Merimount Lighthouse was a old abandoned lighthouse in Merritt Cove Annex an uncharted cave beach of The Morant Cays a group of small islands on a coral reef 51 km (32 mi) south southeast of Morant Point in Jamaica. The islands were claimed by Great Britain in 1862 and annexed to Jamaica in 1882. There was no permanent population there but a fishing camp operated there on and off throughout the season. The fisherman never stayed past dark.
The lighthouse had an eerie feeling even during the day. But it wasn’t the light house itself that caused that feeling. It was the shadow cast by the building. Even in the brightest sunlight the shadow of the building had the darkness of night. Some said after dusk a taller black structure rose past the heights of the tiny lighthouse and consumed everything in the path if it’s shadow.
I was 14, summering with my parents. My father was an anthropologist, my mother a historian and oftentimes they mixed my vacations with some granted project or expedition to keep me learning in my time away from school.
Merimount was a fascinating place to play. One day while my mother sat and sketched on the beach, I stood skipping shells and smoothed stones on the surface of the water. I watched as a shimmering stone lost itself in the flickering shade of the lighthouse in the water near its sandy coated base. I approached the spot where the stone had landed only to discover that nothing was there. Momentarily I was tempted to reach into the shadowy water but my reflection on the surface shook her head and motioned me away. I was startled and pulled back my hand. Just then I noticed a shadowy figure reached out and enclosed the round edges of the stone in a dark grip and buried them in the deepening darkness of the shallows.
I heard my mother calling me. I ran toward the beach and joined my parents. “Father there is something very scary about this lighthouse.”
He eyed me curiously. “Yes,” he said, “it is that very scary nature that I have come to study, and if you are aware of it then we should all be more careful.”
I looked at him confused.
“We must never stay here past dark and during the day we must be certain never to allow the shadow of the building to overtake us.”
“But why, is there something dangerous here?” I asked.
“Until I know for certain the answer to that question I want you to do as I say.”
“Yes father,” I agreed, but glanced back suspiciously at the approaching evening shadows.
My mother began packing up her drawing supplies. We watched as the sun changed course across the sky and even the birds seemed reluctant to find themselves caught in the direct path of the buildings growing shadow. My father’s boat sat moored in the shallows and we stowed my mother supplies and prepared to depart.
As dusk approached it seemed to me as if the shadows of the lighthouse lengthened. I thought I saw a largish vessel approaching, but nothing that size would brave the corals this close in. I watched stunned as it appeared to run aground and capsized throwing its terrified passengers onto the jagged reef. I screamed and was alarmed by the intensity of my own cries. All other sound seemed to be absorbed by the spray. My father rushed to the back of the boat, grabbed my hand and guided me below. We watched as one by one shipwreck specters crashed upon the rocks and emptied their forgotten cargo, passengers and crews upon the reef and absorbed them into the darkening lengths.
Just then a piercing scream from above reminded me my mother had not come below. My father ran atop and discovered her cowering on the desk. She would never speak again. Though anchored, we had drifted to just within a yard of the edge of the shadow. I eyed it’s blackness with contempt. What had they done to my mother? I looked up at the towering structure, a black blot against a deeper blackness and saw him standing at the rail his hand stretched out toward our boat as if beckoning to it. But the anchor would not release it.
My father started the motor and steered the boat further from the approaching shadows. Within moments we were safely away from the terrifying spectacle. When I looked back I could see the black tower looming in the distance.
Days later I watched as my mother sketched a dark drawing. A small boat at the edge of a wide chasm deep and black, and on the brink a small figure hands stretched out. I silently motioned to my father to come and look at the drawing. The solemn look on his face told me he understood what I was trying to say. I now knew what had happened to my mother. She looked into the blackness of that dark house, a reaper of the souls of men and she saw…….Me. My mother looked at me with tears in her eyes and opened her hand to reveal the shiny smoothed edge rock I had thrown into the shadows. That tiny form, my shadow, had walked to the edge of the blackness to return the one thing that had connected me to the danger of its depths and tried to draw us in.
The Dark House © DJuna Blackmon 2014, All Rights Reserved