Saturday, August 27, 2011

Poe's Lighthouse, as Completed on Earth-349

Earth-349: Classic Illustrated
By Anton Psychopoulos, PhD.
Disclaimer #1: This story was inspired in part by a story in Superman #349,
but is not limited by that story or any other.
Disclaimer #2: This story makes use of copyrighted characters and titles
for satirical purposes, and is not intended to infringe or disparage those
copyrights, even those which, under a government not totally dominated by
corporate whoredom, would long since have lapsed.
Disclaimer #3: The first three “days” of the diary which makes up this story
were indeed writtten by Edgar Allan Poe, and constitute his last known attempt
at writing. Portions of this story were also inspired by other works of Mr.
Poe, but everything dated “Jan 4” and later is Dr. Psycho’s own creation.
Disclaimer #4: This story is also inspired in part by “Three Skeleton Cay”, an
episode of the radio series Suspense, but not, in the author’s opinion, in any
way that constitutes copyright infringement, much less plagiarism.
Disclaimer #5: This story is not recommended for readers under the age of 18
or the easily offended.

The Lighthouse
By Edgar Allan Poe

Jan 1 - 1796. This day - my first on the light-house - I make this
entry in my Diary, as agreed on with De Grät. As regularly as I can keep the
journal, I will - but there is no telling what may happen to a man all alone as
I am - I may get sick, or worse... So far well! The cutter had a narrow escape
- but why dwell on that, since I am here, all safe? My spirits are beginning to
revive already, at the mere thought of being - for once in my life at least -
thoroughly alone; for, of course, Neptune, large as he is, is not to be taken
into consideration as "society". Would to Heaven I had ever found in "society"
one half as much faith as in this poor dog: - in such case I and "society"
might never have parted - even for the year... What most surprises me, is the
difficulty De Grät had in getting me the appointment - and I a noble of the
realm ! It could not be that the Consistory had any doubt of my ability to
manage the light. One man had attended it before now - and got on quite as well
as the three that are usually put in. The duty is a mere nothing; and the
printed instructions are as plain as possible. It never would have done to let
Orndoff accompany me. I never should have made any way with my book as long as
he was within reach of me, with his intolerable gossip - not to mention that
everlasting mëerschaum. Besides, I wish to be alone... It is strange that I
never observed, until this moment, how dreary a sound that word has - "alone" !
I could half fancy there was some peculiarity in the echo of these cylindrical
walls - but oh, no! - this is all nonsense. I do believe I am going to get
nervous about my insulation. That will never do. I have not forgotten De Grät's
prophecy. Now for a scramble to the lantern and a good look around to "see what
I can see"... To see what I can see indeed ! - not very much. The swell is
subsiding a little, I think - but the cutter will have a rough passage home,
nevertheless. She will hardly get within sight of the Norland before noon
to-morrow - and yet it can hardly be more than 190 or 200 miles.

Jan 2. I have passed this day in a species of ecstasy that I find impossible to describe. My passion for solitude could scarcely have been more thoroughly gratified. I do not say satisfied; for I believe I should never be satiated with such delight as I have experienced to-day... The wind lulled about day-break, and by the afternoon the sea had gone down materially... Nothing to be seen, with the telescope even, but ocean and sky, with an occasional gull. Jan 3. A dead calm all day. Towards evening, the sea looked very much like glass. A few sea-weeds came in sight; but besides them absolutely nothing all day - not even the slightest speck of cloud... Occupied myself in exploring the light-house... It is a very lofty one - as I find to my cost when I have to ascend its interminable stairs - not quite 160 feet, I should say, from the low-water mark to the top of the lantern. From the bottom inside the shaft, however, the distance to the summit is 180 feet at least: - thus the floor is 20 feet below the surface of the sea, even at low-tide... It seems to me that the hollow interior at the bottom should have been filled in with solid masonry. Undoubtedly the whole would have been thus rendered more safe: - but what am I thinking about? A structure such as this is safe enough under any
circumstances. I should feel myself secure in it during the fiercest hurricane
that ever raged - and yet I have heard seamen say occasionally, with a wind at
South-West, the sea has been known to run higher here than any where with the
single exception of the Western opening of the Straits of Magellan. No mere
sea, though, could accomplish anything with this solid iron-riveted wall -
which, at 50 feet from high-water mark, is four feet thick, if one inch... The
basis on which the structure rests seems to me to be chalk...

