A Curse of Forever – Tessa McFionn

L CHAPTER 1 anchester, Rhode Island October 1996 ack when the Pilgrims first crossed the seas, long before the states even had names, witches called on dark magicks in the light of the full moon. And it was on one of these nights that our story begins. For it was then, when Nathaniel Myles Fairfax sealed his fate.” Alastair Thornton paused for theatrical effect, his bald head swinging round to pin Laurel Holgrave and her younger sister, Carolyn, with a piercing stare behind rectangular glasses. Laurel sighed loudly, rolling her eyes. She’d first heard her grandfather’s story when she was four. Now, as a mature eight-year-old, she knew better than to believe the local legends. But this was Carolyn’s first hearing of the tale, and by her four-year-old sister’s wide blue eyes, Laurel could tell she was lost in the make believe. “Grampa,” Laurel groaned. “Can’t you tell us a new story?” Alastair chuckled, patting Laurel on the knee. “Now, Laur. Let Carolyn hear the legend. Just because you’ve heard it before, don’t mean it can’t be told again.” Laurel huffed, exasperated, and dropped her chin onto her knuckles. The leaves were just beginning to slip into their golden fall attire.


The air was crisp with the scent of ripe apples kissed by the salty ocean breeze and the oaky campfire warming her toes. Beyond the orange glow sat nothing but pitch black. Laurel had never been afraid of the shadows. Her grandfather always spun wild tales, but all of it was just pretend and made-up stuff. Witches and ghosts and magic? None of that really existed. She knew better than to believe in all that silliness. She had first heard the story when she was three and a half, and her mom had still insisted that Carolyn was old enough for her first camping trip. So, Laurel tugged tighter on her purple fleece jacket and prepared for yet another telling of the tale of the Black Bay Lighthouse ghost. “Back in 1693, Nathaniel Fairfax was a fisherman around these parts. Like many of the men who made New England their home, he was a decent, God-fearing Christian who went to church every Sunday.” Alastair paused, turning a gimlet stare to Laurel, who refrained from a second groaning eye roll. His disappointment was evident, and she wisely chose to keep an open mind and a closed mouth. Certain his point was made, he returned to his tale. “He was well respected by his community, his trawler always bringing in more than enough for him and the whole township. It was his hands that helped to raise the lighthouse just beyond this campsite, and as all decent folk did in that day, he looked for a goodly wife so he could father his sons and carry on his name.

” “Ewww,” Laurel said. “Why would anyone want to do that?” A strange smile warmed her grandfather’s face. “Don’t discount the power and magic of love, Little Bean. People will do all sorts of things, if they love another person.” He took a long sip from his cooling cup of cider, and Laurel stared at him, wondering if he would continue. She thought she knew all of her grandfather’s tricks; the weird grin was new. Carolyn, oblivious as always, was more interested in the rest of the tale. Her baby sister’s blonde curls bounced as she leaned in closer. “Then what happened, Grampa?” Laurel picked up a stick to doodle in the dirt at her feet. Her cider had long since disappeared, and until her grandfather had reached the end of the story, no more would appear in her Styrofoam cup. Setting down his empty drink, Alastair also leaned in, the glow of the fire casting eerie shadows on his forehead. “It seemed that Nathaniel had fallen for Elizabeth Abigail Warner, a beautiful, dark-haired woman with eyes as blue as a robin’s egg, and he paraded around the town, wearing her on his arm with great pride. But he had been deceived; tricked by her practiced charms. When he passed the women of the community who whispered behind his back of Elizabeth and her dealings with the devil, he didn’t listen. He believed they were simply jealous since they had not caught his eye, and after a respectable courtship, he was ready to declare his love for Elizabeth and ask her to marry him.

