To The Lonely Seas And The Sky -- Part 7a
The fictional tale of lighthouse keepers in the 1880's, tending a Lake Michigan lighthouse. The characters in this story are completely fictional, while the lighthouse is quite real and still in use. The details of its function, while not necessarily specific to this exact light, are consistent with the general function of lighthouses in this era.
Ellie sat on the ledge in the lantern room, watching the approaching storm flash over the water. The lamp flickered gently, but the beam of light cast over the sinister water was strong and unfailing. She leaned against the storm pane, closing her eyes and feeling the heat of the lamp rising out of the lens.
Heat and blood and sweat and gunpowder, cries arising from the stretching field of once-green grass, now three bodies deep in the destruction of war--and heat, always the heat, the stench of a five-day-old death caught up in the rising temperatures of early July--
Ellie opened her eyes, grasping the side of the ledge and looking frantically about the lantern room. She took deep breaths, exhaling the smell of the battlefield from her nostrils as she reminded herself that she was nowhere near Pennsylvania. Not anymore.
Ellie sat perfectly still, daring not to blink again lest she invite the visions of that long-gone battlefield to return. But every second of consciousness was a hell that she hadn't known in over a decade--not since that day in early July when Mama had left the younger children with the neighbor and the two of them had departed for that God-forsaken place...
That July day was deceivingly pleasant in Baltimore. The weather was fair and mild, most unusual compared to the normally roasting temperatures of mid-summer. Ellie had been sitting outside the house on a barrel under the porch, watching Maidie, Johann and Liesl play while Mama worked inside. The incessant clattering of horses up and down the streets, the shouts of men working on the docks and the comings and goings of all colors of people had passed Ellie's day quickly until Mrs. DeFarge had come hurrying up to the door, her knitting trembling in her hands.
"Eleonora!" The dark-haired woman with the face of a mouse exclaimed, "Is your mother home?"
"She's inside, Mrs. DeFarge." Ellie had replied, feeling that familiar, instinctive mistrust of the middle-aged woman return.
With a huff and a dramatic sigh, Mrs. DeFarge had pushed open the door. "Caa-RIIII-naaa!" She trilled, her shrill voice shaking the rafters.
Ellie cringed as the greeting of their busybody downstairs neighbor echoed through the stairway. Her mother's sweet, melodic tone replied from above. "Good morrow, Th�r�se. What news do you have?"
"Oh, Carina. Carina, my dear. There has been a battle in Pennsylvania, perhaps seventy miles from here, near some peasant-town called Gettysburg. Carina, the destruction is unprecedented, and the word is that the First Maryland Infantry was engaged in the battle. Oh, Carina! Carina? Carina!"
Ellie sat like a statue, listening to the sound of footsteps moving rapidly down the stairs. She knew something significant had happened. Something told her that within seconds, her life would forever be altered. She clung to those seconds, counted out in increments by footfall down the stairs. Five, four, three, two, one...
Carina von Erich burst out the front door, her eyes, fierce with purpose, falling on her eldest daughter. "Ellie, pack clothing for a few days. Prepare your sisters and brother to spend several nights with Mrs. Appleton. And when you've gathered your clothing, run down to Mr. Newton's stables and tell him we need his two fastest, strongest horses. We leave as soon as you return with them." Carina's eyes blazed, her skin pink with fervor.
"Y-yes, Mama." Ellie stammered, slipping to the ground from atop her barrel and running inside.
Ellie hurriedly packed her siblings' clothes, packed her own clothes and then ran down the street with urgency thumping in her chest. She knew not what had happened or why they were so quickly bound out of town, but Ellie knew instinctively that now was not the time to ask questions. She obeyed her mother's instructions to the letter, and when she returned to the house with the two towering steeds, her mother awaited her outside their front door.
Mrs. DeFarge was knitting, situated atop the barrel, her chubby feet inches off the ground as she shook her head. Her face, tear-streaked, was in constant motion as she muttered to herself from her perch. "All those men! Those poor dears...and in the heat and the mud and the smoke--"Last edit by AN Admin Team on Feb 20, '17
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