These are short stories put up each Friday that you can read for free. By the next Friday the post will be taken down and a new one will go up.
In some places of the world, the barrier between the living and the dead is thin. In some places it doesn’t exist at all. This small pocket of Oregon is one of those places.
Heceta Head Lighthouse
Between Yachats and Florence, Oregon
“Alright, alright…gather ‘round!”
The Suislaw High School students took a few minutes, but eventually they were all gathered in front of the tour guide. Quite a few snickers and grins accompanied their efforts, though most saved their sighs, knowing this was the last ‘lecture’ on the lighthouse tour.
“Now,” the tour guide said when things had finally quieted down, “I suppose you want to hear about the ghost.”
Things really got quiet then, and every one of the high schoolers’ eyes was on the guide. For his part, the guide smiled – there wasn’t too much exciting about giving volunteer tours of a lighthouse that’d been built in 1894, but this part was. He waited for a few more moments, letting the tension build, hoping to hell it wouldn’t be interrupted by one of those damn cell phones.
“Ghost?” one of the students said, mocked was more like it. His tone earned a few chuckles from the students nearby, other jocks by the look of it.
“Ghosts might be more apt,” the guide said with a smile as he turned around to look up at the top of the lighthouse and the many panes of glass it held, “and we even know one of their names.”
“’Know one of their names,’” the student laughed, “how can we know that?”
The guide smiled.
April 12, 1984
BREEP! BREEP! BREEP!
“Goddamn it!” Chester shouted. A moment later Floyd came running into the room.
“I just checked it, boss, I just checked it!”
Chester shook his head and rolled his eyes, although carefully. The first time the damn smoke alarm had gone off he’d almost fallen from his ladder. His good pants were already spackled with paint, and he didn’t want any more ‘mishaps’ on this job.
“Well, check it again, will ya!” Chester yelled out so as to be heard over the constant blaring. “In fact,” he yelled as Floyd started back down the hallway, “just take the damn batteries out!”
“Got it, boss!” Floyd called back. A minute later the blaring stopped, and Chester shook his head again before getting back to work. They’d been in the lighthouse for just a day now, but not an hour passed that something didn’t happen to slow them down. Chester just wanted to get done with it and get back to Newport where the jobs were…more normal. If he had to–
BREEP! BREEP! BREEP!
“Goddamn it!” Chester shouted out again, and it seemed faster than a moment that Floyd came running back in.
“Boss, I just took the batteries out of the smoke detector, honest!”
Chester frowned and shook his head. “It’s alright, Floyd,” he said in a soft voice, one that could barely be heard over the blaring, “let’s just get this job done and leave this place alone.”
He’d heard the stories of the college kids a decade before. He didn’t want to experience what they had.
“Oh, give me a break, Bobby,” Diane laughed, “there’s no one around!”
Even the darkness of the night couldn’t hide how face Bobby’s face suddenly became. He shuffled his feet and frowned. “I know, it’s just that…”
“You don’t like breaking into a lighthouse, I get it,” Ron said, that smile of his setting those dimples off. Diane seemed to cozy up to him further, and Bobby shuffled his feet a bit more.
“Just hurry up, will ya? I don’t want to be out here!”
“Oh, don’t tell me that you’re afraid of the dark?” Ron said with a laugh as he wiggled the lockpicking tools a bit more. “Or is it just that you’re–”
Ron’s words were cutoff as the lock clicked open, and he stared back at his two friends from OSU and smiled. “See, I told you it was nothing!”
“Yeah, forty minutes ago,” Diane said as she rolled her eyes and pushed past her on-again, off-again boyfriend. Within moments she had the door open and was standing in the lighthouse’s entryway.
“Guys…are you sure we should be doing this?” Bobby called out to them from where he was still standing outside.
“Feel free to wait outside,” Ron called back, and then he and Diane disappeared further inside. Bobby sighed, but followed them in.
They made their way through the lighthouse entryway and to the stairs. They wanted to get up as high as they could, and from what they’d heard, that was the small landing just below the light. That door would be locked to them, and with a lock that couldn’t be picked. No matter, their Ouija Board would likely work anywhere.
“Let’s get it out and get it done with,” Diane said once they’d reached the spot.
“What, is the place starting to trip you out?” Ron laughed.
“Yeah,” Diane said with a cold look. Ron frowned and swallowed and got out the board.
“How do we start?” Bobby asked, his curiosity overcoming his fear.
