The leaves exploded into brilliant hues of red and gold while the wind grew stronger and colder. My nightly vigilance atop the lighthouse was now in the company of a warm pipe and a winter coat. My stomach rumbled over the sea wind, and I regretted finishing the last of the jerked meats earlier that morning. If Jack failed to come this month, it would have to be potatoes and water until late November. I sighed and paced around the railing.
Throughout the summer, the lad never failed to come. In fact, his arrival was the highlight of the month, and, though he no longer bore any Bacchanalian gifts, I enjoyed his company immensely. Perhaps I had grown accustomed to his punctuality forgetting Old Tom’s words of preparedness, and so resolved to be less indulgent with the food, to redouble my efforts as a lighthouse keeper, and to ignore the hunger in my gut.
High on the wind, I heard it, some feral cry in the night, emanating from the forest of shadows behind me. I looked back, past the white eye of the lighthouse, and gazed deep into the tangled forest when I felt it, like a hand on my shoulder. Down in the woods, darting in and out of the moonlight was a large creature. Perhaps a raccoon or fox, or maybe even the creature Ezekiel had mentioned all those months ago. Hands trembling, I raised the spyglass to my eye and peered into the darkness.
Whatever it was kept to the larger shadows of the surrounding trees, its head low to the ground as if searching for something. I watched its erratic movements for several minutes, when, after consigning it to be only a dumb beast, it looked up, and, through the lens of the spyglass, saw me with red eyes of fire and rage.
I stumbled back in fright, taking deep breaths of the pure air. Shaking away my sudden bewilderment, I returned for a second look, but the creature was gone.
I gripped the railing, panting and sweating in the cold wind, trying to force the image of those crimson eyes away from my thoughts.
I locked the door that night.