Lights Out

By Sammie Wilkins

Three lamps, dry of oil, upon the ground. Dry as bone. Like the bones of the three boys in search of whom they had been extinguished.


Extinguished like the boys must now be presumed.

"Don't go out, tonight. Fierce wind's workin' round the headland." the harbormaster has warned.

But they'd not heeded the warning. It was fall, a special time in the natural world, when the wind that rattled through the naked trees was not just air pushed swiftly through brittle branches, but the wistful sigh of a ghostly presence rattling skeletal remains.

Since they'd learned to crawl, the three had been inseparable. And now the marine element they'd so loved would see that would always be.  Three boys set out for an adventure, a thrill. And been rewarded by that most final and unknown of them all: death.

Their fathers stood, huddle about the bow of the dinghy they'd rowed out to look for them. Each man's expression united in grief. Each brow furrowed by the same question: "How am I to tell my wife?"

Behind them sat the boat which their sons had built together. A summer project, to get them out of doors, out from under foot. To preserve the rule of calm and order in the house.

A death sentence, that. One long and protracted. For who that's felt the rush of wind through their hair and the spray of salt on their cheeks can give up the ocean? Who, who's sat and flew across water, the bow delicately balanced at an acute angle to the water, can resist its siren call?

And, yet, the children would have to now. For what mother would let her son set out, a small soul against the whole wide ocean, in the face of this? Out, defenseless, against the mercy of a wild and unchangeable element that housed countless dead.

And what was water anyway? It melted away upon the flesh, draining to nothingness. What real barrier was that between the living and the unnamed horrors that lurked in the murky deep?

No, that instinct that called to the sons and grandsons of those who lived near and worked on the water would have to be fought.

The whispering sighs of three boys, urging their fellows to come out and play, would have to be drowned out.

No more would the children go to sea.