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Beacons of Light

Beacons of Light by the Rough Writers & Friends@Charli_MillsWhen it’s dark, foggy or dangerous we look for beacons of light to guide our way. Beacons can be what we expect and fill us with relief or hope. Yet beacons can be unexpected, even deceptive.

Writers considered how to tell a story about beacons and shed light on shadowy places, feelings and situations.

The following stories are based on the July 6, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write about a beacon.

***

Beacon (Jane Doe Flash Fiction) by Deborah Lee

Jane edges up the tiny spiral staircase, bending to look through the mullioned windows. Gulls wheel, screeching; the sea murmurs. The top level is nothing like she’d imagined a lighthouse would be: Hardwood floors, foghorn mechanism, and arc lamp all gleam in angled sunlight. On tiptoe, she can see the noses of seals playing below.

It’s not Paris; it’s not a beach weekend; it’s not even a bus ticket home to her mother’s kitchen. But escape was a beacon; the sandwich in her bag, her student bus pass, the Internet list of area lighthouses, all gave it to her.

###

Flash Fiction by Pensitivity

Most have been lost from the roadside and replaced under the guise of progress.

The modern ones have little charm, despite being made from similar components.

The striped pole denoted a rigid sentinel either side of the childhood chasm, dignified in its support of an amber globe which flashed intermittently and continuously on the crossing, topped by its familiar dark cap.

What is this mediocre dotted halo over a dull orb that pathetically illuminates the way to safety?

The Red Man may warn before the Green Man takes over this vigil, but I will always remember the Belisha Beacon.

###

Woman Overboard by Joe Owens

Wayne gripped the rail of the light house beacon house as tightly as he had anything short of his beloved Claire. She knew this storm would be bad, but she was determined to make her run. Just one more job.

The water churned away while the wind roared. Wayne futilely wiped the rain from his face trying to catch a glimpse, any sign really, that she might be out there. But there was only more darkness, more despair to find.

“Why you stubborn woman, why?”

It took three days for her boat to be found. Her body never was.

###

Lighthouse by Robert Kirkendall

Wendy and Jack approached the old lighthouse with other tourists.

“I just love these old buildings!” Wendy gushed. “Don’t you, dear?”

“They’re okay, I guess,” Jack replied.

“But it’s so grand looking! They knew how to build things then.”

“It’s just an archaic brick building with no more use. Modern ships rely on more advanced technology.”

“But it’s historical!” Wendy reminded.

“It’s useless,” Jack insisted. “There is no more need for it.”

Just then the long, ugly sound of a ship crashing upon rocks and resulting screams filled the air.

“Okay,” Jack admitted, “maybe this lighthouse is still useful.”

###

In Extremis by Anne Goodwin

The white light drew me, summoned me, invited me, called me to dissolve where pain was unknown. The blue light flashed, on off, on off. Although much colder, it wanted me too. If my body could divide into a white side and a blue side, I could rest in peace. If I could float in the white till I was mended, I could give myself to the blue. But there was no going back from the white light. I had to decide.

Another light, sharp, beams into my eye. “Got a response here!” I’d been chosen for the blue.

###

The Arc of Descent by Elliott Lyngreen

Almost sideways
Against surface
set to angles

(There’s nothing to lean on)

hovering us above
then below the lake

crests

from an emerging ship,
groaning up-sideways-steep-

The world lost your stories
when you had your stroke

In the channel
At West Sister
You’re the ghost in the Lighthouse now
(grinning from ear to ear)
signaling beams
over distances I miss

Casts. The drifts.
trolling as we were
Thee Great Fishing King
and a chosen boy
lingering…

so to not have a moment
Like this.

Like, reeling in two-ton shitheads
how We slammed them against
Starboard side,
pure, disgusted, whips

###

A Sign by Ruchira Khanna

“Step outside, Thea.” asserted mom as she entwined her fingers.

The daughter was adamant, ” The world will judge me. I want to spend the remaining days of my life inside.”

She silently wiped her tears and stroked her daughter’s crown that was hairless and bisque in color. Her eyes that were lively and naughty were pale and dejected. She was pronouncing herself dead even before the last breath.