“We have to ask a question,” Diane said as she took hold of the planchette, “then we just–”
The planchette jerked Diane’s hands forward, first to the letter ‘R’ then ‘U’ then ‘E.’
Ron stared down at the board, his eyes wide. “Rue?”
That’s her name, an ethereal voice said, one that was all around them…everywhere.
The next sound was the three students’ feet pounding down the lighthouse stairs. The door to the lighthouse banged back and forth in the wind as they ran for their lives.
August 21, 1977
“Aw hell, Tim…I left my tool belt up in the attic.”
Tim shook his head and stared at Dan. “Well, get on up there then, we don’t got all day and that traffic on 101 ain’t gonna get any better. Go on.”
Dan nodded and took off at a run. They were just finishing up for the day and still had two left, but Dan wasn’t one to leave his tools behind. He was soon at the largest of the lighthouse grounds’ three houses, through the door, and bounding up the stairs. There were two floors and then the attic, where he’d been working that afternoon, sealing up the roof so it’d make it through another harsh, Oregon Coast winter. He was wondering why he’d left his tools when he reached the attic ladder and headed up. They should be right in the corner, near the–”
Dan froze. There before him was what he could only describe as a ‘gray lady,’ her back to him. She looked like she was from a black and white movie, literally taken off the screen. She had silver hair and a long, dark dress. Her tone and hue were all wrong, and it suddenly dawned on Dan that he was seeing a ghost. He narrowed his eyes and saw that she was staring down at his tools. Just then she began to turn, and Dan was frozen with terror. She faced him, and Dan saw that she had the face of a woman…sort of. She was old, yet young, yet haggard…and dead. Just then she smiled, and a chill went through him. Somehow he found his legs and was rushing down the ladder and then out of the house.
The winds howled and the gale showed no signs of blowing itself out. Edna looked up at Mike.
“You’ve got to go out there, you’ve got to go–”
“I ain’t goin’ out to that shed again, woman, I ain’t goin’ nowhere but off this rock as soon as this storm ends.”
“You’re just seein’ things!” Edna said.
“That’s right I’m seeing things, and I don’t mean to seem ‘em no more.”
Edna gave her husband a hard look. “Those ships need that light.”
“They’ll not be getting it tonight, not from me at least,” Mike said. “And what’s stoppin’ you from goin’ out there to the shed and getting it?”
Edna frowned. “Only a fool would go out there after what you saw.”
Mike nodded. Finally after all these years, his wife was getting some sense.
“This is the spot the Warren’s told us of,” Roy said as he pulled up on the ox train and brought it to a stop.
“Mighty fine spot for a light,” Harp said from further back.
“Aye, that it is, that it is,” Roy said. Both he and Harp headed further along the grassy hilltop and put their hands to their foreheads. The sun was shining and they couldn’t have asked for a better day to start clearing. Not that there was a lot to clear. A few trees was all the grassy stretch held, and it wouldn’t…
“Hey,” Roy said, pointing back behind them and near a tree, “what’s that?”
“Looks like a rock of some sort,” Harp said.
“I ain’t never seen no rock standing up like that,” Roy said as he started forward, “that’s…that’s a grave marker.”
“Can’t be,” Harp said as he came up, “the Warren’s would have told us about one of their kids dying.”
“Maybe it wasn’t one of theirs…maybe they don’t know about it.”
“Injuns don’t bury their kids here, you know that.”
Roy gave Harp a hard look. “I know that, you fool. Now just come on down here with me and–”
The wind kicked up suddenly, just as Roy was bending down to grab hold of the rock. He looked up, and his eyes went wide. The sky was suddenly dark, and out to sea the waves were higher than he’d ever seen before.
“Uh…I wouldn’t do that,” Harp said, backing off a bit. In the distance the oxen were growing skittish.
“Alright…let’s…let’s just call it a day, huh?” Roy said.
“Aye,” Harp agreed, and both men were quickly on the beaten path heading back to the woods.
June 4, 1888
“This is the spot,” Welcome said, and from across the grassy stretch on top of the hilltop, his wife nodded.
“I’ll say it is,” Dolly replied with a smile, “home at last, eh?”
Welcome smiled at his wife in return. The Warren’s had been granted the 164-acre stretch along the Oregon Coast, and they meant to make good on the claim. It was rocky ground, but inland and along Cape Creek the land was fine for farming.
“Now we just need to get to raising a family to help with all this,” Dolly said.
