Lighthouse Cove: The Disappearance (Bill Skarsgård)
She did not want to wake the next morning. She welcomed sleep and it’s ability to erase her troubles, all of the terrible thoughts and memories that constantly ran through her mind when she was awake. Nothing seemed more appealing than being lost in utter darkness, unconscious to all the bad things the world could throw upon her. She wanted normality or nothing at all.
It was about nine in the morning, she predicted by sky that shone into the master bedroom, and Charlotte was bound to wake soon. She knew she should begin making breakfast for the family, but she had no desire to leave the warmth of the bed sheets that were pulled up to her neck. Secondly, getting up would mean she had to see the marks that were surely left on her body from the previous night, blotches of darkness on her wrists and the leftover fingerprints coating her throat. The thought sickened her; she did not want to be reminded of the previous night in any form, but it seemed to be inevitable, for she would have to wake eventually.
Turning over in the bed, she saw that Bill was not beside her. Her brows furrowed for a moment, wondering where he could be, but she decided that he was probably downstairs reading. On the occasion - a very rare occasion - her husband woke before her, she would find him sprawled out on one of the living room sofas when she finally wandered downstairs. With that comforting thought, she tried to push the unease from her mind; Bill would be waiting for her with a smile when she made it down.
Slowly, she peeled the woollen blankets back, revealing her naked, battered body. A gasp escaped her lips when she saw the blemishes on her smooth skin and the swelling that had recently begun. She realized - although she already had a strong suspicion - that last night was real, it hadn’t just been a terrible nightmare; the marks that marred her body proved that.
She slipped her legs off the mattress and placed her feet down on the cool, wood floor. With her hands, she braced herself on the bed, each one gripping an edge of the mattress to steady herself. Tears welled in her eyes and she stared forward as her arms shook beneath her.
“Charlotte. Charlotte will want breakfast soon,” she thought to herself, wet eyes staring at the dark wall before her. “Pull yourself together and go downstairs.”
She did, rising from the bed, then ambling over to her and Bill’s shared dresser. She pulled the drawers open and searched for some simple clothes for the day. The previous day, Charlotte told her mother she wanted to go to the shore to play and see the broken ice close-up, in which case, the woman knew it was a day to dress warmly. She decided on a cream coloured, turtleneck knit sweater to hide the bruises on her neck and a pair of medium-wash jeans that reached her ankles.
After tugging on the clothing, she moved to stand in front of the medium-sized, slightly cloudy mirror that allowed her to see her head to hips in the reflection. She stared into her own eyes for a few moments before noticing how sunken they looked. Their usually shine was now void of all emotion, appearing lifeless, and her jeans, usually snug, felt looser on her hips. She had thought she was getting enough to eat at the lighthouse, but her reflection proved otherwise, showing that she had lost a fair amount of weight. Her brows creased, wondering how that had happened while eating three solid meals a day for the past few months. It was now more obvious than ever, she knew she wasn’t imagining things - something terrible was happening to her. The only saving grace was that the darkness had not reached Bill or her daughter, something she thanked God for.
With one last look into the hazy mirror, speckled with charred grey dots, she checked to make sure her whole neck and wrists were covered, desperate to hide the colours that marked her. They were.
She walked to the bedroom door and opened the old wood before heading down the stone steps of the lighthouse, making her way to the kitchen. Despite everything, she tried to remain as composed as possible for Charlotte’s sake.
Her efforts would go unnoticed.
It was nine thirty and her daughter still hadn’t made an appearance.
She sat at the kitchen table, a mug of tea cupped in her hands and a bowl of now-lukewarm porridge on the table where Charlotte always sat, waiting for her family. Bill’s coffee dripped every now and then into the pot placed underneath the maker, growing cold as well.
The woman fidgeted, tapping her right foot against the wooden boards that lined the floor and drummed her fingers against her mug, wondering why her daughter was sleeping-in so late. Charlotte was what one would call “an early bird,” never interested in sleeping in for hours on end, and eight-thirty in the morning was her usual wake-up time. Today’s behaviour was far from her daughter’s usual.
She could see Bill from the window above the kitchen sink, chopping away at thick logs near the woodshed past the boardwalk. This struck her as odd, knowing that Bill would always wait until after breakfast to cut wood with Charlotte. What was different about today? She came to the conclusion that their daughter must have told Bill to go without her this time. Perhaps, Charlotte was exhausted from their hike, maybe she was bored of watching him do the same thing every morning, or it was just too cold for her liking on this particular day. However, none of the options seemed likely as watching her father chop up wood always peaked her interest. Little Charlotte would beg Bill to race her down the catwalk on mornings where it wasn’t icy and make him carry her on his shoulders the mornings it was.