Just then there was a knock.

Thea’s friend entered with a warm smile.

The Mom envisioned it as a signal of hope and sunshine in her daughter’s life.

###

Self-Doubt by Reena Saxena

For how long has the lighthouse been there, in the middle of the sea?

The ships have moved, using information relayed by it, and escaped hazardous shoals and reefs. Have they, or have they not? Maybe, they own better technology – the electronic beacons and navigational systems.

I am forever on the move – mentally and emotionally, and sometimes physically – collecting, curating, processing and disseminating information, along with my interpretations of reality. I wonder if I have been useful to others, or only to myself, at a high cost of maintenance.

I think of the lighthouse again. Should it start moving?

###

The Storm by Susan Zutautas

Squinting, trying to see a few feet in front of the car was impossible. I only wish there was a car in front of me to follow.

OH NO ICE! Don’t panic, I said to myself, and for God’s sake don’t hit the brakes.

Slipping and sliding losing control of the car ….. SHIT, I was in a ditch! Oh great now what.

Unprepared for this dressed in heels and a short skirt, walking would be suicide in this snowstorm. Better stay put.

Freezing to the bone, hours later, I could see a most welcomed beacon of light. Safety.

###

Meeting Destiny by Kerry E.B. Black

Like overgrown fireflies, they bounce before me, silent beacons to the unknown. Be they corpse lights or Will-o-the-wisps, their pale glow fascinates me.

Grandmama whispers prayers when they appear. She says they’re the spirits of passed ancestors, but Aunt Emilia warns not to heed their invitation. “They work with monsters to lure the unwary to their doom.” However, my uncle scoffs. Swamp gas, says he, and nothing more.

Wordless invitations pull at my curiosity. I imagine they’re a gateway to mysteries, lighting a path to my destiny. I’m bold. I’ll face them, follow their lead, and discover for myself.

###

Night Search by Bill Engleson

It’s not that anyone thought that Mickey and Sal were bad parents. And if they did, most wouldn’t say anything. Why beat up on folks that were as full of sorrow as they were.

“We’ll keep looking beyond sunset,” Sam Travers, local fire chief and search party head honcho, told us. “Are you with me?”

One hundred heads nodded in the fading light.

“We’ve got a good supply of torches. Lucas is only three and there’s a storm due by morning.”

Lucas had gone missing the night before.

One hundred flashlights might be just enough to bring him home.

###

Let there be Light by Norah Colvin

Eyes squinted in the dim light under low ceilings. Immobilised by never-ending paperwork, the menials dared not look up. Flickering numbers on data scoreboards mesmerised supervisors. Inconsistencies meant remonstrations, even punishment, from above. Heads down, keep working, don’t ask questions. The system worked fine, until … Maxwell nodded off. His pencil fell, tapped first, then rolled away. Startled, Maxwell went after it. The room stilled. Sliding too fast, he slammed into the wall, activating a button that illuminated a set of stairs leading up. Everyone gasped. Maxwell hesitated, took one step, then another. Nothing happened. He continued. Everyone followed.

###

The Light by Allison Maruska

My brother sits next to the window, shaking. “I’m scared!”

I roll my eyes and join him. “It’s just the dark.”

“I don’t know the dark!”

“It’s never dark forever. Okay?”

“How do you know?”

“I’m older.”

“Barely.”

“Still counts.” I try to be patient. It wasn’t that long ago that I was stretching my wings and looking for a beacon of familiarity.

A light behind us comes on and he takes off.

“Wait!”

He smacks into the bulb and falls back.

The human bats at my brother. “Stupid moth.”

Sighing, I park on the ceiling. He’s still learning.

###

Beacon by Jeanne Lombardo

I search the night sky. As if the answer were there. As if science fiction were true and benevolent aliens could save us. Why bother? I see nothing. The stars are snuffed out.

Here below flames rip at cars and barricades and shop fronts—bonfires of fury and pain. The undercurrent of violence deafens me, pulls me down on streets wet from water cannons. My hands bleed from the bricks I have thrown.

You pull my arm. You scream. The maelstrom snatches your words and eats them.

But I follow at last—you—a brighter beacon than the flames.

