He had thought home would always be there. It had been there long before him, and would be there long after. Home was stable. Home was stagnant. It would not—and could not—ever change.
He could, though, and did. Gone was his light-hearted youth—that child died the day his mother walked off that ledge. Gone was the disquiet of the years just before he thought himself a man—that was when the anger finally set in. That was when he left. Left his father, alone and bitter, left his home, broken and hollow.
The sea crashed and pitched against the rocks as he stormed over the causeway, trying to drag him back, but he was full of fury—the kind the sea had taught him—and resisted its gravity and terrible wailing. All his father did was sit with his back to the causeway. Only the beacon ever turned to watch him go.
For years he drifted away, for years he lived and relived his mistakes. Like flotsam, he drifted far from the wreckage of the ship he once knew as his life. The light that once guided him had winked out when his mother’s head hit the rocks and the waves one hundred-fifty feet below. The sea had taken her mind, and in the end she had given herself up to it. And so he left the sea behind, along with his mother, and pretended he couldn’t feel the pull of it trying to hook underneath his ribcage. He ran from it and its siren call.
Then one night he dreamt of it, when he was miles and miles from the shoreline. He dreamt of the lighthouse from his childhood and the angry sea beneath it. The sea rose up like a snake coiling back to bite, enveloping the lighthouse and the causeway, smashing and rending everything in its path. A scorned lover exacting wrath, the sea swelled in vengeful pulses until it filled the lighthouse and drowned it. The stones and wood and glass bits were swept out and dragged under by the riptide. He woke in horror and could hear nothing for the sound of rushing waves in his ears.
Back he went, along tracks of land that he had vowed never to cross again. Back he went, back to the edge of the world where the wind kissed him coldly and the salt bit into his skin. The causeway remained, but the lighthouse was nothing but bones, a dark and broken skeleton. He shook as he neared it, watched as his hands shook when he climbed the rusted stairs. He had forgotten what fury the sea could have, but relearned it in the destruction that had once been his home. The lantern room at the top no longer had a roof, and he could feel his father’s ghost there. Below, the sea churned and reached up bleached fingers to try and pull down the crumbling remains of stone and metal in which he stood. He looked down into the waves and saw his past, saw his future—he saw truth in its rawest form. He heard her voice and tasted blood in the air, stuck to his lips like the brine. He walked to the ledge where his mother once stood and stared into the face of her madness. It stared back at him—she stared back at him—and he finally knew the lighthouse had never been his home in truth, and he had never really left this place that had pulled him back. He saw the truth his mother had seen so many years before. The water had filled him up from the inside long ago, like the lighthouse from his dream, until his lungs finally burst from the pressure of the sea. He was only a wave being pulled back by the undertow, back to where he came from and to where he belonged.
Four words bled from his lips as he sank through the air to embrace the waves:
“I’ve come home, Mother.”