On the Rocks
A copy of Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea was cracked open on the desk. The hardbound copy was aged from the salty air, just like Harvey. He sat sipping his morning coffee and smoking a cigarette, the only things that seemed to warm his bones on this brisk fall morning. The soothing sound of the waves crashing on the rocks made him feel like he wasn’t as alone as he truly was.
It had been three months since Harv had talked to another human. At first he thought he had found heaven, but he missed the company now. He and Sam always had such good conversations. He seemed like such a good guy at first, but the solitude must have driven him crazy. Or maybe Harv drove him mad?
He shrugged the thought away as he thought about the more important things he had to do today. A storm was on its way and his supplies were running low. A chopper was supposed to arrive tomorrow, but most likely the winds would make delivery impossible. Sure there was more food since he had a supply for two, but he smoked more than enough to make up for the lack of a colleague… a colleague.
Was that all Sam was to him?
The two had survived on this rock for over a year together. They were both too old to go to ‘Nam and too young to go to their graves, so why not take a job where they could disappear? Just like society wanted them to.
Now, Sam really had disappeared. Harv knew that was a foolish explanation given where they were, but he had no other logic to combat the theory. One minute he was there, the next he was gone. He knew he should have called it in to the mainland, but deep down he kept thinking that one day Sam would just show up and they could go back to how things were.
Harv picked up his cigarettes and threw on his coat. He hadn’t set foot in the keeper’s quarters above the boathouse since Sam’s disappearance. With the storm coming though, he had to board up a broken window. As he walked across the rocks he could feel the salty breeze on his face. He had always liked the sound of the ocean. It always seemed to be whispering secrets just out of his reach. Today the sound calmed him as he focused his attention to crossing the slick rocks.
“Harvey,” a voice rang clear amidst the crashing of waves. He stopped dead in his tracks and saw Sam standing twenty yards ahead. He took a step forward and his foot slid out from underneath him. He fell quickly but still tried to break his fall with his hands. Unfortunately, his forehead ended up taking the brunt of it. He staggered to his feet and looked back where Sam had been. There was no one there.
“Sam!?” he called out to the ocean. He looked back down at the rock now stained with his blood. If he was seeing things before he hit his head, what would he see now?
He made it across the rocks without any more damage and stood a safe distance away from the boathouse. Just staring into the vacant house gave him the creeps. He would go upstairs, fix the window and get back to the lighthouse. Climbing the creaky stairs gave him a sense of familiarity the combined with the dread of a terrible nightmare. When he got to the top, the place looked disheveled. Papers were strewn across the floor and the stench of rotted food wafted through the air. Across the room the damp curtains blew around in a violent frenzy. Shards of red glass occupied the floor beneath the broken window. One large piece still remained in the frame, this one a lighter shade of pink.
Harvey took a deep breath and crossed the battlefield into the kitchen. The stench in there was more overpowering as the fresh air hadn’t helped that room. He grabbed a toolbox from the cabinet and then removed the door. It was slightly bigger than the window and seemed strong enough to withstand the winds that were on their way.
The last screw from the hinge hit the ground, its metallic trail bouncing out of the kitchen. Harv set the door down on the counter and followed after it. Instead of picking it up, he stared at the window that was already covered. He looked back in the kitchen to where he had set the cabinet door, but it was no longer there. He stumbled backwards into the doorframe. He saw the toolbox was still there, its handle covered in blood. He panicked, and then remembered about his fall on the rocks. It was his blood on the toolbox. He needed to tend to his wound.
With his back to the wall, he inched towards the bathroom. As soon as he made it in, he slammed the door behind him. He reached for the matches to light the lamp on the counter. After a few strikes, the match burst to life but before he could bring the flame to the lamp, he saw the dried crimson that coated the counter and sink. He dropped the match as it burned his fingers and he was out of there before the flame extinguished.
Heavy raindrops fell all around him. The storm was getting closer. The rain helped wash away most of his own blood and he quickly determined that his wound had stopped bleeding. There was a reason he hadn’t been in there since Sam left. Sam was gone.
