""Beneath the pressure of torments such as these, the feeble remnant of the good within me succumbed. Evil thoughts became my sole intimates-the darkest and most evil of thoughts.""
-Edgar Allan Poe, The Black Cat

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Keeper by T.K. Millin

The harrowing winds swirl up from the relentless waves as they crash against the towering cliffs; blowing their freezing announcement straight through the tiny house’s single paned windows. William Young tosses and turns under his sheets, hearing a whispering voice repeatedly say, “I shall never forget.”

Bolting straight up in bed, he grasps his chest and searches for a breath of relief. “William, what is troubling you?” Elizabeth says, sitting up. "Nothing my darling I just had a startling dream,” He says, standing and putting on his tattered wool coat and cap, “please go back to sleep. I’m going to check the lantern.” He bends down and caresses her lips with his, before exiting the room.

The scent of sulfur fills the cramped space they call a kitchen as the brass lamp brings the room to life with shadows. William pushes his way through the door he promised Elizabeth he’d oil back in September and walks across the frozen lawn which only four months ago was a blanket of lush grass. This is his least favorite month being the Head Keeper of the Twin Rock Lighthouse, because he knows how unforgiving Lake Superior can be during November, he also knows that’s why tonight is the perfect night to carry out his plan.     

William ascends the lighthouse’s spiraling staircase replaying inside his head the whispering voice that awoke him; wondering why he would be haunting his dreams. For he knows there’s no way Barry knows what he’s about to do, he’s made sure of it.  He’s even taken every measure to be sure Elizabeth doesn’t suspect a thing.  

He fills the furnace pot with coal and waits for the lighthouse tower to warm while he sits patiently waiting for the distant light upon the wavering inland sea. The sound of smashing waves makes him think back to happier times when he and Elizabeth were first married, back when he had the means to make her happy. Tonight, he was going to change all that.

Suddenly, he hears footsteps coming up the stairs . . .


“Alright folks, watch your step,” the tour guide shouts reaching the top of the lighthouse’s spiral staircase, “everyone step inside, there’s plenty room.” He says turning around, facing the eager crowd.

Little Jimmy runs to the North port window and steps up on the wooden box, “Wow, you can see forever from here!” 

“You betcha,” the tour guide says, “Why that’s the same window William Young, the original keeper, spotted the Elizabeth Dame,” He points to a black and white picture, “the night he committed the worst crimes this town has ever known.”

The tourist take their turn one at a time to get a glimpse of the black and white picture of a man standing alone in front of the clipper’s bow with big letters spelling out, Elizabeth Dame.

“It all began right here in the original Twin Rock Lighthouse.” The tour guide says, as a hush falls over the room. 

He continues . . .

“It was the night of November 21, 1910 and William Young came up in the tower to do his nightly keeper duty of lighting the lantern, which back in those days had to be refueled with kerosene every couple hours. Only on this night he intentionally didn’t do his keeper duties, for this night he planned to commit murder. 

Some locals have told of how he waited months to carry out his plan because he knew by mid November you could count on there being a storm on Lake Superior almost nightly. If it’s true what the locals said, his waiting paid off because that night brought a ferocious storm upon the lake. So he waited patiently for the Elizabeth Dame’s lights out on the inland sea, knowing the Captain would be relying on the flashing beacon of the Twin Rock Lighthouse.”

“How did he know which lights would be the Elizabeth Dame?”  Little Jimmy asks.

“Ah, good question young lad.” The tour guide continues…

“Having been the keeper for a long time helped, but he didn’t have to be the keeper to know the Elizabeth Dame’s route, for you see the ship’s Captain, Barry, was his brother.

So as planned, he saw the ship’s lights through the swirling waves and then he slowly burned out the lantern’s flame and sat quietly in the dark listening to the crashing of waves, and the Elizabeth Dame, against the cliffs.

But, the story doesn’t end there. Once he made sure his brother was out of the way, William Young descended the lighthouse stairs, walked to the tool shed and picked up a pix ax. He walked into the tiny house you saw on the way in and just as he probably had always done through the years as the keeper, walked into the bedroom after completing his nightly duty only this night he didn’t intend on sleeping, this night he intended on hacking his wife up into tiny little pieces.”

The crowd gasps, “Why’d he kill ‘em?” Little Jimmy asks.

“Ah, another good question lad. But again the story doesn’t end there.” The tour guide says before continuing . . . .

“Why it was no secret in town William’s brother was having an affair with his wife Elizabeth, only William was the last one in town to learn of the secret and the locals said he went crazy when he found out. 

Once he carried out his plan, the keeper walked to the edge of the cliffs and joined his brother and the crew of the Elizabeth Dame, which was named for his wife.

Legend has it he still roams the grounds reliving that night over and over. It’s also said every so often a ship will report seeing a beacon coming from this lighthouse.”

“But you said it’s no longer used.” Little Jimmy says.

“You betcha!”      


William Young tosses and turns under his sheets, hearing a whispering voice repeatedly say, “I shall never forget.” . . .

Total word count:  997



  1. Thank you, perhaps maybe I'll have to turn it into a short story!! Bessie, if you enjoy writing horror, you should join in on the Friday Flash Fiction fun!

  2. Wow, what a great depiction of a private Hell: reliving one's night of murder and suicide, over and over.

    I went to college in the UP, so I caught the "you betcha" — nice touch of accuracy!

  3. Creepy tale of a residual haunt. Loved it. Nothing quite like reading about someone having to relive their own nightmare over and over again.

    Thank you for the read.

  4. FARfetched thanks! It would be a living hell reliving one's rampage of murder and suicide, but for William Young I think he didn't know! :) I visited Duluth last summer and loved visiting Split Rock (which is where my inspiration for this story came from)
    Thank you for taking the time to visit and comment!

  5. DRC thank you for the nice comments! I love a good haunting tale.
    Thank you for stopping by and taking time to read and comment.

  6. The never ending story of madness and revenge by murder. To relive something like that over and over again would be the ultimate punishment.

    Great story! Blaze loves it!

  7. Thank you Blaze, that means a lot coming from such a prolific writer

  8. They often say that spirits are captured at the point at which they release most energy, thus "dooming" them to endlessly relieve their own personal torment. Excellent way to frame the narrative.

  9. Thank you Icy, it is said that often times tormented souls relive their pain over and over, true or not, at least it makes for a good story!
    Thank you for stopping by and visiting!

  10. Very disturbing! *shudders*

  11. Thanks Jezri! Goal accomplished!
    Thank you for taking time to stop by and visit.

  12. Awesome T.K.! Eerie and haunting- it had love, murder, suicide and a ghost. What more could you ask for in a story?!


  13. You've taken the madness of being a lighthouse keeper and turned it into such an enjoyably haunting story!

    It's great to see more people joining our weekly theme over at the Vamplit blog. When you write with us, make sure you leave a link to your story in the comments of our weekly issue so we can find your story and drop by to read it. Here's a link to this week's http://vamplit.com/?p=5031.

  14. well done. the ultimate damnation, cursed to recall it over and over.
    Very good and very original.
    Loved it.

  15. I really loved what you did with the lighthouse theme it was a great suggestion, thank you.