###

Mother Hope by Kalpana Solsi

Flashing the red beacon light and a shrill siren announcing urgency, the white metal body moves.

A budding life, inhumanly left to wither is picked up with love. The ‘unwanted’ tag is abandoned and a new name and home is given.

The wrinkled destitute breathe their last with dignity.

Bodies afflicted with diseases get palliative care.

Women and children counselling programmes uplift the society.

Refugees, prostitutes, street-kids are accommodated.

The selfless Sisters at Missionaries of Charity in the City of Joy spread sunshine under the darkest conditions.

The Mother in white and blue sari is a beacon of hope.

###

Hope Is A Four Letter Word by Geoff Le Pard

‘Mrs. North? Greg O’Connell. I tracked down your sister to the Sisters of Mercy.’

Mary felt a familiar cloud cast a chill shadow. ‘I remember.’

‘They’ve found the records. At last, eh?’

Mary couldn’t speak.

‘Bit of light at… sorry, I’m rambling. A beacon of hope, maybe. Katherine Potts. Your sister, right?’

‘Yes.’

‘She had a daughter, who was adopted. The family was from Dublin. Mrs. North? You there.’

‘Is she… alive?’

‘That’s why I rang. Do you want me to keep looking?’

Mary shut her eyes. Could she stand more disappointment? Was this beacon really bringing good news?

###

First Cut Pt. 1 by D. Avery

“Did I hurt you when I left?”

They were sprawled on the grass in the pasture that overlooked the house, the barn that held the first cut of hay. She stroked the baby’s dark hair as she nursed.

“Yup. Hurt a lot.”

“I’ve always been a bolter. It’s like I can’t help it after a while.”

“Uh.” The baby sighed and fell asleep against her.

“I never was scared before though.”

“You were scared?”

“Afraid I’d gone too far. That I wouldn’t be able to come back. To you.”

His arm around her was strong, gentle. “I’m always here.”

###

First Cut Pt. 2 by D. Avery

He stood on the porch, watching the storm rolling over the mountain, trees bowing before it, excited leaves anxiously twisting and turning on their stems, murmuring at the rumbles of thunder. Soon it would rain.

The Highlands would be fine. The calves were healthy, feeding well, the new mothers patient and fiercely protective.

Quietly, he went back inside where she had fallen asleep on the couch. He sat before the sleeping baby in the bassinet, still awestruck. Would that feeling ever go away?

Would she ever leave again?

“Hey”, she whispered. “How’s Hope?”

“She’s a light in the storm.”

###

Beacon by Rachel A Hanson

“I know your name,”

She was standing at the kitchen sink, feeling low as she sipped her coffee. She looked up to see Moana.

As the tears flowed out she realized how invisible and alone she felt.

“What’s wrong, Mama?” Her little one ran over.

“I just love you so much,” she said.

Her little face lit up with a smile a mile wide that shone like a beacon, cutting through the darkness in her soul.

“I love you too, Mama.”

As they embraced the smile of the baby became another beacon of love that shone through the dark.

###

Beacon of Goodness by KittyVerses

As the day of my friend’s wedding grew near,excitement in all of us rose to the next level. Exuberant, like the rest of us about her attire and the celebrations that would follow, she was eagerly looking forward to her D-day.

A typical Indian arranged wedding, they hardly knew one another for six months. A new person , new family, new lifestyle, these thoughts kept haunting her. An element of fear lay hidden beneath her otherwise joyous face.

As we parted, I wished fervently, Let the beacon of goodness shine and may she be that beacon in this new journey.

###

Philandered Pharos (Janice vs Richard #13) by Jules Paige

Carla Scott wanted nothing more in life than to own a little
bookshop in the coastal town she’d grown up in. Instead
she’d become a policewoman. Helping people like Janice
from cabal men who held tightly onto the concept of
‘disregard’ of humanity in their absolute quest to make
women feel Fremdschämen. Men like Richard rarely
worked alone, belonging to some kind of opaque group,
whose asomatous leader didn’t leave paper trails.

What turn of events or item preceded a criminal’s mind to
hum above decent coherency? Blip off and then stand tall
withdrawing from the beacon of justice?

