The light always burned.
There were other rules, but that was really the only one that counted. The light burned and everything we did was dedicated to that end. There was a time when I was a boy that the light only burned at night. It was a warning, keeping ships away from the vicious rocks that surrounded The Point. For almost two hundred years the lighthouse had been a signal warding off vessels. That changed as all things do and now the lighthouse serves as a beacon of hope; a last glimmer of salvation in the heart of the all consuming darkness.
The Point was connected by a thin causeway to Shandau Island and it sat like a finger pointing out into the deep grey waters of the Atlantic. The road was poorly maintained and it was only passable at low tide when the weather was favourable. I remember an entire fortnight when I was ten years old where the provisions ran perilously low because the weather was so bad that there was no way to reach us. We persevered; we always do out at The Point.
Sometimes I look back on my childhood and I barely recognise the boy I once was. He is a stranger to me, separated by the distance of far too much time. He had bright blue eyes and the curliest blonde hair. My hair is grey, my eyes dimmed by age and sadness. I seem to recall his unending thirst for answers to even the most trivial of questions and an absolute exuberance that only youth may hold. I miss those days, that innocence and the promise of limitless tomorrows.
My father was the keeper back then and it was his job to maintain the light and keep it running. He was good at what he did and I learned well under his tutelage. I remember his gravel filled voice and hands that seemed the size of shovels but were capable of the most delicate of electrical work. My father’s personality filled the rooms of the lighthouse and his spirit and enthusiasm carried us through the darkest nights.
For some I think the solitude of The Point would have been too much, but my father loved it here and I developed similar feelings over the years. I never resented not having others around because I never knew another life. The views from The Point were always breathtaking come fair weather or foul. And it was never quiet here; there was always the percussive rumble of the waves beating a rhythm against the bedrock we stood upon.
I can reach out my hand to touch the cold concrete wall and feel the vibrations from the swell of the ocean. I have always imagined that this background noise is what people in the city felt. Of course I have no way of really knowing because I never had cause to visit a city when I was young and now, well things are different. The waves are percussion, the cry of the gulls are strings; there is exquisite music here if you know how to listen.
After my father passed I stayed at The Point, maintaining the light and tending the radio. Supplies came across the causeway twice a week (weather permitting) and my life was a simple, fulfilling one. I helped to save lives each and every day and that feeling of duty carried me through dark days and bleak winters. Even with my father gone I never truly felt alone, or perhaps I just became used to the solitude, hardened to the isolation.
After The Collapse everything changed. The dark dust clouds took away the sun, and the electromagnetic storms destroyed just about every form of communication we had. The electricity stopped flowing and eventually the fuel reservoir ran empty. The light went out and in the absolute darkness that wrapped itself around me I almost lost all hope; almost.
I remember as a child I would hold my hand up towards the sun and feel its warmth upon my skin. I used to marvel at how far that heat had travelled; ninety three million miles. I could vaguely grasp the incredible distance but I struggled with just how hot it would feel to be closer to the sun than I was. We took the sun for granted, and why not? After all it had always been a constant in our world. We had worshipped it, sacrificed to it and loved and feared it in equal measure. We could barely imagine an existence without it and when that world arrived we were unprepared.
I nearly died in the Fimbulwinter that followed The Collapse, countless millions more did perish. I fear that the afterlife or Heaven or whatever else awaits us beyond this world was ill prepared for such multitudes of souls. My food ran out days after my fuel and I braved the causeway in the depths of a howling storm. I remember the dust and the darkness and the journey to Shandau that seemed to take an eternity. My lungs burned, my legs ached, my exposed skin was savaged by the dust storm, but somehow I made my way to land.
I was crawling on my knees, sobbing with agony when hands drew me from despair into warmth and light once more. I was half blind and delirious with pain but I still remember how sweet and fresh the sips of water I was given tasted. The commune on Shandau had been mocked for years. They were called hippies and dropouts, their quest for alternative power and naturally produced food was only met with derision. They were our salvation.
The towering wind farm provided power to the small community and now that the wind never ceased the power was constant. It generated light and heat and sustained the insulated tunnels that the crops grew in. The commune had everything it needed to survive The Collapse; almost everything. The only thing the community truly lacked was people. I would have joined them but I am too old and set in my ways and far too used to being alone. Even though I was grateful to them I did not wish to join them. But there was something that I could do and I could do it far better than anyone else.
It took some time as such things do, but we restored power to the lighthouse and I returned home. Now though, instead of shining only at night The Point was ablaze with light all the time. My home became a shimmering beacon of hope in the vast darkness that threatened to swallow our world. I showed the way and people came. There are seventeen families at the commune now, and even though I still live alone I am part of their community.
It feels good to be surrounded by warmth and light, conversation and companionship. I like belonging and I still have my duty to perform, and while I am isolated I am never truly alone. The storm endures, but so does the lighthouse at The Point. Even in the darkness of Fimbulwinter my heart is as light as the beacon I tend. We may never see the sun again, but we have our own ray of hope; the human spirit will endure, and that light will never be extinguished.
T. Dennison 14/06/2015
Inspired by the work of Andy Simon – Darkslide Photography