The Lighthouse- Part Three
They both walked towards the dark, untamed trees of the woods. Only a small dirt trodden path marked the way. The branches of the trees weaved together with the bushes. They created a dark forest scape that resembled more of a jungle than a garden. Alice took out her phone and pressed record. “Hello? Is there anyone there?”
Grace wanted to scoff, but she felt a shiver race up her spine. Maybe being out in the woods after dark was not a good plan. “Let’s head back. What if people are living out here?”
“Why would there be people in the woods?” Alice asked and stumbled as something caught her foot. She turned off the phone and flicked on the flashlight. A tangled mess of roots had grown over the path.
“This is a tourist town. So, I would think to rob people?” Grace asked with a scoff.
How could Alice be so naïve? It was like the girl wanted to believe in ghosts so much that she was ready to throw their safety in jeopardy. Then again, the tugs on her shirt and the giggles in the tower.
“I guess it’s lucky all we are carrying are our cellphones,” Alice said. She looked about the woods and to the stars beyond the branches. They were so close to those stars on the tower. She felt herself shrink. They were so small in this world in comparison.
Alice turned as a twig snapped behind them. They both froze and stared at each other. Was it a crazy person, a robber, a ghost, or an animal? Another branch snapped, closer this time.
Grace was the first to move. She ran along the dirt path, and Alice raced behind her. Grace had had enough. Fumbling, she flipped on the light on her cellphone. A rogue root would not take her out.
Another branch snapped behind them, and Alice felt panic flood her. They were being chased. What could be chasing them? She couldn’t believe she dragged them here. Was proving her friend wrong worth their health and wellbeing? What if a robber or a dangerous animal was chasing them? She had put them in danger or something so trivial!
Grace ran along the path, and so did her mind. Was it possible for a ghost to chase them? Could they do that? There was always the chance it was something real like she told Alice. But the giggling, the tugs, the branches were too much. She ran. Grace came to a screeching halt, and Alice ran smack into her. She looked at the wall of vines. In their panic, they had gotten lost.
Another branch snapped, and both girls turned. Their faces froze in panic as they tried to catch their breath. Alice stood and wound her arm back to throw her cellphone at the stalker. The bushes rustled, and she felt a scream bubble up from within her. A small tabby cat pounced out. Its golden eyes reflected in the dim light. It tilted its head and regarded the girls curiously.
Grace couldn’t stop the laughter that rippled out of her. She walked around Alice and stooped by the cat. The cat rubbed against their ankles. She scratched its ears with shaking hands. The adrenaline still coursed through her from the scare. Behind her, Alice laughed.
“I see the cat has found you,” a feminine voice said. A woman stepped from the darkness. She wore a long white Victorian gown. Her black hair flowed like water down her back. She smiled at the two girls.
Alice smiled back. She didn’t realize they had reenactors at these events. “We got turned around.”
“I can lead you back. Few would venture this far out at night,” the woman replied as she gave them a warm smile.
Grace and Alice smiled back. The woman turned and walked down the path.
They followed her, and the cat trailed behind them. The woman pointed out different plants along their walk. Alice and Grace nodded along as the woman led them through the winding paths. Alice could see how they would have gotten lost. The dirt paths were impossible to see at night. Each path wove into each other and crisscrossed in so many directions. It would have been a struggle to know where they were going in the daylight. The woman led them back to the lighthouse courtyard and turned towards the woods.
“Aren’t you going to come in?” Grace asked.
The woman turned and smiled. “Oh no, I watch the woods to make sure no one gets lost.” With that, she turned and walked back towards the dark woods. The cat trailed after the woman with a curled tail and a small bounce to its step.
Alice and Grace walked back to the gift shop. Their legs felt like jello from the climb of the lighthouse and the running in the woods. Their clothes stuck to their clothes from the humidity and the sweat of their panic.
Alice felt her heart sink. They hadn’t caught a single piece of proof of ghosts. Everything could be explained away if Grace tried hard enough. She felt her heart sink at the thought… but she wouldn’t suggest they go back. Her heart was still hammering from the scare in the gardens.
The gift shop’s bright lights made them wince as they opened the door. They returned their glow sticks, still blinking at the light. The employee laughed. “Did you catch anything?”
The woman was wearing jeans and a tee-shirt. The employee started throwing away the glow sticks.
“No, we didn’t,” Alice sighed with a defeated tone.
“The guide was amazing, though. If not for her, we would’ve been lost.” Grace complimented.
The woman behind the counter stopped. “What woman?”
“She had black hair and a white dress. The attention to detail was amazing! It was a great reenactment costume,” Grace said with a smile.
Alice stared at the employee as dread crept up her spine. There had to have been someone outside. Yet, the way the worker spoke.
“We don’t have anyone working tonight but me and my co-worker,” the woman said. She gestured to Frank in the corner, adjusting the merchandise.
He looked up at the girls.
Grace and Alice stared.
The employee moved towards the shelf with the lighthouse’s history books. She pulled out one and started flipping. Frank walked over and looked over her shoulder. Alice stared.
“Did you girls catch something?” he asked.
“Is this the woman you saw?” the female employee asked, interrupting Frank. She pointed to a picture and held it out to the girls. A woman stood beside a man. Her black hair cascaded down her back in glossy waves. She wore a white dress. Beside her, her husband, the lighthouse keeper.
“T-That’s her,” Alice stuttered.
“That’s Marian. She was the wife of the lighthouse keeper,” the employee muttered.
A shiver ran through the two. A ghost escorted them back to the courtyard. Alice and Grace bid the woman good night, stunned. They walked back to the car and locked the doors. For a moment, they sat in silence.
Grace thought it could have been a cheap trick by the staff. There was no way they could know who worked that evening. There was a nagging sense in her gut. The staff looked as shocked as they did. It didn’t feel like a ruse.
“We still have the EVP to listen to…” Grace reminded.
“Delete them,” Alice said.
Grace opened her phone and pressed play. Curiosity would not allow her to delete them. Something within her was determined to see it through. The screen was as dark as the basement had been. She looked up at Alice.
Alice watched the phone. Her heart sat comfortably at the bottom of her stomach. It sat amongst the butterflies. There was a chance that they caught nothing. Alice hoped they caught nothing. She wasn’t sure that her nerves could take anything else tonight.
“Sure, I could use a break,” Grace said on the recording. A few moments of silence passed. Grace began again. “Anyone with us? Any ghosties want to talk to us?”
Another moment of silence passed. Then, as if carried on the breeze, a whisper. A single word, a name. “Maarrian.”
Grace and Alice stared at each other. This was impossible. Alice saw the disbelief and shock on Grace’s face. She had gotten undeniable proof that there was something paranormal here. She turned the ignition of the car with a shaking hand. The headlights illuminated the parking lot.
A giggle sounded muffled from outside their window. A young girl in a Victorian dress stood in the headlights. The light shone straight through her and onto the trees behind her small figure. Two other childlike shadows stood beside her, barely visible. Both girls screamed. The tires sprayed gravel as they sped out of the parking lot. In their panic, they didn’t stop driving until they were hours away from the haunted lighthouse.