Instructions from a Signalman

By Crystal Sidell in Issue Eight, March 2023

Now, this is most important: Before the light in their eyes flicks off
you must ignite the wick, set it near the head, be ready to reignite it in
case breath or wind or rain snuffs out the flame. If you trip, the
mortal’s thread will be at risk of seizure because the distance

between our posts is thin as sin. This truth is absolute – there
are always harvesters lingering in the dark, eager to swallow mishaps. This is
why we count their beats, why we carry fire. For the unfortunate someone
who wakens near the pitch-blackened shore, it’s a psychedelic-like

experience: turning in circles without a compass and being drawn to a
grove of trees, dropping apples red and green. Shaded, the pretend signalman
doesn’t appear threatening. Its humble rags hide hungry innards, while the swinging
basket cradles a soul-stained axe and chains. The lost don’t get a

second chance; they’re reckoned bound forever. Thus, the wick – the lantern.

© 2023 Crystal Sidell

Crystal Sidell

A native Floridian, Crystal Sidell grew up playing with toads in the rain and indulging in speculative fiction. She holds a master of arts in both English and library & information science, moderates two creative writing groups, and has reviewed books for the Florida Library Youth Program. A Pushcart-nominated writer, her work has appeared in 34 Orchard, Apparition Lit, F&SF, Factor Four Magazine, The Sprawl Mag, Strange Horizons, Sylvia, and others. You can find her on Twitter @sidellwrites.

Poetry by Crystal Sidell
  • Instructions from a Signalman