Jan 4. The lighthouse was named Pannonner's Tower after its designer. The island itself is listed on charts as the Pfallstach. Yet this place where I am to spend the year of 1796 is universally known by another name, one which I can scarcely bring myself to think, much less write. There is a reason why the Consistory found it difficult to find a keeper for this lighthouse, and why I had difficulty in persuading them that I was a suitable candidate for the job.The last keeper of this light went mad. And the three who served as its crew before him....

Jan 5. A storm threatened, but passed the Pfallstach by. I climbed the tower and watched as the lightning flashed far out to sea, and said an occasional prayer for any ship that might be caught in it, and a more sincere one when I was sure that no arm of it would reach me. The storm was a magnificent entertainment, and I felt no fear once I knew it would draw no closer. The day and the evening passed without my experiencing any of the unwholesome fear which I felt the other day. I can now laugh at myself, for the way I could not even bring myself

Jan 6. I kept the old Christmas in joyous silence, luxuriating in being free not to speak a word, contrasting this happy day with the disagreeable evening I spent on the late December 25th, at a crowded inn at Norland with De Grät and Orndoff. The gratification I felt on the 2nd was even more intense and yet serene today, and I would laugh at my fears, as I did yesterday, except that my inner happiness is so great and sacred that mirth would seem out of place. The name

Jan 7. Three Skeleton Rock

Jan 8. In truth, I wrote nothing yesterday. I finally forced myself to
write that unspeakable name early this morning, after spending most of the
night in pacing round the lighthouse, and in climbing and descending the long
stairway, approaching my diary and then turning away. There was no longer any
point in refusing to write it, since the words floated in the air before me
whenever I closed my eyes, scrawled in burning golden letters in my own
handwriting. This place has been cursed with that name since the day three
years ago that the cutter approached the island to investigate the extinction
of the light....

Jan 9. The dawn seemed late in coming, but actually it was simply an overcast so complete as to blot out the Sun. A hole in the clouds near the horizon seemed to offer me a late dawn, but in truth I realized that it was much later than sunrise should be, even in this clime, that the Sun was much higher in the sky, and the patch of brightness was simply a rent in an otherwise impenetrable cloud cover. I will resume my recounting of the story of the previous keepers of this light. Perhaps putting it down on paper will allow me to stop dwelling upon it in my mind. At first glance, the skeletons seemed to lie where their owners had fallen, on the ground near the door to the lighthouse. Closer examination, however, found that the bones had been brought there and assembled into skeletons. Occasional bones were in the wrong place, as a physician among the rescuers observed: hand bones in the feet and vice versa, ribs and vertebrae out of order. Some bones were obviously from one man, yet included in another's skeleton. Every bone, however, had been meticulously cleaned of the smallest particle of soft tissue, scraped clean of even the periosteum, the membrane that covers all living bone, and drained of marrow without being cracked, only bored with small holes. And every bone bore the marks of tiny, sharp scraping tools, or perhaps of teeth.

Jan 10. A howling ice storm outside: sleet, hail, freezing rain -- a crust of ice on every surface. I bundle myself in what seems like every article of clothing I have with me, and still the chill seeps in. The weather is so thick that I have lit the lamp in daylight. The heat of the lamp is welcome -- more than welcome, it is rescue from the cold. The lamp-room is the only warm place in the lighthouse. Even there, I am warm only on the side the lamp shines on, and then I feel a heat that threatens to blister my unprotected skin. The three men had been reduced to skeletons, and every particle of food stored up for them had been eaten or carried away. A single man was chosen to mind the light
thereafter. The exterior door, which had been extensively damaged, was
replaced by one of iron plate that would have done a bank vault proud. It was
believed that the lighthouse was now quite impregnable, and indeed, the next
keeper of the light was quite unharmed when, in the third year of his tenure,
he was found by the cutter, huddled in the topmost place in the entire
lighthouse, quite mad. I am in the madman's final perch, too. There is a small
platform directly above the lamp, about four feet beneath the ceiling. If I
sit here with my notebook, this is the one place in the lighthouse which is
truly warm. The madman was taken away, and a new keeper sought for the light.
And here I am, and now I must face whatever it was that destroyed my

