Of sound and reasonable temperament, I have concluded that Keeper Henry would prefer me dead.
Silence beckons the four of us at the dinner table—a shoddy fixture of driftwood, crooked nails, and splinters—as we sup again upon carrot and chicken stew, a staple of those servicing Tillamook Rock Lighthouse. In 1879, builders took 500 days to complete its quarrelsome construction, and although fifteen years later, keepers still dutifully man the lighthouse, it is the feral rock that rules them. Islanded 1.2 miles into sea, imprisoned by drowning waters, keepers serve three months on, two weeks off—three months of vengeful waves and vegetative days, before thirteen nights of glorified sleeplessness ashore. But rarely does a man fulfill his sentence, here; this malevolent rock to drag away his sanity first.
Terrible Tilly, the lighthouse be called. And terrible she truly is.
Henry sits afore me in the keeper’s quarters, his eyes tracing my pewter spoon from bowl to lip. A month and two weeks back, he, Elmore, and I were ferried out aboard the Thomas Corwin, a small cutter for the U.S. Revenue-Marines. The summoning from our prior lighthouses had been abrupt: us to fill the roles of three who had mysteriously absconded from their duties. Now, ’tis true we all knew of Tilly, her wicked tales between keepers spread, but seeing her myself … even the twisted tide seemed reluctant of her shores.