Welcome smiled to that, and went over to take his wife’s hand. The wind picked up as they started back toward the woods away from the point. Neither heard the delighted laughter that had followed their pronouncement.
Conner stared at his boss, and finally asked the question he’d been meaning to all day.
“What do you want to do, boss?”
James stared at his surveying partner across the fire and shook his head. “Leave it blank.”
Conner stared up at him. “Blank?”
“Aye,” James said, turning back to look out at the Pacific Ocean, and the point protruding not far from their camp, “leave it blank. As far as the federal government is concerned this part of the Siuslaw River doesn’t exist, you got that?”
“Boss…how can I just leave out the mouth of the river?”
“Then leave the whole damn thing out, you got that?” James said, giving his subordinate a sharp look. He knew what’d he’d seen that morning when he’d ventured onto that grassy hilltop, damn it. After seeing it he’d known he’d do his part to keep God-fearing men out of here for as long as possible, the ships passing by be damned!
Conner looked up at his boss. They’d surveyed this whole stretch, had been for months. But then he’d never seen that look in his boss’s eye, either. With a nod he put away his pencils and started to roll up his maps. The Siuslaw would remain hidden.
July 16, 1798
Wani jumped up and over the rocks and came to yet another small cove. The waves broke up and high and overhead he could see a small, flat area. He smiled as he looked at the cliffs leading up to it – yet another challenge. All he had to do was start up the small path and then–
Wapi turned around to see his grandmother there. He frowned and cursed his luck – she was supposed to be back on the beach, watching the little ones playing with shells. She nodded up at the small flat area at the top of the cliffs that he’d been looking at, and shook her head.
“You’re never to go up there, is that understood?”
Wapi turned his head back and looked again. “Why?”
“There’s death up there,” his grandmother replied, and it seemed to Wapi as if all the color had gone from her face. “It wasn’t always like that, even when they came so long ago.” She trailed off for a moment, then shook her head and started to turn. “It’s up there now though, whatever it is.”
Wapi watched her go, then turned back to look up at the cliffs. He swallowed the knot in his throat that was suddenly there, as well as his earlier plans at exploration. His grandmother knew of the spirit world, and that was enough for him. He turned back, toward the sounds of young Suislaw Indian children laughing on the shore.
May 15, 1775
Don Bruno Heceta stared at the desolate landscape, then lowered his looking glass and turned back to his crew.
“This is the spot,” he said, “this is where she will rest.”
The crew of the Santiago gave some halfhearted nods, and even the first mates looked more resigned to the task than eager to fulfill it. The coast they were on was some of the rocky they’d seen since leaving Mexico to sail north, and the thought of landing anywhere on it didn’t appeal to them. Still, it only took one pass by the captain’s cabin, one listen to the crying that was coming from the silver-haired woman within, to know that they had to have some peace.
It took them several hours to find a safe spot to drop anchor, even with the shallower waters the captain had spotted earlier that day. They put the boat over the side, into the choppy and cold water. Not a soul was in sight, on sea or land.
Heceta manned the boat, his most trusted men with him. He had no concern that his remaining crew might abandon him, seize the ship and sail back to Portugal. After the death of his young daughter Rue, born just weeks after leaving the warm, southern climes, he cared about little. It’d hit his wife harder, and he knew that putting the small child to rest would be the best thing for them…he hoped.
The crew powered through the surf and over the final waves. They reached the rocky and shell-strewn beach and Heceta looked up at the towering point above, his dead child cradled in his arms. Without a word he started walking toward the cliffs, hoping to find a path that led up them. He was lucky, and a path existed, most likely etched their by whatever Indians called this area home. Heceta hoped he didn’t meet any, but didn’t really care either.
It took them the better part of an hour to go up the worn path, which really wasn’t much of a path at all they realized after going up close to the top. They struggled up the last few feet but made it, and stood on a grassy bluff overlooking the rocky shore.
“It’s a beautiful spot, sir,” one of the crewman said, and Heceta nodded. That is was.
The men set to work, digging. It didn’t take long, for they didn’t have to go too deep or too long. Then they were done, and the captain lowered the body of his baby girl into the hole. The men covered the child over, then secured a good-sized rock they’d found on the way up, one flat and long and as close to a gravestone as they were likely to get.
After saying a few words, the men prayed that God would take the child and that she could rest in peace. On the way down the cliffs, Heceta prayed this his wife could find that peace as well. Deep in his soul, however, he knew that in this life she never would.
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