Jan 11. Still abominably cold. I spend most of the day in the
bottom of the ligthhouse, dry even though below sea level, huddled beside a
small cast iron stove. I have two pair of boots, and hang one of them by their
laces from a wire that hangs over the stove. when it is warm, I exchange my
boots, and revel in a few moments of warmth and the return of sensation to my
numbed toes. But my feet are cold again long before the hanging boots are
warm. I look forward to night, when I shall crouch again on that tiny topmost
platform and be truly warm. I am tempted to light the lamps now and be done
with it, but fear depleting the supply of spermaceti. Jan 12. I passed the
night on the little upper platform again. This time, I slept on a comfortable
pallet that I made there. The platform was still too short for me to lie at
full length, and I was occasionally troubled by the thought of the harm I would
come to should I roll off the platform and fall onto the lamps, but at least
the space is blessedly *warm*, the smell of burning oil a comforting incense
like unto the smell of old Maria's kitchen of my boyhood. At dawn, I espied a
dark mass on the horizon that I thought at first must be more sea-weed, but it
stood higher out of the water than that. It might have been a ship, but its
bulk was too great and its motion too leisurely for that. It has grown
steadily larger all morning. Neptune seems to be disturbed by something.

Jan 14. The time since I last wrote here has been a longer and more horrible 36 hours than I could ever have imagined a human being enduring, and they may yet get in.

The mass whose identity I could not fathom was both ship and sea-weed: the
hulks of two derelict ships, rotting and water-logged, embedded in a mass of
purplish-green plant life that seemed to both weigh it down and buoy it up, a
horrible amalgam of living and dead, nature and artifice, plant and animal.

Plant and animal mingled for the entire mass, and the water around it, was
swarming with innumerable rats.

How so many rats could have been gathered in one place, so far from land, I
cannot imagine. Even had the derelict ships been packed to the gunwales with
bread and bacon and cheese, they could hardly have nurtured a brood as vast as
this one. Perhaps the rats were summoned by some power from every passing ship

The fact that I could imagine such a diseased fancy as I wrote above shows how
much the coming of the rats has unsettled my mind. It is nonsense.

Nothing lived on the weed-mired hulks except rats, unless the occasional flash
of white that I saw among the animals represented another species. The rats
would surely not have suffered a cat to live among them.

I watched the agglomeration of ships and sargassum drift nearer, helpless to
forestall the proximity of the rats. The idea of the hideous mass coming near
offended me, but I did not think I was in any true danger until near sunset,
when I saw that the mass was indeed going to pass closer to my island than any
drift of sea-weed had before. I saw that the rats which swam in the sea nearby
to the floating island were even closer than the main mass itself, and I feared
that some of them might come ashore. The thought of my supplies being
plundered, and of the vile diseases that those rats might bring with them, made
me tremble in a way that no storm ever could.

I descended and made sure of the iron door, and even of the windows, though it
would have taken a hardy rat indeed, I was sure, to climb the sheer face of the
lighthouse to the fifty-foot height of the first window.

By the time I returned to the level of the lanterns, the rats had begun to
desert the hulks in a single immense wave of brown bodies, swimming not
aimlessly as the occasional outriding rats had done, but with a distinct and
eager purpose: to invade the island where lately three men had been reduced to

Jan 15. They are out there, numbering in the hundreds of thousands, perhaps
millions. They have climbed to the very pinnacle of the lighthouse, crowding
about the windows, scrabbling at every irregularity of its surface in hope of
scratching their way inside. Only the beam of the massed lanterns drives them
from the great windows, so that the lighthouse still fulfills its function,
even as I cower inside in dread of their horrible teeth, their filthy claws.

They carpet the ground, and I wonder if they do likewise with the lighthouse
itself, making the island one uniform mass of squirming brown fur. But not
quite uniform, for I have seen again and again those small flashes of white
that suggests some small minority of the rats carry an albino mutation. But is
it truly a rat? The flashes I have seen have all been consistent with the
white thing being larger than a rat: a cat, a dog, a stoat perhaps.

Small matter. It is the rats I must fear. They must not gain ingress.

Jan 16. The King Rat is at the window.

Jan 25. I have not been in a fit state to write here for some time. Indeed, I
was surprised to find the journal intact when this morning I ascended to the
tiny platform above the lanterns. But it is here, and I might as well continue
my narrative. I must find some means of maintaining the semblance of normalcy
and sanity, practice the routines of a normal person, that the crew of the
cutter not think there is anything amiss.

The rats broke in on what must have been the 18th. They burrowed fully twenty
feet through the chalk, coming up inside the iron-bound masonry walls and
swarming up through their initial tunnel, ascending the full height of the
lighthouse until they found me cowering in the madman’s perch.

