The Sea of Ghosts
by Anna Zumbro
Liam did not know where the ghosts came from, or why, only that they had been finding their
way north since before he was born. The sea around the lighthouse, more spirit than water,
burned green with the light of a million souls. It blazed brighter than the auroras in the Arctic
There were two seasons for Liam and his father. In summer, the sun scarcely dipped below
the horizon before ascending again. Boats brought tourists who stumbled up the lighthouse steps,
catching their breath only long enough to snap a few pictures that Liam knew would never
capture the unearthly dazzle of the sea. In winter, the boy and his father lived alone in the dark
penumbra of the tower, while for twenty-three hours a day the powerful beam swept over the sea
of ghosts at the top of the world.
"Why do we run the lighthouse in winter when there are no boats?" Liam asked his father one
chilly day when he was eight.
"No guarantee there'll be no boats. No guarantee of anything. Might be sailors along with
more adventure in their hearts than sense. Besides," his father said, "the fellow here before me
said the lighthouse helps the ghosts find their way. Don't know if that's true, but I reckon I'll leave
that question to the departed."
Liam and his father never ate the seafood, which his father said tasted like death. They
subsisted on military rations ordered in bulk. Liam had been warned never to eat anything from
the sea, never to touch the water if he could help it.
His father moved closer to the wood-burning stove. The wind howled outside, and Liam
swore he could hear whispers of the dead creeping in through the cracks in the windows.
"Will they pull me in?" he asked.
"They'll not grab your body," his father said, "but your mind, they'll take it places it ought
not go." And he looked at the framed photograph on the bookshelf, the one of Liam's mother,
firelight glinting off the pane of glass. Liam did not remember her. He wanted to ask if his
mother was in the sea, if her voice was one of those he heard in the wind, but sensed his father
did not want to speak of her.