###

Beacon by Michael

He was a beacon of hope to so many. He spoke the language they craved to hear.

To others, he was a beacon of disaster. Everything he said was a lie a falsehood designed to deceive and confusion.

Where he promised prosperity for all to others, he spelt poverty a modern-day Judas selling out those whom he should have supported for the lure of the mighty dollar.

He used people for his own ends, he cared little for their well-being concentrating totally on what was best for him.

In the end, he was justifiably condemned to rot in hell.

###

A Beacon of Her Light by FloridaBorne

“Are you telling me you are what you write?” Lee asked.

“No.”

“You’ll never be a Hemingway,” he sneered.

“It’s the journey, not the destination that’s important.”

“I’ve heard the cliché,” he snickered.

“I hear the universal heart and my write-house shines out a beacon of her light.”

“That’s a stupid pun! If you’re the lighthouse, I’m the caretaker that straightens the beam.”

“No,” I chuckled. “You’re a ship’s captain refusing to allow a light to tell you there’s danger ahead.”

“What danger?”

“You’re about to crash on the rocks. My lawyers have pictures of you with your mistress.”

###

Night Riders (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

 “Nancy Jane, it’s dark. I can’t see!” Sarah reached for her friend.

“Beyond the ravine we’ll have light. Come on!”

When they emerged from the creek oaks and cottonwoods, the plains remained cloaked. Stars cast no light on this moonless night, but lone campfires topped the hills. Sarah asked, “Why are people in small camps? I thought they were afraid to sleep outside groups.”

“Nah, those are the fires warning where the ridges are.” Nancy Jane whistled and her horse nickered in return. “Ready, Sarah? Let’s ride the plains and let the Otoe night signals light our way.”

###

The Royal Navy by Gordon Le Pard

Here it is again, and a sequel

“They’re here!”
He looked out at the horizon and saw nothing, “Nonsense” he thought as he walked over to his excited colleague bending over the strange device, he looked through the little lens. There was a tiny ship – with the cross of Spain on its sails. Moving it he saw more, the Armada had arrived!
Moments later the beacon was lit, within hours the English fleet was at sea.
The Spanish thought they had the English trapped in Plymouth harbour – but at dawn the Royal Navy launched their first attack. The defeat of the Spanish Armada had begun.

The first telescope was probably invented in the 1570’s by Leonard and Thomas Digges, but kept secret because of its military importance. I have placed one in the hands of one of the men keeping watch for the invading Spaniards in 1588.

###

The Spanish Armada by Gordon Le Pard

Admiral Recalde was worried, the Royal Navy was supposed to be in Plymouth, and no knew they were coming. Last night they had glimpsed the coast and seen twinkling lights on the hill tops.
“Fires, to burn the heretics.” The priests had said encouragingly.
But he feared they were beacons.

As dawn broke he found he was right. The grey western horizon, which should have been empty, was full of ships, English ships, the fastest warships, the best guns and the finest seamen in the world.

He no longer thought of victory, instead he prayed that they would survive.

Admiral Recalde, one of the most experienced officers in the Spanish Armada, was always doubtful about its chances of success. He managed to bring several ships home after the disastrous defeat, but collapsed and died a few days after reaching Spain.

###

A Hero’s Welcome by Pete Fanning

The whistle hit as the train rounded the bend. At Jem’s, couples abandoned dancing and ran for the door. Drowsy children lifted warm cheeks from the padding of their mother’s arms. Old timers rocked forth to have a gander.

The boys wanted to shoot his Springfield. The girls wanted to hear all about Paris. Lawrence had seen the world. He’d taken on the Nazi’s and defended freedom.

Six hours late, a beacon shined on the withered streamers and curled signs of patriotism. They stood as brakes screaked, they watched patiently as the “White Only” cars passed.

Lawrence was home.

###

Between by Sarah Brentyn

He flies halfway between day and night.

His wings reach out, touch the rooftop of my home.

The silence outside me, the noise inside me…

I hear him.

Tomorrow, he tells me, will be softer. More forgiving. Wait.  

I believe him.

His message quiets my raging mind.

Delivered tenderly, I feel the force behind his words not to go gentle into this good night.