I had spent every hour since the rats first came ashore in that little perch.
I suppose it was in some irrational belief that I would survive there, as the
madman had. I cannot imagine why I would think that: it would have been easy
enough for the rats to have scaled the inside walls and drop down onto the
platform, as in the end they did. But well before then, I had not been
thinking clearly. Not since the rats climbed all the way to the height of the
lantern-windows. And especially not since I had heard the voice of the King

The rats swarmed up the sides of the lighthouse like a living carpet, like ivy
growing with impossible speed. They scrabbled at the iron door but could not
enter. They scrabbled at each of the windows. Eventually, they climbed all
the way to the great windows through which the lighthouse’s beacon shines, and
would have covered it entirely except that they cringed away from the heat and
brightness of the lanterns. All but the King Rat.

It was no fancy of mine that there had been a white shape among the rats, and
larger than them. It seemed to be a rat, but immensely larger than any of
them, the size of a large dog, and its fur was a perfect spotless white. Its
skin was almost as fair, but its eyes were of a red color that was not that of
an albino. They were a richer, deeper red, the red of burgundy, darker than
blood. And so were its claws, as though they had been painted.

The King Rat clung to the glass, staring in at me. It watched me for a long
interval, its eyes on me every second, not so much as flinching when the beacon
shone full into them. The beast’s mouth opened, revealing teeth of the same
red as its claws and eyes, and it spoke.

The words were not those of any language I knew, but still there was no
mistaking that this was not merely the cry of some animal, but the articulate
voice of a mind at least as great as a human one:


It has taken me two days more to bring myself to write that word.

When the rats violated the lighthouse, they did not devour my stores, though
they did eat the flesh from poor Neptune’s bones once they had killed him.
They did not fling themselves upon me, but only gathered, in their hundreds,
upon the floor where I tend the lanterns. They scurried about in what must
have been, to a rat, the equivalent of rigid attention, waiting for the arrival
of the King Rat. He must have waited for his subjects to widen the burrow to
allow him passage.

When the King Rat had arrived, the rats finally scampered up the insides of the
windows, across the ceiling, and showered their bodies down upon me. I
screamed and batted at them, too terrified and horrified to notice that their
claws scratched me only when I scraped my flesh across their bodies, that they
did not bite me at all. I flailed about and finally fell off my little perch,
landing on my side before the turning beacon, feeling its searing heat along my
right arm. The King Rat moved closer

There is a reason the three were eaten, and the madman left inside the
lighthouse, while they exerted greater efforts to gain entry when they found me
inside. The four who came before me had a quality in common among them, and
even with poor Neptune. It was something that is sometimes of little
consequence, sometimes none, but on rare occasions is the only thing of any

I must learn to maintain my composure, and to avoid creating any suspicion when
the cutter comes in March to deliver the Spring’s supplies. If my manner is
serene and my conversation is calm, even though brusque, they will leave me in
peace, I expect.

I do not think my pregnancy will be so advanced as to be perceptible.


If Edgar Allan Poe had died of the sudden illness which struck him
while he was writing “The Lighthouse”, he would still be remembered as one of
the most important writers of fiction and poetry that America ever produced,
but we can see in this story the beginnings of what was to be the most
productive period of his career, ended only by his enlistment in the
Confederate Army during Civil War II.

We can also see in it themes which Poe later developed further in “At
the Mountains of Madness” (1853), and “The First Men in the Moon” (1855),
culminating in the completed “Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym” (1860).

After the war, Poe wrote little except for Thirty Months (1873), a
rather lifeless wartime memoir, until he began Mark of the Warrior in 1878,
which he completed in 1885 and which was published posthumously in 1902, a work
which remains the definitive novel of the darkest time in the nation’s history.

In spite of the unflinching realism of Mark of the Warrior, however, it
is still for the equally macabre fantasies – “tales of mystery and
imagination”, as Poe put it – that Poe is best remembered today, and “The
Lighthouse” remains a much-reprinted example of them.

-- Benjamin Tuttle, Editor, Classic Illustrated

Note #1: This story and its Afterword reflect the career of Edgar Allan Poe on
Earth-349, where he was indeed a man. Presumably, the story was adapted for an
issue of Classics Illustrated, as published on Earth-349.

Note #2: Read more Earth-349 stories at

Note #3: Contact the author at

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