and salvaged garbage in all manner of construction. He saw a single light, almost at the center of the camp. The sound of the rain drumming on the tin roofs and siding concealed Sam's approach as he got a closer look. Crouching behind an outcropping of rocks, he could see right to the center of the town, where the light was. There was a figure moving around the shack. Maybe this was the figure he saw at the cliff. He was probably coming to steal from the lighthouse and was not expecting it to be occupied.
No one seemed to be around. There were no sounds. Even if they were all inside keeping out of the rain, there should be some sound. Sam checked his watch, seven. The whole place can't be sleeping this early. He moved from structure to structure, waiting each time for signs of movement or sound. The light was some fifty yards further into the disreputable, squatter town. The place was disturbingly quiet. Looking behind him, he could barely make out where the trail was. Only a maze of crudely built structures haphazardly positioned. It was going to be a difficult trip out of here. He could hardly tell which direction he came in. He stalked in deeper, gun drawn, finally, he heard a sound. It came from ahead where the light was. Is this the only person here? The smell of the place lingered even in the storm. It smelled like an animal rotting. He moved to the next shack and slowly leaned out to look. The figure was just ahead another twenty feet. He could see him now, a man moving around the outside of his shanty. The light was coming from an oil lamp he had burning on a rotting barrel by the front door.
A sudden wave of relief washed over him, followed quickly by terror. In tattered clothes and moving slowly, the man he saw before him, holding what looked like a large book, was Alan. He was moments from revealing himself to his brother when another figure moved out of the shadows. The second figure was hard to make out in the darkness and rain. He moved slowly and deliberately, also in rags, he pointed at Alan and then behind him. It was then that Sam saw it, just beyond the camp, a gap in the cliff. Beyond it was darkness. As Sam watched, his brother wordlessly complied and began walking toward the opening. The other man followed. It wasn't possible to see if Alan was willing or forced from this distance, though it seemed as though this man had some sort of control over his brother. Maybe he had Judith and the kids somewhere and was using them as leverage against Alan. To what end, Sam could not guess. He kept up with them, moving from shack to shack, keeping an eye on the man following Alan. The closer they came to the gap, the further dispersed the sheds became. There would be nothing to hide behind soon. Sam let them get further ahead, making it easier for him to go unnoticed. When he reached the last row of shanties, he stopped. Watching the other two men enter the gap in the cliffs. He counted to ten then followed, he couldn't see them any longer, but he knew they were heading into a cove.
Sam made it to the gap without notice. He peered around the edge of the cliff and could see the white sand of the cove dimly against the stark black of the cliffs. The entire cove was approximately fifty feet in a half-circle that started and ended at either side of the gap. He could see the two figures moving. They were just beyond the center of the cove. Sam stayed against the darkness of the cliffs and quietly moved along the left wall. Fear gripped him as he saw where the two silent figures were heading. The mouth of a cave at the innermost point of the cove seemed to be their destination. Could it be the cave of which Shadrack had spoken? They didn't look in any other direction but straight ahead as they walked. If he could stay quiet, they would not notice him. First, Alan, then his silent captor, entered the cave. Again, Sam gave an internal count of ten and then followed them into the cave's black depths. Foul warm air was coming up from the bowels of the cave. There was a sickly sweet smell that made Sam want to wretch. He kept his composure and followed, with only the echoing footsteps to guide him in the near pitch black. He felt along the wall to keep from falling. The cave sides were damp, and the air was humid as if some heat source deep within the cavern was present. The two ahead of him didn't speak and seemed to be unhindered by the wall of blackness before them. Now further from the cave mouth, the darkness was stifling. He followed as quietly as possible, listening to the footfalls. They journeyed gradually downward and deeper into the cave.
A light appeared ahead, first a pinprick, then eventually getting larger as they trudged on. The light flicked and wavered; there was the unmistakable sound of water ahead. Sam was happy to have the light but feared what it would reveal. He could see that the cave opened into some massive cavern. Sam stopped and let the others step out. He waited for a moment, then moved to the cave mouth. Sam was amazed to find himself staring at a large underground lake. The lake from Shadrack's dream, he thought as he once again picked up the two men walking to the right along the shore. The cavern was immense; Sam could not see the ceiling as it extended beyond the light that was provided by the torches evenly spaced along the water's edge. The smell in the cavern was horrid. The murky black waters seemed to be a fetid pool of putrid still water that was eons old. There was no hiding any longer. The light revealed everything from the lake to the cavern wall. If they so much as looked back, they would see him. He followed anyhow, still keeping a distance but no longer hiding his presence.
The shore rounded to the right for over a hundred yards ending in a solid wall. The lake seemed to extend under the rock beyond that point. Against the wall beside the shoreline was what looked like a large altar? A square stone shape standing four feet high and flat on top rested close to the water's edge. The two men stood before it silently. Sam tried to creep against the cavern wall towards the altar. Then he saw something atop the altar. It was a statue or fetish of some sort. It was nine inches tall and half that around. It looked like a stone obelisk with a spherical object at the top. The sphere on top was rough and irregular in shape, hundreds of needle-like quills extending from it. Alan approached the altar and laid the large book he was carrying on it. He opened the thing and began to read. It was a language Sam had never heard before. It sounded like a chant of sorts with a rhythm to it. Alan repeated the words over and over, echoing in the vast cavern. "Mehamn gl'ka soleh gla'aki, ia, ia gla'aki."
The droning of the chant fell in lockstep with the droning from the lighthouse beacon. He began to lower his pistol and slowly started moving towards the two men at the shoreline. To his left, something stirred in the water, breaking him out of his trance. Something huge was moving in the water. Alan then placed his hands on the spherical portion of the statue on the altar. He was holding the top with both hands, palms down on the spines that protruded from it. Blood washed over the thing in his hands, and as it did, the movement in the water intensified. Sam screamed out, "Alan, no, what are you doing?" Alan did not respond, continuing to chant louder and louder. The other man moved toward Sam as a gigantic mass began to rise from the sickly waters of the lake.
