Beautiful Black Rock

An old man rowing for the last time to his beautiful black rock... (My entry for the picture prompt competition)


1. Beautiful Black Rock


The old man let out a heave as his knotted hands clutching the oars skimmed the surface of the water. He could see the dark hunch emerging out of the gloom already, his beautiful black rock.

                His tiny little boat gave a creak as the waves threw it to one side yet again, the old man’s long hair whipping to and fro, obscuring his vision even more than the thick sea mist. Overhead, the distant cry of a seagull led him further on, deeper into the shadow of his beautiful black rock.

                Letting out a sigh of relief, he felt the tide finally take hold of the rickety boat and push it firmly into a tiny cove on the east side of the island. It had been a long row to get there and the man’s limbs were throbbing persistently. He was no longer the boy he had been, rowing out to his beautiful black rock, all those years ago.

                Scanning through the gloom, the old man narrowed his eyes, unaware of whether it was dawn or dusk. All he could see was the silhouette of the steep cliffs breaking away from where he was now sitting, stranded on the beach in his little boat. With another great heave, he lifted his legs over the side and stumbled onto the hard, rocky surface below. This was no holiday destination full of surfing and sandcastles. No, just his beautiful black rock.

                The man began the steep climb up the well familiar path, groping along the hard slippery surfaces with few handholds. His eyes could not aid him, so the man simply closed his eyes, letting the rough contours of the side of the cliff guide him up to the top. Many times he scrambled and almost fell, sharp rocks jutting into his skin, deadly loose stones bashing into his frail limbs. Wincing in pain, the old man finally pulled himself out onto a flat ledge, halfway up his beautiful black rock.

                Now he did not need to grope. Pulling his back up straight, the old man walked straight and blindly into the side of the cliff, grabbing confidently onto a small handle. Turning back for an instant to face the open sea before entering the lighthouse, the old man saw a distant glow in the horizon, the beginnings of day over his beautiful black rock.

                Inside the lighthouse, little had changed. A few of the native seagulls had nested in the high parts and most of the stairs had rotted away, but the old man threw himself down in one of the old rocking chairs, exhausted by this final journey up the cliff. Watching his limbs writhe in pain, the old man knew he could never come here again. Instead, he forced his shaking hands to delve into the bottom of his coat, drawing out a single, long chain. For a long while, the old man kept his worn hands clenched around the dainty chain, letting his body heat warm the cool metal, also watching the sun through the open door, as it made its first venture above the horizon.

                Feeling less than rested, the old man sighed and got slowly up, ready for the final part of the small chain’s journey. He carefully made his way around the edge of the room and started to lightly climb the rotting staircase. Unaware of the danger, the man found himself clambering all the way to the top floor of the lighthouse, to find the old chest, stove and lamp exactly where he felt he had left them, all those years ago. He heavily dragged this chest across from its corner of the room to where the great lamp was hanging, pulling his legs on top of it. Once on top, the old man stretched high as he could to reach the lamp, hooking the tiny sliver chain to the top of it. With another sigh, the man pulled out a small lighter and let it fall, lit, into the lamp, the lamp instantly coming back to life, with a few dregs of oil burning in the bottom. Glancing back across the open sea from this viewpoint, the old man watched the dancing diamonds created by the necklace, as they flew across the open sea and the rest of the island. It was very beautiful, his black rock.

                With a heavy heart, the old man turned from his lamp and almost fell back down the stairs. He silently floated down the side of the cliff and very quickly found his boat. Without looking behind, he was quickly rowing as fast as his old limbs would carry him, away from his beautiful black rock.

                Once a good distance away, the old man dared a glance behind. By now, it was clearly morning, and the seagulls had woken. They swirled round and round the island, many of them chasing the dancing lights on the water. It had been a long time since the lighthouse’s lamp had been lit. It was a dull sky, heavy clouds rumbling over the island and the old man could see that his lamp would soon be blown out. He didn’t mind. For those few minutes, he could see the seagulls dancing. She was making them dance. Her. Just at this moment, the old man thought he could hear her voice, blowing across his small boat with the sea breeze.

“I can make them dance!” she sang, “They will dance!”

Turning his head back away from the island, the man faced the open sea. It was very big. Listening to the joyful cries of the seagulls behind him, the old man realized how small he was. But for him and his wife, their love had been the biggest thing in the world. Now she was gone, and she had sworn she would make the seagulls dance. And dance they did.

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