“Now, back in those days, keeping the fires alight in the lighthouse tower to warn passing ships of the rocky coast was the job of the whole town. Every night, another man would climb the winding staircase to the top and stand watch. It was on one of these nights, when Nathaniel Fairfax had paced along the catwalk and witnessed a most unholy scene.” The fire popped, and Carolyn squeaked, causing Laurel to nearly jump out of her skin. Embarrassed, Laurel tried to scoot closer to the tent, but the biting sting of her sister’s grip on her arm kept her in place. She was not going to get caught up in her grandfather’s silly tale. Ghost stories were for babies, and she wasn’t a baby anymore. She glared at Carolyn’s profile, an action lost on her engrossed sister’s cheek. “What did he see?” Carolyn asked, her voice soft and breathy. “First,” said Alistair, “he heard noises coming from just outside the lighthouse.” Her grandfather rose slowly to his feet. “So, he stepped back inside the tower, and there, at its base, was his Elizabeth, in the arms of another.” Carolyn gasped and edged in. “But,” he continued, “it wasn’t just another man, for you see, all of the women in the town were correct: Elizabeth was a witch in league with none other than Satan himself, and poor Nathaniel had paid the ultimate price for his interruption of their embrace. Angered, Elizabeth cast a dark spell upon Nathaniel, cursing him for all eternity to stand watch over the world.

Never could he leave the walls of the lighthouse.” As he’d spoken, he’d walked around the fire and, stopping after one full trip, he leaned in to finish with: “It’s said, that on nights just like this one, if you look at the gallery deck in the moon’s glow, you can still make out the shadow of Nathaniel Fairfax.” He thrust his finger at the white wooden tower as the focused tunnel of light swung in their direction. Off in the distance, a roll of thunder and a crack of lightning streaking across the dark sky broke the silence. Carolyn screamed in surprise, wrapping her arms tight around Laurel’s neck. “Grampa,” Laurel whined. “Now she’s not gonna fall asleep forever.” And she squirmed, attempting to slip from her little sister’s death grip. Alastair laughed, sat down, and scooped both girls onto his lap. “Oh, it’s all right, Little Bean.” He kissed her cheek, ruffled her hair with a grin, then peeled Carolyn off of her side to rock her. “It’s only a little thunder, honey. But that does mean a storm might be coming in soon. So, what say we get inside our tent before we get all wet, huh?” He kissed Carolyn on the cheek and her sister was now using her grandfather as a squeeze toy. Fine by her.

Laurel crawled off of his lap, gathered up their snack trash, and tossed their dead s’more sticks into the fading embers. As she stared into the dancing flames, she wondered what would it be like to live in that lighthouse forever. No one telling you what to do, what time to go to bed. Probably could eat chocolate ice cream for breakfast if you wanted to. Her thought spun fantastical tales, both good and bad, until the failing fire eventually devoured the sticky skewers, and it was time for bed. Carolyn and her grandfather had disappeared into the big tent, while Laurel covered the last flickers with sand. Soon, the silence of the night kick-started her dormant imagination, and she poked the fire pit with a bit more gusto. Then, satisfied things were out, she turned her attention to the rest of their campsite. As she stacked their empty cups, Laurel felt her gaze being drawn over her shoulder, toward the solitary tower on the nearby cliffs where, within the circle of light from the swinging beam, it was easy to find shadows along the widow’s walk. But she didn’t believe in ghost stories. Only babies believe that stuff. “You get everything all cleared up, Little Bean?” Laurel squeaked and snapped her gaze toward the disembodied head floating in the middle of the tent’s zippered opening. “Yes, Grampa.” She didn’t want to admit he’d scared her, but she was pretty certain her undignified squeal had done that for her. “Well, hurry on in, kiddo.

Don’t want some spirit to snatch you up.” He wiggled his thick eyebrows, making those gray caterpillars dance, and Laurel rolled her eyes, the joke having been heard a time too many. The old man chuckled and slid down the metal pull. “Well, I don’t want you dragging your wet feet inside my nice warm tent, how about that?” Laurel cast a final glance at the dying fire, then at the beacon tower, before she nodded. A distant shape flickered on the high walkway as waves crashed furiously against the shore, and lightning streaked across the black sky. She picked up her pace, practically diving into the tent. Safe within the confines of the nylon dome, Laurel kicked off her damp boots and crawled to her spot. Carolyn had sprawled out, taking up half of the cozy interior, forcing Laurel to scoot her sleeping bag closer to the thin wall. A few squirms later, she was as snug as she could be. Though curiosity still tapped at her brain, exhaustion was seriously winning the battle. Her grandfather shuffled to his sleeping bag and, leaning over, kissed her on the forehead. “Grampa?” she mumbled sleepily.

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Updated: 24 November 2021 — 02:30

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