His head throbbed, but there was no way he was going back and he couldn’t stay outside much longer. Back to the lighthouse was his only option at this point. Back across the rocks he had seen Sam on earlier.
The wind was really picking up, but he managed to light a cigarette as he crawled back over the jagged land. His lungs burned with each puff, but it warmed him inside. The waves were crashing down just feet away from him and one wrong step would drag him out to the ocean. That is if he survived the rocks all around him. He just had to make it back to the lighthouse and survive until the helicopter made it tomorrow. He would tell them about Sam and now that he was injured, they wouldn’t leave him out there alone. He would get off this rock and never come back.
By the time he reached the lighthouse, he was soaking wet. He climbed the stairs and threw off his jacket. The wet mass pounded the floor as Harv reached for a dry blanket. Wrapping it around his shoulders, he reached in his front pocket for a smoke.
“Shit!” The entire pack was drenched. He went for his secret stash in the desk and noticed his book was closed. A shiver ran through him, but not because of the damp cold. He picked up the book and flipped through it. A photo fell to the floor. Fingers shaking, he picked up the faded picture. The print on the back read, Sam & Harvey 1969 Midway Lighthouse. He flipped it over and immediately jumped back, hitting the desk. It was the picture they had taken when they arrived at the lighthouse but Harvey’s face had been scratched out and the grin on Sam’s face seemed bigger than he remembered.
With the book still in his hand, he ran downstairs almost losing his footing. He burst out of the lighthouse and the wind blew him back. He pushed forward as the rain pounded against him and he realized he had nowhere to go.
“WHAT DO YOU WANT, SAM? WHERE ARE YOU? SAM?” Harv screamed at the top of his lungs but the roar of the ocean and the wind made it hard to even hear his own voice. His head throbbed and he closed his eyes crouching down between the rocks. On the back of his eyelids, his memories flashed.
Sam was in standing in front of him. They were arguing.
“I love you,” Sam protested. The words burned into Harv’s mind. “You don’t feel it too?” Sam took a step towards Harv.
“Get away!” Harv shoved him and watched as he fell backwards. He heard the glass shatter.
The waves were pummeling against him. He could barely keep his balance nestled between the ocean and the shore.
“help..” Sam’s voice was weak and blood poured out of his chest. Harvey looked at him. There was nothing he could do. He picked up his feet and a scream filled the humid, sticky air. He tipped him backwards until he fell out the window. Crunch. Blood stained the rocks below.
“No!” Harv screamed, “That is not what happened! Sam!”
He dragged the body to the boathouse and went back upstairs to board up the window. There was blood everywhere. He tried to wash it off his hands as the sink became a red pool.
He could see something stuck between the rocks in front of him.
“Sam!” he slid closer using this hands and feet to climb down.
He didn’t know what to do with the body. It was hot and he wouldn’t last long in the boathouse. He went back down to move him. Sam was gone. Sam disappeared.
“I killed you. I killed you, Sam.” The words left Harvey’s mouth so quietly that the ocean soaked them in before they could go anywhere. He grabbed the lump he had been moving towards and stumbled forward hitting his head again. He fell into the water next to the mass and as he was pulled under he looked into Sam’s lifeless eyes. Then everything faded to black as he the ocean pulled a blanket over him.
Mark was not happy about having to bring supplies out to Midway, but at least the storm had subsided. He set the chopper down and helped Steve unload the cargo.
“Sam? Harvey?” There was no sign of life on the remote rock.
They took the supplies to the keeper’s quarters and immediately knew something was wrong when they saw the war zone in front of them.
“Stay here, Steve, I will go check the lighthouse.” Mark set off across the jagged shore and as he got close to the lighthouse he heard something tapping against one of the rocks. He saw a skeleton moving back and forth with the water, the skull colliding with the rocks and keeping time with the ocean. Mark doubled over and grabbed his stomach. He managed to keep his breakfast down and kept moving to the lighthouse.
Mark ran up the stairs and almost tripped over the coat on the floor. There was no one up there, but on the desk there was a soggy pack of cigarettes next to an open hardbound copy of Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea.
© Autumn Siders 2016