The woman took a tentative sip of tea before glancing up at the kitchen clock; it was nine forty.
Suddenly, a horrific thought came to the woman’s mind: He has her.
That speculation alone was enough for her eyes to widen with fear and her hands go numb without warning. The porcelain mug fell from her grip and crashed onto the floor, shattering into numerous pieces, as she pushed her chair back and quickly rose to her feet.
She ran out of the kitchen as fast as she could, through the living room and to the bottom of the stone stairwell. She bounded up the pale grey steps, holding onto the off-white railing tightly as she used it to haul herself up faster.
She felt horrible; what kind of mother would leave their child alone with a psychopath on the loose? No mother she knew of. Only one image motivated her: having Charlotte safely back in her arms. She knew she should have pressed the subject harder to Bill. He kept denying the existence of the man - as most people would, it seemed ludicrous - but what if she pushed it so far he finally believed her? What if she showed him the bruises that covered her body? He’d believe her then… Nonetheless, the image of her daughter was her prime focus and she rushed up the stairs even faster to find her.
Not her. Please, not her.
What was the stranger doing with Charlotte? Was he hurting her? The thought of that filthy man touching her child was absolutely revolting. No, she would save her; little Charlotte would not be harmed.
Her bare feet slapped loudly on the rough stone, echoing throughout the whole lighthouse, but she hardly noticed. She thought only about her beautiful daughter and how she would kill the stranger the next time she saw him. Not twice would she think about grabbing the nearest blunt object and smashing it against his skull or slamming her fists against his solid body. She would end him.
The woman was a heaving, breathy mess when she reached the top of the stairs. Yet, she went on, running across the small landing to her daughter’s room.
“Charlotte!” she cried, closing the gap between herself and the bedroom.
She took a hold of the rusting metal knob and twisted it. The heavy door swung open easily with her strong yank. Wasting no time, she rushed into the room, ready to save her daughter from the man who had haunted her for months.
Except… there was no child to save.
She lost it right there.
Screams and cries of utter horror left her mouth when she looked at the empty room, so bare it was sinister. She felt so vile, like her whole body was heavy and full of something sick. There were no words to truly describe how the woman felt, only pure, raw emotion that escaped her body in sobs.
Charlotte’s room was bare, only a prepared twin-sized bed sat in the far corner of the room, everything else was gone. However, more importantly, her daughter was not where to be seen.
“Charlotte? Charlotte!” the mother screamed, tears cascading down her cheeks.
Hearing no reply, she rushed over to the small bed, fell to her knees, then pulled the bed sheets up before peering under the bed. Only the wooden floor greeted her, dusty and deserted.
“Charlotte! Where are you?” she cried, rising back to her full height and striding to the doorframe.
Both of her hands clutched the rough wood so tightly, the grains imprinted a faint pattern into her skin. From her spot in the door, she looked around the small landing. There were two doors, one Charlotte’s bathroom and the other a storage closet. She rocked forwards and backwards, her mind racing with concern for her daughter; she had to find her.
The woman hurried across the landing until she came to the first door, Charlotte’s washroom. She hauled the door open, only to find the the cement floor and sinks perfectly untouched. The bathroom looked orderly and untouched, certainly not inhabited by the insane man.
However, as an extra bout of caution, she tore the shower curtain across the silver rod, exposing the immaculate, white porcelain tub and wall.
Still no Charlotte.
She turned on her heel and ran out of the room, heading towards the closet.
“Charlotte - sweetie -this isn’t funny! Please come out!” she breathlessly pleaded, a fresh wave of tears forming in her eyes.
There was no answer.
When she opened the closet door, she found it was filled with ropes and axes, not the blankets she remembered. The steel that made the heads of the axes was a shining silver, not like the dark and dull ones in the basement due to decades of use, proving them recently bought. Thick and thin ropes, beige and firetruck-red, were messily thrown in between the weapons. Her brows creased but she quickly moved on, desperate to find her missing child.
She barreled up another flight of stairs, climbing so fast her breaths were short and her chest heaved harder than ever before - even when she gave birth.
Nothing else mattered anymore, not if she lived or died, not even if Bill did either. Everything boiled down to her daughter, her beautiful daughter that meant the absolute world to her. She would rather spend everyday of the rest of her life with the stranger than see her daughter in his cruel hands. If she could, she would take her daughter’s place in a heartbeat.
