Man at night

This is the prompt for The Antonym December Flash Fiction Contest, PC – Aritra Sanyal

Years had passed since he had seen the shores of his home, but in his anticipation, the sailor could already smell the familiar Fall air, could already feel the strong prevailing wind against which he had struggled as a youth trying to break into the open sea. Soon, he would spot the lighthouse, the tallest building in that maze of cobblestone and breeze which kept the days slow and cool. The lighthouse shadow told half of time on the land, then washed out with the tide, to release the dockers to their families. Each day passed like this, shadows ebbing and growing like the ocean’s damp print on the beach.
By the stars, the sailor knew he was only a day away. He had spent his childhood tracing the constellations over the island’s palms, and could tell the hour by their positions. Now was about when the lamps on his parents’ street would be turned off. Nothing but the lighthouse was open long after sunset, and no one but the cats explored the dark streets, carrying light like pails of green water in their eyes. Certain that they protected the last secret on the small isle, he would follow them across the close, tiled roofs, and down the narrow alleys, but they always disappeared without a sound, around a corner or into some cranny.
He had thought of those quiet nights while at sea. Long ago, from the blanketed confines of his little bed, he would imagine the open ocean rocking him to sleep. During storms, he would listen to the thunder crashing in the clouds, and the rain crashing on the window, and he would picture himself outrunning great rolling waves. Yet when he finally was stricken with such fortune, he had wished for the warmth of that bed. And now, as he slept, sails furled and ship nodding, he fondly anticipated the stillness of his old room.
The sailor woke to a clatter and a tremor. His hammock swung like the clapper of a bell. When he emerged, legs already wet, on the deck, he was shocked to find the rusted railing of the lighthouse catwalk buried in his prow. The lantern’s glass panes were briny and dark, despite the glare of the Sun surfacing from the East. All around the submerged lighthouse, the daylight revealed no more than calm blue waves, and the shapes of high gulls blowing like eraser shavings across the cloudless sky.