The Old Woman and the Lighthouse

by | December 2020 B (Day 3)

There once was a lighthouse built from white stone. It was looked after by an old woman with raisined skin. In the morning she trimmed the wick, refilled the oil when needed, and polished the windows so that the light would shine through. At night she made a fire in the upstairs room where she lived. On occasion she made conversation with the hearth. Isn’t it cozy? she would say. Yes, it is, the hearth would reply. She had dreams often. She dreamt of her granddaughter climbing a tree. She dreamt of the opera, though she had never been. One morning, she looked out and saw great plumes of smoke over the inland town. The smoke was drifting out toward the sea and soon it engulfed the lighthouse. In the smoke the old woman saw the face of a rhino charging with horn borne down to kill. And there was killing. The townsfolk had killed many townsfolk. It had started with a stolen pocket watch. Soon, the mob would arrive at the lighthouse, slashing at each other’s throats while climbing the winding stone steps. They’d step into their blood. They’d leave messages on the walls with their palms. They’d climb and climb.

9 Comments

  1. Jack O'Connell

    This felt really cozy and dreamy and imagery feels very dream-symbolic, like jungian symbols. By the end the mood has changed, and if you’d like to expand it, you could build up more of a slow crescendo to the violence, maybe more between the dream of the opera and the smoke arriving, perhaps tell us a little about the town she sees, before it’s in trouble

  2. Bud Smith

    I see your comment with it being styled after Jessie Ball, that’s cool. It’s nice to be inspired by others. I bet it’s much more your own thing though then that. I love all the dreams in this and how she talks to the fire and the fire talks back. the thing I was thinking about at the end was how they might be trying to climb the lighthouse maybe would try to attack her but there was no way they could win, she had the high ground and when you have the high ground, forget about it. It would be pretty amazing to see a feeble old woman lighthouse keeper fend off a whole horde of attackers. If the lighthouse is made of stone, they can’t burn it down but she has the fuel for the beacon at the top, certainly she could dump it down the stairs and burn them up. Especially if her door was made of stone too. The last thing she is afraid of is fire. I wonder if while her attackers are burning up if their screams would sound like opera singers? I bet

    • Ben Saff

      Thanks for all the feedback over this weekend, Bud. I think I’ve come away with a realization or two. I’m definitely going to be scrutinizing my personal writing with a more of a mind to where the human heart of it is, or at least, what’s the intended message. With more noise than ever I think that taking the time to apply that scrutiny is the least I can do.

  3. Jesse Wilson

    “Upstairs room where she lived” in confusing in a lighthouse setting, because “upstairs” in a lighthouse setting evokes the light part. “with horn borne down to kill” is extraneous I think. “The townsfolk had killed many townsfolk. It had started with a stolen pocket watch”..great shit. Why did the mob go to the lighthouse?

  4. Benjamin Niespodziany

    Really great! Love the fable style of this piece. It’s the kind of writing I gravitate towards (love Jesse Ball) and also find myself writing. Love the bloodbath at the end. It’s unsettling in the best of ways. Reminds me a bit of Brian Evenson and Robert Kloss as well, both worth checking out if you haven’t read them yet. I’d suggest changing the animal from rhino into something else. Grizzly bear? Maybe just ‘beast’? I was watching James and the Giant Peach with my nephew and there’s a scene of a rhino pouring out of the smoke/fog, so best to avoid this animal I think!

    • Ben Saff

      Thanks you Ben! I’ll check out both of those authors. Yup, I yanked that directly from James and the Giant Peach 🙈 Great movie! I’ll definitely rework it.

  5. Bill Merklee

    OK, now I need to read Jesse Ball (and Brian Evenson and Robert Kloss, it would seem). I enjoyed the fable structure. Agree with Jack that a slower build to the assault on the lighthouse would build great tension. Would like to read the old woman’s thoughts and reactions as she sees the mob approach.

  6. Rachel Pollon Williams

    Did you write this stream of consciousness? It feels like it. So many elements to work with and could be further developed. Smoke, rhino, granddaughter, mob, blood, opera, the high ground and the high born, the way she polishes the windows to let the light in. Is she conjuring the mob, summoning them? So many possibilities!

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