…So off we went to the house of light with its one luminous eye and its wide, ever widening smile. And though its mouth and teeth were pleasant enough, still, something ominous hung from its steeple. “Like a spider,” I said finally, as step by daunting step we approached. “As if a great spider lived in its spire.”
“Aye, gov’ner,” the second voice said. “Aye, indeed.”
“And yet we trek on?” I asked quizzically.
“Aye, gov’ner,” he repeated. “Aye, indeed.”
There was no more talk on the subject as both he and I, I and he ascended the rocky terrain toward that most menacing of all lighthouses. And yet, for the life of me (and it very well may be, I added), I could think of no good reason that either he or I continued on our perilous journey. And yet, continue we did, as if drawn, compelled, somehow reeled in from the sea of tea behind us like a drifting raft or a great bag of chamomile – never fighting, but being lifted as it were by a force beyond ourselves. “But the bag wants rescued,” I said allowed. My friend said nothing, but nodded a knowing glance. “So, we’re more like the marlin,” I added sulkily, “or the wounded shark – caught in the net, knowing its time has come.” Again, my friend said nothing, but a crystal bead formed on his cheek… yet still we soldiered on.
“And what of the others?” I finally said as trudge after trudge our feet felt the weight of our destination.
“What others?” he asked looking back. And as my eyes followed his, I now noticed that we were in fact quite alone on the shore where the tea meets the sand. The sailors and the sea were gone – all that remained was ourselves… ourselves and the lighthouse. “Come,” he said finally. “It waits no longer.” And he and I, I and he took one more cold yet determined step toward the ever looming lighthouse.
“No!” I said, stepping back on the rocks and almost loosing my balance – my left arm swinging freely from his numb grip (How long has he been guiding me by the arm? I asked myself).
“Come,” he repeated forcefully, yet his voice was dripping with sadness. “For all is done.”
“Nothing is done!” I said. “For the book remains!” And just then I heard a hiss like steam escape from that great edifice, and as it did, I saw the lighthouse crinkle down upon itself like a serpent ready to strike. And where the top once was, a great head appeared, hissing and flicking its forked tongue this way and that as if to catch us up despite our determination. And the eyes – the eyes that I were sure once resided in that one solitary beacon of light – emerged from the opposite side of the lighthouse as it bent its head downward toward me.
“Fool!” it said as it continued to slither down. “You could have seen the world from my great eye. Illuminating out upon everything – nothing hidden. But you have chosen your book. You have chosen your bound. You have chosen your fate!” And with that, it made one great lunge at me – its mouth opening ever wider as it did – and proceeded to swallow us both whole.
We were (once more) seated at the little table – tea and toast at hand.
“Half a cup, if you don’t mind,” my friend said. “Thank you, gov’ner.”
“Not at all,” I added as I delicately poured his brew. “Not at all.”
The fire danced in merriment and threw shadows on the walls. “Such tiny beings they are,” he said in a half yawn.
“Indeed,” I added, and went back to my sipping.
“Do you suppose, gov’ner…” he asked inquisitively. “Do you suppose they know we watch them? Do you?”
“How could they?” I asked once my tea was properly consumed. “For they dance about so, paying no mind to us. Still,” I added after a pause, “it must be a dreadfully tiresome existence… dancing for our amusement.”
“Aye, that it is, gov’ner,” he added, bringing his own cup to his lips. “But, still…” he said in mid sip, himself bet over his cup, “still, it seems as though… I mean, it reminds me of something…” and here he drifted off.
“I agree,” I added thoughtfully. “Yet I’m not quite sure what it is I agree about.”
“Well, gov’ner… back to the tea then!” he added, lifting his cup. “Cheers!”
“Cheers, indeed!” I returned in kind, and we both forgot our troubles and returned to our tea.
…But the shadows remained. There on the wall, they remained. Dancing with their concave heads – their pitchforks thrust upward as beat after pulsing beat they danced. And all in all, the tea was drunk.