Oops. This is up late. From The Warden’s Lantern:
if it could be called that anymore. Weeds grew up through the middle and crowded in from the sides. A gust of wind caught a handful of leaves and tossed them in front of her. The trees swayed
and creaked, sending chills down her spine.
It’s certainly creepy out here. No wonder there were stories. But with the dim light and building haze, she doubted she’d find anything useful tonight.
She took off her glasses to clean them on the bottom of her black turtleneck. The humidity clouded them up in minutes. Surveying the woods, the shapes of brush and undergrowth blended into the darkening sky.
Professional investigators would have been better prepared. Tripods, extra batteries, voice recorders, flashlights. The farther she traversed from her car the more items she added to the list of things she should have taken. She’d headed into the woods with only a camera and pepper spray on a dare.
The fishy, seaweedy smell of Lake Michigan wafted in the rising breeze, mixing with the damp mossiness of the trees. Barbara stared down the trail where the path disappeared around a curve.
The legend claimed a light would bob along the path shortly after twilight. When one approached it, the light disappeared. Those who claimed to have “seen” it said it was the lantern of a warden who disappeared searching for an escaped inmate. Neither he nor the inmate had ever been found. Some said the inmate killed the warden and buried him in the sand dunes. Others said the warden lost his way as a storm came across the lake; disoriented by the wind and rain, he wandered into the raging surf and drowned.
Ever since, the light had been called the Warden’s Lantern and had yet to be documented by an official team of paranormal investigators. She’d checked on the Internet at work this afternoon while her co‑workers at the Storm Damage Evaluation Center had been arguing about it. While they ventured into the field studying storm damage, she remained at her computer under the watchful eye of the office manager, paying the bills and balancing the checkbooks. Numbers and organization were her expertise, but she
itched to get away from her desk and see the things they talked about.
Several in the office had claimed to have seen it, but none had ever allowed the light to get close enough to see what produced it. Most accounts on the Internet referenced wetting themselves, then running like heck. Any actual historical facts were only available in the archives of the library.
She didn’t understand the fear. Her co-workers had faced flying cars and falling trees as they chased tornadoes. A floating light was hardly Freddy Kreuger.
As always, Elmer Derecho, the head meteorologist and engineer, claimed it was a natural phenomenon, but to him everything was a weather event. Blizzards, hurricanes, tornadoes, rain storms, cumulus clouds and clear skies. He was fascinated by it all. She doubted he thought of anything else.
Barbara had told herself that a lot lately. Specifically, every morning as she got dressed for work. It didn’t matter whether she wore the pencil skirt that accentuated her hips or the sweater that hugged her breasts, Elmer still wouldn’t notice her.