“Charlotte, please!” she called, arriving at the very top of the stairwell.
She moved into her and Bill’s bedroom, making sure to check both the master bath and storage closet.
There was no sign of her little girl.
She ran out of the master bedroom and swiftly descended the steps to the ground floor. After checking the living room, coat closet and revisiting the kitchen, she moved onto the basement, looking in every hiding place she could think of. She was enclosed in a different kind of darkness, not the stranger’s, but the atmosphere’s - no sunlight peaked into the basement, allowing the browns to grow deeper and the lights to shine dimmer.
The woman had cleared the basement in ten minutes. She had looked under tables, behind generators and in the small closet holding Bill’s tools.
Charlotte had vanished into thin air.
Despite winter only having two months left, a fine layer of snow coated the catwalk from the light snowfall that occurred the previous night. The fairly flat hills that lead to the forest were patchy with snow, however, the green still showed through.The frozen lake had just began its thawing process, large chunks of ice having broken off from the main source and now floating all by their lonesome. Winter was slowly leaving, bringing signs of spring to Lighthouse Cove.
Bill had nearly finished chopping up a couple days worth of wood, a few more logs and his work would be done for the day. After discarding the logs inside, he planned on spending the rest of the day with his wife, reading together on the couch and making love in front of the crackling fireplace.
He buried the head of the axe into a thick chunk of wood, creating a deep crack, then yanking it out. After two more tries, he sent the final blow to the wood, effectively slicing it in half. The block fell open, both sides limply falling back onto the frozen grass.
The woman threw the main door to the lighthouse open, allowing the nippy air to attack her exposed skin, then barrelled down three stone steps to reach the long wooden catwalk, wearing nothing more than a knit sweater and jeans. She had no shoes or socks on.
The boardwalk was built forty metres above the water - ice in the winter - and it stretched a hundred metres long, connecting the lighthouse and land. Typically, one would hear the loud crashing of the waves at they met the cement bottom of the lighthouse. However, on this day, there was no sound, only an eerie silence as sprinkles of snow fell from the bleak sky.
She could see her husband in the distance; he standing near the woodshed about twenty metres from the end of the seemingly endless boardwalk.
“Bill!” she called, wasting not even a second before taking off down the bridge.
Her naked feet slammed against the wood, creating imprints of her tracks in the snow behind her. The cold gnawed at her feet, but she didn’t notice, even when they began to sting from the bitter temperature.
Bill had not seen her yet, had not heard her desperate calls.
Maybe Charlotte’s sitting in the woodshed. She never has but… there’s a first time for everything.
Soon, she would learn that her last hope was nothing but a fantasy.
She reached the end of the boardwalk and began onto the grass, cold, hard and covered with small patches of snow. “Bill!” she screamed again.
Her husband’s head whipped back at the sound of his name being so desperately called. His eyebrows furrowed when he saw how fast his wife was running towards him, knowing that something awful had happened. He noticed how wide and full of sheer terror her eyes were.
“Fuck. Please no, please,” he thought.
She knew her daughter wasn’t in the shed; Charlotte would have come out by now. Yet, she couldn’t help but picture her daughter rushing out with tears in her green eyes, asking her mother what was wrong. The sight of her daughter upset would have broken her heart before, but now… she would selfishly be overjoyed just to see her daughter, sad or happy.
He slammed the head of the axe into the wood pile and turned back around just as she approached him, her pace only slowing when she nearly smashed into him.
“What is it?” he asked, taking a hold of her shoulders with his large hands and meeting her wide eyes.
“He has her, Bill. He has her,” she said urgently, not wasting a moment to catch her breath. Her words came out in pants as her heart pounded and chest heaved wildly. The tears that were kept in by the whipping of the wind as she ran, now rolled down her cheeks freely.
“What are you talking about?” he asked sharply.
She started to sob, “That man! I told you someone was here - I told you all along! Now he has her, Bill. He has our daughter! My daughter, Bill… oh, God.”
He watched as she completely broke down, hot tears streaming uncontrollably down her cheeks to jaw then neck. It was this downward motion that spurred Bill’s eyes to drop as well, eventually coming to his first realization.
“Shit. Sweetheart… you’re not wearing a jacket. You’re going to freeze out here,” he chided, yet not enough to be angry with her. Instead, he held onto her shoulders even tighter and his eyes begged for hers to meet his again.
