Teo's Last Light

The storm brewing at the horizon grew darker and thicker. The lighthouse keeper spun to grab the important documents. The notes Teo had taken on the changes in the sea and the notes written to him by his late wife. Notes written and read of equal importance to him. If they didn’t make it into his bag, they would be lost to the sea—to the storm, to the water. The outcropping that held his keep lost ground not only to the daily tides but to the ever changing climate. With each degree the thermometer rose, so he lost his land. The incoming storm threatened to steal the last from him. The wooden dock that moored his boat jumped wildly in the waves. This was his last chance. He had to leave, but he had to stay—must grab the last of his effects, for what was his life if not for his memories and his contributions to his field? Nothing.

His bag crammed with papers, Teo locked his door one last time. It was unnecessary, but he felt the compulsion to do it. If the shack was lost, it would not be because he left it loose. He wasn’t sure if it was the salty winds or the finality that brought tears to his eyes, but he wiped them as he jumped into his boat.

The oars rattled in his grip as the waves climbed ever-higher, and the knot refused to let go. The tiny island held him hostage. Perhaps he was not meant to leave, perhaps the dying island was the only home for him. Desolate dunes called across the bay, but nothing there spoke of life either. Only dust and death. Did he bother to return at all?

Teo hugged his pack tight to his chest; it was his life’s work, but for what? They did nothing when he presented his notes. No one cared to change their ways. “Just tend the light,” they said. It didn’t matter if he was swallowed by the rising sea, only that their ships came safely, blowing their stink into the air and dropping waste into the ocean. “Mind the light,” but he couldn’t sit back, he wouldn’t. It made no difference now, and he jumped from the boat, tugging his pack back towards the shack with him. Teo rolled the notes into bottles and tossed them into the waters. If his notes would not last, the plastic would and someday they would see.

The storm roared closer, and the sky blackened. There was nothing left—nowhere to go. The boat ripped from its rope and shattered on the rocks. He climbed the steps to the light one last time and looked out at the roiling ocean as the sea invaded his shack and refused to relent. The boards floated loose, and the doors jangled. Teo minded the light until its last turn, when the foundation cracked and the sea swallowed them whole.

Copyright © 2021 by Erica Damon

All rights reserved.

First published July 5th as part of In This Together: A Virtual Exhibit on Planetary and Human Health by Forbes Library in Northampton MA