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Excerpt from "Desire Beyond Death"

And here's one from the 2nd anthology now available for preorder:

"After the Storm" - Prologue

by Chrissy Munder

“… and so with a burst of fire and brimstone the evil spirit snatched Obadiah from the lip of the well and the brilliant light of day and life that lay before him, so close he could almost touch it, and dragged him back down into the deepest pit of hell.”

The speaker held the last syllable, letting the words hang heavily in the chilly night air. For a moment, the only sound was the crackle of the fire and the sound of the water hitting the shore. The small group of boys shivered with morbid delight as they sat in the damp sand and huddled closer to the flames before breaking the silence with their excited demands.

“Tell us another one.”

“Do you know one about the lighthouse?”

Their storyteller hesitated before leaning closer to group of boys. “Plenty of dark tales about this lighthouse. Full of death and danger on the big lake. Ghosts, too.”

The boys clamored as one, eager to hear more, the lure of the unknown calling to them from the darkness as the storyteller held up his hand to catch their attention before giving in and beginning another tale.

“It was in the mid-1800’s, lumber was king and fortunes were made ripping the pine from Michigan’s forests and shipping it to Chicago and Wisconsin.” He swept his eyes around the group of boys, making sure no one had wandered off, drawn by instinctive fascination to the surf.

“The lighthouse here at White River was an important one, manned by one keeper and one keeper only. It was a hard and solitary life with only a local crew of volunteers that would come to aid in rescue and recovery efforts. Captain Cason was a stranger to this land, exiled from his native England. He’d been a ship’s captain and had sailed most of the known world before he retired young.

“No one really knows why. Some say his wife had just given birth and wanted him on dry land.” The storyteller’s voice lowered ominously. “Others say he committed a deed so foul that the sentence was banishment from his ship and the life he loved and he was left stranded here on the Michigan coast; alone in the windswept tower of the lighthouse.”

“Oooooh,” the boys breathed as one, each speculating as to what foulness could have been the Captain’s base crime, suitable to earn such a terrible punishment.

“Still others say he fell in love and here is where he and his lover retreated to spend their lives together; outcast and adrift from Society. Whatever the reasons, Captain Cason was a braw man. Hard as the stone the lighthouse is made of they said, and just as fearless. He saved more men from this Point than other Keeper and on his watch the lighthouse burned brighter and clearer than either before or since.”

“So what happened to him?” one of the bigger boys called out from the darkness. The low flames flickered, casting scant light on the face of the storyteller as he continued.

“Well, not a soul really knows for sure but ’tis said he and his one true love fought and his love left the lighthouse, leaving Captain Cason alone. A great storm blew in; gale strength winds and waves strong and deep, high enough to swamp the best of them.

“Too late the Captain’s love had realized they couldn’t be apart and had taken passage aboard a schooner called the Titan, which was caught out in the storm. The ship foundered and split clean open, mayhap by lightning, mayhap by God’s wrath.

“The storm was so fierce the local volunteers couldn’t make it to man the rescue boat and Captain Cason took her out alone against the elements. He battled with great might, but couldn’t reach the vessel in time and all aboard were lost. They say he found his one true love washed up on the shoreline. Hair dark as night, tangled with weeds from the lake bottom and stirring softly in the current, skin cold and pale.

“The Captain cursed God, they say, and swore he’d never save another soul since he couldn’t save this one. The Captain drowned that day as well, holding close the corpse of his love and refusing to let go even when the tide rose, kissing the lips that could never warm to his again. But no one really knows for sure and their bodies were never found.

“And so for his sin he haunted this lighthouse, God’s punishment for his curse, unable to join his one true love in heaven until he saved another soul.”

“Aaaaahhhhh.” The group of boys looked up at the abandoned lighthouse as one, straining to see some sign of the Captain’s haunting spirit in the darkness. “So he’s still here?”

“Well, now.” The storyteller began again, satisfied with the results of his tale. “Let me put a bit more wood on the fire and I’ll tell you another tale of the old lighthouse. One more recent and more strange. You see, there was an artist…”