By the Light


The nuts didn’t taste so good, but it was all he had left to eat. He tried to make each one last as long as possible, chewing it till it became a warm liquid that dribbled down his throat without him even having to swallow. The rain had began to fall again, a heavy downpour that would have drenched his clothes if he hadn’t been wearing regulation waterproofs. The ruin offered little shelter. Nothing was left of the roof and only two of the walls were intact. The wind shifted direction frequently. When it blew from the sea the remaining walls protected him but as soon as it veered landwards it brought icy rain and penetrating cold that nailed him in place. He resumed his vigil. Although no one had approached the lighthouse yet he knew they would come sooner or later. A strange throaty honking noise broke the silence. Peering cautiously round the edge of the wall, he caught sight of seals playing with the waves. Then he noticed that several had clambered up onto rock where they lay basking in the foul weather. He was fascinated by their dappled skin, thick with wrinkles. It looked as if  a family of barnacles had taken up residence on these playful animals. He watched them for a long moment, wishing he could have been so at ease with the climate. When he finally shook himself free and went back to his vigil he cursed under his breath. A boat had moored at the light and two men were unloading crates. He took out his walkietalkie that had remained concealed in a waterproof bag under his cloak. “They’re here,” he said laconically into the receiver. His wait was almost over. Some five minutes later he heard the distant sound of the helicopter over the noise of the wind and rain. Across the narrow stretch of water that separated him from the light, the men were in a panic. There was no escaping. Whether they fled by boat or tried to hike it across the rough headland, there was no cover for them, nowhere to hide.

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