I hate the sea. At school someone said there’s under-ocean canyons deeper than ten cathedrals, full of cold and starving things with mouths that can open wider than their own bodies and fins with glowing bits they use to seek you out. They just stay at the bottom, waiting for drowned things to sink. I can’t imagine going down, down, into the heavy darkness, and watching these little lights getting closer and closer, and knowing what’s behind them. I can’t think of that.
They won’t have missed the lantern in the shop. They’ve got loads of them, cheap things, only paper, with a thin card platform underneath holding a tea-candle. So I don’t feel too guilty about nicking it, even though Mr. and Mrs. Chang are really nice. Anyway, I think they’d understand, if they knew. If they knew why I took it, I mean, not just that I took it. They already know we’re being kicked out of the flat now Dad’s gone, and the money’s gone. I think that’s why Mr Chang gives me a tube of Smarties sometimes.
It was concertina’d flat, the lantern, and I held it against my body, hiding it with my homework folder. Usually, I take the bus, but today I walked the long way round, behind the industrial estate with the Kwik-Fit garage and the Jewsons’ Builder’s Supplies, past the spiky bars of the security fence, and up onto the waste land. They keep saying they’re going to build offices here, one day, but they never do. It’s always been just builder’s rubble and tired weeds, and I think it always will be. Even the crack-heads and the homeless don’t bother with this place. There’s nothing here, nothing but crap blown up and dropped by a dirty wind.
But if you scramble up the stack of empty pallets, stand on the top and look down to the docks, you can see, through a gap in the warehouse rooves, the slow, shifting blue. It looks so harmless from here, as though it’s asleep. At the church, the vicar started off with stuff about how those who mourn will be comforted, and then he carried on with For Those in Peril On The Sea, and then he ended up with something else, but I wasn’t listening by then, and I don’t think anyone else was either. But he was right about the peril.
I unfolded the lantern and pulled its wire framework into shape, taking care not to tear the paper shell. I made sure the candle was stuck firmly to its cradle, and not too close to the paper. Then I took the message I’d written, and tied it under the cradle. Dear Dad. I lit the candle, and held the lantern while it filled with warm air. I looked up, to the sweet blue sky, to creatures of air that sing of white clouds. That’s where Dad is,; not in the cold, dead darkness. And then I let go.