St. Elmo’s Fire
Esther sat on the hotel’s terrace overlooking the ocean. The soft sea breeze cooled Esther’s sunburned cheeks. The ocean mumbled a lullaby beneath her as the waves lapped on the pebbled beach. It sounded like a baby’s rattle, and a lump formed in Esther’s throat at the memory of their baby-that-was-never-to-be.
Arthur caught the lump and smoothed it away by stroking her hand in his, like water smooths down jagged rocks. Their eyes met, and both understood the pain lurking behind their irises — his blue, hers brown.
“This was a good day,” Arthur said.
Esther nodded, “Oh yes, I could stay here forever.”
Moonless and starless night fell, and only the dim terrace lights burning behind them offered comfort from the encroaching darkness. They sat on Adirondack chairs facing the water, which was now a black mirror that reflected nothing, like a void in the earth surrounded by ghostly cliffs.
Arthur sipped his whiskey, while Esther let the playful breeze tousle her hair.
Arthur cleared his throat to get her attention, “What’s that?”
Esther opened her eyes.
In the cove, three blue lights flickered, no, danced upon the water. They snaked and glimmered like tongues of fire playfully devouring lumber. They frolicked in a smoky meander on the still and mirror-like waves.
“I wonder…” Esther stated.
“I think it’s Saint Elmo’s fire,” Arthur said.
“It’s an electrical weather phenomenon that appears on pointy structures, like masts and spires, when lightning strikes are imminent. It looks like blue flames.”
“Do you think we ought to go inside?”
“I don’t know,” Arthur replied, “the sky is cloudy, but it doesn’t feel like rain. What intrigues me is, what is catching the electricity?”
“A ship, perhaps.”
Arthur doubted, “There were no ships at sunset, and there are no ship lights.”
The waiter approached and asked if they wanted anything else.
Arthur turned to the man, “No, but you should warn that ship.”
The waiter looked puzzled; Arthur pointed towards the water.
“That’s Saint Elmo’s fire,” he said, “and that ship is in danger of being struck by lightning.”
“I’m sorry, sir, but there are no ships on this part of the island. It’s impossible to approach this cove from the ocean. A terrible death of jagged rock lies beneath the waves. Many ships have sunk here, too far for rescue from the shore. Not even a rowboat dares enter this cove.”
Esther gazed at the man, confused.
“Then what’s out there?” Arthur asked, “What’s causing those lights?”
“St. Elmo’s Fire on the masts, like you said, sir, but that ship now lies in its watery grave. The lights appear on darkest nights, but lightning struck it centuries ago.”