As it breached the water, Sam could smell that terrible odor more strongly. The vile water was displaced and washed up the shore. Sam turned from the approaching man to the lake. The mass was still rising. He could see now the maw packed tightly with needle-like teeth. The thing had huge spines protruding from various portions around it. So huge, so powerful, the very air in the room seemed to shake and bend, and in his mind, he heard a voice. "Come," it said.
"Alan," he screamed into the vastness of the cavern. Alan continued to chant with his hands pouring blood on the hideous idol to this abomination that rose from the sickening depths of the putrid lake. "No!" he screamed as he fired off two shots in succession. Both shots took the oncoming man in the chest, but he only wavered slightly and continued toward Sam. He broke for the cave they had come from, running as fast as he could along the shore. Suddenly a long sharp spike shot from the thing in the water. Burning pain in his side told him it had found purchase. Sam fell to the ground just before the cave entrance. He looked back at his pursuer, he was slowly shambling towards him, but the thing in the lake, it was moving too. Grabbing one of the torches protruding from the ground, he bolted for the cave.
With the torch, he could navigate the cave as he ran with everything he had inside him. The voice echoing in his head "Come," two seconds on, two seconds off, two seconds on, fourteen seconds off. It was hard to tell how long he was running when he saw the light at the end of the tunnel. It was much brighter than it should be outside the cave. What was happening? When he reached the mouth of the cave, he could see what was causing the light. The cove's white sand lay before him, but he could see the shantytown burning through the gap in the cliffs.
His ears adjusted to the sounds, and he could hear screaming. There were voices as well, yelling commands. Something to his right took him by surprise as it lunged forward. He used its forward momentum to throw it past him. Then he saw what it was. "Judith?" he questioned with tears running down his cheeks. "Thank god, you're alive. Are you OK?" The thing before him looked like Judith but was not. Sunken eyes with dark discoloration around them, the pale drooping skin, blood covering her mouth and chin. It could not be, and standing behind it, with the same lifeless staring eyes and pale sagging skin, the children. She lunged at him with a fierce snarl, and he went over backward, landing hard on the sand. He fired his revolver, pulled the trigger, and kept pulling until everything went black.
He woke in a hospital bed, nurses and doctors moving about the room checking on other patients. He grabbed the arm of a dark-haired woman in a nurse uniform. She was startled, then the realization registered in her eyes. "You're awake. That's good, doctor, he's awake." A short man with gray close-cut hair and mutton chop sideburns wearing a long white lab coat moved towards Sam.
"Where am I? What happened." Sam pleaded.
"You're safe. You're at the hospital, Lincoln City." she tried to soothe Sam.
"How did I," his eyes darted from left to right.
"You were hurt when that mob in Newport burned down those homeless folks town. Lots of folks were brought in that night."
"That night? How long have I been here?"
"Four days, sir. You haven't made a sound until now." she gently put her hand on his shoulder and lowered him back down. "You need to rest. You were injured."
Sam could feel the pain in his side when he took in a breath. It wasn't a dream; it had to be a dream.
"I don't know anything, sir. You were brought in with several others. Those people in Newport just went mad and attacked those hobos. It makes no sense to me. I mean, people died. Is having those people leave worth all that?" she shook her head disapprovingly. "Oh, there is a note on your tray there. Someone named Kent came to see you. He left it." she waved her hand toward the tray beside Sam's bed. The doctor came over then and began looking in Sam's eyes, poking and prodding him. He pushed on Sam's side, and a flash of pain shot through his body.
"Take it easy, doc."
"This wound just refuses to heal up. What happened?"
"I, ah, fell, on a log, a broken branch got me."
"Well, it looks like it's infected. The skin around it won't heal. It has a foul odor too. You're going to need to keep it clean and change the bandages regularly. You think you can handle that?" the doctor said, pulling up a clipboard and writing something on it.
"Yeah." Sam winced.
As the doctor walked away, Sam lifted his gown. The wound was a hole the size of a broom handle in his side, under his last rib. The skin around the puncture was black and moist. That smell, like an animal rotting, sweet, like decay. It was the same smell he encountered at the shantytown and more strongly in the cavern.
He reached for the note on the tray beside him. It was in a sketchy hand, with many words crossed out and written again. It was a note from Kent Marlowe.
"I'm sorry I left you. I had to, you see. The boat would have been dashed on the rocks if I stayed. I'm sorry. When I got back, I couldn't stop thinking I had left you to some terrible fate. I got the boys at the Dockside up in arms over that shantytown. I knew you would end up there. I just knew it. It got away from me. All the hate this town has had for that place came out, all the stories and suspicion. Folks were saying those people had taken their kin. We went to roust em out, get them to leave. But when we got there and saw them. My god. You know, you were there. They weren't human. They were, I can't, I am leaving this place. I just wanted you to know I didn't leave you to die. I found you with one of em on you. Looked like you kilt it. My god, two children were standing over you. They came at me, would have killed me. Were they? I don't want to know. It's done now. There's nothing but the nightmares left."
Sam rolled over, tears in his eyes. He failed. Why, Alan, why would you come here, why would you come to this little nothing town? Why would you bring your wife and children along? What was it that brought you here? Why dammit? Tears were running freely down Sam's face as he thought of his brother, Judith, and the kids, why. Then it came from the depths of his mind, like a razor cutting through the grief, the pain, the sadness. Pushing out all other feelings and thoughts, that one single word droning on and on, in rhythm with the throbbing pain in his side, "Come," two seconds on, two seconds off, two seconds on, fourteen seconds off.