 

Feathered fingertips brush blue sky down into the pinks and purples of evening.

I will live to see him, this paintbrush of the Gods, bring the periwinkle light of sunrise up into sapphire skies.

###

Whatt the Blazes? by D. Avery

“Hey Shorty. That’s a fine fire you got there. Cookin’ somethin’ up? Bacon sure would be nice.”

“No, ain’t cookin’.”

“Oh. Cold?”

“No, I ain’t cold.”

“Oh. Scarin’ away coyotes?”

“No, ain’t seen any sign of coyotes.”

“Shorty, why’n heck you got this here fire blazin’ away if you ain’t cookin’, ain’t cold, and ain’t worried about coyotes?”

“Let’s just say this fire is for anyone who is hungry, or cold, or worried about coyotes. A welcome to set a spell. Share stories.”

“A beckoning beacon.”

“Exactly.”

“Still, some bacon would be nice.”

“Here, have a carrot.”

“It’s raw.”

###

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July 6: Flash Fiction Challenge

It’s a muddle of music and smiling people in sunglasses beyond the orange fence of plastic netting. Entrance requires a red wristband and resolve. It’s Independence Day in the US and on the Keweenaw Peninsula, locals flock to Eagle River to celebrate. As crowds go it’s relatively small, but it’s still a crowd and I’m yet an introvert among so many unfamiliar things. What is it about unfamiliarity that seems unnerving?

Earlier at a beach on Lake Superior I heard the lament of a six-year-old boy, “I can’t overcome my fear!” I turned my gaze away from the rolling waves, to inspect a group of young boys splashing in the water. They were playing an imaginary game, a team of heroes on a mission. Except for the lone reluctant hero in a life vest and swim goggles who stood while his friends floated and swam. I can’t overcome my fear.

His tone was one any of us at any age could cry out. We fear new places and faces. We fear what we don’t know. We fear change. So we stay in the shallows, watching for danger.

I take a deep breath and extend my wrist to receive a band. I’m committing, going in, going deep. I’m shaky at first, not knowing anyone, but soon I follow the wafting aroma of smoked brisket, and loving arms reach for me with the familiar call of “Mama!” It’s my eldest and she’s with her husband in line for food. Fear melts away with a familiar anchor.

And maybe that’s what each of us needs — a guide to bring us in to a new harbor, a light to show us the rocky shoals. Once received we open up to the newness. Another boy at the beach stood up with his friend and together they went into the water. A few fearful cries soon diminished into laughter and together they splashed and played heroes. With my own lighthouse guiding me through the community event, I opened up to meeting new people and experiencing a Copper Country celebration.

A curious man approaches wearing pants of apricot and a silk neck scarf. My daughter mentions he’s filming a documentary and he invites us to a fundraiser with an invitation that is both artsy and strange. I wonder who he is and why he’s making a film. My daughter is part of a belly-dancing troupe and her husband drums. They know many people in the community who are living life to their own beat. I’ve yet to figure out the local beat, but feel more at home among the artistic and eccentric. I’m searching for the literary artistic and history eccentric.

So I ask the filmmaker if he’s from the area. He was born and raised on the Keweenaw, leaving in increments until he made it to NYC where he’s been making films for years. One of his films was received at the Sundance Festival in 2009. He tells me, “They’ve all been wondering what I’ve been doing since.”

“This documentary?” I ask.

He rolls his eyes with exaggerated drama. “It’s not a documentary. Well, I suppose some parts are. It’s creative. It’s different, no genre like it exists. It’s my creative expression.”

“I see.” Not really, but I see enough to hook my curiosity and decide I’ll go to the fundraiser and learn more. I might meet some writers, as I’ve heard there are a few about this area. One is even hosting a workshop on poetry and flash fiction. Ha! You bet I’m going to that one.

Then the filmmaker in the apricot pants explains what he’s been doing since his Sundance success: filmmaking. “It’s what I do. I make films.”

It’s what I do. I write. It seems such a simple statement on one hand and so bold on the other. And yet, in writing I do so much more than tap keys or splatter sentences in ink. I process. What I feared and faced, I write about at some point whether it’s something I acknowledge consciously or not. What I fear and think I’ve smothered also comes out. It’s not all about fear, but fear certainly has great sway over us.