She ignored him, continuing to speak hysterically as tears continued to roll down her skin. “My baby, my baby, my baby, my baby…”
He noticed her feet and sighed. “You’re not wearing boots either. Please… let me take you inside,” he begged, unable to stand seeing his wife in such a state.
How uninterested he seemed in his daughter’s disappearance irked her deeply. “Bill, you’re not listening!” she yelled, ripping his hands off her shoulders, “He has our baby. This man has our daughter! I don’t know where he’s taken her but she’s gone, Bill. I can’t find her anywhere!”
He took a small step forward, calmly, so she would see him as comforting, but she took one step back.
She was livid, depressed and desperate all at once. Bill had always loved his daughter, he’d ruin anyone who dared touch her; read to her whenever she asked, making sure to change the pitch and sound to his voice to fit the different characters; and allowed her to tug at his hair, even when it hurt more than he’d like to admit. She couldn’t understand this: If Bill loved his daughter, why would he not be concerned for her safety? Why would he not listen to his wife telling him there is an insane man lurking around their lighthouse?
He shut his eyes, hating what he was going to say. “Sweetheart…” he began softly, “We don’t have a daughter.”
She swore she stopped breathing.
His eyes pleaded with her, begging for her to listen to him. “No one is here but me and you, okay? I know there is nothing more in the whole world you’d want than a child, me too, but sweetheart… it will take time. We’ll have a baby soon enough,” he spoke gently, reaching a hand out to her yet again.
She became riddled with an anger she had never felt towards her husband before. “Don’t you fuck around with me, Bill,” she retorted, jabbing a finger at finger in his direction.
“NO!” she yelled, “Bill, he has our baby somewhere and I don’t know what he’s going to do to her!”
Hastily, he took his wife into his chest, his long arms trapping her in his hold. Although she struggled and fought him, he was ultimately stronger. Her attempts were feeble and she soon realized this, slumping her head against his chest and dropping her hands, which were curled into fists, to her sides. She wept into his chest.
“I love you. I love you so much. I love you,” he heartily whispered into her ear, attempting to soothe her hysteria.
She only cried harder. “I don’t know what’s happening, Bill. I’m so scared,” she sobbed.
He pulled her deeper into him and began to stroke her back. “I know. I know, sweetheart,” he cooed into her ear, his frigid lips touching her hot skin.
She sputtered and gasped for air, trying to - unskillfully - collect her breath.
After a few more moments of heavy breathing, she calmed down enough to speak. “I need to tell you something,” she said, voice still wobbling.
Both of his hands went to her head, smoothing down her hair while he gazed into her eyes, the eyes he had fallen in love with many years ago. Right now, she looked the most composed he had seen her all morning, so he nodded and let her go. She took a shaky step back.
He looked at her calmly, ready to hear what she had to say now that she appeared to be levelheaded.
She fiddled with her fingers and looked down. “He… he fucked me,” she said deeply, emotion filling her final three words.
Bill’s eyes hardened, “That’s impossible. Sweetheart, there’s nobody here but you and-”
“HE FUCKED ME!” she cried, tears threatening to spill from her eyes again.
“Nobody touched you. I promise,” he assured her, his eyes pleading.
She crossed her arms under her breasts. “He came into our room last night after you left. He tied me up… choked me… raped me,” she confessed, her voice quavering.
He didn’t know what to say, it seemed that nothing he did could change her mind and that scared the life out of him.
She sniffled, trying to regain her breath, then pulled down the fabric of her sweater, exposing her bruised neck. The dark marks shone even brighter in the daylight.
She couldn’t bear to look at him. “See?” she pressed, her neck feeling strained as she dipped her head to the side so he could get a better look.
There was no more denying it, the marks were visible.
Bill examined her skin. “There’s nothing there,” he said softly, barely audible.
Her eyes flew to his: what did he mean about there being ‘nothing there?’
“You’re exhausted and cold. Please, let me take you inside,” he spoke, collectedly as possible.
“But how can you not-”
“Please,” he begged, causing her eyes to meet his. He looked so sad.
She shut her mouth and slowly nodded, feeling utterly defeated; her husband did not believe her. Her hand slipped from it’s hold on the cream fabric, falling limply by her side. Bill swept her feet from underneath her and pulled her up to his chest. Her head lolled onto his shoulder.
“He fucked me, Bill. Hard and mercilessly and I begged him to stop. He’s nothing like you, Bill… Why won’t you believe me?” she whispered as he began walking to the boardwalk.
“Shh,” her husband soothed. “It’s alright. It’s just me and you here. Me and you… remember that.”
Her eyes shut.
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