It was a ritual of sorts that he performed every night. He had a large ale and a hearty supper. Then just before dusk, he’d start climbing the stairs. Lately, he’d had to start the climb earlier in the evening as his body was telling him he was getting too old for this job.
The strain of living alone on an island was starting to take its toll. He had begun to hear voices lately. At first, it thought it was the wind playing tricks as it whipped its way through the old building. Now he was dead sure it was a voice calling him.
His bones seemed to know when he would hear The Old Man. That’s what he called the voice. “The Old Man.” Sometimes he heard it in the beacon room at the top of the lighthouse. But most of the time, it was in the stairwell.
He could never quite make it what the voice was saying. He was sure it wasn’t happy. He had answered it, but the voice disappeared into the night.
This night the voice was strong and clear.
“It’s your time.”
“My time?” He stopped mid-step on the stairway.
“Yes, time to man the ‘SS Edmund Fitzgerald.’”
He reached the top of the stairs and into the lantern room. Tonight, the night sky was clear. The moon and stars lit up the bay, illuminating a ship just offshore, floating just above the water.
He blinked, and he was standing on the deck of the ‘Edmund Fitzgerald.’ The winds blew, and water beat at the hulls and he never felt more alive.