I think about fear as fireworks flare in the sky. I watch the shadow of a person fogged in pyrotechnic smoke light the mortars on the beach. Is he not afraid of his task? I watch my husband who says he loves the fireworks display, and recall last year’s holiday when he charged across a Forest Service campground in the dark because someone was “shooting.” It was fireworks and he soon realized after a camping neighbor calmed him down.

The difference was not the fireworks but the unfamiliarity — he expects fireworks at this event.

Houses stretch three stories tall around this region. Most are old houses from the grand mining era pre-1900s. The bedrock is too close to the surface to dig basements so they are rocked as the ground level, then the main floor and a second. Some bigger houses have a fourth attic or maid’s quarters. They look scary to me, tall and speaking of deep snow and old ways. Yet I love the house my daughter owns. She and her husband have painted the walls vibrant colors, the hues of sunflowers and of sky and deep lake water.

Did technology bring about too many changes, or ones that left people without a lighthouse to guide them? I always thought the globalization of the internet would bring us all closer together. In many ways it has. Perhaps blogging, writing, are mediums of light that shine a path to bridge cultural differences. The fear expressed by many in the US reminds me of the child’s admission, “I can’t get over my fear.” Instead of looking for a way, some people have backed out of the water and barricaded themselves on the beach.

It’s not that there’s nothing to fear. Terrorism itself is the invoking of fear; it’s meant to terrorize. Water can be dangerous; children do drown. But we have choices. We have offers of hands to join together. It reminds me of the Great American Desert beyond the Missouri River, which terrified Americans yet beckoned them to cross for riches or land. Many did overcome their fear and a few even settled, including the McCanles family.

In my research, I’ve come across a written oral history of a family contemporary to the McCanleses — the Helvey family. Frank Helvey was 19 when his family decided to run a road station the same year as Cobb bought Rock Creek. The Helvey’s bought the Big Sandy Station 15 miles up trail from Rock Creek. Frank writes, “With McCanles and his men I was very well acquainted, and can say that a wrongful impression was given of him, and of the affair between him and Wild Bill, who I also believe was much maligned.”

Why do we run around in the dark with an inferior torch claiming the world is scary and preferring to only see in front of our face what we think we know? The settlers “knew” the Pawnees and Otoes were dangerous. The historians “knew” Cobb was a bad hombre. Many waited until people like the Helvey’s and Mary McCanles carved homes and ranches and communities on the prairie before they decided it was safe to wrest away from the remaining reservations. Indeed, there were a few raids on settlers in 1864 and 67, but in comparison to the massacres by US Cavalry, it was the Natives who should have had the greater fear.

It’s not that fear itself is so bad. Fear is a warning — proceed with caution; be safe. Entrepreneurs and artists take calculated risks — they strategize to overcome doubt and fear to do or create something new. Fear is best acknowledged, not justified. It’s fear justified that skews thinking and actions. In this recent body of research, I read about the Pawnee and Otoe and how fearful they made the settlers in their war to save their hunting grounds. That fear became an entrenched justification for robbing them of their lands. The extreme prejudice I’m reading in this history echoes today.

Like the boy on the beach, we need to overcome our fears to participate fully in a modern and connected world of many cultures. Like his friends, maybe we can offer to light the way for others.

July 6, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write about a beacon. It can be from a lighthouse or other source. Use the word literally or figuratively and go where the prompt leads you.

Respond by July 11, 2017 to be included in the compilation (published July 12). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

Night Riders (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

 “Nancy Jane, it’s dark. I can’t see!” Sarah reached for her friend.

“Beyond the ravine we’ll have light. Come on!”

When they emerged from the creek oaks and cottonwoods, the plains remained cloaked. Stars cast no light on this moonless night, but lone campfires topped the hills. Sarah asked, “Why are people in small camps? I thought they were afraid to sleep outside groups.”

“Nah, those are the fires warning where the ridges are.” Nancy Jane whistled and her horse nickered in return. “Ready, Sarah? Let’s ride the plains and let the Otoe night signals light our way.”