Nathaniel braced himself for going outside. He could hear the wind and the rain knocking against the lighthouse door.
‘We’ll need the lantern again,’ Tom’s voice called from behind him.
Nathaniel glanced over his shoulder as the old station master lit the candle and closed the lantern’s door.
‘I won’t need to take my case. Just a few things,’ Nathaniel announced.
Opening his case on the floor, because there was nowhere else to search through it, Nathaniel dug out a large cross, a bible and a small bottle of Holy Water. Pausing he debated what else to take. He had never done this before, he was not that kind of religious man and he was more use to standing before the congregation and leading them in hymens and prayers.
‘You ready now, Father?’ Tom’s voice spoke out.
Nathaniel nodded and closed his case. Then he followed Tom to the door and they both stepped out into the bad weather. The wind blew hard around them, making sounds like a crying person as it swept around the marsh. Rain hit and blinded them, making the walk down the rock steps difficult. The candle flame in the lantern flickered and Tom had to hold the side with the broken panel close to him to stop the light from going out.
Slowly they arrived at the edge of the low bridge and Nathaniel blinked away the rain in his eyes. He could hardly see though and he thought for a few moments he could hear the very distant sea pounding on the rocky shore. The light from the lighthouse flashed by and for a few seconds, Nathaniel thought it was lightening and the sound he had mistaken for the sea had actually been thunder. Then though he looked up and saw the lighthouse beam turning slowly around.
‘Here is good,’ Nathaniel said trying to be bold.
‘I thought you might want to go more in the middle!’ Tom shouted over the wind, ‘closer to where the boy died.’
‘And where did he-?’ Nathaniel cried then the words were snatched from his mouth by a gust of wind.
‘No one knows for sure, but further out,’ Tom concluded after the wind finished whipping them.
Gritting his teeth, Nathaniel walked on, feeling the bridge under his feet and clutching the cross, bible and bottle to his chest. After a few paces he stopped again.
‘This is good enough! Bring the light here!’ he called out.
Tom moved closer till their shoulders were touching and they could huddle over the bible and lantern together.
‘What was the boy’s name?’ Nathaniel asked.
‘Paul, I believe!’ Tom shouted.
‘Paul? To the spirit of Paul, if you are out here, we do not mean you any harm, we wish to help you. Come towards us,’ Nathaniel began, ‘your sister has been worried about you for so many years, but now it’s time you went towards the light and up into Heaven. Your family is awaiting for you there. You will not have to be lonely or lost ever again.
Nathaniel paused for breath and felt Tom shivering violent beside him. A worrying thought entered Nathaniel’s mind; he did not two deaths in his hands tonight. Swallowing water that tasted salty, he held out the cross and hoped he was doing this right.
‘Paul come towards us now! Let us help you cross over! Go into the light, rise up to the Holy Father and Mother. I release you from this Earth and into their hands. Go now and be at peace!’
Giving the cross a little wave, Nathaniel then tucked it back in the crook of his arm and palmed the bottle of Holy water. Carefully he unscrewed the lid and let a few drops fall out before closing the bottle again. The wind snatched the Holy water drops away and mingled them with the rain. Whatever power they might have had seemed lost but Nathaniel hung on to his faith.
‘I bless this place!’ Nathaniel screamed into the wind, ‘I release all the spirits that have lingered! Go into Heaven! Go and be at peace! Go!’
The wind howled and pushed hard against them as more rain flooding down on them. Tom lost his footing and waved his arms around to try and keep his balance. The lantern light waved and flickered around. Nathaniel grabbed and held on to him, struggling to juggle the things in his hands too.
Somehow, they steadied each other and the light candle survived. Pushing Tom ahead of him, they made their way back to the rock steps. Behind him, Nathaniel swore he could hear people crying but it must have been the wind. Feeling their way up the rocks, like tried and injured sailors, they reached the lighthouse door.
Tom opened the door and they tumbled in, slamming the door shut and fighting the wind as they locked it. Tom set the lantern and himself down on the first step. Nathaniel slumped against the door and they both caught their breaths back.
‘Is it done?’ Tom finally asked.
‘I did my best,’ Nathaniel answered, ‘though with the storm it was hard to tell anything.’
Tom nodded, ‘best go up and tell her.’
Collecting the lantern again, Tom started climbing the stairs.
Nathaniel opened his case and placed the now wet cross, bible and bottle inside. Closing it again, he picked up the worn handle and trailed after Tom upstairs. Water dripped off them and back down the steps. In the quietness of the lighthouse they could both hear the storm now raging outside.
They reached Mrs. Fitz and found her comfortable in bed still.
‘It’s done,’ Nathaniel said coming to her side and sitting down.
The dying woman didn’t reply.
Nathaniel took her hand which she had just slipped back under the blanket. He patted the warm skin and began praying, whispering the words softly with a bowed head.
Tom moved to the other side of the bed, the handle of the lantern tightly clutched in both his hands. The candle flame still glowing behind the glass.
Nathaniel finished his prayer and just as he was about to start another, Mrs Fitz’s fading voice uttered, ‘thank you, Father.’
‘Your welcome. Sleep now,’ Nathaniel whispered back then he took up the Lord’s Prayer.
The storm carried on through the night, seemingly attacking the lighthouse but the building had stood for hundreds of years and was well use to taking on bad weather. As dawn finally broke, grey and watery, the wind quieted down and the rain turned back into a light drizzle.
Nathaniel finished his final prayer and looked up at Mrs Fitz’s face. She was gone.
Tom, having placed the lantern down hours ago when the candle had finally melted and go out, drew up a blanket and lay it over her face.
Nathaniel took in a few deep breaths and moved his stiff body. He stood up slowly, feeling weighed down by numb limbs.
‘Thank you, father,’ Tom whispered, ‘I know she will be fine now.’
‘Of course. She is at peace,’ Nathaniel said.
‘I shall walk you back to the station and signal a train to stop for you,’ Tom spoke out.
‘Thank you,’ Nathaniel replied as he collected his case, ‘might I go to the top of the lighthouse first?’
Tom glanced up then with a single nod turned towards the stairs. They went up and on the fourth floor was another bedroom this time with a double bed and dust growing thickly across everything. They went up again and Tom opened a heavy metal door and stepped out.
Nathaniel followed, feeling cold and wet air sweeping passed him. The huge light of the lighthouse which had now gone out dominated the roof floor. A rusty railing ran around the edge stopping anyone from falling off. Nathaniel went to over and looked out. Far in the distance, he thought he could make out the sea but all around him was the marsh. A stillness had settled over the tall grasses and stagnate water pools now, bring a calmness that seemed heavenly.
Nathaniel took a few deep breaths then thought he heard the sound of playful children laughing somewhere below him in the marshlands.